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Promoting the Study of the Philosophy of Epicurus


Research Projects: 1 – The Meaning of Key Doctrine 6

This post is the first of several on particular research projects I want to pursue.  I will appreciate it greatly if anyone who has any comment or suggestion on any of them emails me here or via Facebook.  Here is the first installment:

I note that there are major discrepancies in the translations one finds of Key Doctrine 6.  The version I post on this website is an amalgamation of those that follow the tradition of R.D. Hicks in the Loeb Classical Library edition of Diogenes Laertius.  Thus the one I prefer as what I believe is closest to the meaning is:

Any means by which we can secure protection from other men is a natural good.

The version published in the Loeb edition by R.D. Hicks, who cites a Usener emendation of the text, is:

In order to obtain security from other men any means whatsoever of procuring this was a natural good.

George Strodach, in “The Philosophy of Epicurus,” translates:

Any means by which it is possible to procure freedom from fearing other men is a natural good.

But I note that the Epicurus Reader version by Inwood and Gerson reads:

The natural good of public office and kingship is for the sake of getting confidence from [other] men, [at least] from those from whom one is able to provide this.

This Epicurus Reader version seems related to a similarly-divergent form by Peter St. Andre:

It is a natural benefit of leadership and kingship to take courage from other men (or at least from the sort of men who can give one courage). is somewhere in the middle:

That natural benefit of kingship and high office is (and only is) the degree to which they provide security from other men.

And to round out the circle, comes back close to the Loeb version:

In order to obtain protection from other men, any means for attaining this end is a natural good.

As always, I labor under the difficulty of knowing no Greek myself.  For a variety of reasons, however, I tend toward the conclusion that this doctrine is a statement that it is a natural good to act to preserve’s one’s personal safety.  I consider this meaning to be the most consistent with the rest of Epicurean doctrine, but I also consider a focus on personal safety to be the only one of the various translations that is “deep” enough to be considered “parallel” to the depth of the other doctrines, especially those deemed significant enough to be listed in the first ten.

It has always appeared to me that Epicurus (or the compiler of these doctrines) selected them because they state Natural principles which serve as a basis from which one may derive many other profound conclusions.  A statement of the “good” of personal safety has such depth, but a reference to “courage” without more context does not seem to have the same ring.

Until I find reason to change it, I’ll stick with:

Any means by which we can secure protection from other men is a natural good.