Mortality

death doth nothing concern us

III. TRUE it is, indeed, and too true, that men generally abhor Death, sometimes because they look upon it as the Greatest of Pains, sometimes because they apprehend it as the cessations of all their enjoiments, or privation of all things that are dear to them in life; but in both these respects, altogether without cause: since this thing, Not-to-live, or Not-to-be, ought to be no occasion of Terror; because when once we come to that, we shall have no faculty left whereby to know, that Not-to-live hath any thing of Evil in it.

IV. HEREUPON, we may conclude that those are great Fools who abhor to think that after Death their Bodies should be torn by wild beasts, burned in the flame of the funeral pile, devoured by worms, etc. for, they do not consider, that then they shall not be, and so not feel, not complain, that they are torn, burned, devoured by corruption or worms. And that those are Greater Fools, who take it grievously that they shall no longer enjoy the conversation of their Wives, Children, Friends, no longer do them good offices, nor afford them their assistance; for these do not consider, that then they shall have no longer Relation to, nor Desire of Wife, Children, Friends, or any thing else.

V. WE said, that Death (accounted the King of Terrors, and most horrid of all Evils) doth nothing concern us, because, while we are, Death is not; and when Death is, we are not; so that he, who profoundly considers the matter, will soon conclude that Death doth not concern neither the Living, nor the Dead; not the living, because it yet toucheth them not, not the Dead, because they are not.

VI. AND, as the assurance of this, that Death nothing concerns us, doth exempt us from the greatest of Terrors, so also doth it make us to enjoy life to the most advantage of pleasure, not by adding thereunto any thing of uncertain Time, but by Detracting all desire of Immortality. For, in life there can be nothing Evil to him, who doth perfectly understand, that there can be nothing of Evil in the privation of life.

Charleton, Walter. Epicurus: His Morals. London: Peter Davies, 1926. 7677. Print.

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Belief

we are sound

To the former of these Sects we may justly annumerate all such, who conceived the soul of man to be only a certain harmony, not of Musical sounds, but a contemperation of parts, humours, and qualities; and consequently, that as of Musical Harmony, nothing can remain after the sounds are vanished, so of the soul nothing can remain, after death hath once destroyed that harmonious Contemperation of parts, humours, and qualities, from whence it did result.

And this purely was the opinion of not only those ancienter Greeks, Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, Andraeas, and Asclepiades, all which are thereof strongly accused by Plato (in Phaed.) and Aristotle (Lib. I. de Anima. Cap. 5.) but also our Master Galen, who was positive an plain in his definition of the soul, to be a certain Temperament of Elementary Qualities.

Charleton, Walter. “An Apology for Epicurus.” Epicurus: His Morals. London: Peter Davies, 1926.

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Friendship

“Hai Bby”


The philosophy of Epicurus is hedonist, but it is not founded on the doctrine that man by his constitution seeks pleasure and avoids pain (psychological hedonism), nor on the doctrine that men ought in reason seek pleasure as their sovereign good (ethical hedonism). It is the doctrine that being, human being, is pleasure: pleasure is not pursued; it is human existence, and it is possessed with human life and not pursued by human life.

Pleasure is our inborn well-being. We cannot pursue it because it is with us, but we can flee from it, and we can bury it.

There are philosophies which have no faith in life, which teach us how to endure it. So prevalent and influential is this teaching that it has assumed the name philosophy tout court. Yet such philosophy, the sign for resignation, blindly leads us into the pit, teaches us only to renounce the only good there is.

How do we learn to possess the pleasure that is in us, in our human existence? Simply by removing and avoiding what clouds and smothers it, chiefly, physical and moral suffering and fears. Once pain and fear are avoided, all is gained that can be gained, ‘since the living creature has not to wander as though in search of something that is missing, and to look for some other thing by which he can fulfill the good of the soul and the good of the body.’

There is a natural autarky, a spontaneous well-being and inner contentment, which has only to be preserved and reinforced by knowledge and discipline, wise choice and avoidance. Knowledge is the sovereign remedy for suffering and fear.

In our simple primary needs, in our dependence upon the body and in our dependence upon each other, is the source of our life and the source and the rule of our pleasure: all simple things in our own immediate keeping. We can easily get what we absolutely need, we can avoid or endure the pains that flesh is heir to.

There is nothing to hope for nor to fear from the gods, there is nothing to fear in death, there is no fate that besets us and lies in wait: our life is in us and its management is in our hands, to be perfected by wise choice and avoidance. The dependence on the body is pleasure in the exercise of the senses, and is cultivated in the arts.

This dependence on each other is regulated and cultivated in friendship, which is both spontaneous community in the pleasure of the senses and a fundamental mutual need of help, comfort, and security. Sensation is the root of both life and thought, and trust in sensation is the foundation of certainty and serenity.

Pleasure is not increased by multiplying nor by sophisticating desire. It is that way ruined, for that is to chase pleasure and to run away from the only place where it is hid. In faithful attention to the pleasure which our human existence simply is we find our freedom and our rule, our necessity and our happiness, at the same time.

Such teaching is both simple and subtle, easy to practice and an exacting discipline. A teaching of this temper can work on the tough material of experience, and in this case it can produce character, quality of life, and the serenity it promises. That, after all, is the vulgar test of a philosophy.

Blackham, H. J. The Human Tradition. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953. 8889. Print.

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