Gosling & Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure. (Notes on Epicurus)

  • This is a continuation of notes on Gosling and Taylor's The Greeks on Pleasure, begun here: https://www.epicureanfriends.com/index.php?thread/1602-gosling-taylor-the-greeks-on-pleasure-notes-up-to-but-not-including-epicurus/


    For the most part these are quotes and/or paraphrases from the book; my comments are italicized and in parentheses. Text in bold is my emphasis. The authors of the book are not Epicureans, theirs is an academic take on Epicurean pleasure, worthy of discussion. There is much more to their discussion of Epicurus than I’ve been able to include here, but I think I’ve covered their main points.


    Chapter 18: Epicurus

    18.1.4 According to Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus used an argument similar to Eudoxus that all living things are pleased with pleasure and are by nature, without recourse to reasoning, hostile to pain, and so we automatically flee the latter.

    18.1.4 Epicurus seems to insist on the fact that the recognition of the value of pleasure is pre-rational. This suggests that he insists on the relation of pleasure to perception. In other words, the experience of pleasure is the experience of its goodness. For consistency with his theory of knowledge he must be able to give a perceptual basis for judgments of value if he is to claim that they can be known.

    18.1.4 This is sometimes construed as though pleasure was a feeling attached to a perception. But pathos, Epicurus’ word for pleasure and pain, means a way of being affected; there are two pathe that occur with every living thing: pleasure and pain.

    18.1.4 There is no midway between pleasure and pain: pleasure is defined as the absence of pain. Not, of course, that any absence of pain (e.g. death) is pleasure, but any painless conscious life is a pleasure. This does not consist simply in being alive, but in living the kind of life characteristic of the species.

    18.1.4 Every perception involves either pleasure or pain, and in such perception a sentient being grasps the value or disvalue of being so affected, a grasp that is, at a pre-logical level, constituted by acceptance or aversion. The bias of this way of thinking will be to make the goodness of each particular pleasure obvious in each perception. There will be no temptation to make the value of pleasure maximization over a life obvious to perception.

    18.1.4 Anyone who makes a judgment of the worth of a life can only do so by reference to its pleasantness, which can only be judged by the perception of those who live it. There is room for argument as to what form of life is pleasantest, but no room at all for discussion as to what makes something good.


    18.1.5 Per Epicurus, kinetic pleasures are those which accompany a change from pain to its removal. Static pleasures are those of conditions where pain is absent, and with it any cause of change. Quite generally, pleasures cannot increase in degree beyond the point of removal of pain, only in type.

    18.1.5 With bodily pleasures this limit is reached when the need that is causing pain is removed. Mental pain is largely caused by such things as grief and fear and so is only to be removed by reflections on the source of these emotions. See PD18. Since there is only variation after the point of removal of pain, not increase, there is no need to discuss comparative intensities or measures of comparative pleasantness of different activities.

    18.1.6 Therefore the problem is to determine if a life of pleasure can be attained and if so, how. At the bodily level Epicurus held that severe pain is short lived, and long lasting pain generally allows for an excess of pleasure over pain (PD4), so that properly viewed unavoidable pains of illness should not be given much weight. Meeting other bodily needs is a fairly easy matter (PD15, 21).

    18.1.6 At the mental level, things are more complicated. Painful emotions are aroused by fear of future evil (pain=evil). These are to a large extent based on false views, either on the nature of man and the universe or on the nature of pleasure.

    18.1.6 A simple life removed from public affairs and bolstered by reflection on the basic facts about the structure of the universe can be relied upon to produce a stable happiness. (???)


    18.2.2 Problem: this would suggest that Epicurus attaches no significance to sensual pleasures, which contradicts some of his recorded statements.

    18.2.5 Problem: judging pleasures and pains by their effects (as in the letter to Menoeceus) implies that duration is an important factor.


    18.3.1 Discussion of VS33 the voice of the flesh is not to hunger, not to thirst, not to feel cold as it relates to his statement that no good is conceivable without the pleasures of taste, love, hearing and sight. The latter does not say that these pleasures are either greater or more important than any others, only that Epicurus cannot conceive of the good if these pleasures are removed. It doesn’t imply that no others are necessary, or any ranking of pleasures. Pleasures of sight and hearing my be generally unmixed, but the unmixed pleasures of taste and sex are only possible with removal of distress. To Epicurus there are only two pathe, pleasure and pain, so to avoid these pleasures (a) in the unmixed case is avoiding an obvious good, and (b) in the other cases is avoiding painless perception which is genuine pleasure, as well as the pleasure of replenishment.

    18.3.2 Regarding the comment that all pleasure begins in the stomach, it is the common view of sages that a well-regulated diet is the foundation of a well-regulated life.

    18.3.3 Epicurus thought that bodily pleasure (painless sensory pleasure) had a certain primacy and that ataraxia is confident expectation and memory of bodily pleasure. So well-based mental pleasure is dependent on bodily pleasure. However this does not make bodily pleasure greater. Further, since anxiety can ruin bodily pleasure, and since ataraxia requires bodily pleasure as a general rule, there is a sense in which ataraxia constitutes the highest condition of pleasure and is thereby more important.

    18.3.4 This is not a proof that this was Epicurus’ thinking, but an interpretation which defends against interpretations of inconsistency and therefore a preferred interpretation.

    18.3.5-18.3.8 (This is an extended 3 page discussion of Epicurus vs Aristippus and the Cyrenaics. Cassius , based on previous posts this might be worth a separate post with a reproduction of the text. For now, I’m skipping to the end of the discussion.) Duration: the view that a long period of pleasure is better than a short one, and worse for pain, is the most natural and plausible way to understand the calculation of pleasure and seems to be suggested by PD4. But PD19 and PD20 state that an extension of a period of pleasure will not increase it, that it is the body that wants infinite pleasure but the mind knows better. This seems to imply that a wise man will not take the duration of pleasure into account.

    18.3.9-18.3.14 (The discussion of duration now runs for 3 pages; I’m noting the end of the discussion.) Comparing two pleasures, or two periods of pleasure, is possible only if one is mixed, in which case the unmixed one is pleasanter than the mixed one. Comparison of two unmixed pleasures is only possible if one or both periods of pleasure can be extended to a point where it becomes mixed. But this is to look on lives from the outside. In actual practice, surely the wise man will always be concerned with increasing the proportion of pleasure in his life and reducing the amount of unavoidable pain. It is only in fanciful utopian conditions that he will not be concerned with duration.


    18.3.15 We are so used to the problems of utilitarianism that we are inclined to assume that anything that sounds like a hedonic calculus is meant for day to day use. But this does not seem to be true with Epicurus. He is not telling us that a wise man must perform daily intricate calculations of the sort perhaps envisaged in Plato’s Protagoras.

    18.3.15 A wise man needs to know certain basic facts about man and nature, convince himself of them and acquire certain habits of life. These will ensure that pleasure predominates. No daily hedonic calculus is necessary; the calculation is all at the stage of working out the facts, the effects of belief in them, and the proper regimen. From time to time one will have to review one's knowledge and confirm one's attitudes and practices. Once one is convinced of the truth of Epicurus' doctrines and has incorporated his teachings into one's life, one ceases to worry and lives a life as near to ataraxia and aponia as is possible for one. To achieve the best life possible, conviction and good habits are enough. One's wisdom shows in the acquisition and development of those characteristics that will keep his life as pleasant as it can be, and that being so he will not be deluded into thinking that it will improve if only it lasts a little longer.

    18.3.17 Living a life free of disturbance is not just a matter of staying alive and not being disturbed, as with a person under heavy sedation, but living the sort of life specific to the being in question. This is vaguely Aristotlean: if one is living according to one's nature then one is enjoying one's life, and failure of enjoyment is a function of disrupted nature. Epicurus is less interested in individual activities and their enjoyment, and more in a condition of the individual which ensures him balance independently of external circumstance.

    18.3.19 Ataraxia consists in a condition of correct belief, and aponia in a condition free of bodily lack. Epicurean wisdom, phronesis, is more like Aristotelean practical wisdom than Plato’s wisdom. The distinction between wisdom and ataraxia is therefore verbal rather than real. Since absence of wisdom is equivalent to the absence of ataraxia and therefore of mental pleasure, and its presence to the presence of mental pleasure, using it or mental pleasure as a criterion of worth amount to the same thing.

    18.3.20 Normal life is pleasant unless one's constitution is disturbed; one's whole tendency is against disturbance; since pleasure is only reduced by disturbance this means that the organism appreciates as good/best the pleasant/most pleasant, whose worth is recognized in perception. Once one recognizes the nature of the good as given in perception one can see that many beings actually pursue illusory goods. The wise man recognizes that a relatively unmixed life is attainable, and to a large extent achieves it in that recognition; he thereby acquires an indifference to either death or the extension of life and a contentment with what he has.


    (The next, and final, thread will cover katastematic and kinetic pleasures and the final chapters of the book.)

  • So much in there:


    1. Yes the duration issue is of great significance since I think it is natural for us to presume that length is the key or supreme element and it is pretty clear that Epicurus did not hold that. So much implied there that it definitely deserves detailed treatment.


    2. "18.1.5 Per Epicurus, kinetic pleasures are those which accompany a change from pain to its removal. Static pleasures are those of conditions where pain is absent, and with it any cause of change. Quite generally, pleasures cannot increase in degree beyond the point of removal of pain, only in type."


    This may be a quote and may or may not be true as to Epicurus (I tend to doubt it) but I recall reading somewhere in G &T that the wider view was that any pleasure involving ANY kind of change (not just replenishment) was considered to be kinetic. Perhaps that was from an earlier section but I tend to think that the Epicurean nature of atoms constantly moving means that nothing is essentially static and so I question whether Epicurus would even have considered "static" to be a legitimate category. I am pretty sure the book contains good material somewhere supporting the view that kinetic implies ANY KIND of change, even moving the focus of the mind from one thought to another, so if someone comes across that reference and can pull it out and highlight it so we can find in the future I would appreciate it.


    Perhaps that is in Nikolsky but I think it is somewhere in G&T.

  • Indeed there is a lot in there! This book is a complicated web of arguments and counter-arguments. I've tried to keep my quotes and paraphrasing accurate and in context but may not have fully succeeded.


    As to 18.1.5, that was my paraphrase. Here is the complete paragraph:


    "18.1.5 When it comes to assessing various degrees of pleasantness, Epicurus seems to have thought that pleasures are of two sorts, those of change (kinetic) and those of stable condition (katastematic) and perhaps that either sort could be primarily bodily or mental. (DL X.136, 144). Those associated with motion seem to be those which accompany a change from pain to its removal, whereas those of a stable state are those of conditions where pain is absent, and with it any cause of change (DL X.128-9). Quite generally, pleasures cannot increase in degree beyond the point of removal of pain (PD 3, DL X.139). With bodily pleasures this limit is reached when the need that is causing pain is removed. Mental pain is largely caused by such things as grief and fear, and so is only to be removed by reflections on the sources of these emotions (PD 18, DL X.144). In either case there is no possibility of increase past the point of the removal of pain, only of variation. There is no need, therefore, to get into complexities of comparative intensities or other methods of assessing the comparative pleasantness of different activities. A life free from pain ipso facto wins over one not so free."


    I am pretty sure the book contains good material somewhere supporting the view that kinetic implies ANY KIND of change, even moving the focus of the mind from one thought to another, so if someone comes across that reference and can pull it out and highlight it so we can find in the future I would appreciate it.

    In chapter 19: Gosling & Taylor, On Katastematic and Kinetic Pleasure


    "19.3.4 It is perhaps worth emphasizing that any view on this subject owes us an account of Epicurus' choice of terminology. On the more traditional view one has to suppose that 'kinetic' is chosen because Epicurus has an account of perception in terms of the movement (kinesis) of atoms. The trouble with this is that Epicurus' account of the organism quite generally is in terms of the movements of atoms, so that it is difficult to know what 'katastematic' is referring to. This might tempt one to Merlan's version of the contrast in terms of stable (katastematic) as against passing pleasures. There is no evidence that we can find for this in the original context of Epicurus' writings, though it has to be admitted that perusal of Cicero, and acceptance of his translations, does give some colour to the view. On the other hand, there is evidence in the background to Epicurus for the kind of contrast which we are suggesting, and it fits very well with a view which relieves Epicurus of the awkwardness mentioned earlier in this chapter."


    Cassius Not sure if this is what you were referring to, but it's a start....

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    18.3.15 A wise man needs to know certain basic facts about man and nature, convince himself of them and acquire certain habits of life. These will ensure that pleasure predominates. No daily hedonic calculus is necessary; the calculation is all at the stage of working out the facts, the effects of belief in them, and the proper regimen. From time to time one will have to review one's knowledge and confirm one's attitudes and practices. Once one is convinced of the truth of Epicurus' doctrines and has incorporated his teachings into one's life, one ceases to worry and lives a life as near to ataraxia and aponia as is possible for one. To achieve the best life possible, conviction and good habits are enough. One's wisdom shows in the acquisition and development of those characteristics that will keep his life as pleasant as it can be, and that being so he will not be deluded into thinking that it will improve if only it lasts a little longer.

    18.3.17 Living a life free of disturbance is not just a matter of staying alive and not being disturbed, as with a person under heavy sedation, but living the sort of life specific to the being in question. This is vaguely Aristotlean: if one is living according to one's nature then one is enjoying one's life, and failure of enjoyment is a function of disrupted nature. Epicurus is less interested in individual activities and their enjoyment, and more in a condition of the individual which ensures him balance independently of external circumstance.

    18.3.19 Ataraxia consists in a condition of correct belief, and aponia in a condition free of bodily lack. Epicurean wisdom, phronesis, is more like Aristotelean practical wisdom than Plato’s wisdom. The distinction between wisdom and ataraxia is therefore verbal rather than real. Since absence of wisdom is equivalent to the absence of ataraxia and therefore of mental pleasure, and its presence to the presence of mental pleasure, using it or mental pleasure as a criterion of worth amount to the same thing.

    This quote is, to me, particularly compelling and also disturbing. It seems to be something of a summation of Epicurean pleasure from G&T's point of view.


    The idea that the understanding and acceptance of the philosophy, combined with good habits (presumably these include the pursuit of pleasure!) seems to me to be simply how one lives according to any chosen philosophy. I like that they seem to be attempting to come to a resolution of the "absence of pain" argument which doesn't involve living in a bubble. However the idea that ataraxia is basically the same thing as phronesis seems to open the door for all sorts of problems, primarily the argument that one should pursue practical wisdom rather than pleasure. However PD 5 is saying largely the same thing to my mind. So is my concern in this regard just a matter of semantics, of trying to define an undefinable abstract good? I fear that in defining pleasure they have removed pleasure from the equation.

  • I think what I am reading there is their attempt to square Epicurus with Aristotle and I agree that it fails. But if what is disturbing to you is 18.3.19 then I think I might have a different take. I have never considered ataraxia and aponia to be statements of the ultimate end, but simply adverbs that go along with successfully have overcome disturbances and pain while in the process of pursuing the pleasures that make like worth living. So if your concern is that he is demeaning aponia and ataraxia then I think that doesn't bother me as much, for that reason. If "pleasure" is the goal then a series of particular pleasures from day to day is what is being pursued, with ataraxia and aponia being derivative descriptions that are really only useful from the point of view of semantics and debating with Platonists when that is necessary (which hopefully isn't often).


    Is that the part that you find disturbing? I am afraid I got distracted this afternoon so I may have lost the train of thought.

  • Yes 18.3.19 is the part that bothers me. From the point of view of pleasure it makes sense as you describe and seems to be a good elaboration of PD 5. My concern comes from their statement in the final chapter about a proper theory of pleasure combining Aristotelian/Epicurean and Stoic theories. For a discussion among Epicureans it can be illuminating but if discussing with Platonists and the like it could lead down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland!

  • Yes I think you are documenting how Gosling & Taylor are ultimately not with Epicurus themselves, but insist on following the party line. I think you are exactly right as to where it would lead.


    My main thought I guess is that G&T had enough intellectual honesty / perception to publish what ought to be obvious to most anyone - that the mainstream view of Epicurus is nonsense. But they don't have enough "courage" (or something, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush) to adopt Epicurus' views themselves. The pull of the consensus Academy / Reason / Humanist position (and who knows what else) is too strong for them to break free entirely. Quite possibly they realized that even writing what they did would set them back in their profession -- I see this book cited or mentioned VERY infrequently, even though it seems to be head and shoulders the most thorough and best-researched on the topic.

  • This may be off thread a little and a little later to the game, but here goes. And I after with Cassius 's last post. Academic philosophers probably need to tow the party line to an extent if they want to publish and present.

    On 18.3.19, it seems off to me as well, and I mostly agree with Cassius on his thoughts on ataraxia in that section there. For me, ataraxia and aponia have been simply characteristics of the most pleasant life. The fact that they are both negative (a- "not, no" as in apolitical, atheist, etc.) has struck me as odd; but, as descriptors of pleasure, I think I can see where Epicurus is coming from. Pleasure can be euphoric, washing over you so thoroughly that you get that "wrapped in a warm blanket" feeling, not disturbed, not feeling any pain. Actually, the "-ponia" is cognate with "ponos" which is defined as:

    - work, especially hard work; toil

    - bodily exertion, exercise

    - work, task, business

    - the consequence of toil, distress, trouble, suffering

    So, the connotation of "aponia" goes beyond what we think of as feeling pain in your body. The non-philosophical definition of "aponia" is actually "laziness, non-exertion."


    I don't want to go down a tranquilist rabbit hole, but there's an element of tranquility in there.


    I think both academic and popular writers get hung up on Ataraxia and Aponia in Fragment 2 being called katastematic pleasures, but if you look at the whole text below, why aren't euphrosunē and khara obsessed over as well. Ataraxia is used throughout Epicurus's writing simply referring to "peace of mind" but it's hidden by various translations of the Greek.


    Here are some examples I found in a quick search. I think it helps to see Ataraxia used in a wider context. My notes are in brackets.


    Fragment 519: The greatest fruit of justice is serenity [ataraxia]. δικαιοσύνης καρπὸς μέγιστος ἀταραξία.

    [You have peace of mind if you treat people justly.]


    Fragment 2: Lack of mental disturbance [ataraxia] and lack of bodily pain [aponia] are static pleasures, whereas revelry [khara] and rejoicing [euphrosunē] are active pleasures involving movement. ἡ μὲν γὰρ ἀταραξία καὶ <ἡ> ἀπονία καταστηματικαί εἰσιν ἡδοναί. ἡ δὲ χαρὰ καὶ ἡ εὐφροσύνη κατὰ κίνησιν ἐνεργείᾳ βλέπονται.

    [It seems to me that here it's just saying that lack of pain and mental distress don't involve moving around or doing something but they're still pleasurable, revelry and rejoicing by definition seem to involve bodily movement (dancing, singing, merry-making if you will). I realize tons of academic ink have been spilled on this, so I'm sure I haven't settled anything here! Just my take. And I also think this contrasts with the Cyrenaics, to bring it back, who felt all pleasure started in the body not in the mind. Epicurus may be emphasizing both the mind (no disturbance in the mind) and the body (no disturbance in the body) since the Cyrenaics seem to have only recognized pleasure as originating in the body.]


    Letter to Menoikos:

    The steady contemplation of these facts enables you to understand everything that you accept or reject [uses same Greek terms for "choice and avoidance"] in terms of the health of the body and the serenity [ataraxia] of the soul — since that is the goal of a completely happy life.

    τούτων γὰρ ἀπλανὴς θεωρία πᾶσαν αἵρεσιν καὶ φυγὴν ἐπανάγειν οἶδεν ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ὑγίειαν καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀταραξίαν, ἐπεὶ τοῦτο τοῦ μακαρίως ζῆν ἐστι τέλος.

    [Here we see "health of the body" (hygieian) and not "aponia" paired with ataraxia. So it's not like the word ataraxia is always paired with the word aponia. And these two are said here to explicitly be the goal/telos of a completely happy life, literally a blessed life using the same word (makarios) to describe the gods in PD 1. I don't think that takes anything away from pleasure. A healthy body and a peaceful mind are pleasurable. But Epicurus's explicit use of telos here is interesting. I think he's just using health (of the body) and ataraxia as synonyms for the most pleasant life, which *is* the goal/telos.]


    Letter to Pythocles:

    "In the first place, remember that, like everything else, knowledge of celestial phenomena, whether taken along with other things or in isolation, has no other end in view than peace of mind [ataraxia] and firm conviction."

    Πρῶτον μὲν οὖν μὴ ἄλλο τι τέλος ἐκ τῆς περὶ μετεώρων γνώσεως εἴτε κατὰ συναφὴν λεγομένων εἴτε αὐτοτελῶς νομίζειν εἶναι ἤπερ ἀταραξίαν καὶ πίστιν βέβαιον, καθάπερ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν λοιπῶν.

    [Here Epicurus calls ataraxia the telos/goal of knowledge. The goal of this knowledge is to have peace of mind or ataraxia. And he emphasizes this in the next excerpt, too.]


    Letter to Pythocles:

    ([96] For in all the celestial phenomena such a line of research is not to be abandoned;) for, if you fight against clear evidence, you never can enjoy genuine peace of mind [ataraxia].

    ἢν γάρ τις ᾖ μαχόμενος τοῖς ἐναργήμασιν, οὐδέποτε δυνήσεται ἀταραξίας γνησίου μεταλαβεῖν.

  • The fact that they are both negative (a- "not, no" as in apolitical, atheist, etc.) has struck me as odd; but, as descriptors of pleasure, I think I can see where Epicurus is coming from

    It has always seemed to me that "part" of the reason it makes sense to use the negative is that given the premise that everything that is not painful is pleasurable (and the reverse) if you end up talking about specific pleasures, you end up appearing to take sides on what amounts to a ranking of pleasures, which is also a problem. If you talk about cake and pies and ice cream you get labeled as a foodie. If you talk about exploring mountaintops or bicycling or sex or wine or any other particular pleasure, you end up implying that the pleasure which you choose to highlight is among those that "everyone" should choose. If you end up praising the pleasure of painting, or of singing, or of literature, you end up implying that the best life involves those pursuits, when in fact your key and essential premise is that pleasure really is pleasure and totally subjective according to context. Therefore it is essential that you emphasize that there is NOT a ranking or a preferred set of pleasures.


    I don't think that's the full explanation by any means. I would expect in the texts that are lost there are lots of discussions of specific pleasures. But I think that this is related to the issue of Epicurus ejecting "logic" from the canon - the commentators make it appear that Epicurus was throwing out all logic and all "culture" when in fact Epicurus was among the most acute logicians and culture-erectors of them all (a point I think DeWitt makes). He doesn't throw out logic and culture, but uses them himself, in his own way, in the service of what he has concluded is the ultimate end (pleasure). His opponents are so adamantly opposed to his conclusion that they caricature him as being opposed to ALL logic and ALL culture, when in fact he was opposed to THEIR logic and THEIR culture, and erecting his own. But they succeeded in erasing the texts where Epicurus presented the positive elements of his program, and what's left can be made to look like something it was not.


    All of which is to say that the "negative" approach may be in part an intensely "logical" approach, driven by the underlying premise that it is essential to drive home that all pleasure is desirable. The "negative" wording allows that premise to be driven home without suggesting that some pleasures are higher or better than others (which, if admitted, would logically mean that there is a standard other than pleasure itself by which to judge pleasure).

  • Hear, hear, Cassius ! I wish there was an Epicurean "Amen!" :)

    You're spot on about Epicurus opposing THEIR culture, too.

    "Flee from all indoctrination, blessed one, and set sail in your own little boat!"

  • Quote

    I don't want to go down a tranquilist rabbit hole, but there's an element of tranquility in there.

    I agree that there is definitely an element of tranquility in the writings. Tranquility is also part of a well functioning life, as being relatively calm allows for better decision making in addition to allowing for a more complete experience of pleasure. Isn't the big question whether ataraxia is a goal or a byproduct and/or tool?


    That's why I like this from 18.3.15 in G&T: "Once one is convinced of the truth of Epicurus' doctrines and has incorporated his teachings into one's life, one ceases to worry and lives a life as near to ataraxia and aponia as is possible for one." This seems like a pretty common sense interpretation to me.


    Doesn't the most confusion arise over the part of the letter to Menoikos that cited by Don , and the paragraph containing it? I'm wondering if focusing on that and the following paragraph might be useful (by "paragraphs," I'm referring to the Saint-Andre translation). The "goal" in the quotation, to me, refers to the fact that all animals seek pleasure and reject pain. Then in the next paragraph pleasure is referred to as the primary and innate good. So is "the good" something different from a biological imperative?

  • I need to think about your last paragraph but I agree with the second, that this is a common sense interpretation. The elephant in the room is that it is not just common sense but it means that ordinary people living ordinary lives (possibly, even like us) are in fact living and achieving the Epicurean goal, which is relatively easy to achieve.


    And there is a passage in AFewDays InAthens which makes pretty much that point, if I can find it.