Epicurean Ethics

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Epicurean Ethics

In this paper I am going to deal with Epicurean ethics. More specifically, I am going to center around the nature of pleasure and its connection with desire-satisfaction. Throughout the paper I will argue, the only thing we desire for its own sake is pleasure. Thus it is best to keep our desires simple in order to achieve the greatest feeling of pleasure. I will accomplish this by first giving arguments for why the only thing we desire for its own sake is pleasure, as well as arguments for why it is best to keep our desires simple. I will then take a look at a number of objections and give some reasons as to why these objections are unconvincing.

Before I can begin with the argumentative side of the paper, it is necessary that some background information on Epicurus be given. Epicurus was both a hedonist as well as an egoist, and was very concerned with how people get happiness. He was a psychological hedonist because he argued that we aim only at pleasure for its own sake. He was an ethical hedonist because he believed that only pleasure has true value. Similarly, he was called both a psychological and ethical egoist because he claimed that what we are aiming for and what is valuable to each of us is our own pleasure. (Epicurus (1994) text 4) With this in mind, we are ready to move on to the arguments for why the only thing we desire for its own sake is pleasure, and why it is best to keep our desires simple.

First we will examine the thesis "The only thing we desire for its own sake is pleasure." As Epicurus argued in throughout his writings, "pleasure is the goal." (Epicurus (1994) text 1.11) It is also is "the starting point ... of living blessedly" (Epicurus (1994) text 4.128)...

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...t you are feeling does not resemble anything of a corpse. In all reality this feeling of relaxation is a tremendous pleasure to you.

Indeed it is quite clear after the above arguments that pleasure is the only thing that we desire for its own sake. It is also clear that not every pleasure should be taken, nor every pain avoided. Instead we should focus on what will bring us pleasure in the long run. Secondly, it is important that we keep our desires simple in order to achieve the greatest feeling of pleasure. One should not wish for more of something, but rather reduce their desires. It is these two arguments that form one of the building blocks for Epicurus' ethics.

Works Cited

Epicurus. The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994. Translated and Edited by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson.
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