Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Do you see any difference between Epicurus's use the the concept "prudence" and Aristotle's use of the concept "practical reason" as discussed in our selection from the Nichomachean Ethics? Henry Sidgwick defines "prudence" as "Wisdom made more definite by the acceptance of Self-interest as its sole ultimate end: the habit of calculating carefully the best means to the attaiment of our own interest, and resisting all irrrational impulses which may bend to perturb our calculations or prevent us from acting on them."[1] Are these the same kind of capacities? Justify your answer.

  2. Does Epicureanism hold the doctrine that all pleasure is instrinsically good? If some pleasures lead to pain and if some pains lead to pleasures, then how can pleasure be intrinsically good? If pleasure is not intrinsically good, then what, if anything, is intrinsically good, according to Epicurus?

  3. On what grounds does Epicurus reject asceticism? Compare his view to Bentham's analysis of asceticism in this text. Does the conscious avoidance of pleasure entail painful consequences?

  4. Compare Epicurus's theory of justice with that espoused by Glaucon in the reading from Plato's Republic in Part V of this text. Does Epicurus's emphasis on the utility of a just law imply that his maxims foreshadow utilitarianism?

  5. Although Epicureanism emphasizes the importance of friendship for the good life, in at least one regard, Epicureanism seems close to Stoicism. How is it possible to be happy, "enjoying the advantages of friendship in all their fullness, and not lamenting as a pitiable circumstance, the premature death of their friends."? Basing your reasoning on the reading from Epictetus, how does the Stoic answer this question?



Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Macmillan, 1907, 328.