October

31   Greater pains, greater pleasures


“(Epicurus says that the pains) of the soul (are worse than those of the body), given that the body is only affected by the storms of the present, whereas the soul is affected by the storms of the past, the present and the future; and so accordingly the pleasures of the soul are greater (than those of the body).”

A view of Epicurus reported in Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.137 (Usener 452)


 

30   Nature teaches us to see things differently


“(Nature) teaches us to consider chance events to be of relatively small importance; and to see that when we are experiencing good fortune we are unfortunate, and when we are experiencing misfortune not to suppose good fortune to be of great value; and to receive good things from chance without hullabaloo, and to stand prepared to confront the apparent ills of chance; and that everything the majority regard as good and bad is of passing importance, and that wisdom has nothing in common with chance.”

Unidentified Epicurean text reconstructed from Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 30 (Usener 489)


 

29   The dependence of the soul on the body


“Epicurus thinks that every joy of the soul occurs on the basis of prior sensations in the body.”

A philosophical text via Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 2.21 (Usener 451)


 

28   Death as a limit


“For excessive pain will bring us to the borders of death.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Plutarch, Against Epicurean Happiness 23 (Usener 448)


 

27   Tolerating pain


“Great pains quickly carry us off, but pains that last a long time do not have great magnitude.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Plutarch, How the Young Should Study Poetry 14 (p. 36b) (Usener 447)


 

26   Recognizing where responsibility lies


“Let us neither put the blame on our bodies as responsible for great evils nor attribute our impatience to circumstances.”

Epicurean saying, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 29 (Usener 445)


 

25   Choosing options for the best outcome


“It is better to endure this or that pain so that we may enjoy greater pleasures. … It is good to forgo this or that pleasure so that we may not suffer more grievous pains.”

Epicurean text quoted by Aristocles of Messene, in Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel 14.21.3 (Usener 442)


 

24   Remembering with gratitude


“Remembering good things that have happened in the past is of the greatest importance for a pleasant life.”

Epicurean saying, quoted in Plutarch, Against Epicurean Happiness 18 (Usener 436)


 

23   Defining what is good, with no shilly-shallying


“For having just escaped a great evil is what makes for unsurpassable joy; and this is the nature of what is good, if we approach the matter straightforwardly and then take a stand instead of fruitlessly walking back and forth discussing the good over and over.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Plutarch, Against Epicurean Happiness 7 (Usener 423)


 

22   Naturally guided by pleasure and pain


“The time when we need pleasure is when we are in pain through its absence. When we have sense-impressions but are not feeling pain, then we have no need of pleasure. For it is not natural pleasure that brings out wrong behaviour, but desiring things on the basis of false opinions (of what we need).”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Stobaeus, Anthology 3.17.34 (Wachsmuth and Hense) (Usener 422)


 

21   Driven by need, first of all for food


“The beginning and root of every good is the pleasure of the stomach. Both wise things and excesses go back to this.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 (Usener 409)


 

20   Very religious but very illogical


“If God complied with the prayers of human beings, all human beings would quickly be destroyed, since people continually pray for many grievous things to happen to each other.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Ps.-Maximus the Confessor, Florilegium (Usener 388)


 

19   It has all happened before


“Nothing unusual occurs in the universe after the infinite time that has already passed.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Ps.-Plutarch, Miscellany 8 (Usener 266)


 

18   Philosophy must help and heal


“Empty is the message of that philosopher by which no human suffering is cured. For just as the art of medicine is of no use if it does not drive out diseases of the body, nor is philosophy of any use if it does not drive out suffering of the soul.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 31 (Usener 221)


 

17   Consistently benevolent


“Do not avoid being gracious in small things, for you will be considered to be such a person in great things as well.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Ps.-Maximus the Confessor, Florilegium (Usener 214)


 

16   Sweetness in spite of loss


“Sweet is the memory of a friend who has died.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Plutarch, Against Epicurean Happiness 28 (Usener 213)


 

15   Better to be poor and happy


“It is better for you to lie on a bed of straw and be confident (about life) than to suffer inner disturbance though you have a golden couch and dine at great expense.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 29 (Usener 207)


 

14   Nature supplies enough for our needs


“To the extent that you are without resource, you are without resource through forgetfulness of nature; for you give yourself fears and desires that do not keep to limits.”

Epicurus, unidentified text, quoted in Porphyry, Letter to Marcella 29 (Usener 203)


 

13   The lot of an exceptional philosopher


“I never strive to please the majority of people; for I have not learned the things that please them, and what I do know is far from their understanding.”

Epicurus, unidentified text; cf. Ps.-Maximus the Confessor, Florilegium (Usener 187)


 

12   A truly Epicurean extravagance


“Send me a small amount of cheese, so that I can feast luxuriously when I want to do so.”

Epicurus, unidentified letter, quoted in Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.11 (Usener 182)


 

11   No extravagance needed


“I relish the pleasure I feel in my poor body, having bread and water, and I say phooey to the pleasures of extravagance, not on their own account but because of the difficulties that result from them.”

Epicurus, unidentified letter, quoted in Stobaeus, Anthology 3.17.33 (Wachsmuth and Hense) (Usener 181)


 

10   Understood pleasures not misunderstood virtues


“I call (people) to continual pleasures and not to empty and vain virtues that involve troubling hopes of fruitful outcomes.”

Epicurus, Letter to Anaxarchus, quoted in Plutarch, Against Colotes 17 (Usener 116)


 

9   Pleasure is essential to morality


“We must honour excellence and virtues and things of that kind if they provide pleasure; if they do not provide pleasure, they must be discarded.”

Epicurus, On the Goal, quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 (Usener 70)


 

8   Goodness and the senses


“For I myself cannot apprehend what good is, if I take away the pleasures of tastes, if I take away sexual pleasures, if I take away the pleasures of things heard, and if I take away the pleasurable responses caused by the form of things in vision.”

Epicurus, On the Goal, quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 (Usener 67)


 

7   Pleasure of body and soul


“The state of bodily well-being and the sure confidence of having this give the highest and most assured joy for those who are able to reason these things out.”

Epicurus, On the Goal, quoted in Plutarch, Against Epicurean Happiness 4 (Usener 68)


 

6   Ethics and divination


“While divination is not something real, if we suppose that it does exist, the events have to be considered to be nothing to us.”

Epicurus, Little Epitome, according to Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.135 (Usener 27)


 

5   Pleasure as a process or a state


“Freedom from disturbance and freedom from pain are states of pleasure; in their movement joy and gladness are visibly actions.”

Epicurus, On Choice and Avoidance (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 10.136; Usener 2)


 

4   If we want happiness


“Having very great wealth or being honoured and admired by the people does not put an end to disturbance of soul or give rise to exceptional joy, nor does anything else beyond the methods that entail no adverse consequences.”

Vatican Sayings 81


 

3   Wild excesses are not a happy choice


“The way of safety for young people is to preserve the freshness of their time of life and to guard against the pervasive defiling effects of wild desires.”

Vatican Sayings 80


 

2   Calmness has two aspects


“A person who is free from disturbance is calm inwardly and outwardly.”

Vatican Sayings 79


 

1   Noble thoughts, noble acts, noble legacy


“The highest concerns of a high-minded person are wisdom and friendship, of which one is a mortal good, the other immortal.”

Vatican Sayings 78


 

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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