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From Epicurus to EpictetusStudies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy$
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A. A. Long

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199279128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279128.001.0001

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Pleasure and Social Utility: The Virtues of Being Epicurean

Pleasure and Social Utility: The Virtues of Being Epicurean

(p.178) 9 Pleasure and Social Utility: The Virtues of Being Epicurean
From Epicurus to Epictetus

A. A. Long (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The Epicurean explanation for the origin of community life and laws was the utility of these institutions in facilitating people's natural and necessary desires for a secure life. In advising his followers to ‘live quietly’, Epicurus has at least three defences to advance against the criticism that such a lifestyle is politically irresponsible and morally complacent. First, he can argue that his ethical theory provides human beings, who are natural and persistent pleasure seekers, with the strongest of reasons for the peaceful cooperation that legal systems seek to promote. Second, he can argue that contemporary societies, even if they do provide some measure of security for their members, do so inadequately; and that they compound these failings by systems of education, competitive values, religion, and other practices which do great harm to their citizens. Third, he can argue that the Epicurean way of life, which threatens no one in its scrupulous adherence to justice and is positively philanthropic in its cultivation of friendship, provides society with a model of how to live best at the present stage of human culture. This chapter develops this set of arguments from three perspectives or bodies of material: the basic ethical theory, justice and friendship, and social evolution.

Keywords:   Epicurean ethics, community life, laws, basic ethical theory, justice, friendship, social evolution

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