November

30   Clear-headedness is essential for happiness


“For continual drinking and partying, or taking one’s enjoyment of boys and women, or indulging in fish and other delicacies of an expensive table, do not produce a pleasant life, but sober reasoning which both examines the basis for every choice and avoidance and drives out the opinions which cause very great turmoil to take hold of our souls.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.132)


 

29   Pleasure as opposed to pain and distress


“So when we speak of pleasure as being a goal, we are not speaking of the pleasures of the dissolute or the pleasures of indulgence (as some people think who reject our views out of ignorance or who misunderstand us), but of not having bodily pain or disturbance of soul.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.131)


 

28   A simple life-style gives confidence


“Hence growing accustomed to a simple and not extravagant life-style is sufficient for full health, makes a person undaunted regarding the essential requirements of life, makes us better at dealing with luxury when that comes along at intervals, and makes us fearless with regard to chance.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.131)


 

27   Satisfaction without excess


“Inexpensive dishes yield as much pleasure as expensive fare when the pain of need is altogether removed; and barley cake and water give the highest pleasure when someone in need consumes them.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.130-131)


 

26   How to enjoy life


“And we regard self-sufficiency as a great good, not so that we may absolutely make do with little, but so that if we do not have much we may be satisfied with little, being truly convinced that those experience the greatest pleasure in the enjoyment of luxury who have least need of it, and that what is natural is all easily obtainable while what is empty is difficult to obtain.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.130)


 

25   When the good is not so good and the bad not so bad


“It is our duty, then, to judge all these things by comparison and calculation and by consideration of advantages and disadvantages. For at certain times we treat what is good as bad, and conversely what is bad as good.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.130)


 

24   Selectivity and acceptance


“So every pleasure is a good through being naturally agreeable, nevertheless not every pleasure is to be chosen; just as it is also the case that every pain is bad, but not every pain is always by its nature to be avoided.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.129)


 

23   Pleasure requires foresight


“And since pleasure is our first and natural good, for this reason we do not choose every pleasure, but there are times when we pass over many pleasures, when greater difficulty would result from them for us, and we consider many pains to be better than pleasures, whenever a greater and long-lasting pleasure will follow for us after we have suffered the pains.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.129)


 

22   Pleasure as our guide


“For we know pleasure as our first and inborn good, and we have it as the beginning of our every choice and avoidance, and we turn to it in using sensation as a standard for judging every good.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.129)


 

21   Pleasure as means and objective


“For we need pleasure when we are in pain through the absence of pleasure. When we are no longer in pain we do not need pleasure. For this reason we say that pleasure is the beginning and goal of living happily.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.128)


 

20   What do we need and when do we need it?


“Our current need in life is not irrationality and false opinions but to live without confusion.”

Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.87)


 

19   Quietness in understanding


“I recommend constant activity in the study of nature and find the greatest peacefulness in such a way of life.”

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.37)


 

18   A few of our favourite fears


“God is not a reason to be afraid, death is not a reason to be worried; and what is good can be easily obtained, while what is terrible can be easily endured.”

An Epicurean formula (the ‘four-part cure’) cited in a work by Philodemus of Gadara (Herculaneum Papyrus 1005)


 

17   Rejoicing in obscurity


“Live unnoticed.”

An Epicurean principle cited in Plutarch, On Living Unnoticed 1128c (Usener 551)


 

16   Defining happiness


“Well-being and happiness do not consist of a large amount of money or a lot of things or certain positions of authority or power and influence, but freedom from distress and gentleness of feeling and a disposition of soul which observes natural limits.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Plutarch, How the Young Should Study Poetry 14 (Usener 548)


 

15   Fear tactics are not a happy option


“It is not possible for someone who causes fear to be free from fear.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Ps.-Maximus the Confessor, Florilegium (Usener 537)


 

14   To allow wisdom to flourish


“The laws are laid down for the sake of the wise, not so that they may not do wrong but so that they may not be wronged.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Stobaeus, Anthology 4.143 (Wachsmuth and Hense) (Usener 530)


 

13   Acting justly is necessary for being happy


“The greatest fruit of being just is freedom from inner disturbance.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.2 (Usener 519)


 

12   The principle of pleasure is absolutely indispensable


“I say phooey to excellence and to those who vainly admire it, when it produces no pleasure.”

Epicurus, unidentified passages, quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 (Usener 512)


 

11   Living well today gives confidence for tomorrow


“The person who needs tomorrow least will come to it most gladly.”

Epicurus, quoted in Plutarch, On Tranquillity of Mind 16 (474c) (Usener 490)


 

10   Pumped up one day, deflated the next


“The weak soul crows over strokes of good fortune but is overwhelmed by misfortunes.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Ps.-Maximus the Confessor, Florilegium (Usener 488)


 

9   The two reasons for unhappiness


“For anyone is unhappy either through fear or through desire that does not observe limits and is empty; anyone who curbs these can secure the benefit of blissful reason.”

Epicurus (ascribed), quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 29 (Usener 485)


 

8   Everything but happiness


“A great heap of possessions is built up by working ourselves to the bone, but it amounts to a miserable life.”

Epicurus (ascribed), quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 29 (Usener 480)


 

7   Well off worse off


“Many people who become wealthy get no deliverance from evils but an exchange for greater evils.”

Epicurus (ascribed), unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 28 (Usener 479)


 

6   Fear and frugality


“Many a person fears a frugal life-style and through this fear comes to do things which might above all produce fear.”

Epicurus (ascribed), unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 28 (Usener 478)


 

5   Oh to be contented with enough


“Self-sufficiency is the greatest wealth of all.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.2 (Usener 476)


 

4   Nature smiles and we are grateful


“Thanks be to bountiful nature for making what is necessary easy to obtain and what is difficult to obtain unnecessary.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, in Stobaeus, Anthology 3.17.22 (Wachsmuth and Hense) (Usener 469)


 

3   The true source of riches


“Nature itself makes the wise person wealthy.”

Epicurean sentiment, in Cicero, On the Ends of Good and Evil 2.28, 90 (Usener 468)


 

2   Gastronomic delights will not solve our problems


“Variety of foods cannot possibly dispel the disturbances of the soul, but nor will it help to increase bodily pleasure; for that too reaches a limit with the removal of pain.”

Epicurean sentiment in Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animals 1.51 (Usener 463)


 

1   Philosophy and desire


“Every desire that produces disturbance and pain is dispelled by love of true philosophy.”

Epicurus (ascribed), unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 31 (Usener 457)


 

Headings are linked (or are to be linked) to related blog posts, where comments can be submitted. The translations are open to revision on textual or other grounds. At some points the interpretation is provisional.

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