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New FAQ Entry: What Did Epicurus Have To Say About Friendship?

What did Epicurus say about “friendship”?

  1. Key Doctrine 27: “Of all the things which the wise man seeks to acquire to produce the happiness of a complete life, by far the most important is the possession of friendship.”
  2. Key Doctrine 28: “The same opinion that encourages us to trust that no evil will be everlasting, or even of long duration, shows us that in the space of life allotted to us the protection of friendship is the most sure and trustworthy.”
  3. Key Doctrine 39: “He who desires to live tranquilly without having anything to fear from other men ought to make them his friends. Those whom he cannot make friends he should at least avoid rendering enemies, and if that is not in his power, he should avoid all dealings with them as much as possible, and keep away from them as far as it is in his interest to do so.
  4. Key Doctrine 40: “The happiest men are those who have arrived at the point of having nothing to fear from their neighbors. Such men live with one another most pleasantly, having the firmest grounds of confidence in one another, enjoying the full advantages of friendship, and not lamenting the departure of their dead friends as though they were to be pitied.”
  5. Vatican Saying 23. “All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help.”
  6. Vatican Saying 28. “We must not approve either those who are always ready for friendship, or those who hang back, but for friendship’s sake we must run risks.”
  7. Vatican Saying 34. “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as it is the confidence of their help.”
  8. Vatican Saying 39. “He is no friend who is continually asking for help, nor he who never associates help with friendship. For the former barters kindly feeling for a practical return and the latter destroys the hope of good in the future.”
  9. Vatican Saying 52. “Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.”
  10. Vatican Saying 56. “The wise man feels no more pain when being tortured himself than when his friend tortured.”
  11. Vatican Saying 57. “On occasion a man will die for his friend, for if he betrays his friend, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.”
  12. Vatican Saying 61. “Most beautiful too is the sight of those near and dear to us, when our original kinship makes us of one mind; for such sight is great incitement to this end.”
  13. Vatican Saying 66. “Let us show our feeling for our lost friends not by lamentation but by meditation.”
  14. Vatican Saying 78. “The noble soul occupies itself with wisdom and friendship; of these the one is a mortal good, the other immortal.”
  15. Wise Man Saying 5. “The wise man shows gratitude, and constantly speaks well of his friends whether they are present or absent.”
  16. Wise Man Saying 24. “The wise man will not mourn the death of his friends.”
  17. Wise Man Saying 37. “The wise man will be willing even to die for a friend.”
  18. Wise Man Saying 41. “The wise man holds that friendship is first brought about due to practical need, just as we sow the earth for crops, but it is formed and maintained by means of a community of life among those who find mutual pleasure in it.”
  19. Cicero’s “On Ends” – the Defense of Epicurus delivered by Torquatus: “There remains a topic that is supremely relevant to this discussion – the subject of Friendship. Your [Platonic] school maintains that if pleasure is held to be the Chief Good, friendship will cease to exist. In contrast, Epicurus has pronounced in regard to friendship that of all the means to happiness that wisdom has devised, none is greater, none is more fruitful, none is more delightful than friendship. Not only did Epicurus commend the importance of friendship through his words, but far more, through the example of his life and his conduct. How rare and great friendship is can be seen in the mythical stories of antiquity. Review the legends from the remotest of ages, and, many and varied as they are, you will barely find in them three pairs of friends, beginning with Theseus and ending with Orestes. Yet Epicurus in a single house (and a small one at that) maintained a whole company of friends, united by the closest sympathy and affection, and this still goes on today in the Epicurean school. … The Epicureans maintain that friendship can no more be separated from pleasure than can the virtues, which we have discussed already. A solitary, friendless life is necessarily beset by secret dangers and alarms. Hence reason itself advises the acquisition of friends. The possession of friends gives confidence and a firmly rooted hope of winning pleasure. And just as hatred, jealousy and contempt are hindrances to pleasure, so friendship is the most trustworthy preserver and also creator of pleasure for both our friends and for ourselves. Friendship affords us enjoyment in the present, and it inspires us with hope for the near and distant future. Thus it is not possible to secure uninterrupted gratification in life without friendship, nor to preserve friendship itself unless we love our friends as much as ourselves. … For we rejoice in our friends’ joy as much as in our own, and we are equally pained by their sorrows. Therefore the wise man will feel exactly the same towards his friends as he does towards himself, and he will exert himself as much for his friend’s pleasure as he would for his own. All that has been said about the essential connection of the virtues with pleasure must be repeated about friendship. Epicurus well said (and I give almost his exact words): “The same creed that has given us courage to overcome all fear of everlasting or long-enduring evil after death has discerned that friendship is our strongest safeguard in this present term of life. … All these considerations go to prove not only that the rationale of friendship is not impaired by the identification of the chief good with pleasure, but, in fact, without this, no foundation for friendship whatsoever can be found.