In the present paper I will examine Cicero's charge in De Finibus that Epicurean theory does not, as it were, take virtue seriously. I will then lay out two Epicurean responses to Cicero's objection. I will show that the first response that Epicurean theory may both take virtue seriously and maintain its hedonistic core fails as both a descriptive claim and as a normative claim. I will then explain how the second response that virtue is a necessary and sufficient condition for living pleasantly undermines the main thesis of Epicurean theory. I will end with two thought experiments that aim to show that, furthermore, the assertion of the second response is false.
[...] If Cicero's examples are sound, then it follows from either of these formulations that pleasure and pain cannot be the sole guide to our pursuits or avoidances. The implication is that there must then exist something distinct from pleasure and pain that is able to and does guide our actions, namely virtue. Thus more important than the empirical point that pleasures and pains do not always guide one's actions is Cicero's normative complaint that Epicureanism does not take virtue seriously. That this complaint is implicit in Cicero's examples becomes clear with Torquatus's response to Cicero's objections. [...]
[...] Cicero and Torquatus's distinguished forebears] performed those undoubtedly illustrious deeds for a reason, their reason was not virtue for its own sake. dragged the chain from the enemy's neck.” Indeed, and so to protect himself from death. he incurred great danger.” Indeed, but in full view of his army. “What did he gain from Glory and esteem, which are the firmest safeguards of a secure life. sentenced his son to death.” If he did so without a reason, I would not wish to be descended from someone so harsh and cruel; but if he was bringing pain upon himself as a consequence of the need to preserve the authority of military command, and to maintain army discipline at a critical time of war by spreading fear of punishment, then he was providing for the security of his fellow citizens, and thereby as he was well aware for his own. [...]
[...] While the objection may not derail the Stoic claim that virtue is all that matters, it certainly seems to compromise the Epicurean claim that living virtuously is sufficient for living pleasantly. Though the man in question may find a trace of solace in his living virtuously just as Epicurus was able to find pleasure on the excruciatingly painful day of his death it is hard to believe, especially if the thought experiment is exaggerated even more, that such solace is able to result in net pleasantness. [...]
[...] Is there a way that Epicurean theory may render its claim that it takes virtue seriously without shooting itself in the foot? Indeed, Torquatus has another card up his sleeve. At the end of I.57, he says to Cicero: “Epicurus, the man whom you accuse of being excessively devoted to pleasure, in fact claims that one cannot live pleasantly unless one lives wisely, honorably and justly; and that one cannot live wisely, honorably and justly without living pleasantly.” This amounts to the claim that living virtuously is a necessary and sufficient condition for living pleasantly. [...]
[...] In this scenario it is plausible that the man would hold to the deal, for the reason that to renege on the deal would be opposed to virtue to renege might be considered impious or thought to constitute a violation of a promise. Furthermore, it is plausible to imagine that one would hold to the deal and sacrifice one's child even if the loss of the child would cause intense, interminable suffering with no ancillary benefits or pleasure taken from the thought of having acted virtuously. [...]
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