Cicero’s “On Ends”, his narrative on key aspects of Epicurean philosophy:
– Pleasurable living is the goal of life. Epicurus held that this is established by observation that all young animals pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and that these matters are so clear to us that no logical argument is needed to prove them.
– The error of praising pain and condemning pleasure arises because people do not pursue pleasure intelligently.
– The wise man chooses all his actions so as to produce the greatest and most lasting pleasure.
– This principle of action justifies and explains why we sometimes choose even the most dangerous of physical dangers.
– By pleasure we mean both physical and mental pleasure.
– The Stoics were wrong to condemn pleasure on the grounds that it is only active and physical, because they ignored the fact that pleasure also comes from mental contemplation.
– Compare the nature and life of the happiest man of pleasure with the most miserable man, and you will see that pleasurable living is the object of life.
– The error of believing that the goal of life is to live virtuously.
– Only the wise man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that wisdom is valued.
– Only the courageous, patient, diligent, watchful, and industrious man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that these virtues are valued.
– Only the just man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that justice is valued.
– In short, all virtues are praise-able and desirable only because they secure pleasurable living.
– The pleasures of the mind may be more intense than the pleasures of the body, but the body and mind are inseparable and thus all pleasures are connected with the body.
– It is a pleasure to remove pain, but the removal of a pleasure does not necessarily lead to pain, because our minds have a ready store of past pleasures to reflect on.
– The Stoics are foolish in their characterization of virtue as the only good, and their divorce of virtue from pleasure.
– Fortune has but little power over the wise man.
– The philosophers of Logic and Dialectic, who ignore pleasure and the study of nature are of no help in living happily.
– Friendship is essential for living happily.
– The philosophy of Epicurus is more clear and plain than the sun itself in establishing that pleasurable living is the goal of life, and how to achieve it.
You can see why some people objected to Epicureanismas as being self-indulgent, if you read the above superficially. What Cicero left out is what gives a human being pleasure. It is giving of oneself to friends and loved ones; consciously trying to get on with everyone, however difficult and obnoxious; being polite, courteous and thoughful; avoiding stressful relationships; enjoying nature and the simple things of life; eschewing politics, avoiding the rudeness and vulgarity of modern life, and setting an example of tolerance and civility; thinking for yourself; and simply getting along with your fellow human beings