User Tools

Site Tools


The following translation is from “The Academic Questions, Treatise De Finibus, and Tusculan Disputations Of M. T. Cicero With A Sketch of the Greek Philosophers Mentioned by Cicero. Literally Translated by C. D. Yonge, B.A., London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross, 1875.

On The Ends of Good and Evil

On this he began to speak;—

IX. First of all then, said he, I will proceed in the manner which is sanctioned by the founder of this school: I will lay down what that is which is the subject of our inquiry, and what its character is: not that I imagine that you do not know, but in order that my discourse may proceed in a systematic and orderly manner. We are inquiring, then, what is the end,—what is the extreme point of good, which, in the opinion of all philosophers, ought to be such that everything can be referred to it, but that it itself can be referred to nothing. This Epicurus places in pleasure, which he argues is the chief good, and that pain is the chief evil; and he proceeds to prove his assertion thus. He says that every animal the moment that it is born seeks for pleasure, and rejoices in it as the chief good; and rejects pain as the chief evil, and wards it off from itself as far as it can; and that it acts in this manner, without having been corrupted by anything, under the promptings of nature herself, who forms this uncorrupt and upright judgment. Therefore, he affirms that there is no need of argument or of discussion as to why pleasure is to be sought for, and pain to be avoided. This he thinks a matter of sense, just as much as that fire is hot, snow white, honey sweet; none of which propositions he thinks require to be confirmed by laboriously sought reasons, but that it is sufficient merely to state them. For that there is a difference between arguments and conclusions arrived at by ratiocination, and ordinary observations and statements:—by the first, secret and obscure principles are explained; by the second, matters which are plain and easy are brought to decision. For since, if you take away sense from a man, there is nothing left to him, it follows of necessity that what is contrary to nature, or what agrees with it, must be left to nature herself to decide. Now what does she perceive, or what does she determine on as her guide to seek or to avoid anything, except pleasure and pain? But there are some of our school who seek to carry out this doctrine with more acuteness, and who will not allow that it is sufficient that it should be decided by sense what is good and what is bad, but who assert that these points can be ascertained by intellect and reason also, and that pleasure is to be sought for on its own account, and that pain also is to be avoided for the same reason.

Therefore, they say that this notion is implanted in our minds naturally and instinctively, as it were; so that we feel that the one is to be sought for, and the other to be avoided. Others, however, (and this is my own opinion too,) assert that, as many reasons are alleged by many philosophers why pleasure ought not to be reckoned among goods, nor pain among evils, we ought not to rely too much on the goodness of our cause, but that we should use arguments, and discuss [pg 109] the point with precision, and argue, by the help of carefully collected reasons, about pleasure and about pain.

X. But that you may come to an accurate perception of the source whence all this error originated of those people who attack pleasure and extol pain, I will unfold the whole matter; and I will lay before you the very statements which have been made by that discoverer of the truth, and architect, as it were, of a happy life. For no one either despises, or hates, or avoids pleasure itself merely because it is pleasure, but because great pains overtake those men who do not understand how to pursue pleasure in a reasonable manner. Nor is there any one who loves, or pursues, or wishes to acquire pain because it is pain, but because sometimes such occasions arise that a man attains to some great pleasure through labour and pain. For, to descend to trifles, who of us ever undertakes any laborious exertion of body except in order to gain some advantage by so doing? and who is there who could fairly blame a man who should wish to be in that state of pleasure which no annoyance can interrupt, or one who shuns that pain by which no subsequent pleasure is procured? But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty.

And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled. But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing either to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked. Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection, to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable.

Now, as these are my sentiments, what reason can I have for fearing that I may not be able to accommodate our Torquati to them—men whose examples you just now quoted from memory, with a kind and friendly feeling towards us? However, you have not bribed me by praising my ancestors, nor made me less prompt in replying to you. But I should like to know from you how you interpret their actions? Do you think that they attacked the enemy with such feelings, or that they were so severe to their children and to their own blood as to have no thought of their own advantage, or of what might be useful to themselves? But even wild beasts do not do that, and do not rush about and cause confusion in such a way that we cannot understand what is the object of their motions. And do you think that such illustrious men performed such great actions without a reason? What their reason was I will examine presently; in the meantime I will lay down this rule,—If there was any reason which instigated them to do those things which are undoubtedly splendid exploits, then virtue by herself was not the sole cause of their conduct. One man tore a chain from off his enemy, and at the same time he defended himself from being slain; but he encountered great danger. Yes, but it was before the eyes of the whole army. What did he get by that? Glory, and the affection of his countrymen, which are the surest bulwarks to enable a man to pass his life without fear. He put his son to death by the hand of the executioner. If he did so without any reason, then I should be sorry to be descended from so inhuman and merciless a man. But if his object was to establish military discipline and obedience to command, at the price of his own anguish, and at a time of a most formidable war to restrain his army by the fear of punishment, then he was providing for the safety of his fellow-citizens, which he was well aware embraced his own. And this principle is one of extensive application. For the very point respecting which your whole school, and yourself most especially, who are such a diligent investigator of ancient instances, are in the habit of vaunting yourself and using high-flown language, namely, the mention of brave and illustrious men, and the extolling of their actions, as proceeding not from any regard to advantage, but from pure principles of honour and a love of glory, is entirely upset, when once that [pg 111] rule in the choice of things is established which I mentioned just now,—namely, that pleasures are passed over for the sake of obtaining other greater pleasures, or that pains are encountered with a view to escape greater pains.

XI. But, however, for the present we have said enough about the illustrious and glorious actions of celebrated men; for there will be, hereafter, a very appropriate place for discussing the tendency of all the virtues to procure pleasure.

But, at present, I will explain what pleasure itself is, and what its character is; so as to do away with all the mistakes of ignorant people, and in order that it may be clearly understood how dignified, and temperate, and virtuous that system is, which is often accounted voluptuous, effeminate, and delicate. For we are not at present pursuing that pleasure alone which moves nature itself by a certain sweetness, and which is perceived by the senses with a certain pleasurable feeling; but we consider that the greatest of all pleasures which is felt when all pain is removed. For since, when we are free from pain, we rejoice in that very freedom itself, and in the absence of all annoyance,—but everything which is a cause of our rejoicing is pleasure, just as everything that gives us offence is pain,—accordingly, the absence of all pain is rightly denominated pleasure. For, as when hunger and thirst are driven away by meat and drink, the very removal of the annoyance brings with it the attainment of pleasure, so, in every case, the removal of pain produces the succession of pleasure. And therefore Epicurus would not admit that there was any intermediate state between pleasure and pain; for he insisted that that very state which seems to some people the intermediate one, when a man is free from every sort of pain, is not only pleasure, but the highest sort of pleasure. For whoever feels how he is affected must inevitably be either in a state of pleasure or in a state of pain. But Epicurus thinks that the highest pleasure consists in an absence of all pains; so that pleasure may afterwards be varied, and may be of different kinds, but cannot be increased or amplified.

And even at Athens, as I have heard my father say, when he was jesting in a good-humoured and facetious way upon the Stoics, there is a statue in the Ceramicus of Chrysippus, sitting down with his hand stretched out; and this attitude [pg 112] of the hand intimates that he is amusing himself with this brief question, “Does your hand, while in that condition in which it is at present, want anything?”—Nothing at all. But if pleasure were a good, would it want it? I suppose so. Pleasure, then, is not a good. And my father used to say that even a statue would not say this if it could speak. For the conclusion was drawn as against the Stoics with sufficient acuteness, but it did not concern Epicurus. For if that were the only pleasure which tickled the senses, as it were, if I may say so, and which overflowed and penetrated them with a certain agreeable feeling, then even a hand could not be content with freedom from pain without some pleasing motion of pleasure. But if the highest pleasure is, as Epicurus asserts, to be free from pain, then, O Chrysippus, the first admission was correctly made to you, that the hand, when it was in that condition, was in want of nothing; but the second admission was not equally correct, that if pleasure were a good it would wish for it. For it would not wish for it for this reason, inasmuch as whatever is free from pain is in pleasure.

XII. But that pleasure is the boundary of all good things may be easily seen from this consideration. Let us imagine a person enjoying pleasures great, numerous, and perpetual, both of mind and body, with no pain either interrupting him at present or impending over him; what condition can we call superior to or more desirable than this? For it is inevitable that there must be in a man who is in this condition a firmness of mind which fears neither death nor pain, because death is void of all sensation; and pain, if it is of long duration, is a trifle, while if severe it is usually of brief duration; so that its brevity is a consolation if it is violent, and its trifling nature if it is enduring. And when there is added to these circumstances that such a man has no fear of the deity of the gods, and does not suffer past pleasures to be entirely lost, but delights himself with the continued recollection of them, what can be added to this which will be any improvement to it?

Imagine, on the other hand, any one worn out with the greatest pains of mind and body which can possibly befal a man, without any hope being held out to him that they will hereafter be lighter, when, besides, he has no pleasure whatever either present or expected; what can be spoken of or imagined more miserable than this? But if a life entirely filled with pains is above all things to be avoided, then certainly that is the greatest of evils to live in pain. And akin to this sentiment is the other, that it is the most extreme good to live with pleasure. For our mind has no other point where it can stop as at a boundary; and all fears and distresses are referable to pain: nor is there anything whatever besides, which of its own intrinsic nature can make us anxious or grieve us. Moreover, the beginnings of desiring and avoiding, and indeed altogether of everything which we do, take their rise either in pleasure or pain. And as this is the case, it is plain that everything which is right and laudable has reference to this one object of living with pleasure. And since that is the highest, or extreme, or greatest good, which the Greeks call τέλος, because it is referred to nothing else itself, but everything is referred to it, we must confess that the highest good is to live agreeably.

XIII. And those who place this in virtue alone, and, being caught by the splendour of a name, do not understand what nature requires, will be delivered from the greatest blunder imaginable if they will listen to Epicurus. For unless those excellent and beautiful virtues which your school talks about produced pleasure, who would think them either praiseworthy or desirable? For as we esteem the skill of physicians not for the sake of the art itself, but from our desire for good health,—and as the skill of the pilot, who has the knowledge how to navigate a vessel well, is praised with reference to its utility, and not to his ability,—so wisdom, which should be considered the art of living, would not be sought after if it effected nothing; but at present it is sought after because it is, as it were, the efficient cause of pleasure, which is a legitimate object of desire and acquisition. And now you understand what pleasure I mean, so that what I say may not be brought into odium from my using an unpopular word. For as the chief annoyances to human life proceed from ignorance of what things are good and what bad, and as by reason of that mistake men are often deprived of the greatest pleasures, and tortured by the most bitter grief of mind, we have need to exercise wisdom, which, by removing groundless alarms and vain desires, and by banishing the rashness of all erroneous [pg 114] opinions, offers herself to us as the surest guide to pleasure. For it is wisdom alone which expels sorrow from our minds, and prevents our shuddering with fear: she is the instructress who enables us to live in tranquillity, by extinguishing in us all vehemence of desire. For desires are insatiable, and ruin not only individuals but entire families, and often overturn the whole state. From desires arise hatred, dissensions, quarrels, seditions, wars. Nor is it only out of doors that these passions vent themselves, nor is it only against others that they run with blind violence; but they are often shut up, as it were, in the mind, and throw that into confusion with their disagreements.

And the consequence of this is, to make life thoroughly wretched; so that the wise man is the only one who, having cut away all vanity and error, and removed it from him, can live contented within the boundaries of nature, without melancholy and without fear. For what diversion can be either more useful or more adapted for human life than that which Epicurus employed? For he laid it down that there were three kinds of desires; the first, such as were natural and necessary; the second, such as were natural but not necessary; the third, such as were neither natural nor necessary. And these are all such, that those which are necessary are satisfied without much trouble or expense: even those which are natural and not necessary, do not require a great deal, because nature itself makes the riches, which are sufficient to content it, easy of acquisition and of limited quantity: but as for vain desires, it is impossible to find any limit to, or any moderation in them.

XIV. But if we see that the whole life of man is thrown into disorder by error and ignorance; and that wisdom is the only thing which can relieve us from the sway of the passions and the fear of danger, and which can teach us to bear the injuries of fortune itself with moderation, and which shows us all the ways which lead to tranquillity and peace; what reason is there that we should hesitate to say that wisdom is to be sought for the sake of pleasure, and that folly is to be avoided on account of its annoyances? And on the same principle we shall say that even temperance is not to be sought for its own sake, but because it brings peace to the mind, and soothes and tranquillizes them by what I may call a kind of [pg 115] concord. For temperance is that which warns us to follow reason in desiring or avoiding anything. Nor is it sufficient to decide what ought to be done, and what ought not; but we must adhere to what has been decided. But many men, because they are enfeebled and subdued the moment pleasure comes in sight, and so are unable to keep and adhere to the determination they have formed, give themselves up to be bound hand and foot by their lusts, and do not foresee what will happen to them; and in that way, on account of some pleasure which is trivial and unnecessary, and which might be procured in some other manner, and which they could dispense with without annoyance, incur terrible diseases, and injuries, and disgrace, and are often even involved in the penalties of the legal tribunals of their country.

But these men who wish to enjoy pleasure in such a way that no grief shall ever overtake them in consequence, and who retain their judgment so as never to be overcome by pleasure as to do what they feel ought not to be done; these men, I say, obtain the greatest pleasure by passing pleasure by. They often even endure pain, in order to avoid encountering greater pain hereafter by their shunning it at present. From which consideration it is perceived that intemperance is not to be avoided for its own sake; and that temperance is to be sought for, not because it avoids pleasures, but because it attains to greater ones.

XV. The same principle will be found to hold good with respect to courage. For the discharge of labours and the endurance of pain are neither of them intrinsically tempting; nor is patience, nor diligence, nor watchfulness, nor industry which is so much extolled, nor even courage itself: but we cultivate these habits in order that we may live without care and fear, and may be able, as far as is in our power, to release our minds and bodies from annoyance. For as the whole condition of tranquil life is thrown into confusion by the fear of death, and as it is a miserable thing to yield to pain and to bear it with a humble and imbecile mind; and as on account of that weakness of mind many men have ruined their parents, many men their friends, some their country, and very many indeed have utterly undone themselves; so a vigorous and lofty mind is free from all care and pain, since it despises death, which only places those who encounter it in [pg 116] the same condition as that in which they were before they were born; and it is so prepared for pain that it recollects that the very greatest are terminated by death, and that slight pains have many intervals of rest, and that we can master moderate ones, so as to bear them if they are tolerable, and if not, we can depart with equanimity out of life, just as out of a theatre, when it no longer pleases us. By all which considerations it is understood that cowardice and idleness are not blamed, and that courage and patience are not praised, for their own sakes; but that the one line of conduct is rejected as the parent of pain, and the other desired as the author of pleasure.

XVI. Justice remains to be mentioned, that I may not omit any virtue whatever; but nearly the same things may be said respecting that. For, as I have already shown that wisdom, temperance, and fortitude are connected with pleasure in such a way that they cannot possibly be separated or divided from it, so also we must consider that it is the case with justice. Which not only never injures any one; but on the contrary always nourishes something which tranquillizes the mind, partly by its own power and nature, and partly by the hopes that nothing will be wanting of those things which a nature not depraved may fairly derive.

Since rashness and lust and idleness always torture the mind, always make it anxious, and are of a turbulent character, so too, wherever injustice settles in any man's mind, it is turbulent from the mere fact of its existence and presence there; and if it forms any plan, although it executes it ever so secretly, still it never believes that what has been done will be concealed for ever. For generally, when wicked men do anything, first of all suspicion overtakes their actions; then the common conversation and report of men; then the prosecutor and the judge; and many even, as was the case when you were consul, have given information against themselves. But if any men appear to themselves to be sufficiently fenced round and protected from the consciousness of men, still they dread the knowledge of the Gods, and think that those very anxieties by which their minds are eaten up night and day, are inflicted upon them by the immortal Gods for the sake of punishment. And how is it possible that wicked actions can ever have as much influence towards alleviating [pg 117] the annoyances of life, as they must have towards increasing them from the consciousness of our actions, and also from the punishments inflicted by the laws and the hatred of the citizens? And yet, in some people, there is no moderation in their passion for money and for honour and for command, or in their lusts and greediness and other desires, which acquisitions, however wickedly made, do not at all diminish, but rather inflame, so that it seems we ought rather to restrain such men than to think that we can teach them better. Therefore sound wisdom invites sensible men to justice, equity, and good faith. And unjust actions are not advantageous even to that man who has no abilities or resources; inasmuch as he cannot easily do what he endeavours to do, nor obtain his objects if he does succeed in his endeavours. And the gifts of fortune and of genius are better suited to liberality; and those who practise this virtue gain themselves goodwill, and affection, which is the most powerful of all things to enable a man to live with tranquillity; especially when he has absolutely no motive at all for doing wrong.

For those desires which proceed from nature are easily satisfied without any injustice; but those which are vain ought not to be complied with. For they desire nothing which is really desirable; and there is more disadvantage in the mere fact of injustice than there is advantage in what is acquired by the injustice. Therefore a person would not be right who should pronounce even justice intrinsically desirable for its own sake; but because it brings the greatest amount of what is agreeable. For to be loved and to be dear to others is agreeable because it makes life safer, and pleasure more abundant. Therefore we think dishonesty should be avoided, not only on account of those disadvantages which befal the wicked, but even much more because it never permits the man in whose mind it abides to breathe freely, and never lets him rest.

But if the praise of those identical virtues in which the discourse of all other philosophers so especially exults, cannot find any end unless it be directed towards pleasure, and if pleasure be the only thing which calls and allures us to itself by its own nature; then it cannot be doubtful that that is the highest and greatest of all goods, and that to live happily is nothing else except to live with pleasure.

XVII. And I will now explain in a few words the things which are inseparably connected with this sure and solid opinion.

There is no mistake with respect to the ends themselves of good and evil, that is to say, with respect to pleasure and pain; but men err in these points when they do not know what they are caused by. But we admit that the pleasures and pains of the mind are caused by the pleasures and pains of the body. Therefore I grant what you were saying just now, that if any philosophers of our school think differently (and I see that many men do so, but they are ignorant people) they must be convicted of error. But although pleasure of mind brings us joy, and pain causes us grief, it is still true that each of these feelings originates in the body, and is referred to the body; and it does not follow on that account that both the pleasures and pains of the mind are not much more important than those of the body. For with the body we are unable to feel anything which is not actually existent and present; but with our mind we feel things past and things to come. For although when we are suffering bodily pain, we are equally in pain in our minds, still a very great addition may be made to that if we believe that any endless and boundless evil is impending over us. And we may transfer this assertion to pleasure, so that that will be greater if we have no such fear.

This now is entirely evident, that the very greatest pleasure or annoyance of the mind contributes more to making life happy or miserable than either of these feelings can do if it is in the body for an equal length of time. But we do not agree that, if pleasure be taken away, grief follows immediately, unless by chance it happens that pain has succeeded and taken the place of pleasure; but, on the other hand, we affirm that men do rejoice at getting rid of pain even if no pleasure which can affect the senses succeeds. And from this it may be understood how great a pleasure it is not to be in pain. But as we are roused by those good things which we are in expectation of, so we rejoice at those which we recollect. But foolish men are tortured by the recollection of past evils; wise men are delighted by the memory of past good things, which are thus renewed by the agreeable recollection. But there is a feeling implanted in us by which we [pg 119] bury adversity as it were in a perpetual oblivion, but dwell with pleasure and delight on the recollection of good fortune. But when with eager and attentive minds we dwell on what is past, the consequence is, that melancholy ensues, if the past has been unprosperous; but joy, if it has been fortunate.

XVIII. Oh what a splendid, and manifest, and simple, and plain way of living well! For as certainly nothing could be better for man than to be free from all pain and annoyance, and to enjoy the greatest pleasures of both mind and body, do you not see how nothing is omitted which can aid life, so as to enable men more easily to arrive at that chief good which is their object! Epicurus cries out—the very man whom you pronounce to be too devoted to pleasure—that man cannot live agreeably, unless he lives honourably, justly, and wisely; and that, if he lives wisely, honourably, and justly, it is impossible that he should not live agreeably. For a city in sedition cannot be happy, nor can a house in which the masters are quarrelling. So that a mind which disagrees and quarrels with itself, cannot taste any portion of clear and unrestrained pleasure. And a man who is always giving in to pursuits and plans which are inconsistent with and contrary to one another, can never know any quiet or tranquillity.

But if the pleasure of life is hindered by the graver diseases of the body, how much more must it be so by those of the mind? But the diseases of the mind are boundless and vain desires of riches, or glory, or domination, or even of lustful pleasures. Besides these there are melancholy, annoyance, sorrow, which eat up and destroy with anxiety the minds of those men who do not understand that the mind ought not to grieve about anything which is unconnected with some present or future pain of body. Nor is there any fool who does not suffer under some one of these diseases. Therefore there is no fool who is not miserable. Besides these things there is death, which is always hanging over us as his rock is over Tantalus; and superstition, a feeling which prevents any one who is imbued with it from ever enjoying tranquillity. Besides, such men as they do not recollect their past good fortune, do not enjoy what is present, but do nothing but expect what is to come; and as that cannot be certain, they wear themselves out with grief and apprehension, and are tormented most especially when they find out, after it is too [pg 120] late, that they have devoted themselves to the pursuit of money, or authority, or power, or glory, to no purpose. For they have acquired no pleasures, by the hope of enjoying which it was that they were inflamed to undertake so many great labours. There are others, of little and narrow minds, either always despairing of everything, or else malcontent, envious, ill-tempered, churlish, calumnious, and morose; others devoted to amatory pleasures, others petulant, others audacious, wanton, intemperate, or idle, never continuing in the same opinion; on which account there is never any interruption to the annoyances to which their life is exposed.

Therefore, there is no fool who is happy, and no wise man who is not. And we put this much more forcibly and truly than the Stoics: for they assert that there is no good whatever, but some imaginary shadow which they call τὸ καλὸν, a name showy rather than substantial; and they insist upon it, that virtue relying on this principle of honour stands in need of no pleasure, and is content with its own resources as adequate to secure a happy life.

XIX. However, these assertions may be to a certain extent made not only without our objecting to them, but even with our concurrence and agreement. For in this way the wise man is represented by Epicurus as always happy. He has limited desires; he disregards death; he has a true opinion concerning the immortal Gods without any fear; he does not hesitate, if it is better for him, to depart from life. Being prepared in this manner, and armed with these principles, he is always in the enjoyment of pleasure; nor is there any period when he does not feel more pleasure than pain. For he remembers the past with gratitude, and he enjoys the present so as to notice how important and how delightful the joys which it supplies are; nor does he depend on future good, but he waits for that and enjoys the present; and is as far removed as possible from those vices which I have enumerated; and when he compares the life of fools to his own he feels great pleasure. And pain, if any does attack him, has never such power that the wise man has not more to rejoice at than to be grieved at.

But Epicurus does admirably in saying that fortune has but little power over the wise man, and that the greatest and most important events of such a man's life are managed [pg 121] by his own wisdom and prudence; and that greater pleasure cannot be derived from an eternity of life than such a man enjoys from this life which we see to be limited.

But in your dialectics he thought that there was no power which could contribute either to enable men to live better, or argue more conveniently. To natural philosophy he attributed a great deal of importance. For by the one science it is only the meaning of words and the character of a speech, and the way in which arguments follow from or are inconsistent with one another, that can be seen; but if the nature of all things is known, we are by that knowledge relieved from superstition, released from the fear of death, exempted from being perplexed by our ignorance of things, from which ignorance horrible fears often arise. Lastly, we shall be improved in our morals when we have learnt what nature requires. Moreover, if we have an accurate knowledge of things, preserving that rule which has fallen from heaven as it were for the knowledge of all things, by which all our judgments of things are to be regulated, we shall never abandon our opinions because of being overcome by any one's eloquence.

For unless the nature of things is thoroughly known, we shall have no means by which we can defend the judgments formed by our senses. Moreover, whatever we discern by our intellect, all arises from the senses. And if our senses are all correct, as the theory of Epicurus affirms, then something may be discerned and understood accurately; but as to those men who deny the power of the senses, and say that nothing can be known by them, those very men, if the senses are discarded, will be unable to explain that very point which they are arguing about. Besides, if all knowledge and science is put out of the question, then there is an end also of all settled principles of living and of doing anything.

Thus, by means of natural philosophy, courage is desired to withstand the fear of death, and constancy to put aside the claims engendered by superstition; and by removing ignorance of all secret things, tranquillity of mind is produced; and by explaining the nature of desires and their different kinds, we get moderation: and (as I just now explained) by means of this rule of knowledge, and of the judgment which is established and corrected by it, the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood is put into man's hands.

XX. There remains a topic necessary above all others to this discussion, that of friendship, namely: which you, if pleasure is the chief good, affirm to have no existence at all. Concerning which Epicurus speaks thus: “That of all the things which wisdom has collected to enable man to live happily, nothing is more important, more influential, or more delightful than friendship.” Nor did he prove this assertion by words only, but still more by his life, and conduct, and actions. And how important a thing it is, the fables of the ancients abundantly intimate, in which, many and varied as they are, and traced back to the remotest antiquity, scarcely three pairs of friends are found, even if you begin as far back as Theseus, and come down to Orestes. But in one single house, and that a small one, what great crowds of friends did Epicurus collect, and how strong was the bond of affection that held them together! And this is the case even now among the Epicureans. However, let us return to our subject: it is not necessary for us to be discussing men.

I see, then, that the philosophers of our school have treated the question of friendship in three ways. Some, as they denied that those pleasures which concerned our friends were to be sought with as much eagerness for their own sake, as we display in seeking our own, (by pressing which topic some people think that the stability of friendship is endangered,) maintain that doctrine resolutely, and, as I think, easily explain it. For, as in the case of the virtues which I have already mentioned, so too they deny that friendship can ever be separated from pleasure. For, as a life which is solitary and destitute of friends is full of treachery and alarm, reason itself warns us to form friendships. And when such are formed, then our minds are strengthened, and cannot be drawn away from the hope of attaining pleasure. And as hatred, envy, and contempt are all opposed to pleasures, so friendships are not only the most faithful favourers, but also are the efficient causes of pleasures to one's friends as well as to oneself; and men not only enjoy those pleasures at the moment, but are also roused by hopes of subsequent and future time. And as we cannot possibly maintain a lasting and continued happiness of life without friendship, nor maintain friendship itself unless we love our friends and ourselves equally, therefore this very effect is produced in friendship, and friendship is combined with pleasure.

For we rejoice in the joy of our friends as much as we do in our own, and we are equally grieved at their sorrows. Wherefore the wise man will feel towards his friend as he does towards himself, and whatever labour he would encounter with a view to his own pleasure, he will encounter also for the sake of that of his friend. And all that has been said of the virtues as to the way in which they are invariably combined with pleasure, should also be said of friendship. For admirably does Epicurus say, in almost these exact words: “The same science has strengthened the mind so that it should not fear any eternal or long lasting evil, inasmuch as in this very period of human life, it has clearly seen that the surest bulwark against evil is that of friendship.”

There are, however, some Epicureans who are rather intimidated by the reproaches of your school, but still men of sufficient acuteness, and they are afraid lest, if we think that friendship is only to be sought after with a view to our own pleasure, all friendships should, as it were, appear to be crippled. Therefore they admit that the first meetings, and unions, and desires to establish intimacy, do arise from a desire of pleasure; but, they say, that when progressive habit has engendered familiarity, then such great affection is ripened, that friends are loved by one another for their own sake, even without any idea of advantage intermingling with such love. In truth, if we are in the habit of feeling affection for places, and temples, and cities, and gymnasia, and the Campus Martius, and for dogs, and horses, and sports, in consequence of our habit of exercising ourselves, and hunting, and so on, how much more easily and reasonably may such a feeling be produced in us by our intimacy with men!

But some people say that there is a sort of agreement entered into by wise men not to love their friends less than themselves; which we both imagine to be possible, and indeed see to be often the case; and it is evident that nothing can be found having any influence on living agreeably, which is better suited to it than such a union. From all which considerations it may be inferred, not only that the principle of friendship is not hindered by our placing the chief good in pleasure, but that without such a principle it is quite impossible that any friendship should be established.

XXI. Wherefore, if the things which I have been saying are clearer and plainer than the sun itself; if all that I have said is derived from the fountain of nature; if the whole of my discourse forces assent to itself by its accordance with the senses, that is to say, with the most incorruptible and honest of all witnesses; if infant children, and even brute beasts, declare almost in words, under the teaching and guidance of nature, that nothing is prosperous but pleasure, nothing hateful but pain—a matter as to which their decision is neither erroneous nor corrupt—ought we not to feel the greatest gratitude to that man who, having heard this voice of nature, as I may call it, has embraced it with such firmness and steadiness, that he has led all sensible men into the path of a peaceful, tranquil, and happy life? And as for his appearing to you to be a man of but little learning, the reason of that is, that he thought no learning deserving of the name except such as assisted in the attainment of a happy life. Was he a man to waste his time in reading poets, as Triarius and I do at your instigation? men in whose works there is no solid utility, but only a childish sort of amusement; or to devote himself, like Plato, to music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy? studies which, starting from erroneous principles, cannot possibly be true; and which, if they were true, would constitute nothing to our living more agreeably, that is to say, better. Should he, then, pursue such occupations as those, and abandon the task of laying down principles of living, laborious, but, at the same time, useful as they are?

Epicurus, then, was not destitute of learning; but those persons are ignorant who think that those studies which it is discreditable for boys not to have learnt, are to be continued till old age.

And when he had spoken thus,—I have now, said he, explained my opinions, and have done so with the design of learning your judgment of them. But the opportunity of doing so, as I wished, has never been offered me before to-day.

on_ends.txt · Last modified: 2018/04/06 21:13 (external edit)