Historical Context for Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus. Epicurus’ teaching rejects Platonic Forms; it claims, for instance, that justice is nothing other than a. In this letter, Epicurus recommends to Menoeceus that he conduct his life according to certain prescripts, and in accordance with certain beliefs, in order that his. Letter to Menoeceus. Epicurll«1 (TranAated by Brad Inwo(Jd and L. R Geraon). Let no one delay the study of philosophy while young nor weary of it when old.
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Having been born, to pass through the gates of Hades as soon as possible. Since, who can you think better than that ti who has holy opinions respecting the godsand who is utterly fearless with respect to deathand who has properly lettfr the end of natureand who comprehends that the chief good is easily perfected and easily provided ; and the greatest evil lasts but a short periodand causes but brief pain.
Although I cannot provide complete justification for that expansion in a brief note, I shall do so in a forthcoming book on Epicurus. And when we, on certain occasionsfall in with more sumptuous fareit makes us in a better disposition towards it, and renders us fearless with respect to fortune. Most people shrink from death as the greatest of evils, or else extol it as a release from the evils of life.
For the assertions of the many about the gods are not anticipationsbut false opinions. Here Epicurus uses the same word to note the close tie between praise and blame on the one hand and that which is within the power of an individual to achieve.
But it is right to estimate all these things by the measurement and view of what is suitable and unsuitable ; for at times we may feel the good as an eviland at timeson the contrarywe may feel the evil as good.
It is not impious to deny the gods that most people believe in, but to ascribe to the gods what most people believe.
The Internet Classics Archive | Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus
On which accountthe correct knowledge of the fact that death is no concern of ours, makes the mortality of life pleasant to us, inasmuch as it sets forth no illimitable timebut relieves us for the longing for immortality. For a pleasant life is produced not by drinking and endless parties and enjoying boys and women and consuming fish and other delicacies of an extravagant table, but by sober reasoning, searching out the cause of petter we accept or reject, and driving out opinions that cause the greatest trouble in the soul.
So when we say that pleasure is the goal, we do not mean the pleasures of decadent people or the enjoyment of sleep, as is believed by those who are ignorant or who don’t understand us or who are ill-disposed to us, but to be free from bodily pain and mental disturbance. And go this is the primary and inborn good, we do not choose every pleasure. The happy life for Epicurus is to place oneself in an ataraxic state in which one is free to pursue pleasures while minimizing pain.
Nenoeceus we need pleasure only when we are in pain caused by its absence; but when we are not in pain then we have no need lether pleasure.
And he was still more wrong who said:. This rendering is consistent with the connection lettsr Epicurus makes between such desires and opinions that are not based on an understanding of the inborn requirements of human nature. By licensing this translation under Creative Commons CC0I hereby release all legal and economic rights to this translation under all lettter including but not limited to the rights to copy, republish, translate, arrange, modify, and make derivative works from this translationand I grant anyone the right to use this translation without conditions for any purpose.
Letter to Menoikos
As soon as we achieve this, the too is released mrnoeceus every storm, since an animal has no other need and must seek nothing else to complete the goodness of body and soul. Epicurus’s Contributions Adopted menoeceu modified the earlier atomism of Leucippus and Democritus Epicurus’s atomism was influential on early modern scientists Explained all human behavior in terms of pleasure and pain Propounded an ethics according to which the goal of life is freedom from pain Secularized philosophy, claiming that the gods have no influence on cosmic or human affairs.
Training yourself to live simply and without luxury brings you complete health, gives you endless energy to face the necessities of life, legter prepares you for the occasional luxury, and makes you fearless no matter your fortune in life. And, we thinkcontentment a great goodnot in order that we may never have but a littlebut in order that, if we have not much, we may make use of a littlebeing genuinely persuaded that those men enjoy luxury most completely who are the best able to do without it; and that everything which is natural is easily providedand what is useless is not easily procured.
Other translators understand it as applying to “most people” from the previous sentence, with the sense that most people assume that immortal beings so different from themselves must want to interfere in human affairs. And in consequence of these, the greatest evils which befall wicked menand the benefits which are conferred on the goodare all attributed to the gods ; for they connect all their ideas of them with a comparison of human virtuesand everything which is different from human qualitiesthey regard as incompatible with the divine nature.
Absence of Pain The highest pleasure is the lack of pain in the body and of disturbance in the soul Drinking, partying, sex, etc.
Yet the wise man does not dishonor life since he is not set against it and he is not afraid to stop living since he does not consider that to be a bad thing.
Death Death is the end of sense-experience Sense-experience is the only experience human beings have So, death is nothing to human beings This removes the disquieting longing for immortality And it removes fear of death, in which a future event upsets the present.
Some translators understand it as applying to “the gods” from the previous sentence, with the sense that the gods would not interfere in human affairs because they don’t care about “consider as alien” mortal creatures who are so different from themselves. Life Living does not offend the wise person He savors the most pleasant time, rather than the longest time What will happen is not unconditionally within our power Nor is it unconditionally outside our power So, one must not expect to control everything or despair that all is inevitable.
And he who asserts either that it is not yet time to philosophizeor that the hour is passedis like a man who should say that the time is not yet come to be happyor that it is too late. The Gods We have a basic grasp of the nature of the gods They are indestructible and blessed animals Nothing more may be attributed to the gods than indestructibility and blessedness The grasp of the gods’ blessedness is what makes their conception beneficial to the good The false conception of the gods as like themselves leads the bad to fear them.
There is nothing terrifying in life to someone who truly understands that there is nothing terrifying in the absence of life. Arrighetti as published in Epicuro Opere Torino: Therefore, the most formidable of evilsdeathis nothing to us, since, when we existdeath is not present to us; and when death is presentthen we have no existence. For gods there are: For something that causes no trouble when present causes only a groundless pain when merely expected.
And of the necessary onessome are necessary to happinessand others, with regard to the exemption of the body from trouble ; and others with respect to living itself; for a correct theorywith regard to these thingscan refer all choice and avoidance menoeceuss the health of the body and the freedom from disquietude of the soul.
Third, keep in mind that some desires are natural whereas others are groundless [ note ]; that among the natural desires some are natural and necessary whereas others are merely natural; and that among the necessary desires some are necessary for happiness, some for physical health [ note ], and some for life itself. Only the gods are immortal, says Epicurus, but we are not.