Has anyone read Seneca's "On Happiness". It might be interesting to read after finishing "Anti-Seneca" by La Mettrie, because it seems like LM was reacting to this particular work, and at the closing of Anti-Seneca, La Mettrie produces a brilliant attack-mixed-into-praise for Seneca that mimicks Seneca's own word-play when discussing the Epicureans. This was the funniest and most enjoyable part of Anti-Seneca, which is actually a GREAT work of Epicurean literature.
The depiction of Seneca at the end of Anti-Seneca is BRILLIANT!!!!
Either way, I found this on the original text that La Mettrie was reacting against:
"Book X ends with perhaps the sharpest contrast I’ve read between Epicureanism and Stocism: “You devote yourself to pleasures, I check them; you indulge in pleasure, I use it; you think that it is the highest good, I do not even think it to be good: for the sake of pleasure I do nothing, you do everything.” Well, I’m glad we’re clear on that!
Skipping to book XII, we find a nicely balanced defense of Epicureanism from the apparently common abuse that many made of the term (which is still true today, indeed arguably even more so than in the time of Seneca): “Men are not encouraged by Epicurus to run riot, but the vicious hide their excesses in the lap of philosophy, and flock to the schools in which they hear the praises of pleasure. They do not consider how sober and temperate — for so, by Hercules, I believe it to be — that ‘pleasure’ of Epicurus is, but they rush at his mere name, seeking to obtain some protection and cloak for their vices … The reason why that praise which your school lavishes upon pleasure is so hurtful, is because the honourable part of its teaching passes unnoticed, but the degrading part is seen by all.” This is a good example of Seneca’s fairmaindedness, as well as of his compelling style of argumentation, whereby he manages to both strike a point in favor of his opponents and one against them in a single sentence.
This defense of Epicurus — something that, for sure, Epictetus would never have uttered — continues in book XIII: “I myself believe, though my Stoic comrades would be unwilling to hear me say so, that the teaching of Epicurus was upright and holy, and even, if you examine it narrowly, stern.”
But book XIV goes back to a critique of the pleasure principle: “those who have permitted pleasure to lead the van, have neither one nor the other: for they lose virtue altogether, and yet they do not possess pleasure, but are possessed by it.”
In XV Seneca explains why one cannot simply combine virtue and pleasure and call it a day. The problem is that sooner or later pleasure will pull you toward unvirtuous territory: “You do not afford virtue a solid immoveable base if you bid it stand on what is unsteady.”