Cicero – On Ends – Book 2
Upon this they both looked at me, and signified their readiness to hear me. So I began: “First of all, I beg of you not to imagine that I am going to deliver you a formal lecture, like a professional philosopher. That is a procedure which even in the case of philosophers I have never very much approved. Socrates, who is entitled to be styled the father of philosophy, never did anything of the sort. It was the method of his contemporaries the Sophists, as they were called. It was one of the Sophists, Gorgias of Leontini, who first ventured in an assembly to ‘invite a question,’ that is, to ask anyone to state what subject he desired to hear discussed. A bold undertaking, indeed, I should call it a piece of effrontery, had not this custom later on passed over into our own school. But we read how Socrates made fun of the aforesaid Gorgias, and the rest of the Sophists also, as we can learn from Plato. His own way was to question his interlocutors and by a process of cross-examination to elicit their opinions, so that he might express his own views by way of rejoinder to their answers. This practice was abandoned by his successors, but was afterwards revived by Arcesilas, who made it a rule that those who wished to hear him should not ask him questions but should state their own opinions; and when they had done so he argued against them. But whereas the pupils of Arcesilas did their best to defend their own position, with the rest of the philosophers the student who has put a question pis then silent; and indeed this is nowadays the custom even in the Academy. The would‑be learner says, for example, ‘The Chief Good in my opinion is pleasure,’ and the contrary is then maintained in a formal discourse; so that it is not hard to realize that those who say they are of a certain opinion do not actually hold the view they profess, but want to hear what can be argued against it. We are adopting a more profitable mode of procedure, for Torquatus has not only told us his own opinion but also his reasons for holding it. Still, for my part, though I enjoyed his long discourse very much, I believe all the same that it is better to stop at point after point, and make out what each person is willing to admit and what he denies, and then to draw such inferences as one desires from these admissions and so arrive at one’s conclusion. When the exposition goes rushing on like a mountain stream in spate, it carries along with it a vast amount of miscellaneous material, but there is nothing one can take hold of or rescue from the flood; there is no point at which one can stem the torrent of oratory.
“However, in philosophical investigation a methodical and systematic discourse must always begin by formulating a preamble like that which occurs in certain forms of process at law, ‘The issue shall be as follows’; so that the parties to the debate may be agreed as to what the subject is about which they are debating. This rule is laid down by Plato in the Phaedrus, and it was approved by Epicurus, who realized that it ought to be followed in every discussion. But he failed to see what this involved. For he says that he does not hold with giving a definition of the thing in question; yet without this it is sometimes impossible for the disputants to agree what the subject under discussion is; as, for example, in the case of the very question we are now debating. We are trying to discover the End of Goods; but how can we possibly know what the nature of this is, without comparing notes as to what we mean, in the phrase ‘End of Goods,’ by the term ‘End’ and also by the term ‘Good’ itself? Now this process of disclosing latent meanings, of revealing what a particular thing is, is the process of definition; and you yourself now and then unconsciously employed it. For you repeatedly defined this very notion of End or final or ultimate aim as ‘that to which all right actions are a means while it is not itself a means to anything else.’ Excellent so far. Very likely had occasion arisen you would have defined the Good itself, either as ‘the naturally desirable,’ or ‘the beneficial,’ or ‘the delightful,’ or just ‘that which we like.’ Well then, if you don’t mind, as you do not entirely disapprove of definition, and indeed practice it when it suits your purpose, I should be glad if you would now define pleasure, the thing which is the subject of the whole of our present inquiry.” “Dear me,” cried Torquatus, “who is there who does not know what pleasure is?” Who needs a definition to assist him to understand it?” “I should say that I myself was such a person,” I replied, “did I not believe that as a matter of fact I do fully understand the nature of pleasure, and possess a well-founded conception and comprehension of it. As it is, I venture to assert that Epicurus himself does not know what pleasure is, but is uncertain about it. He is always harping on the necessity of carefully sifting out the meaning punderlying the terms we employ, and yet he occasionally fails to understand what is the import of the term ‘pleasure,’ I mean, what is the notion that corresponds to the term.”
Torquatus laughed. “Come, that is a good joke,” he said, “that the author of the doctrine that pleasure is the End of things desirable, the final and ultimate Good, should actually not know what manner of thing pleasure itself is!’ “Well,” I replied, “either Epicurus does not know what pleasure is, or the rest of mankind all the world over do not.” “How so?” he asked. “Because the universal opinion is that pleasure is a sensation actively stimulating the percipient sense and diffusing over it a certain agreeable feeling.” “What then?” he replied; “does not Epicurus recognize pleasure in your sense?” “Not always,” said I; “now and then, I admit, he recognizes it only too fully; for he solemnly avows that he cannot even understand what Good there can be or where it can be found, apart from that which is derived from food and drink, the delight of the ears, and the grosser forms of gratification. Do I misrepresent his words?” “Just as if I were ashamed of all that,” he cried, “or unable to explain the sense in which it is spoken!” “Oh,” said I, “I haven’t the least doubt you can explain it with ease. And you have no reason to be ashamed of sharing the opinions of a Wise Man — who stands alone, so far as I am aware, in venturing to arrogate to himself that title. For I do not suppose that Metrodorus himself claimed to be a Wise Man, though he did not care to refuse the compliment when the name was bestowed upon him by Epicurus; while the famous Seven of old received their appellation not by their own votes, but by the universal suffrage of mankind. Still, for the present I take it for granted that in the utterance in question Epicurus undoubtedly recognizes the same meaning of ‘pleasure’ as everyone else. Every one uses the Greek word hēdonē and the Latin voluptas to mean an agreeable and exhilarating stimulation of the sense.” “Well then,” he asked, “what more do you want?” “I will tell you,” I said, “though more for the sake of ascertaining the truth than from any desire to criticize yourself or Epicurus.” “I also,” he replied, “would much rather learn anything you may have to contribute, than criticize your views.” “Do you remember, then,” I said, “what Hieronymus of Rhodes pronounces to be the Chief Good, the standard as he conceives it to which all other things should be referred?” “I remember,” said he, “that he considers the End to be freedom from pain.” “Well,” said I, “what is the same philosopher’s view about pleasure?” “He thinks that pleasure is not desirable in itself.” “Then in his opinion to feel pleasure is a different thing from not feeling pain?” “Yes,” he said, “and there he is seriously mistaken, since, as I have just shown, the complete removal of pain is the limit of the increase of pleasure.” “Oh,” I said, “as for the formula ‘freedom from pain,’ I will consider its meaning later on; but unless you are extraordinarily obstinate you are bound to admit that ‘freedom from pain’ does not mean the same as ‘pleasure.’ ” “Well, but on this point you will find me obstinate,” said he; “for it is as true as any proposition can be.” “Pray,” said I, “when a man is thirsty, is there any pleasure in the act of drinking?” “That is undeniable,” he answered. “Is it the same pleasure as the pleasure of having quenched one’s thirst?” “No, it is a different kind of pleasure. For the pleasure of having quenched one’s thirst is a ‘static’ pleasure, but the pleasure of actually quenching it is a ‘kinetic’ pleasure.” “Why then,” I asked, “do you call two such different things by the same name?” “Do you not remember,” he replied, “what I said just now, that when all pain has been removed, pleasure may vary in kind but cannot be increased in degree?” “Oh, yes, I remember,” said I; “but though your language was quite correct in form, your meaning was far from clear. ‘Variation’ is a good Latin term; we use it strictly of different colours, but it is applied metaphorically to a number of things that differ: we speak of a varied poem, a varied speech, a varied character, varied fortunes. Pleasure too can be termed varied when it is derived from a number of unlike things producing unlike feelings of pleasure. If this were the variation you spoke of, I could understand the term, just as I understand it without your speaking of it. But I cannot quite grasp what you mean by ‘variation’ when you say that when we are free from pain we experience the highest pleasure, and that when we are enjoying things that excite a pleasant activity of the senses, we then experience an active or ‘kinetic’ pleasure that causes a variation of our pleasant sensations, but no increase in the former pleasure that consists in absence of pain — although why you should call this ‘pleasure’ I cannot make out.”
“Well,” he asked, “can anything be more pleasant than freedom from pain?” “Still,” I replied, “granting there is nothing better (that point I waive for the moment), surely it does not therefore follow that what I may call the negation of pain is the same thing as pleasure?” “Absolutely the same,” said he, “indeed the negation of pain is a very intense pleasure, the most intense pleasure possible.” “If then,” said I, “according to your account the Chief Good consists entirely in feeling no pain, why do you not keep to this without wavering? Why do you not firmly maintain this conception of the Good and no other? What need is there to introduce so abandoned a character as Mistress Pleasure into the company of those honourable ladies the Virtues? Her very name is suspect, and lies under a cloud of disrepute — so much so that you Epicureans are fond of telling us that we do not understand what Epicurus means by pleasure. I am a reasonably good-tempered disputant, but for my own part when I hear this assertion (and I have encountered it fairly often), I am sometimes inclined to be a little irritated. Do I not understand the meaning of the Greek word hēdonē, the Latin voluptas? Pray which of these two languages is it that I am not acquainted with? Moreover how comes it that I do not know what the word means, while all and sundry who have elected to be Epicureans do? As for that, your sect argues very plausibly that there is no need for the aspirant to philosophy to be a scholar at all. And you are as good as your word. Our ancestors brought old Cincinnatus from the plough to be dictator. You ransack the country villages for your assemblage of doubtless respectable but certainly not very learned adherents. Well, if these gentlemen can understand what Epicurus means, cannot I? I will prove to you that I do. In the first place, I mean the same by ‘pleasure’ as he does by hēdonē. One often has some trouble to discover a Latin word that shall be the precise equivalent of a Greek one; but in this case no search was necessary. No instance can be found of a Latin word that more exactly conveys the same meaning as the corresponding Greek word than does the word voluptas. Every person in the world who knows Latin attaches to this word two ideas — that of gladness of mind, and that of a delightful excitation of agreeable feeling in the body. On the one hand there is the character in Trabea who speaks of ‘excessive pleasure of the mind,’ meaning gladness, the same feeling as is intended by the person in Caecilius who describes himself as being ‘glad with every sort of gladness.’ But there is this difference, that the word ‘pleasure’ can denote a mental as well as a bodily feeling (the former a vicious emotion, in the opinion of the Stoics, who define it as ‘elation of the mind under an irrational conviction that it is enjoying some great good’), whereas ‘joy’ and ‘gladness’ are not used of bodily sensation. However pleasure according to the usage of all who speak good Latin consists in the enjoyment of a delightful stimulation of one of the senses. The term ‘delight’ also you may apply if you like to the mind (‘to delight’ is said of both mind and body, and from it the adjective ‘delightful’ is derived), so long as you understand that between the man who says
So full am I of gladness
That I am all confusion,
p and him who says
Now, now my soul with anger burns,
one of whom is transported with gladness and the other tormented with painful emotion, there is the intermediate state:
Though our acquaintanceship is but quite recent,
where the speaker feels neither gladness nor sorrow; and that similarly between the enjoyment of the most desirable bodily pleasures and the endurance of the most excruciating pains there is the neutral state devoid of either.
“Well, do you think I have properly grasped the meaning of the terms, or do I still require lessons in the use of either Greek or Latin? And even supposing that I do not understand what Epicurus says, still I believe I really have a very clear knowledge of Greek, so that perhaps it is partly his fault for using such unintelligible language. Obscurity is excusable on two grounds: it may be deliberately adopted, as in the case of Heraclitus,
The surname of the Obscure who bore,
So dark his philosophic lore;
or the obscurity may be due to the abstruseness of the subject and not of the style — an instance of this is Plato’s Timaeus. But Epicurus, in my opinion, has no intention of not speaking plainly and clearly if he can, nor is he discussing a recondite subject like natural philosophy, nor a technical subject such as mathematics, but a lucid and easy topic, and one that is generally familiar already. And yet you Epicureans do not deny that we understand what pleasure is, but what he means by it; which proves not that we do not understand the real meaning of the word, but that Epicurus is speaking an idiom of his own and ignoring our accepted terminology. For if he means the same as Hieronymus, who holds that the Chief Good is a life entirely devoid of trouble, why does he insist on using the term pleasure, and not rather ‘freedom from pain,’ as does Hieronymus, who understands his own meaning? Whereas if his view is that the End must include kinetic pleasure (for so he describes this vivid sort of pleasure, calling it ‘kinetic’ in contrary with the pleasure of freedom from pain, which is ‘static’ pleasure), what is he really aiming at? For he cannot possibly convince any person who knows himself — anyone who has studied his own nature and sensations — that freedom from pain is the same thing as pleasure. This, Torquatus, is to do violence to the senses — this uprooting from our minds our knowledge of the meaning of words ingrained. Who is not aware that the world of experience contains these three states of feeling: first, the enjoyment of pleasure; second, the sensation of pain; and third, which is my own condition and doubtless also yours at the present moment, the absence of both pleasure and pain? Pleasure is the feeling of a man eating a good dinner, pain that of one being broken on the rack; but do you really not see the intermediate between those two extremes lies a vast multitude of persons who are feeling neither gratification nor pain?” “I certainly do not,” said he; “I maintain that all who are without pain are enjoying pleasure, and what is more the highest form of pleasure.” “Then you think that a man who, not being himself thirsty, mixes a drink for another, feels the same pleasure as the thirsty man who drinks it?”
At this Torquatus exclaimed: “A truce to question and answer, if you do not mind. I told you from the beginning that I preferred continuous speeches. I foresaw this kind of thing exactly; I knew we should come to logic-chopping and quibbling.” “Then,” said I, “would you sooner we adopted the rhetorical and not the dialectical mode of debate?” “Why,” he cried, “just as if continuous discourse were proper for orators only, and not for philosophers as well!” “That is the view of Zeno the Stoic,” I rejoined; “he used to say that the faculty of speech in general falls into two departments, as Aristotle had already laid down; and that Rhetoric was like the palm of the hand, Dialectic like the closed fist; because rhetoricians employ an expansive style, and dialecticians one that is more compressed. So I will defer to your wish, and will speak if I can in the rhetorical manner, but with the rhetoric of the philosophers, not with the sort which we use in the law‑courts. The latter, as it employed a popular style, must necessarily sometimes be a little lacking in subtlety. Epicurus however, Torquatus, in his contempt for dialectic, which comprises at once the entire science of discerning the essence of things, of judging their qualities, and of conducting a systematic and logical argument, — Epicurus, I say, makes havoc of his exposition. He entirely fails, in my opinion at all events, to impart scientific precision to the doctrines he desires to convey. Take for example the particular tenet that we have just been discussing. The Chief Good is pleasure, say you Epicureans. Well then, you must explain what pleasure is; otherwise it is impossible to make clear the subject under discussion. Had Epicurus cleared up the meaning of pleasure, he would not have fallen into such confusion. Either he would have upheld pleasure in the same sense as Aristippus, that is, an agreeable and delightful excitation of the sense, which is what even dumb cattle, if they could speak, would call pleasure; or, if he preferred to use an idiom of his own, instead of speaking the language of the
Danaans one and all, men of Mycenae, Scions of Athens, and the rest of the Greeks invoked in these anapaests, he might have confined the name of pleasure to this state of freedom from pain, and despised pleasure as Aristippus understands it; or else, if he approved of both sorts of pleasure, as in fact he does, then he ought to combine together pleasure and absence of pain, and profess two ultimate Goods. Many distinguished philosophers have as a matter of fact thus interpreted the ultimate good as composite. For instance, Aristotle combined the exercise of virtue with well-being lasting throughout a complete lifetime; Callipho united pleasure with moral worth; Diodorus to moral worth added freedom from pain. Epicurus would have followed their example, had he coupled the view we are now discussing, which as it is belongs to Hieronymus, with the old doctrine of Aristippus. For there is a real difference of opinion between them, and accordingly each sets up his own separate End; and as both speak unimpeachable Greek, Aristippus, who calls pleasure the Chief Good, does not count absence of pain as pleasure, while Hieronymus, who makes the Chief Good absence of pain, never employs the name pleasure to denote this negation of pain, and in fact does not reckon pleasure among things desirable at all.
“For you must not suppose it is merely a verbal distinction: the things themselves are different. To be without pain is one thing, to feel pleasure another; yet you Epicureans try to combine these quite dissimilar feelings — not merely under a single name (for that I could more easily tolerate), but as actually being a single thing, instead of really two; which is absolutely impossible. Epicurus, approving both sorts of pleasure, ought to have recognized both sorts; as he really does in fact, though he does not distinguish them in words. In a number of passages where he is commending that real pleasure which all of us call by the same name, he goes so far as to say that he cannot even imagine any Good that is not connected with pleasure of the kind intended by Aristippus. This is the language that he holds it discourse dealing solely with the topic of the Chief Good. Then there is another treatise containing his most important doctrines in a compendious form, in which we are told he uttered the very oracles of Wisdom. Here he writes the following words, with which you, Torquatus, are of course familiar (for every good Epicurean has got by heart the master’s Kuriai Doxai or Authoritative Doctrines, since these brief aphorisms or maxims are held to be of sovereign efficacy for happiness). So I will ask you kindly to notice whether I translate this maxim correctly: ‘If the things in which sensualists find pleasure could deliver them from the fear of the gods and of death and pain, and could teach them to set bounds to their desires, we should have no reason to blame them, since on every hand they would be abundantly supplied with pleasures, and on no side would be exposed to any pain or grief, which are the sole evil.’ ”
At this point Triarius could contain himself no longer. “Seriously now, Torquatus,” he broke out, “does Epicurus really say that?” (For my own part, I believe that he knew it to be true, but wanted to hear Torquatus admit it.) Torquatus, nothing daunted, answered with complete assurance: “Certainly, those are his very words. But you don’t perceive his meaning.” “Oh,” I retorted, “if he means one thing and says another, I never shall understand his meaning. But what he understands he expresses clearly enough. If what he here says is that sensualists are not to be blamed provided they are wise men, he is talking nonsense. He might as well say that parricides are not to be blamed provided they are free from avarice and from fear of the gods, of death and pain. Even so, what is the point of granting the sensual any saving clause? Why imagine certain fictitious persons who, though living sensually, would not be blamed by the wisest of philosophers for their sensuality, provided they avoided other faults? All the same, Epicurus, would not you blame sensualists for the very reason that their one object in life is the pursuit of pleasure of any and every sort, especially as according to you the highest pleasure is to feel no pain? Yet we shall find profligates in the first place so devoid of religious scruples that they will ‘eat the food on the paten,’ and secondly so fearless of death as to be always quoting the lines from the Hymn is:
p Enough for me six months of life, the seventh to Hell I pledge!
Or if they want an antidote to pain, out comes from their phial the great Epicurean panacea, ‘Short if it’s strong, light if it’s long.’ Only one point I can’t make out: how can a man at once be a sensualist and keep his desires within bounds?
“What then is the point of saying ‘I should have no fault to find with them if they kept their desires within bounds’? That is tantamount to saying ‘I should not blame the profligate if they were not profligate.’ He might as well say he would not blame the dishonest either, if they were upright men. Here is our rigid moralist maintaining that sensuality is not in itself blameworthy! And I profess, Torquatus, on the hypothesis that pleasure is the Chief Good he is perfectly justified in thinking so. I should be sorry to picture to myself, as you are so fond of doing, debauchees who are sick at table, have to be carried home from dinner-parties, and next day gorge themselves again before they have recovered from the effects of the night before; men who, as the saying goes, have never seen either sunset or sunrise; men who run through their inheritance and sink into penury. None of us supposes that profligates of that description live pleasantly. No, but men of taste and refinement, with first-rate chefs and confectioners, fish, birds, game and the like of the choicest; careful of their digestion; with
Wine in flask
Decanted from a new‑broach’d cask, . . .
as Lucilius has it,
Wine of tang bereft,
All harshness in the strainer left;
p with the accompaniment of dramatic performances and their usual sequel, the pleasures apart from which Epicurus, as he loudly proclaims, does not what Good is; give them also beautiful boys to wait upon them, with drapery, silver, Corinthian bronzes, and the scene of the feast, the banqueting-room, all in keeping; take profligates of this sort; that these live well or enjoy happiness I will never allow. The conclusion is, not that pleasure is not pleasure but that pleasure is not the Chief Good. The famous Laelius, who had been a pupil of Diogenes the Stoic in his youth and later of Panaetius, was not called ‘the Wise’ because he was no judge of good eating (for a wise mind is not necessarily incompatible with a nice palate), but because he set little store by it.
Dinner of herbs, how all the earth
Derides thee and ignores thy worth!
Tho’ Laelius, our old Roman sage,
Shouted thy praises to the age,
Our gourmands one by one arraigning.
Bravo, Laelius, ‘sage’ indeed. How true the lines:
‘O bottomless gulf of gluttony,
Publius Gallonius,’ cried he,
‘You’re a poor devil, truth to tell,
Who never in your life dined well,
No, never once, although you pay
A fortune for a fish away,
Lobster or sturgeon Brobdingnagian.’
The speaker is a man who, setting no value on pleasure, declares that he who makes pleasure his all in all cannot dine well. Observe, he does not psay Gallonius never dined pleasantly (which would be untrue), but never well. So strict and severe is the distinction he draws between pleasure and good. The conclusion is that though all who dine well dine pleasantly, yet he who dines pleasantly does not necessarily dine well. Laelius always dined well. What does ‘well’ mean? Lucilius shall say,
an, but now the principal dish:
with a deal
Of honest talk,
and the result:
a pleasant meal;
for he came to dinner that with mind at ease he might satisfy the wants of Nature. Laelius is right therefore in denying that Gallonius ever dined well, right in calling him unhappy, and that too although all his thoughts were centred on the pleasures of the table. No one will deny that he dined pleasantly. Then why not ‘well’? Because ‘well’ implies rightly, respectably, worthily; whereas Gallonius dined wrongly, disreputably, basely; therefore he did not dine well. It was not that Laelius thought his ‘dinner of herbs’ more palatable than Gallonius’s sturgeon, but that he disregarded the pleasures of the palate altogether; and this he could not have done, had he made the Chief Good consist in pleasure.
“Consequently you are bound to discard pleasure, not merely if you are to guide your conduct aright, but even if you are to be able consistently to use the language of respectable people. Can we possibly therefore call a thing the Chief Good with regard to living, when we feel we cannot call it so even in regard to dining? But how says our philosopher? ‘The desires are of three kinds, natural and necessary, natural but not necessary, neither natural nor necessary.’ To begin with, this is a clumsy division; it makes three classes when there are really only two. This is not dividing but hacking in pieces. Thinkers trained in the science which Epicurus despised usually put it thus: ‘The desires are of two kinds, natural and imaginary; natural desires again fall into two subdivisions, necessary and not necessary.’ That would have rounded it off properly. It is a fault in division to reckon a species as a genus. Still, do not let us stickle about form. Epicurus despises the niceties of dialectic; his style neglects distinctions; we must humour him in this, provided that his meaning is correct. But for my own part I cannot cordially approve, I merely tolerate, a philosopher who talks of setting bounds to the desires. Is it possible for desire to be kept within bounds? It ought to be destroyed, uprooted altogether. On your principle there is no form of desire whose possessor could not be morally approved. He will be a miser — within limits; an adulterer — in moderation; and a sensualist to correspond. What sort of a philosophy is this, that instead of dealing wickedness its death-blow, is satisfied with moderating our vices? Albeit I quite approve the substance of this classification; it is the form of it to which I take exception. Let him speak of the first class as ‘the needs of nature,’ and keep the term ‘desire’ for another occasion, to be put on trial for its life when he comes to deal with Avarice, Intemperance, and all the major vices.
“This classification of the desires is then a subject on which Epicurus is fond of enlarging. Not that I find fault with him for that; we expect and famous a philosopher to maintain his dogmas boldly. But he often seems unduly eager to approve of pleasure in the common acceptation of the term, for this occasionally lands him in a very awkward position. It conveys the impression that there is no action so base but that he would be ready to commit it for the sake of pleasure, provided he were guaranteed against detection. Afterwards, put to the blush by this conclusion (for the force of natural instinct after all is overwhelming), he turns for refuge to the assertion that nothing can enhance the pleasure of freedom from pain. ‘Oh but,’ we urge, ‘your static condition of feeling no pain is not what is termed pleasure at all.’ — ‘I don’t trouble about the name,’ he replies. — ‘Well, but the thing itself is absolutely different.’ — ‘Oh, I can find hundreds and thousands of people less precise and troublesome than yourselves, who will be glad to accept as true anything I like to teach them.’ — ‘Then why do we not go a step further and argue that, if not to feel pain is the highest pleasure, therefore not to feel pleasure is the greatest pain? Why does not this hold good?’ — ‘Because the opposite of pain is not pleasure but absence of pain.’
“But fancy his failing to see how strong a proof it is that the sort of pleasure, without which he declares he has no idea at all what Good means (and he defines it in detail as the pleasure of the palate, of the ears, and subjoins the other kinds of pleasure, which cannot be specified without an apology), — he fails, I say, to see that this, the sole Good which our strict and serious philosopher recognizes, is actually not even desirable, inasmuch as on his own showing we feel no need of this sort of pleasure, so long as we are free from pain! How inconsistent this is! If only Epicurus had studied Definition and Division, if he understood the meaning of Predication or even the customary use of terms, he would never have fallen into such a quandary. As it is, you see what he does. He calls a thing pleasure that no one ever called by that name before; he confounds two things that are distinct. The ‘kinetic’ sort of pleasure (for so he terms the delightful and so to speak sweet-flavoured pleasures we are considering) at one moment he so disparages that you would think you were listening to Manius Curius, while at another moment he so extols it that he tells us he is incapable even of imagining what other good there can be. Now that is language that does not call for a philosopher to answer it, — it ought to be put down by the police. His morality is at fault, and not only his logic. He does not censure profligacy, provided it be free from unbridled desire, and from fear of consequences. Here he seems to be making a bid for converts: the would‑be roué need only turn philosopher.
“For the origin of the Chief Good he goes back, I understand, to the birth of living things. As soon as an animal is born, it delights in pleasure and seeks it as a good, but shuns pain as an evil. Creatures as yet uncorrupted are according to him the best judges of Good and Evil. That is the position both as you expounded pit and as it is expressed in the phraseology of your school. What a mass of fallacies! Which kind of pleasure will it be that guides a mewling infant to distinguish between the Chief Good and Evil, ‘static’ pleasure or ‘kinetic’? — since we learn our language, heaven help us! from Epicurus. If the ‘static’ kind, the natural instinct is clearly towards self-preservation, as we agree; but if the ‘kinetic,’ and this is after all what you maintain, then no pleasure will be too base to be accepted; and also our new‑born animal in this case does not find its earliest motive in the highest form of pleasure, since this on your showing consists in absence of pain. For proof of this, however, Epicurus cannot have gone to children nor yet to animals, which according to him hold a mirror up to nature; he could hardly say that natural instinct guides the young to desire the pleasure of freedom from pain. This cannot excite appetite; the ‘static’ condition of feeling no pain exerts no driving-power, supplies no impulse to the will (so that Hieronymus also is wrong here); it is the positive sensation of pleasure and delight that furnishes a motive. Accordingly Epicurus’s standing argument to prove that pleasure is naturally desired is that infants and animals are attracted by the ‘kinetic’ sort of pleasure, not the ‘static’ kind which consists merely in freedom from pain. Surely then it is inconsistent to say that natural instinct starts from one sort of pleasure, but that the Chief Good is found in another.
“As for the lower animals, I set no value on their verdict. Their instincts may be wrong, although we cannot say they are perverted. One stick has been bent and twisted on purpose, another has grown crooked; similarly the nature of wild animals, though not indeed corrupted by bad education, is corrupt of its own nature. Again in the infant the natural instinct is not to seek pleasure; its instinct is merely towards self-regard, self-preservation and protection from injury. Every living creature, from the moment of birth, loves itself and all its members; primarily this self-regard embraces the two main divisions of mind and body, and subsequently the parts of each of these. Both mind and body have certain excellences; of these the young animal grows vaguely conscious, and later begins to discriminate, and to seek for the primary endowments of Nature and shun their opposites. Whether the list of these primary natural objects of desire includes pleasure or not is a much debated question; but to hold that it includes nothing else but pleasure, neither the limbs, nor the senses, nor mental activity, nor bodily integrity nor health, seems to me to be the height of stupidity. And this is the fountain-head from which one’s whole theory of Goods and Evils must necessarily flow. Polemo, and also before him Aristotle, held that the primary objects were the ones I have just mentioned. Thus arose the doctrine of the Old Academy and of the Peripatetics, maintaining that the End of Goods is to live in accordance with Nature, that is, to enjoy the primary gifts of Nature’s bestowal with the accompaniment of virtue. Callipho coupled with virtue pleasure alone; Diodorus freedom from pain. . . . In the case of all the philosophers mentioned, their End of Goods logically follows: with Aristippus it is pleasure pure and simple; with the Stoics, harmony with Nature, which they interpret as meaning virtuous or morally good life, and further explain pthis as meaning to live with an understanding of the natural course of events, selecting things that are in accordance with Nature and rejecting the opposite. Thus there are three Ends that do not include moral worth, one that of Aristippus or Epicurus, the second that of Hieronymus, and the third that of Carneades; three that comprise moral goodness together with some additional element, those of Polemo, Callipho and Diodorus; and one theory that is simple, of which Zeno was the author, and which is based entirely on propriety, that is, on moral worth. (As for Pyrrho, Aristo and Erillus, they have long ago been exploded.) All of these but Epicurus were consistent, and made their final ends agree with their first principles, — Aristippus holding the End to be Pleasure, Hieronymus freedom from pain, Carneades the enjoyment of the primary natural objects. What Epicurus, if in saying that pleasure was the primary object of attraction, he meant pleasure in the sense of Aristippus, ought to have maintained the same ultimate Good as Aristippus; or if he made pleasure in the sense of Hieronymus his Chief Good, should he at the same time have allowed himself to make the former kind of pleasure, that of Aristippus, the primary attraction?
“The fact is that when he says that the verdict of the senses themselves decides pleasure to be good and pain evil, he assigns more authority to the senses than the law allows to us when we sit as judges in private suits. We cannot decide any issue not within our jurisdiction; and there is not really any point in the proviso which judges are fond of adding to their verdicts: ‘if it be a matter within my jurisdiction,’ for if it was not within their jurisdiction, the verdict pis equally invalid with the proviso omitted. What does come under the verdict of the senses? Sweetness, sourness, smoothness, roughness, proximity, distance; whether an object is stationary or moving, square or round. A just decision can therefore only be delivered by Reason, with the aid in the first place of that knowledge of things human and divine, which may rightly claim the title of Wisdom; and secondly with the assistance of the Virtues, which Reason would have to be the mistresses of all things, but you considered as the handmaids and subordinates of the pleasures. After calling all of these into council, she will pronounce first as to Pleasure, that she has no claim, not merely to be enthroned alone in the seat of our ideal Chief Good, but even to be admitted as the associate of Moral Worth. As regards freedom from pain her decision will be the same. For Carneades will be put out of court, and no theory of the Chief Good will be approved that either includes pleasure or absence of pain, or does not include moral worth. Two views will thus be left. After prolonged consideration of these, either her final verdict will be that there is no Good but moral worth and no Evil but moral baseness, all other things being either entirely unimportant or of so little importance that they are not desirable or to be avoided, but only to be selected or rejected; or else she will prefer the theory which she will recognize as including the full beauty of moral worth, enriched by the addition of the primary natural objects and of a life completed to its perfect span. And her judgment will be all the clearer, if she can first of all settle whether the dispute between these rival theories is one of fact, or turns on verbal differences only.
“Guided by the authority of Reason I will now adopt a similar procedure myself. As far as possible I will narrow the issue, and will assume that all the simple theories, of those who include no admixture of virtue, are to be eliminated from philosophy altogether. First among these comes the system of Aristippus and the Cyrenaic school in general, who did not shrink from finding their Chief Good in pleasure of the sort that excites the highest amount of actively agreeable sensation, and who despised your freedom from pain. They failed to see that just as the horse is designed by nature for running, the ox for ploughing, and the dog for hunting, so man, as Aristotle observes, is born for two purposes, thought and action: he is as it were a mortal God. The Cyrenaics held on the contrary that this godlike animal came into being, like some dull, half-witted sheep, in order to feed and to enjoy the pleasure of procreation, — a view that seems to me the climax of absurdity. So much in answer to Aristippus, who considers pleasure in the only sense in which we all of us employ the term to be not merely the highest but the sole pleasure that exists. Your school holds a different view. However, as I said, Aristippus is wrong. Neither man’s bodily conformation nor his surpassing mental faculty of reason indicates that he was born for the sole purpose of enjoying pleasure. Nor yet can we listen to Hieronymus, whose Chief Good is the same as is occasionally, or rather only too frequently, upheld by yourselves, freedom from pain. If pain is an evil, to be without this evil is not enough to constitute the Good Life. Let Ennius say if he likes that
Enough, and more, of good
Is his who hath no ill;
but let us reckon happiness not by the avoidance of evil but by the attainment of good. Let us seek it not in the idle acceptance whether of positive delights, like Aristippus, or of freedom from pain, like Hieronymus, but in a life of action or of contemplation.
“The same arguments can be urged against the Chief Good of Carneades, which he advanced less from a desire to adopt it himself than to use it as a weapon in his battle with the Stoics; though it is such that if added to Virtue it may be thought to be of importance and to be likely to augment the sum total of Happiness, which is the one subject of our inquiry. Whereas those who join with Virtue either pleasure, the one thing she values least, or freedom from pain, which even though it is devoid of evil yet is not the Chief Good, make a not very acceptable combination; nor yet can I understand why they go to work in so cautious and niggardly a fashion. You would think they had to purchase the commodity which is to be added to virtue. To begin with they choose the cheapest things they can find to add, and then they each dole out one only, instead of coupling with moral worth all the things initially approved by Nature. Aristo and Pyrrho thought all these things utterly worthless, and said, for example, that there was absolutely nothing to choose between the most perfect health and the most grievous sickness; and consequently men have long ago quite rightly given up arguing against them. For in insisting upon the unique importance of virtue in such a sense as to rob it of any power of choice among external things and to deny it any starting-point or basis, they destroyed the very virtue they desired to cherish. Again, Erillus, in basing everything on knowledge, fixed his eyes on one definite Good, but this not the greatest Good, nor one that could serve as the guide of life. Accordingly Erillus himself has long ago been set aside; since Chrysippus no one has even troubled to refute him.
“Accordingly your school remains; for there is no coming to grips with the Academics, who affirm nothing positively, and despairing of a knowledge of certain truth, make up their minds to take apparent probability as their guide. Epicurus however is a more troublesome opponent, because he is a combination of two different sorts of pleasure, and because besides himself and his friends there have been so many later champions of his theory, which somehow or other enlists the support of that least competent but most powerful adherent, the general public. Unless we refute these adversaries, all virtue, all honour, all true merit must be abandoned. Thus, when all the other systems have been discarded, there remains a duel in which the combatants are, not myself and Torquatus, but Virtue and Pleasure. This contest is by no means scouted by so penetrating and so industrious a writer as Chrysippus, who considers that the rivalry between pleasure and virtue is the cardinal issue in the whole question of the Chief Good. My own view is that, if I can succeed in proving the existence of Moral Worth as a thing essentially and for itself desirable, your entire system at once collapses. Accordingly I will begin by defining, with such brevity as the occasion demands, the Nature of Moral Worth; and then, Torquatus, I will proceed to deal with each of your points, unless my memory should happen to fail me.
“By Moral Worth, then, we understand that which is of such a nature that, though devoid of all utility, it can justly be commended in and for itself, apart from any profit or reward. A formal definition such as I have given may do something to indicate its nature; but this is more clearly explained by the general verdict of mankind at large, and by the aims and actions of all persons of high character. Good men do a great many things from which they anticipate no advantage, solely from the motive of propriety, morality and right. For among the many points of difference between man and the lower animals, the greatest difference is that Nature has bestowed on man the gift of Reason, of an active, vigorous intelligence, able to carry on several operations at the same time with extreme speed, and having, so to speak, a keen scent to discern the causes and effects of things, to draw analogies, combine things separate, connect the future with the present, and survey the entire field of the subsequent course of life. It is Reason moreover that has inspired man with a relish for his kind; she has produced a natural conformity both of language and of habit; she has prompted the individual, starting from friendship and from family affection, to expand his interests, forming social ties first with his fellow-citizens and later with all mankind. She reminds him that, as Plato puts it in his letter to Archytas, man was not born for self alone, but for country and for kindred, claims that leave but a small part of him for himself. Nature phas also engendered in mankind the desire of contemplating truth. This is most clearly manifested in our hours of leisure; when our minds are at ease we are eager to acquire knowledge even of the movements of the heavenly bodies. This primary instinct leads us on to love all truth as such, that is, all that is trustworthy, simple and consistent, and to hate things insincere, false and deceptive, such as cheating, perjury, malice and injustice. Further, Reason possesses an intrinsic element of dignity and grandeur, suited rather to require obedience than to render it, esteeming all the accidents of human fortunes not merely as endurable but also as unimportant; a quality of loftiness and elevation, fearing nothing, submitting to no one, ever unsubdued. These three kinds of moral goodness being noted, there follows a fourth kind, possessed of equal beauty, and indeed arising out of the other three. This is the principle of order and restraint. From recognizing something analogous to this principle in the beauty and dignity of outward forms, we pass to beauty in the moral sphere of speech and conduct. Each of the three excellences mentioned before contributes something to this fourth one: it dreads rashness; it shrinks from injuring anyone by wanton word or deed; and it fears to do or say anything that may appear unmanly.
“There, Torquatus, is a full, detailed and complete scheme of Moral Worth, a whole of which these four virtues, which you also mentioned, constitute the parts. Yet your Epicurus tells us that he is utterly at a loss to know what nature or qualities are assigned to this Morality by those who make it the measure of the Chief Good. For if Morality be the standard to which all things are referred, while yet they will not allow that pleasure forms any part of it, he declares that they are uttering sounds devoid of sense (those are his actual words), and that he has no notion or perception whatever of any meaning that this term Morality can have attached to it. In common parlance ‘moral’ (honourable) means merely that which ranks high in popular esteem. And popular esteem, says Epicurus, though often in itself more agreeable than certain forms of pleasure, yet is desired simply as a means to pleasure. Do you realize how vast a difference of opinion this is? Here is a famous philosopher, whose influence has spread not only over Greece and Italy but throughout all barbarian lands as well, protesting that he cannot understand what Moral Worth is, if it does not consist in pleasure; unless indeed it be that which wins the approval and applause of the multitude. For my part I hold that what is popular is often positively base, and that, if ever it is not base, this is only when the multitude happens to applaud something that is right and praiseworthy in and for itself; which even so is not called ‘moral’ (honourable) because it is widely applauded, but because it is of such a nature that even if men were unaware of its existence, or never spoke of it, it would still be worthy of praise for its own beauty and loveliness. Hence Epicurus is compelled by the irresistible force of instinct to say in another passage what you also said just now, that it is impossible to live pleasantly without also living morally (honourably). What does he mean by ‘morally’ now? The same as ‘pleasantly’? If so, does it amount to saying that it is impossible to live morally unless you — live morally? Or, unless you make public opinion your standard? He means then that he cannot live pleasantly without the approval of public opinion? But what can be baser than to make the conduct of the Wise Man depend upon the gossip of the foolish? What therefore does he understand by ‘moral’ in this passage? Clearly, nothing but that which can be rightly praised for its own sake. For if it be praised as being a means to pleasure, what is there creditable about this? You can get pleasure at the provision-dealer’s. No, — Epicurus, who esteems Moral Worth so highly as to say that it is impossible to live pleasantly without it, is not the man to identify ‘moral’ (honourable) with ‘popular’ and maintain that it is impossible to live pleasantly without popular esteem; he cannot understand ‘moral” to mean anything else than that which is right, — that which is in and for itself, independently, intrinsically, and of its own nature praiseworthy.
“This, Torquatus, accounts for the glow of pride with which, as I noticed, you informed us how loudly Epicurus proclaims the impossibility of living pleasantly without living morally, wisely and justly. Your words derived potency from the grandeur of the things that they denoted; you drew yourself up to your full height, and kept stopping and fixing us with your gaze, as if solemnly asseverating that Epicurus does occasionally commend morality and justice. Were those names never mentioned by philosophers we should have no use for philosophy; how well they sounded on your lips! Too seldom does Epicurus speak to us of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Temperance. Yet it is the love that those great names inspire which has lured the ablest of mankind to devote themselves to philosophical studies. The sense of sight, says Plato, is the keenest sense we possess, yet our eyes cannot behold Wisdom; could we see her, what passionate love would she awaken! And why is this so? Is it because of her supreme ability and cunning in the art of contriving pleasures? Why is Justice commended? What gave rise to the old familiar saying, ‘A man with whom you might play odd and even in the dark’? This proverb strictly applies to the particular case of honesty, but it has this general application, that in all our conduct we should be influenced by the character of the action, not by the presence or absence of a witness. How weak and ineffectual are the deterrents you put forward, — the torture of a guilty conscience, and the fear of the punishment that offenders incur, or at all events stand in continual dread of incurring in the end! We must not picture our unprincipled man as a poor-spirited coward, tormenting himself about his past misdeeds, and afraid of everything; but as shrewdly calculating profit in all he does, sharp, dexterous, a practised hand, fertile in devices for cheating in secret, without witness or accomplice. Don’t suppose I am speaking of a Lucius Tubulus, who when he sat as praetor to try charges of murder made so little concealment of taking bribes for his verdict that next year the tribune of the plebs, Publius Scaevola, moved in the plebeian assembly for a special inquiry. The bill passed the plebs, and the senate commissioned the consul Gnaeus Caepio to hold the investigation; but Tubulus promptly left the country, and did not venture to stand his trial, so open was his guilt.
p “It is not therefore a question of a rascal merely, but of a crafty rascal, like Quintus Pompeius when he disowned the treaty he had made with the Numantines; nor yet of a timid, cowardly knave, but of one who to begin with is deaf to the voice of conscience, which it is assuredly no difficult matter to stifle. The man we call stealthy and secret, so far from betraying his own guilt, will actually make believe to be indignant at the knavery of another; that is what we mean by a cunning old hand.
“I remember assisting at a consultation which Publius Sextilius Rufus held with his friends on the following matter. He had been left heir to Quintus Fadius Gallus. Fadius’s will contained a statement that he had requested Sextilius to allow the whole of his estate to pass to his daughter. Sextilius now denied the arrangement, as he could do with impunity, for there was no one to rebut him. Not one of us believed his denial; it was more probable that he should be lying, as his pocket was concerned, than the testator, who had left it in writing that he had made a request which it had been his duty to make. Sextilius actually went on to say that, having sworn to maintain the Voconian law, he would not venture to break it, unless his friends thought he ought to do so. I was only a young man, but many of the company were persons of high consideration; and every one of these advised him not to give Fadia more than she was entitled to get under the Voconian law. Sextilius kept a handsome property, not a penny of which he would have touched had he followed the advice of those who placed honour and right above all considerations of profit and advantage. Do you therefore suppose that he was afterwards troubled by remorse? Not a bit of it. On the contrary, the inheritance made him a rich man, and he was thoroughly pleased with himself in consequence. He thought he had scored heavily: he had won a fortune, not only by no illegal means, but actually by the aid of the law. And according to your school it is right to try to get money even at some risk; for money procures many very delightful pleasures.
“Therefore just as those who hold that things right and honourable are desirable for their own sake must often take risks in the cause of honour and morality, so Epicureans, who measure all things by pleasure, may properly take risks in order to obtain considerable pleasures. If a large sum of money or a great inheritance is at stake, inasmuch as money procures a great many pleasures, your Epicurus, if he wishes to attain his own end of Goods, will have to act as Scipio did, when he had the chance of winning great renown by enticing Hannibal back to Africa. To do so, he risked enormous dangers. For honour and pleasure was the aim of that great enterprise. Similarly, your Epicurean Wise Man, when stirred by the prospect of some considerable gain, will fight to the death, if need be, and with good reason. Do circumstances allow his crime to go undetected, so much the better; but if found out, he will make light of every penalty. For he will have been schooled to make light of death, of exile, even of pain itself. The latter indeed you make out to be unendurable when you are enacting penalties for the wicked, but easy to bear when you are maintaining that the Wise Man will always command a preponderance of Good.
“But suppose that our evil-doer is not only clever but also supremely powerful, as was Marcus Crassus, — who however used actually to be guided by his natural goodness; or like our friend Pompeius at the present time, who deserves our gratitude for his upright conduct, since he might be as unjust as he liked with impunity. But how many unrighteous acts are possible which no one would be in a position to censure! If a friend of yours requests you on his death‑bed to hand over his estate to his daughter, without leaving his intention anywhere in writing, as Fadius did, or speaking of it to anybody, what will you do? You no doubt will hand over the money; perhaps Epicurus himself would have done the same; as did Sextus Peducaeus, son of Sextus, a scholar and a gentleman of scrupulous honour, who left behind him a son, our friend of to‑day, to recall his father’s culture and integrity. No one knew that such a request had been made to Sextus by a distinguished Roman knight named Gaius Plotius, of Nursia; but Sextus of his own accord went to Plotius’s widow, informed her, much to her surprise, of her husband’s commission, and handed over the property to her. But the question I want to put to you is this: since you yourself would undoubtedly have done the same, do you not see that the force of natural instinct is all the more firmly established by the fact that even you Epicureans, who profess to make your own interest and pleasure your sole standard, nevertheless perform actions that prove you to be really aiming not at pleasure but at duty; prove, I say, that the natural impulse towards right is more powerful than corrupt reason? Suppose, says Carneades, you should know that there is a viper lurking somewhere, and that some one, by whose death you stand to profit, is about to sit down on it unawares; then you will do a wicked deed if you do not warn him not to sit down. But still your wickedness would go unpunished, for who could possibly prove that you knew? However, I labour the point unnecessarily. It is obvious that, if fair-dealing, honesty and justice have not their source in nature, and if all these things are only valuable for their utility, no good man can anywhere be found. The subject is fully discussed by Laelius in my volumes On the State.
“Apply the same test to Temperance or Moderation, which means the control of the appetites in obedience to the reason. Suppose a man yields to vicious impulses in secret, — is it no offence against purity? Or is it not true that an act can be sinful in itself, even though no disgrace attends it? And again, does a brave soldier go into battle and shed his blood for his country upon a nice calculation of the balance of pleasures, or in hot blood and under the stimulus of impulse? Come, Torquatus, if the great Imperiosus were listening to our debate, which of our two speeches about himself would he have heard with greater satisfaction, yours or mine? Me declaring that no deed of his was done for selfish ends, but all from motives of patriotism, or you maintaining that he acted solely for self? And suppose you had wanted to make your meaning clearer, and had said more explicitly that all his actions were prompted by desire for pleasure, pray how do you imagine he would have taken it? But grant your view; assume if you like that Torquatus acted for his own advantage (I would sooner put it in that way than say ‘for his own pleasure,’ especially in the case of so great a man). Yet what about his colleague Publius pDecius, the first of his family to be consul? When Decius vowed himself to death, and setting spurs to his horse was charging into the thickest of the Latin ranks, surely he had no thought of personal pleasure? Pleasure where to be enjoyed or when? For he knew he must die in a moment, aye and he courted death with more passionate ardour than Epicurus would have us seek pleasure. Had not his exploit won praise on its merits, it would not have been copied by his son in his fourth consulship; nor would the latter’s son again, commanding as consul in the war with Pyrrhus, have also fallen in battle, third in succession of his line to give himself a victim for the state. I refrain from further instances. The Greeks have but a modest list, — Leonidas, Epaminondas, some three or four; but were I to begin to cite the heroes of our race, I should doubtless succeed in making Pleasure yield herself prisoner to Virtue, but — daylight would fall before I had done. Aulus Varius, noted for his severity as a judge, used to say to his colleague on the bench, when after witnesses had been produced still further witnesses were called: ‘Either we have evidence enough already, or I do not know what evidence can be enough.’ Well, I have cited witnesses enough. Why, you yourself, in every way a worthy scion of your stock, — was pleasure the inducement that led you, a mere youth, to wrest the consulship from Publius Sulla? You won that office for your gallant father; and what a consul he was! What a patriot, all his life long and more especially after his consulship! It was with his support that I carried through an affair, which was for all men’s interest rather than my own.
“But how well you thought you put your case when you pictured on the one hand a person loaded with an abundance of the most delightful pleasures and free from all pain whether present or in prospect, and on the other one racked throughout his frame by the most excruciating pains, unqualified by any pleasure or hope of pleasure; then proceeded to ask who could be more wretched than the latter or more happy than the former; and finally drew the conclusion that pain was the Chief Evil and pleasure the Chief Good!
“Well, there was a certain Lucius Thorius of Lanuvium, whom you cannot remember; he lived on the principle of enjoying in the fullest measure all the most exquisite pleasures that could possibly be found. His appetite for pleasures was only equalled by his taste and ingenuity in devising them. He was so devoid of superstition as to scoff at all the sacrifices and shrines for which his native place is famous; and so free from fear of death that he died in battle for his country. Epicurus’s classification of the desires meant nothing to him; he knew no limit but satiety. At the same time he was careful of his health: took sufficient exercise to come hungry and thirsty to table; ate what was at once most appetizing and most digestible; drank enough wine for pleasure and not too much for health. Nor did he forgo those other indulgences in the absence of which Epicurus declares that he cannot understand what Good is. Pain he never experienced at all; had it come to him, he would have borne it with fortitude, yet would have called in a doctor sooner than a philosopher. He had excellent health and a sound constitution. He was extremely popular. In short, his life was replete with pleasure of every pvariety. Your school pronounces him a happy man, at least your theory requires you to do so. But I place above him — I do not venture to say whom: Virtue herself shall speak for me, and she will not hesitate to rank Marcus Regulus higher than this typically happy man, as you would call him. Regulus, of his own free will and under no compulsion except that of a promise given to an enemy, returned from his native land to Carthage; yet Virtue proclaims that when he had done so he was happier while tormented with sleeplessness and hunger than Thorius carousing on his couch of roses. Regulus had fought great wars, had twice been consul, had celebrated a triumph; yet all his earlier exploits he counted less great and glorious than that final disaster, which he chose to undergo for the sake of honour and of self-respect; a pitiable end, as it seems to us who hear of it, but full of pleasure for him who endured it. It is not merriment and wantonness, nor laughter or jesting, the comrade of frivolity, that make men happy; those are happy, often in sadness, whose wills are strong and true. Lucretia outraged by the royal prince called on her fellow-citizens to witness her wrong and died by her own hand. The indignation that this aroused in the Roman people, under the leadership and guidance of Brutus, won freedom for the state; and in gratitude to Lucretia’s memory both her husband and her father were made consuls for the first year of the republic. Sixty years after our liberties had been won, Lucius Verginius, a poor man of humble station, killed his maiden daughter with his own hand rather than surrender her to the lust of Appius Claudius, who then held the highest power in the state.
p “Either, Torquatus, you must reprobate such actions, or you must give up your championship of Pleasure. But what defence can Pleasure offer, what case can you make out for her, when she will be able to produce no famous men as her witnesses or supporters? On our side we cite in evidence from our records and our annals men who spent their whole lives in glorious toils, men who would not have borne to hear pleasure so much as named; but in your discourses history is dumb. In the school of Epicurus I never heard one mention of Lycurgus, Solon, Miltiades, Themistocles, Epaminondas, who are always on the lips of the other philosophers. And now that we Romans too have begun to treat of these themes, what a marvellous roll of great men will our friend Atticus supply to us from his store-houses of learning! Would it not be better to talk of these than to devote those bulky volumes to Themista? Let us leave that sort of thing to the Greeks. True we owe to them philosophy and all the liberal sciences; yet there are topics not permitted to us, that are allowable for them. Battle rages between the Stoics and the Peripatetics. One school declares that nothing is good but Moral Worth, the other that, while it assigns the greatest, and by far the greatest, value to Morality, yet still some bodily and external things are good. Here is an honourable quarrel, fought out in high debate! For the whole dispute turns on the true worth of virtue. But when one argues with your friends, one has to listen to a great deal about even the grosser forms of pleasure! Epicurus is always harping upon them! Believe me then, Torquatus, if you will but look within, and study your own thoughts and inclinations, you cannot continue to defend the doctrines you profess. You will be put to the blush, I say, by the picture that Cleanthes used to draw so cleverly in his lectures. He would tell his audience to imagine a painting representing Pleasure, decked as a queen, and gorgeously appareled, seated on a throne; at her side should stand the Virtues as her handmaids, who should make it their sole object and duty to minister to Pleasure, merely whispering in her ear the warning (provided this could be conveyed by the painter’s art) to beware of unwittingly doing aught to offend public opinion, or anything from which pain might result. ‘As for us Virtues, we were born to be your slaves; that is our one and only business.’
“But Epicurus, you will tell me (for this is your strong point), denies that anyone who does not live morally can live pleasantly. As if I cared what Epicurus says or denies! What I ask is, what is it consistent for a man to say who places the Chief Good in pleasure? What reason can you give for thinking that Thorius, or Postumius of Chios, or the master of them all, Orata, did not live extremely pleasant lives? Epicurus himself says that the life of sensualists is blameless, if they are not utter fools — for that is what his proviso, ‘if they are free from fear and from desire,’ amounts to. And, as he offers an antidote for both desire and fear, he virtually offers free indulgence for sensuality. Eliminate those passions, he says, and he cannot find anything to blame in a life of profligacy. Consequently you Epicureans, by taking pleasure as the sole guide, make it impossible for yourselves either to uphold or to retain virtue. For a man is not to be thought good and just who refrains from doing wrong to avoid incurring harm; no doubt you know the line:
None is good, whose love of goodness —;
believe me, nothing can be truer. As long as his motive is fear, he is not just, and assuredly as soon as he ceases to fear, he will not be just; and he will not feel fear, if he can conceal his wrong-doing, or is sufficiently powerful to brazen it out; and he will assuredly prefer the reputation without the reality of goodness to the reality without the reputation. So your school undoubtedly preaches the pretence of justice instead of the real and genuine thing. Its lesson amounts to this — we are to despise the trustworthy voice of our own conscience, and to run after the fallible imaginations of other men. The same applies in the case of the other virtues. Basing them entirely on pleasure you are laying the foundations in water. Why, take the great Torquatus again: can he really be called brave? — for I delight, albeit my flattery, as you put it, is powerless to bribe you, I delight, I say, in your name and lineage; and indeed I have personal recollections of that distinguished man, Aulus Torquatus, who was an affectionate friend of my own, and whose signal loyalty and devotion to me in circumstances that are within universal knowledge must be familiar to you both; yet for my part, anxious as I am to feel and show a proper gratitude, I would not have thanked him for his friendship had I not known that it was disinterested; unless you choose to say that it was for his own interest in this sense, that it is to every man’s interest to act rightly. If you do say so, we have won our case; for our one principle, our one contention is, that duty is its own reward. This your great master does not allow; he expects everything to pay — to yield its quota of pleasure. But I return to old Torquatus. If it was to win pleasure that he accepted the Gallic warrior’s challenge to single combat on the banks of the Anio, and if he despoiled him and assumed his necklet and the corresponding surname for any other reason than that he thought such deeds became a man, I do not consider him brave. Again, if modesty, self-control, chastity, if in a word Temperance is to depend for its sanction on the fear of punishment or of disgrace, and not to maintain itself by its own intrinsic sacredness, what form of adultery, vice or lust will not break loose and run riot when it is assured of concealment, impunity or indulgence.
“Or what, pray, are we to think of the situation if you, Torquatus, bearing the name you do, and gifted and distinguished as you are, dare not profess before a public audience the real object of all your actions, aims and endeavours, what it is in short that you consider the greatest good in life? In return for what payment or consideration, when not long hence you have attained to public office and come forward to address a meeting (for you will have to announce the rules that you propose to observe in administering justice, and very likely also, if you think good, you will follow the time-honoured custom of making some reference to your ancestors and to yourself),b — for what consideration then would you consent to declare that you intend in office to guide your conduct solely by pleasure, and that pleasure has been your aim in every action of your life? — ‘Do you take me for such an imbecile,’ you exclaim, ‘as to talk in that fashion before ignorant people?’ — Well, make the same profession in a law‑court, or if you are afraid of the public there, say it in the senate. You will never do it. Why, if not because such language is disgraceful? Then what a compliment to Torquatus and myself, to use it in our presence!
“But let us grant your position. The actual word ‘pleasure’ has not a lofty sound; and perhaps we do not understand its significance: you are always repeating that we do not understand what you mean by pleasure. As though it were a difficult or recondite notion! If we understand you when you talk of ‘indivisible atoms’ and ‘cosmic interspaces,’ things that don’t exist and never can exist, is our intelligence incapable of grasping the meaning of pleasure, a feeling known to every sparrow? What if I force you to admit that I do know not only what pleasure really is (it is an agreeable activity of the sense), but also what you mean by it? For at one moment you mean by it the feeling that I have just defined, and this you entitle ‘kinetic’ pleasure, as producing a definite change of feeling, but at another moment you say it is quite a different feeling, which is the acme and climax of pleasure, but yet consists merely in the complete absence of pain; this you call ‘static’ pleasure. Well, grant that pleasure is the latter sort of feeling. Profess in any public assembly that the motive of all your actions is the desire to avoid pain. If you feel that this too does not sound sufficiently dignified and respectable, say that you intend both in your present office and all your life long to act solely for the sake of your own advantage, — to do nothing but what will pay, nothing pin short that is not for your own interest; imagine the uproar among the audience! What would become of your chances of the consulship, which as it is seems to be a certainty for you in the near future? Will you then adopt a rule of life which you can appeal to in private and among friends but which you dare not openly profess or parade in public? Ah, but it is the vocabulary of the Peripatetics and the Stoics that is always on your lips, in the law‑courts and the senate. Duty, Fair-dealing, Moral Worth, Fidelity, Uprightness, Honour, the Dignity of office, the Dignity of the Roman People, Risk all for the state, Die for your Country, — when you talk in this style, we simpletons stand gaping in admiration, — and you no doubt laugh in your sleeve. For in that glorious array of high-sounding words, pleasure finds no place, not only what your school calls ‘kinetic’ pleasure, which is what every one, polished or rustic, every one, I say, who can speak Latin, means by pleasure, but not even this ‘static’ pleasure, which no one but you Epicureans would call pleasure at all. Well then, are you sure you have any right to employ our words with meanings of your own? If you assumed an unnatural expression or demeanour, in order to look more important, that would be insincere. Are you then to affect an artificial language, and say what you do not think? Or are you to change your opinions like your clothes, and have one set for indoor wear and another when you walk abroad? Outside, all show and pretence, but your genuine self concealed within? Reflect, I beg of you, is this honest? In my view those opinions are true which are honourable, praiseworthy and noble — which can be openly avowed in the senate and pthe popular assembly, and in every company and gathering, so that one need not be ashamed to say what one is not ashamed to think.
“Again, how will friendship be possible? How can one man be another man’s friend, if he does not love him in and for himself? What is the meaning of ‘to love’ — from which our word for friendship is derived — except to wish some one to receive the greatest possible benefits even though one gleans no advantage therefrom oneself? ‘It pays me,’ says he, ‘to be a disinterested friend.’ No, perhaps it pays you to seem so. Be so you cannot, unless you really are; but how can you be a disinterested friend unless you feel genuine affection? Yet affection does not commonly result from any calculation of expediency It is a spontaneous growth; it springs up of itself. ‘But,’ you will say, ‘I am guided by expediency.’ Then your friendship will last just so long as it is attended by expediency. If expediency creates the feeling it will also destroy it. But what, pray, will you do, if, as often happens, expediency parts company with friendship? Will you throw your friend over? What sort of friendship is that? Will you keep him? How does that square with your principles? You remember your pronouncement that friendship is desirable for the sake of expediency. ‘I might become unpopular if I left a friend in the lurch.” Well, in the first place, why is such conduct unpopular, unless because it is base? And if you refrain from deserting a friend because to do so will have inconvenient consequences, still you will long for his death to release you from an unprofitable tie. What if he not only brings you no advantage, but causes you to suffer loss of property, to undergo toil and trouble, to risk your life? Will you not even then take interest into account, and reflect that each man is born for himself and for his own pleasure? Will you go bail with your life to a tyrant on behalf of a friend, as the famous Pythagorean did to the Sicilian despot? or being Pylades will you say you are Orestes, so as to die in your friend’s stead? or supposing you were Orestes, would you say Pylades was lying and reveal your identity, and if they would not believe you, would you make no appeal against your both dying together?
“Yes, Torquatus, you personally would do all these things; for I do not believe there is any high or noble action which fear of pain or death could induce you to forgo. But the question is not what conduct is consistent with your character, but what is consistent with your tenets. The system you uphold, the principles you have studied and accept, undermine the very foundations of friendship, however much Epicurus may, as he does, praise friendship to the skies. ‘But,’ you tell me, ‘Epicurus himself had many friends.” Who pray denies that Epicurus was a good man, and a kind and humane man? In these discussions it is his intellect and not his character that is in question. Let us leave to the frivolous Greeks the wrong-headed habit of attacking and abusing the persons whose views of truth they do not share. Epicurus may have been a kind and faithful friend; but if my opinion is right (for I do not dogmatize), he was not a very acute thinker. ‘But he won many disciples.’ Yes, and perhaps he deserved to do so; but still the witness of the crowd does not carry much weight; for as in every art or study, or science of any kind, so in right conduct itself, supreme excellence is extremely rare. And to my mind the fact that Epicurus himself was a good man and that many Epicureans both have been and to‑day are loyal to their friends, consistent and high-principled throughout their lives, ruling their conduct by duty and not by pleasure, — all this does but enforce the value of moral goodness and diminish that of pleasure. The fact is that some persons’ lives and behaviour refute the principles they profess. Most men’s words are thought to be better than their deeds; these people’s deeds on the contrary seem to me better than their words.
“But this I admit is a digression. Let us return to what you said about friendship. In one of your remarks I seemed to recognize a saying of Epicurus himself, — that friendship cannot be divorced from pleasure, and that it deserves to be cultivated for the reason that without it we cannot live secure and free from alarm, and therefore cannot live agreeably. Enough has been said in answer to this already. You quoted another and a more humane dictum of the more modern Epicureans, which so far as I know was never uttered by the master himself. This was to the effect that, although at the outset we desire a man’s friendship for utilitarian reasons, yet when intimacy has grown up we love our friend for his own sake, even if all prospect of pleasure be left out of sight. It is possible to take exception to this on several grounds; still I won’t refuse what they give, as it is sufficient for my case and not sufficient for theirs. For it amounts to saying that moral action is occasionally possible, — action prompted by no anticipation or desire of pleasure. You further alleged that other thinkers speak of pwise men as making a sort of mutual compact to entertain the same sentiments towards their friends as they feel towards themselves; this (you said) was possible, and in fact had often occurred; and it was highly conducive to the attainment of pleasure. If men have succeeded in making this compact, let them make a further compact to love fair-dealing, self-control, and all the virtues, for their own sakes and without reward. If on the other hand we are to cultivate friendships for their results, for profit and utility, if there is to be no affection to render friendship, in and for itself, intrinsically and spontaneously desirable, can we doubt that we shall value land and house-property more than friends? It is no good your once again repeating Epicurus’s admirable remarks in praise of friendship. I am not asking what Epicurus actually says, but what he can say consistently while holding the theory he professes. ‘Friendship is originally sought after from motives of utility.’ Well, but surely you don’t reckon Triarius here a more valuable asset than the granaries at Puteoli would be if they belonged to you? Cite all the stock Epicurean maxims. ‘Friends are a protection.’ You can protect yourself; the laws will protect you; ordinary friendships offer protection enough; you will be too powerful to despise as it is, while hatred and envy it will be easy to avoid, — Epicurus gives rules for doing so! And in any case, with so large an income to give away, you can dispense with the romantic sort of friendship that we have in mind; you will have plenty of well-wishers to defend you quite effectively. But a confidant, to share your ‘grave thoughts or gay’ as the saying is, all your secrets and private affairs? Your best confidant is yourself; also you may confident in a friend of the average type. But granting that friendship has the conveniences you mention, what are they compared with the advantages of vast wealth? You see then that although if you measure friendship by the test of its own charm it is unsurpassed in value, by the standard of profit the most affectionate intimacy is outweighed by the rents of a valuable estate. So you must love me yourself, not my possessions, if we are to be genuine friends.
“But we dwell too long upon the obvious. For when it has been conclusively proved that if pleasure is the sole standard there is no room left either for virtue or for friendship, there is no great need to say anything further. Still I do not want you to think I have failed to answer any of your points, so I will now say a few words in reply to the remainder of your discourse. The entire end and aim of philosophy is the attainment of happiness; and desire for happiness is the sole motive that has led men to engage in this study. But different thinkers make happiness consist in different things. According to your school it consists in pleasure, and conversely misery consists solely in pain. Let us then begin by examining what sort of thing happiness as you conceive it is. You will grant, I suppose, that if there is such a thing as happiness, it is bound to be attainable in its entirety by the Wise Man. For if happiness once won can be lost, a happy life is impossible. Since who can feel confident of permanently and securely retaining a possession that is perishable and precarious? yet one who is not sure of the permanence of his goods must inevitably fear lest at some time he may lose them and be miserable. But no one can be happy who is uneasy about matters of the highest moment. Therefore no one can be happy at all. For we usually speak of a life as a happy one not in reference to a part of it, but to the whole of a lifetime; indeed ‘a life’ means a finished and complete life; nor is it possible to be at one time happy and at another miserable, since he who thinks that he may be miserable will not be happy. For when happiness has once been achieved, it is as permanent as Wisdom itself, which is the efficient cause of happiness; it does not wait for the end of our mortal term, as Croesus in Herodotus’s history was warned by Solon to do.
“It may be rejoined that Epicurus, as you yourself were saying, maintains that long duration can not add anything to happiness, and that as much pleasure is enjoyed in a brief span of time as if pleasure were everlasting. In this he is grossly inconsistent. He places the Chief Good in pleasure, and yet he says that no greater pleasure would result from a lifetime of endless duration than from a limited and moderate period. If a person finds the sole Good in Virtue, it is open to him to say that the happy life is consummated by the consummation of virtue; for his position is that the Chief Good is not increased by lapse of time. But if one thinks that happiness is produced by pleasure, how can he consistently deny that pleasure is increased by duration? If it is not, pain is not either. Or if pain is worse the longer it lasts, is not pleasure rendered more desirable by continuance? On what ground then does Epicurus speak of the Deity (for so he always does) as happy and everlasting? Take away his everlasting life, and Jove is no happier than Epicurus; peach of them enjoys the Chief Good, that is to say, pleasure. ‘Ah but,’ you say, ‘Epicurus is liable to pain as well.’ Yes, but he thinks nothing of pain; for he tells us that if he were being burnt to death he would exclaim, ‘How delightful this is!’ Wherein then is he inferior to God, except that God lives for ever? But what good has everlasting life to offer beside supreme and never-ending pleasure? What then is the use of your high-flown language, if it be not consistent? Bodily pleasure (and I will add if you like mental pleasure, so long as this, as you hold, is understood to have its source in the body) constitutes happiness. Well, who can guarantee this pleasure for the Wise Man in perpetuity? For the things that produce pleasure are not in the Wise Man’s control; since happiness does not consist in wisdom itself, but in the means to pleasure which wisdom can procure. But all the apparatus of pleasure is external, and what is external must depend on chance. Consequently happiness becomes the slave of fortune; yet Epicurus says that fortune interferes with the Wise Man but little!
” ‘Come,’ you will say, ‘these are trivial objections. The Wise Man is endowed with Nature’s own riches, and these, as Epicurus has shown, are easy of attainment.’ This is excellently said, and I do not combat it; but Epicurus’s own statements are at war with each other. He tells us that the simplest fare, that is, the meanest sorts of food and drink, afford no less pleasure than a banquet of the rarest delicacies. For my part, if he said that it made no difference to happiness what sort of food he ate, I should agree, and what is more I should applaud; for he would be telling the truth. I will listen to Socrates, who holds pleasure of no account, when he says that the best sauce for food is hunger and the best flavouring for drink thirst. But I will not listen to one who makes pleasure the sole standard, when while living like Gallonius he talks like Piso the Thrifty; I refuse to believe in his sincerity. He said that natural wealth is easily won, because nature is satisfied with little. Undoubtedly, — if only you Epicureans did not value pleasure so highly. As much pleasure, he says, is derived from the cheapest things as from the most costly. Dear me, his palate must be as dull as his wits. Persons who despise pleasure in itself are at liberty to say that they value a sturgeon no higher than a sprat; but a man whose chief good consists in pleasure is bound to judge everything by sensation, not by reason, and to call those things the best which are the pleasantest. However, let us grant his point: let him get the highest pleasures cheap, or for all I care for nothing, if he can; allow that there is as much pleasure to be found in the cress salad which according to Xenophon formed the staple diet of the Persians, as in the Syracusan banquets which Plato takes to task so severely; grant, I say, that pleasure is as easy to get as your school makes out; — but what are we to say of pain? Pain can inflict such tortures as to render happiness absolutely impossible, that is, if it be true that pain is the Chief Evil. Metrodorus himself, who was almost a second Epicurus, describes happiness (I give almost his actual words) as ‘sound health, and an assurance of its continuance.’ Can anyone have an assurance of what his health will be, I don’t say a year hence, but this evening? It follows that we can never be free from the apprehension of pain, which is the chief Evil, even when it is absent, for at any moment it may be upon us. How then can life be happy when haunted by fear of the greatest Evil? ‘Ah but,’ he rejoins, ‘Epicurus teaches a method for disregarding pain.’ To begin with, the mere idea of disregarding that which is the greatest of evils is absurd. But what is this method, pray? ‘The severest pain,’ says he, ‘is brief.’ First of all, who do you mean by brief? and secondly, what do you mean by the severest pain? Why, cannot the most intense pain last for several days? You may find it last for months! Unless indeed you mean a seizure that instantaneously kills you. But no one is afraid of such a pain as that. I want you rather to alleviate such agony as I have seen afflicting my excellent and amiable friend, Gnaeus Octavius, son of Marcus; and that not once only or for a short time, but repeatedly and for very long periods. Great heavens, what torments he used to suffer! All his joints felt as if on fire. And yet one did not think of him as miserable, because such pain was not the greatest evil, — only as afflicted. Miserable he would have been if he had lived a life of profligacy and vice surrounded by every pleasure.
“As for your maxim that severe pain is short and prolonged pain light, I cannot make out what it may mean. For I see pains that are at once severe and considerably prolonged; and the truer way to endure them is the other method, which you who do not love moral worth for its own sake are not able to employ. Courage has its precepts and its rules, rules of constraining force, that forbid a man to show womanish weakness in pain. Hence it must be considered a disgrace, I do not say to feel pain (that is sometimes inevitable), but that ‘rock of Lemnos to outrage’ with the cries of a Philoctetes,
Till the dumb stones utter a voice of weeping,
Echoing his wails and plaints, his sighs and groanings.
Let Epicurus soothe with his spells, if he can, the man whose
Veins and vitals, from the viper’s fang
Envenom’d, throb with pangs of anguish dire
in this way: ‘Philoctetes! If pain is severe, it is short.’ Oh, but he has been languishing in his cave for these ten years past. “If it is long, it is light: for it grants intervals of respite.’ In the first place, this is not often the case; and secondly, what is the good of a respite embittered by recent pain still fresh in memory, and tormented by fear of pain impending in the future? Let him die, says Epicurus. Perhaps that were the best course, but what becomes of the maxim about ‘a constant preponderance of pleasure’? If that be true, are you not guilty of a crime in advising him to end his life? Well, then, let us rather tell him that it is base and unmanly to let pain demoralize, crush and conquer one. As for the formula of your sect, ‘Short if it’s strong, light if it’s long,’ it is a tag for copybooks. Virtue, magnanimity, endurance, courage — it is these that have balm to assuage pain.
“But I must not digress too far. Let me repeat the dying words of Epicurus, to prove to you the discrepancy between his practice and his principles: ‘Epicurus to Hermarchus, greeting. I write pthese words,’ he says, ‘on the happiest, and the last, day of my life. I am suffering from diseases of the bladder and intestines, which are of the utmost possible severity.’ Unhappy creature! If pain is the Chief Evil, that is the only thing to be said. But let us hear his own words. ‘Yet all my sufferings,’ he continues, ‘are counterbalanced by the joy which I derive from remembering my theories and discoveries. I charge you, by the devotion which from your youth up you have displayed towards myself and towards philosophy, to protect the children of Metrodorus.’ When I read this I rank the death-scene of Epicurus on a level with those of Epaminondas and of Leonidas. Epaminondas had defeated the Lacedaemonians at Mantinea, and perceived himself to be mortally wounded. As soon as he opened his eyes he inquired if his shield were safe. His weeping followers told him that it was. He asked, were the enemy routed? Satisfied on this point, he bade them pluck out the spear that pierced his side. A rush of blood followed, and so in the hour of joy and victory he died. Leonidas, king of the Lacedaemonians, had to choose between dishonourable flight and a glorious death; with the three hundred warriors that he had brought from Sparta he confronted the foe at Thermopylae. A great commander’s death is famous; but philosophers mostly die in their beds. Still it makes a difference how they die. Epicurus counts himself happy in his last moments. All honour to him. ‘My joy,’ he writes, ‘counterbalances the severest pain.’ The words of a philosopher, Epicurus, command my attention; but you forget what you logically ought to say. In the first place, if the things in the precollection of which you profess to find pleasure, I mean your writings and discoveries, are true, you cannot really be feeling pleasure. All feelings referable to the body are over for you; yet you have always maintained that no one feels either pleasure or pain except on account of the body. He says ‘I take pleasure in my past feelings.’ What past feelings? If you mean bodily feelings, I notice that it is not the memory of bodily delights, but your philosophical theories, that counterbalance for you your present pains; if mental feelings, your doctrine that there is no delight of the mind not ultimately referable to the body is an error. And secondly, why do you provide for the children of Metrodorus? What standard of bodily pleasure are you following in this signal act (for so I esteem it) of loyalty and duty?
“Yes, Torquatus, you people may turn and twist as you like, but you will not find a line in this famous letter of Epicurus that is not inconsistent and incompatible with his teachings. Hence he is his own refutation; his writings are disproved by the uprightness of his character. That provision for the care of the children, that loyalty to friendship and affection, that observance of these solemn duties with his latest breath, prove that there was innate in the man a disinterested uprightness, not evoked by pleasure nor elicited by prizes and rewards. Seeing so strong a sense of duty in a dying man, what clearer evidence do we want that morality and rectitude are desirable for their own sakes? But while I think that the letter I have just translated almost word for word is most admirable, although entirely inconsistent with the chief tenets of his philosophy, yet pI consider his will to be quite out of harmony not only with the dignity of a philosopher but also with his own pronouncement. For he repeatedly argued at length, and also stated briefly and plainly in the book I have just mentioned, that ‘death does not affect us at all; for a thing that has experienced dissolution must be devoid of sensation; and that which is devoid of sensation cannot affect us in any degree whatsoever.’ The maxim such as it is might have been better and more neatly put. For the phrase, ‘what has experienced dissolution must be devoid of sensation,’ does not make clear what it is that has experienced dissolution. However in spite of this I understand the meaning intended. What I want to know is this: if all sensation is annihilated by dissolution, that is, by death, and if nothing whatever that can affect us remains, why is it that he makes such precise and careful provision and stipulation ‘that his heirs, Amynomachus and Timocrates, shall after consultation with Hermarchus assign a sufficient sum to celebrate his birthday every year in the month of Gamelion, and also on the twentieth day of every month shall assign a sum for a banquet to his fellow-students in philosophy, in order to keep alive the memory of himself and of Metrodorus’? That these are the words of as amiable and kindly a man as you like, I cannot deny; but what business has a philosopher, and especially a natural philosopher, which Epicurus claims to be, to think that any day can be anybody’s birthday? Why, can the identical day that has once occurred recur again and again? Assuredly it is impossible. Or can a similar day recur? This too is impossible, except after an interval of many thousands of years, when all the heavenly bodies simultaneously achieve their return to the point from which they started. It follows that there is no such thing as anybody’s birthday. ‘But a certain day is so regarded.’ Much obliged, I am sure, for the information! But even granting birthdays, is a person’s birthday to be observed when he is dead? And to provide for this by will — is this appropriate for a man who told us in oracular tones that nothing can affect us after death? Such a provision ill became one whose ‘intellect had roamed’ over unnumbered worlds and realms of infinite space, without shores or circumference. Did Democritus do anything of the kind? (To omit others, I cite the case of the philosopher who was Epicurus’s only master.) And if a special day was to be kept, did he do well to take the day on which he was born, and not rather that on which he became a Wise Man? You will object that he could not have become a Wise Man if he had not first of all been born. You might equally well say, if his grandmother had not been born either. The entire notion of wishing one’s name and memory to be celebrated by a banquet after one’s death is alien to a man of learning. I won’t refer to your mode of keeping these anniversaries, or the shafts of wit you bring upon you from persons with a sense of humour. We do not want to quarrel. I only remark that it was more your business to keep Epicurus’s birthday than his business to provide by will for its celebration.
“But to return to our subject (for we were discussing the question of pain, when we digressed to the letter of Epicurus). The whole matter may now be put in the following syllogism: A man undergoing pthe supreme Evil is not for the time being happy; but the Wise Man is always happy, and sometimes undergoes pain; therefore pain is not the supreme Evil. And again, what is the sense of the maxim that the Wise Man will not let past blessings fade from memory, and that it is a duty to forget past misfortunes? To begin with, have we the power to choose what we shall remember? Themistocles at all events, when Simonides or some one offered to teach him the art of memory, replied that he would prefer the art of forgetting; ‘for I remember,’ said he, ‘even things I don’t wish to remember, but I cannot forget things I wish to forget.’ Epicurus was a very able man; but still the fact of the matter is that a philosopher who forbids us to remember lays too heavy a charge upon us. Why, you are as great a martinet as your ancestor Manlius, or greater, if you order me to do what is beyond my power. What if the memory of past evils be actually pleasant? proving certain proverbs truer than the tenets of your school. There is a popular saying to the effect that ‘Toil is pleasant when ’tis over’; and Euripides well writes (I will attempt a verse translation; the Greek line is known to you all):
Sweet is the memory of sorrows past.
But let us return to the question of past blessings. If your school meant by these the sort of successes that Gaius Marius could fall back on, enabling him when a penniless exile up to his chin in a swamp to lighten his sufferings by recollecting his former victories, I would listen to you, and would unreservedly assent. Indeed it would be impossible for the happiness of the wise Man to attain its final and ultimate perfection, if all his wise designs and good deeds were to be successively erased from his memory. But with you it is the recollection of pleasures enjoyed that gives happiness; and those must be bodily pleasures, — for if it be any others, it ceases to be true that mental pleasures all arise from the connection of the mind with the body. Yet if bodily pleasure even when past can give delight, I do not see why Aristotle should be so contemptuous of the epitaph of Sardanapalus. The famous Syrian monarch boasts that he has taken with him all the sensual pleasures that he has enjoyed. How, asks Aristotle, could a dead man continue to experience a feeling which even while alive he could only be conscious of so long as he was actually enjoying it? So that bodily pleasures are transient; each in turn evaporates, leaving cause for regrets more often than for recollection. Accordingly Africanus must be counted happier than Sardanapalus, when he addresses his country with the words:
Cease, Rome, thy foes —
and the glorious conclusion:
My toils have won thee battlements secure.
His past toils are what he delights in, whereas you bid us dwell upon our past pleasures; he recalls experiences that never had any connection with bodily enjoyment, but you never rise above the body.
“Again how can you possibly defend the dictum of your school, that all mental pleasures and pains alike are based on pleasures and pains of the body? Do you, Torquatus (for I bethink me who it is I am addressing) — do you personally never experience pin something for its own sake? I pass over moral worth and goodness, and the intrinsic beauty of the virtues, of which we spoke before. I will suggest less serious matters, reading or writing a poem or a speech, the study of history or geography, statues, pictures, scenery, the games and wild beast shows, Lucullus’s country house (I won’t mention your own, for that would give you a loophole of escape; you would say it is a source of bodily enjoyment); but take the things I have mentioned, — do you connect them with bodily sense? Is there nothing which of itself affords you delight? Persist in tracing back the pleasures I have instanced to the body — and you show yourself impervious to argument; recant — and you abandon Epicurus’s conception of pleasure altogether.
“As for your contention that mental pleasures and pains are greater than bodily, because the mind apprehends all three periods of time, whereas the body perceives only present sensations, surely it is absurd to say that a man who rejoices in sympathy with my pleasure feels more joy than I feel myself. [Pleasure of the mind arises out of sympathy with that of the body, and pleasure of the mind is greater than that of the body; thus it comes about that one who offers congratulations feels more delight than the person congratulated.] But when you try to prove the Wise Man happy on the ground that he enjoys the greatest mental pleasures, and that these are infinitely greater than bodily pleasures, you do not see the difficulty that meets you. For it follows that the mental pains which he experiences will also be infinitely greater than the bodily ones. Hence he whom you maintain to be always happy would inevitably be sometimes miserable; nor in fact will you ever prove him to be invariably happy, as long as you make pleasure and pain the sole standard. Therefore we are bound, Torquatus, to find some other Chief Good for man. Let us leave pleasure to the lower animals, to whose evidence on this question of the Chief Good your school is fond of appealing. But what if even animals are prompted by their several natures to do many actions conclusively proving that they have some other than pleasure? Some of them show kindness even at the cost of trouble, as for instance in giving birth to and rearing their offspring; some delight in running and roaming about; others are gregarious, and create something resembling a social polity; in a certain class of birds we see some traces of affection, and also recognition and recollection; and in many we even notice regret for a lost friend. If animals therefore possess some semblance of the human virtues unconnected with pleasure, are men themselves to display no virtue except as a means to pleasure? And shall we say that man, who so far surpasses all other living creatures, has been gifted by nature with no exceptional endowment?
“As a matter of fact if pleasure be all in all, the lower animals are far and away superior to ourselves. The Earth of herself without labour of theirs lavishes on them food from her stores in great variety and abundance; whereas we with the most laborious efforts can scarcely if at all supply our needs. Yet I cannot think that the Chief Good can possibly be the same for a brute beast and for a man. What is the use of all our vast machinery of culture, of the great company of liberal studies, of the goodly fellowship of the virtues, if all these things are sought after solely for the sake of pleasure? Suppose when Xerxes led forth his huge fleets and armies of horse and foot, bridged the Hellespont, cut through Athos, marched over sea and sailed over land — suppose on his reaching Greece with his great armada some one asked him the reason for all this enormous apparatus of warfare, and he were to reply that he had wanted to procure some honey from Hymettus! surely he would be thought to have had no adequate motive for so vast an undertaking. So with our Wise Man, equipped and adorned with all the noblest accomplishments and virtues, not like Xerxes traversing the seas on foot and the mountains on shipboard, but mentally embracing sky and earth and sea in their entirety — to say that this man’s aim is pleasure is to say that all his high endeavour is for the sake of a little honey.
“No, Torquatus, believe me, we are born for loftier and more splendid purposes. Nor is this evidenced by the mental faculties alone, including as they do a memory for countless facts, in your case indeed a memory of unlimited range; a power of forecasting the future little short of divination; the sense of modesty to curb the appetites; love of justice, the faithful guardian of human society; contempt of pain and death, remaining firm and steadfast when toil is to be endured and danger undergone. These are our mental endowments. But I would also have you consider our actual members, and our organs of sensation, which like the other parts of the body you for your part will esteem not as the comrades merely but actually as the servants of pthe virtues. But if even the body has many attributes of higher value than pleasure, such as strength, health, beauty, speed of foot, what pray think you of the mind? The wisest philosophers of old believed that the mind contains an element of the celestial and divine. Whereas if the Chief Good consisted in pleasure as your school avers, the ideal of happiness would be to pass days and nights in the enjoyment of the keenest pleasure, without a moment’s intermission, every sense drenched and stimulated with every sort of delight. But who that is worthy to be called a human being would choose to pass a single entire day in pleasure of that description? The Cyrenaics, it is true, do not repudiate it; on this point your friends are more decent, but the Cyrenaics perhaps more consistent. But let us pass in review not these ‘arts’ of first importance, a lack of which with our ancestors gave a man the name of ‘inert’ or good-for‑nothing, but I ask you whether you believe that, I do not say Homer, Archilochus or Pindar, but Phidias, Polyclitus and Zeuxis regarded the purpose of their art as pleasure. Then shall a craftsman have a higher ideal of external than a distinguished citizen of moral beauty? But what else is the cause of an error so profound and so very widely diffused, than the fact that he who decides that pleasure is the Chief Good judges the question not with the rational and deliberative part of his mind, but with its lowest part, the faculty of desire? For I ask you, if gods exist, as your school too believes, how can they be happy, seeing that they cannot enjoy bodily pleasures? or, if they happy without that kind of pleasure, why do you deny that the Wise Man is capable of a like purely mental activity?
“Read the panegyrics, Torquatus, not of the heroes praised by Homer, not of Cyrus or Agesilaus, Aristides or Themistocles, Philip or Alexander; but read those delivered upon our own great men, read those of your own family. You will not find anyone extolled for his skill and cunning in procuring pleasures. This is not what is conveyed by epitaphs, like that one near the city gate:
Here lyeth one whom many lands agree
Rome’s first and greatest citizen to be.
Do we suppose that many lands agreed that Calatinus was Rome’s greatest citizen because of his surpassing eminence in the acquisition of pleasures? Then are we to say that a youth is a young man of great promise and high character, when we judge him likely to study his own interests and to do whatever will be for his personal advantage? Do we not see what a universal upheaval and confusion would result from such a principle? It does away with generosity and with gratitude, the bonds of mutual harmony. If you lend a man money for your own advantage, this cannot be considered an act of generosity — it is usury; no gratitude is owing to a man who lends money for gain. In fact if pleasure usurps the sovereignty, all the cardinal virtues must inevitably be dethroned; and also there are a number of base qualities which can with difficulty be proved inconsistent with the character of the Wise Man, unless it be a law of nature that moral goodness should be supreme. Not to bring forward further arguments (for they are countless in number), any sound commendation of Virtue must needs keep Pleasure at arm’s length. Do not expect me further to argue the point; look within, study your own consciousness. Then after full and careful introspection, ask yourself the question, would you prefer to pass your whole life in that state of calm which you spoke of so often, amidst the enjoyment of unceasing pleasures, free from all pain, and even (an addition which your school is fond of postulating but which is really impossible) free from all fear of pain, or to be a benefactor of the entire human race, and to bring succour and safety to the distressed, even at the cost of enduring the dolours of a Hercules? Dolours — that was indeed the sad and gloomy name which our ancestors bestowed, even in the case of a god, upon labours which were not to be evaded. I would press my question and drag an answer from you, were I not afraid lest you should say that Hercules himself in the arduous labours that he wrought for the preservation of mankind was acting for the sake of pleasure!”
Here I concluded. “I am at no loss for authorities,” said Torquatus, “to whom to refer your arguments. I might be able to do some execution myself, but I prefer to find better equipped champions.” “No doubt you allude to our excellent and learned friends Siro and Philodemus.” “You are right,” he replied. “Very well then,” said I; “but it would be fairer to let Triarius pronounce some verdict on our dispute.” “I formally object to him as prejudiced,” he rejoined with a smile, “at all events on this issue. You have shown us some mercy, but Triarius lays about him like a true Stoic.” “Oh,” interposed Triarius, “I’ll fight more boldly still next time, for I shall have the arguments I have just heard ready to my hand, though I won’t attack you till I see you have been armed by the instructors whom you mention.” And with these words we brought our promenade and our discussion to an end together.