Epictetus
Epictetus


CHAPTER 23: Against Epicurus

Even Epicurus understands that humans are social by nature. But having once placed our good in the husk (our bodies), he is no longer able to say anything else. He strongly maintains that we ought not to admire or to accept anything which is detached from the nature of good. He is right in maintaining this.

Epicurus was the founder of the Epicurean school. The premise of his philosophy was that the body is the primary root of our knowledge about good and evil. He said that if a thing brings pleasure it is good. If it brings pain, then it is bad. Even today the term "Epicurean" is applied to people who pursue refined earthly pleasures. Even so, to be fair to Epicurus, he was not a proponent of immediate gratification of all bodily desires. He did make a point of telling his followers that over-indulgence was evil because it would ultimately result in more pain than pleasure.

As we have noted in previous chapters, Christianity is very much against this idea. Paul constantly stresses the primacy of the spirit over the desires of the body (Galatians 5:16, et al). Epictetus, too, has made this point many times. Yet, Epictetus and Epicurus do have a point of agreement. They both agree that the good must be pursued assiduously. Epictetus stresses this agreement because he sees it as the chink in the philosophic armor of Epicurus and the Epicureans.

Chapter 2:

  1. Against Epicurus
  2. Epicurus and Social Responsibility (23a)
  3. Epicurus and Children (23b)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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