Epicurus: Letter to Menoeceus (Summary)

Epicurus, Greek philosopher, left us only three letters: the first, Letter to Herodotus, presents his metaphysics, the second is the letter to Pythocles, explains atomic weather phenomena, the third and most important, Letter to Menoeceus , introduced his ethics. It is to this last letter that we are interested in now.

Extracts from the Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus:

“That does not put off until later, we’re young, the practice of philosophy and we never tired of philosophizing, when one is old. Indeed, it is, for one, neither too early nor too late, when it comes to ensuring the health of his soul. Besides, whoever said that the time to philosophize is not yet come, or that time is past, like the one that says, in the case of happiness, that his time has not yet come or that it is not. So the young man should, like the old man, philosophize in this way, the second, while aging, rejuvenate the past thanks to the property, because he will devote their gratitude, and the first will be at the same time young and far advanced in years, because he will not fear the future. So be what produces happiness the object of his care, as it is true that, when present, we have everything and that when he is absent, we do everything for it.

Accustom thyself also in the thought that death is nothing for us, since every good and evil lie in sensation and that death is deprivation of sensation. Hence a correct understanding that death is nothing for us has the effect of allowing us to enjoy the lethal nature of life, because that knowledge, instead of being assigned a time problématique4, deprives us sorry to immortality. Indeed, there is nothing terrible in the fact of life, when really grasped that the failure to live there is nothing terrible {(so it is stupid, the one that says not to fear death sentence that his presence will cause, but one’s perspective causes him, for whose presence that torments us not only because that punishment awaits him when unfounded. Thus, the most terrifying of evils, death is nothing for us, precisely because, when we exist, death is not present and, when death is present, then we do not exist. It is neither for the living nor for those who died, precisely because it is not for the former and the latter are not. But the multitude fled from death, because she sees her sometimes the greatest of evils, sometimes cessation of all that has life)}, and there is no fear of not living, because then, is not a live weight and not to live is not required for a kind of evil. ” (see Epicurus Quotes)

Commentary on the Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus:

This letter, written in a direct style, friend to another, is a veritable manual of happiness. The message is: Do as I say, and you’ll be happy.

Epicurus formulates his ethical philosophy as an ascetic life of pleasure and virtuous.

Happiness is the greatest good, says Epicurus following Aristotle. And happiness, is the maximization of pleasure. Whether all pleasures are good sources, Epicurus distinguishes the dynamic pleasures (eating) and static pleasures (satiety), which are recommended by the pleasures Epicurus. Pleasure is a state of static equilibrium between the satisfaction of desire and the birth of new desires, frustrations and pain. Similarly, Epicurus distinguishes the physical pleasures of psychological pleasures. This relates to physical pleasures, which must be reduced to a minimum satisfaction. The future, and its corollary fear of the future is what keeps the soul to reach equilibrium at ataraxia.

As for desire, Epicurus says that the wise must eliminate up and go to the desires easily accessible. Epicurus are three types of desires:

  • natural and necessary desires
  • unnecessary and natural desires
  • unnatural and unnecessary desires. These desires, as seeking fame or fortune, must be eliminated because their satisfaction is unknown.

On virtue, Epicurus developed a unique compared to other Greek philosophers: his home, the virtues are only a means to achieve happiness, and not an end in itself.

Finally, Epicurus seeks to resolve the issue of metaphysical anguish of man, by advocating a philosophy of non-thought of death. Death is annihilation, because the mind is a group of atoms that disperses after death. If the mind is more, it can not be afraid, death is nothing for us.

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