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Week2 Epicurus.docx

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Western University
Philosophy 2073F/G
Rodney Parker

Gompertz Law of Mortality - You will die (by age 130 max) - After about the age of 30, on average your odds of dying the next year double roughly every 8 years - You’re more likely to die when you’re in your 20’s than when you’re 30 (recklessness) Epicurus (341 – 270 BC) Letter to Menoeceus - Lines 124-126 are important *** - Main theme: ethics - Epicureans thought that the goal of human life and all human action is happiness - Happiness derives from pleasure / the absence of physical and mental pain - Do things that make you happy, avoid things that cause you pain - For Epicurus, pleasure and pain are results of sense experiences - No such thing as a purely mental pleasure - Thinks that cultivating mental pleasures is a good thing but this isn’t how you should guide your entire life – physical pleasure is important too - Central to argument: pursue pleasures - However, he doesn’t think that people should give in to all of their bodily desires – he spoke against extravagant ways of living - *** we must condition ourselves to find pleasure in the simple things in life and in doing so we will find the ultimate good in ourselves - Reasons: o Our wants/unnecessary desires will cause us pain o We will become dependent on extravagant things if we’re used to having them (causing misery if at one point we can’t have them anymore) - This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy extravagant things, just that we shouldn’t be dependent on them and we shouldn’t seek them out - One we free ourselves from these desires and we focus on the simple things, humans will find true happiness and avoid all needless suffering that now consumes human lives - Sometimes pain is needed to reach a greater degree of happiness in the end (i.e. exercise) Two important concepts: Ataraxia and Prudence - Ataraxia: the freedom from worry or any other mental preoccupations (ultimate state of happiness for Epicurus) - Prudence: making a decision in your own best interest (rationality), allows us to avoid preoccupation with unneeded desires. This is the chief virtue that you should be concerned about having – without it you can’t be a happy individual Epicurus thinks that it is very important that individuals do away with mere opinions. Reasons for things are more useful than opinions about things. Because of this he believes that learning natural sciences is important in connection to prudence – we need to be people who go out and collect evidence to learn things, we can’t just believe something because it is our opinion. Have logic before you act. Types of desires - Natural desires: two different things o Necessary: three kinds  For happiness (i.e. freedom)  For freeing the body from harm (i.e. shelter)  For life (i.e. food, air) o Merely natural (i.e. luxury food, extravagant shelter, alcohol) - Unnatural desires: “Vain and empty desires” (i.e. power, wealth, fame) they can never be fully satisfied because they have no natural limit (if that’s what you base your happiness on you could never be fully happy) Epicurus is a materialist and an atomist. - Materialist: everything is made up of matter and exists in the physical world. - Atomist: a type of materialism that says all physical bodies are made up of atoms and void (space between the atoms). We know atoms exist in the void because we are
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