Epicureans on Squandering Life

  • I read the whole article and in general think it is excellent, until it gets here:

    So the best way this writer can think of to spend our time, once we realize how valuable it is, is to have a glass of water and a crispy piece of toast???? Maybe if you're living in a concentration camp, or under some similar form of oppression.

    As Theon says in "A Few Days in Athens" --- YE GODS !!!!!

    I see this article as one in many that comes so close to grasping the core of the Epicurean message, and then throwing it away because it can't break free from
    "simplicity above all."

    Vatican Saying 63: There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.

    Letter to Menoeceus:

    Again, we regard independence of outward things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when once the pain of want has been removed, while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one's self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.

    It is observed too that in his treatise On the Ethical End he [Epicurus] writes in these terms:

    “I know not how to conceive the good, apart from the pleasures of taste, of sex, of sound, and the pleasures of beautiful form.”

    – Diogenes Laertius, Book X

    Torquatus, from On Ends:

    The truth of the position that pleasure is the ultimate good will most readily appear from the following illustration. Let us imagine a man living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain: what possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? One so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain; he will know that death means complete unconsciousness, and that pain is generally light if long and short if strong, so that its intensity is compensated by brief duration and its continuance by diminishing severity. Let such a man moreover have no dread of any supernatural power; let him never suffer the pleasures of the past to fade away, but constantly renew their enjoyment in recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement.


  • I don't think we need MORE than water and toast if we have the right disposition :)

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Hiram one thing i will never believe about you is that you would be satisfied living only on water and toast! I have seen too many of your food postings to believe that. :-)

    And I mean that in a GOOD way, and not in the way that some would say means you are not a good Epicurean. I think you are a good Epicurean because you embrace pleasure for the sake of pleasure, and you don't run from pain as if that were the meaning of life.

    Yes, I agree that the "water and toast" and "bit of cheese and compete with Zeus" can indeed good "in your face" ways to state the extreme of the position. But debating extremes seems to me to be useful mainly in dialectical argument with enemies, and I am not at all sure that we profit a lot by engaging in dialectical argument with enemies.

    Our enemies always stress the simplicity and the implied asceticism, but normal people will NEVER interpret asceticism as consistent with the pleasures that make life worthwhile. And I think that expectation of rejection by normal people is exactly why most philosophers, who are at base anti-Epicurean, talk about little else but these sections of the Epicurean texts.