Letter to Menoeceus

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The Letter to Menoeceus, by Epicurus, is an exhortation to learn and practice the joyful ethic of Epicureanism. It is one of the few fully extant writings of Epicurus, the third of three letters preseved by Diogenes Laertius.

[edit] The Text

121) Ἐπίκουρος Μενοικεῖ χαίρειν. 121) Epicurus to Menoeceus, greetings.
122) Μήτε νέος τις ὢν μελλέτω φιλοσοφεῖν, μήτε γέρων ὑπάρχων κοπιάτω φιλοσοφῶν· οὔτε γὰρ ἄωρος οὐδείς ἐστιν οὔτε πάρωρος πρὸς τὸ κατὰ ψυχὴν ὑγιαῖνον. ὁ δὲ λέγων ἢ μήπω τοῦ φιλοσοφεῖν ὑπάρχειν ᾥραν ἤ παρεληλυθέναι τὴν ᾥραν ὅμοιός ἐστι τῷ λέγοντι πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν ἤ μὴ παρεῖναι τὴν ᾥραν ἤ μηκέτι εἶναι. ὥστε φιλοσοφητέον καὶ νέῳ καὶ γέροντι, τῷ μὲν ὅπως γηράσκων νεάζῃ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς διὰ τὴν χάριν τῶν γεγονότων, τῷ δὲ ὅπως νέος ἅμα καὶ παλαιός ᾖ διὰ τὴν ἀφοβίαν τῶν μελλόντων· μελετᾶν οὖν χρὴ τὰ ποιοῦντα τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν, εἴπερ παρούσης μὲν αὐτῆς πάντα ἔχομεν, ἀπούσης δέ, πάντα πράττομεν εἰς τὸ ταύτην ἔχειν. 122) Let no one postpone practicing philosophy while young, and let no one tire of it when old, for no one is either too soon or too late to devote oneself to the well-being of the soul. Whoever says that the time for philosophy has not yet come or that it has already passed is saying that it is too soon or too late for happiness. Therefore both the young and the old should practice philosophy so that, while old, one may still be young with gratitude from all past joys; and while young, one may at the same time be old through fearlessness of what the future has in store. We must study what produces happiness because when we have it, we have everything, and if we lack it, we can do everything necessary to regain it.
123-4) Ἃ δέ σοι συνεχῶς παρήγγελλον, ταῦτα καὶ πρᾶττε καὶ μελέτα, στοιχεῖα τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν ταῦτ’ εἶναι διαλαμβάνων. Πρῶτον μὲν τὸν θεὸν ζῷον ἄφθαρτον καὶ μακάριον νομίζων, ὡς ἡ κοινὴ τοῦ θεοῦ νόησις ὑπεγράφη, μηθὲν μήτε τῆς ἀφθαρσίας ἀλλότριον μήτε τῆς μακαριότητος ἀνοίκειον αὐτῷ πρόσαπτε· πᾶν δὲ τὸ φυλάττειν αὐτοῦ δυνάμενον τὴν μετὰ ἀφθαρσίας μακαριότητα περὶ αὐτὸν δόξαζε. θεοὶ μὲν γὰρ εἰσίν· ἐναργὴς γὰρ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ γνῶσις· οἵους δ’ αὐτοὺς <οἱ> πολλοὶ νομίζουσιν, οὐκ εἰσιν· οὐ γὰρ φυλάττουσιν αὐτοὺς οἵους νομίζουσιν. ἀσεβὴς δὲ οὐχ ὁ τοὺς τῶν πολλῶν θεοὺς ἀναιρῶν, ἀλλ’ ὁ τὰς τῶν πολλῶν δόξας θεοῖς προσάπτων. οὐ γὰρ προλήψεις εἰσίν ἀλλ’ ὑπολήψεις ψευδεῖς αἱ τῶν πολλῶν ὑπὲρ θεῶν ἀποφάσεις. ἒνθεν αἱ μέγισται βλάβαι ἐκ θεῶν ἐπάγονται καὶ ὠφέλειαι <τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς>. ταῖς γὰρ ἰδίαις οἰκειούμενοι διὰ παντὸς ἀρεταῖς τοὺς ὁμοίους ἀποδέχονται, πᾶν τὸ μὴ τοιοῦτον ὡς ἀλλότριον νομίζοντες. 123-4) I encourage you, as always, to study and practice the things which are the ingredients of happiness. First of all, consider that a god is an immortal and happy being, as is commonly written. But do not believe anything about divine nature other than what is congenial for an eternally happy existence. The gods do exist because we have preconceived notions of them. But they are not like how most people describe them, because they do not retain the notion of the gods that they first receive. Rejecting the popular myths does not make one impious. Impious is one who upholds popular beliefs about the gods, because those pronouncements are false opinions rather than actual preconceptions. Hence the severest harm from the gods is anticipated by the many, while benefits are reaped by the virtuous. The reason being is that those who reflect upon their own virtues regard the gods as resembling themselves, and reject all else as outlandish.
124-7) Συνέθιζε δὲ ἐν τῷ νομίζειν μηδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἶναι τὸν θάνατον ἐπεὶ πᾶν ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακὸν ἐν αἰσθήσει· στέρησις δέ ἐστιν αἰσθήσεως ὁ θάνατος. ὅθεν γνῶσις ὀρθὴ τοῦ μηθὲν εἶναι πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸν θάνατον ἀπολαυστὸν ποιεῖ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς θνητόν, οὐκ ἄπειρον προστιθεῖσα χρόνον, ἀλλὰ τὸν τῆς ἀθανασίας ἀφελομένη πόθον. οὐθὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ζῆν δεινόν τῷ κατειληφότι γνησίως τὸ μηδὲν ὑπάρχειν ἐν τῷ μὴ ζῆν δεινόν. ὥστε μάταιος ὁ λέγων δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον οὐχ ὅτι λυπήσει παρών, ἀλλ’ ὅτι λυπεῖ μέλλων. ὅ γὰρ παρὸν οὐκ ἐνοχλεῖ, προσδοκώμενον κενῶς λυπεῖ. τὸ φρικωδέστατον οὖν τῶν κακῶν ὁ θάνατος οὐθὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ἐπειδήπερ ὅταν μὲν ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, ὁ θάνατος οὐ πάρεστιν, ὅταν δὲ ὁ θάνατος παρῇ, τόθ’ ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἐσμέν. οὔτε οὖν πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντάς ἐστιν οὔτε πρὸς τοὺς τετελευτηκότας, ἐπειδήπερ περὶ οὕς μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν, οἳδ’ οὐκέτι εἰσίν. Ἀλλ’ οἱ πολλοὶ τὸν θάνατον ὁτὲ μὲν ὡς μέγιστον τῶν κακῶν φεύγουσιν, ὁτὲ δὲ ὡς ἀνάπαυσιν τῶν ἐν τῷ ζῆν <κακῶν αἱροῦνται. ὁ δὲ σοφὸς οὔτε παραιτεῖται τὸ ζῆν> οὔτε φοβεῖται τὸ μὴ ζῆν. οὔτε γὰρ αὐτῷ προσίσταται τὸ ζῆν οὔτε δοξάζεται κακὸν εἶναί τι τὸ μὴ ζῆν. ὥσπερ τὸ σιτίον οὐ τὸ πλεῖον πάντως ἀλλά τὸ ἥδιστον αἱρεῖται, οὕτω καὶ χρόνον οὐ τὸν μήκιστον ἀλλά τὸν ἥδιστον καρπίζεται. Ὁ δὲ παραγγέλλων τὸν μὲν νέον καλῶς ζῆν, τὸν δὲ γέροντα καλῶς καταστρέφειν, εὐήθης ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον διὰ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς ἀσπαστόν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὸ τὴν αὐτὴν εἶναι μελέτην τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν καὶ τὸ τοῦ καλῶς ἀποθνήσκειν. πολὺ δὲ χείρων καὶ ὁ λέγων καλὸν μὲν μὴ φῦναι, φύντα δ’ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀίδαο περῆσαι. εἰ μὲν γὰρ πεποιθὼς τοῦτό φησι, πῶς οὐκ ἀπέρχεται ἐκ τοῦ ζῆν; ἐν ἑτοίμῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ τοῦτ’ ἐστίν, εἴπερ βεβουλευμένον αὐτῷ βεβαίως. εἰ δὲ μωκώμενος, μάταιος ἐν τοῖς οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένοις. 124-7) Accustom yourself to thinking that death is no concern to us. All things good and bad are experienced through sensation, but sensation ceases at death. So death is nothing to us, and to know the truth of this makes a mortal life happy -- not by adding infinite time, but by removing the desire for immortality. There is no reason why one who is convinced that there is nothing to fear at death should fear anything about it during life. And whoever says that he dreads death not because it’s painful to experience, but only because it’s painful to contemplate, is foolish. It is pointless to agonize over something that brings no trouble when it arrives. So death, the most dreaded of evils, is nothing to us, because when we exist, death is not present, and when death is present, we do not exist. It neither concerns the living nor the dead, since death does not exist for the living, and the dead no longer exist.

Most people, however, either dread death as the greatest of suffering or long for it as a relief from suffering. One who is wise neither renounces life nor fears not living. Life does not offend him, nor does he suppose that not living is any kind of suffering. For just as he would not choose the greatest amount of food over what is most delicious, so too he does not seek the longest possible life, but rather the happiest. And he who advises the young man to live well and the old man to die well is also foolish – not only because it’s desirable to live, but because the art of living well and the art of dying well are the same. And he was still more wrong who said it would be better to have never been born, but that “Once born, be quick to pass through the gates of Hades!” {Theognis, 425 - 427} If he was being serious, why wasn’t he himself quick to end his life? Certainly the means were available if this was what he really wanted to do. But if he was joking, then we have even less reason to believe him.

127) Συνέθιζε δὲ ἐν τῷ νομίζειν μηδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἶναι τὸν θάνατον ἐπεὶ πᾶν ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακὸν ἐν αἰσθήσει· στέρησις δέ ἐστιν αἰσθήσεως ὁ θάνατος. ὅθεν γνῶσις ὀρθὴ τοῦ μηθὲν εἶναι πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸν θάνατον ἀπολαυστὸν ποιεῖ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς θνητόν, οὐκ ἄπειρον προστιθεῖσα χρόνον, ἀλλὰ τὸν τῆς ἀθανασίας ἀφελομένη πόθον. οὐθὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ζῆν δεινόν τῷ κατειληφότι γνησίως τὸ μηδὲν ὑπάρχειν ἐν τῷ μὴ ζῆν δεινόν. ὥστε μάταιος ὁ λέγων δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον οὐχ ὅτι λυπήσει παρών, ἀλλ’ ὅτι λυπεῖ μέλλων. ὅ γὰρ παρὸν οὐκ ἐνοχλεῖ, προσδοκώμενον κενῶς λυπεῖ. τὸ φρικωδέστατον οὖν τῶν κακῶν ὁ θάνατος οὐθὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ἐπειδήπερ ὅταν μὲν ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, ὁ θάνατος οὐ πάρεστιν, ὅταν δὲ ὁ θάνατος παρῇ, τόθ’ ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἐσμέν. οὔτε οὖν πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντάς ἐστιν οὔτε πρὸς τοὺς τετελευτηκότας, ἐπειδήπερ περὶ οὕς μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν, οἳδ’ οὐκέτι εἰσίν. Ἀλλ’ οἱ πολλοὶ τὸν θάνατον ὁτὲ μὲν ὡς μέγιστον τῶν κακῶν φεύγουσιν, ὁτὲ δὲ ὡς ἀνάπαυσιν τῶν ἐν τῷ ζῆν <κακῶν αἱροῦνται. ὁ δὲ σοφὸς οὔτε παραιτεῖται τὸ ζῆν> οὔτε φοβεῖται τὸ μὴ ζῆν. οὔτε γὰρ αὐτῷ προσίσταται τὸ ζῆν οὔτε δοξάζεται κακὸν εἶναί τι τὸ μὴ ζῆν. ὥσπερ τὸ σιτίον οὐ τὸ πλεῖον πάντως ἀλλά τὸ ἥδιστον αἱρεῖται, οὕτω καὶ χρόνον οὐ τὸν μήκιστον ἀλλά τὸν ἥδιστον καρπίζεται. Ὁ δὲ παραγγέλλων τὸν μὲν νέον καλῶς ζῆν, τὸν δὲ γέροντα καλῶς καταστρέφειν, εὐήθης ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον διὰ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς ἀσπαστόν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὸ τὴν αὐτὴν εἶναι μελέτην τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν καὶ τὸ τοῦ καλῶς ἀποθνήσκειν. πολὺ δὲ χείρων καὶ ὁ λέγων καλὸν μὲν μὴ φῦναι, φύντα δ’ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀίδαο περῆσαι. εἰ μὲν γὰρ πεποιθὼς τοῦτό φησι, πῶς οὐκ ἀπέρχεται ἐκ τοῦ ζῆν; ἐν ἑτοίμῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ τοῦτ’ ἐστίν, εἴπερ βεβουλευμένον αὐτῷ βεβαίως. εἰ δὲ μωκώμενος, μάταιος ἐν τοῖς οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένοις. 127) Accustom yourself to thinking that death is no concern to us. All things good and bad are experienced through sensation, but sensation ceases at death. So death is nothing to us, and to know the truth of this makes a mortal life happy -- not by adding infinite time, but by removing the desire for immortality. There is no reason why one who is convinced that there is nothing to fear at death should fear anything about it during life. And whoever says that he dreads death not because it’s painful to experience, but only because it’s painful to contemplate, is foolish. It is pointless to agonize over something that brings no trouble when it arrives. So death, the most dreaded of evils, is nothing to us, because when we exist, death is not present, and when death is present, we do not exist. It neither concerns the living nor the dead, since death does not exist for the living, and the dead no longer exist.

Most people, however, either dread death as the greatest of suffering or long for it as a relief from suffering. One who is wise neither renounces life nor fears not living. Life does not offend him, nor does he suppose that not living is any kind of suffering. For just as he would not choose the greatest amount of food over what is most delicious, so too he does not seek the longest possible life, but rather the happiest. And he who advises the young man to live well and the old man to die well is also foolish – not only because it’s desirable to live, but because the art of living well and the art of dying well are the same. And he was still more wrong who said it would be better to have never been born, but that “Once born, be quick to pass through the gates of Hades!” {Theognis, 425 - 427} If he was being serious, why wasn’t he himself quick to end his life? Certainly the means were available if this was what he really wanted to do. But if he was joking, then we have even less reason to believe him.

127-8) Ἀναλογιστέον δὲ ὡς τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν αἱ μέν εἰσι φυσικαί, αἱ δὲ κεναί, καὶ τῶν φυσικῶν αἱ μὲν ἀναγκαῖαι, αἱ δὲ φυσικαί μόνον· τῶν δὲ ἀναγκαίων αἱ μὲν πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν εἰσὶν ἀναγκαῖαι, αἱ δὲ πρὸς τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἀοχλησίαν, αἱ δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸ τὸ ζῆν. τούτων γὰρ ἀπλανὴς θεωρία πᾶσαν αἵρεσιν καὶ φυγὴν ἐπανάγειν οἶδεν ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ὑγίειαν καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀταραξίαν, ἐπεὶ τοῦτο τοῦ μακαρίως ζῆν ἐστι τέλος. τούτου γὰρ πάντα πράττομεν, ὅπως μήτε ἀλγῶμεν μήτε ταρβῶμεν. ὅταν δὲ ἅπαξ τοῦτο περὶ ἡμᾶς γένηται, λύεται πᾶς ὁ τῆς ψυχῆς χειμών, οὐκ ἔχοντος τοῦ ζῴου βαδίζειν ὡς πρὸς ἐνδέον τι καὶ ζητεῖν ἕτερον ᾧ τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ τοῦ σώματος ἀγαθὸν συμπληρώσεται. τότε γὰρ ἡδονῆς χρείαν ἔχομεν, ὅταν ἐκ τοῦ μὴ παρεῖναι τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀλγῶμεν· <ὅταν δὲ μὴ ἀλγῶμεν> οὐκέτι τῆς ἡδονῆς δεόμεθα. 127-8) One should keep in mind that among desires, some are natural and some are vain. Of those that are natural, some are necessary and some unnecessary. Of those that are necessary, some are necessary for happiness, some for health, and some for life itself. A correct view of these matters enables one to base every choice and avoidance upon whether it secures or upsets bodily comfort and peace of mind – the goal of a happy life.

Everything we do is for the sake of freedom from pain and anxiety. Once this is achieved, the storms in the soul are stilled. Nothing else and nothing more are needed to perfect the well-being of the body and soul. It is when we feel pain that we must seek relief, which is pleasure. And when we no longer feel pain, we no longer need pleasure.

128-30) Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ τέλος λέγομεν εἶναι τοῦ μακαρίως ζῆν. ταύτην γὰρ ἀγαθὸν πρῶτον καὶ συγγενικὸν ἔγνωμεν, καὶ ἀπὸ ταύτης καταρχόμεθα πάσης αἱρέσεως καὶ φυγῆς, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτηv καταντῶμεν ὡς κανόνι τῷ πάθει πᾶν ἀγαθὸν κρίνοντες. Καὶ ἐπεὶ πρῶτον ἀγαθὸν τοῦτο καὶ σύμφυτον, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ οὐ πᾶσαν ἡδονὴν αἱρούμεθα, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν ὅτε πολλὰς ἡδονὰς ὑπερβαίνομεν, ὅταν πλεῖον ἡμῖν τὸ δυσχερὲς ἐκ τούτων ἕπηται· καὶ πολλὰς ἀλγηδόνας ἡδονῶν κρείττους νομίζομεν, ἐπειδὰν μείζων ἡμῖν ἡδονὴ παρακολουθῇ πολὺν χρόνον ὑπομείνασι τὰς ἀλγηδόνας. πᾶσα οὖν ἡδονὴ διὰ τὸ φύσιν ἔχειν οἰκείαν ἀγαθὸν, οὐ πᾶσα μέντοι αἱρετή· καθάπερ καὶ ἀλγηδών πᾶσα κακόν, οὐ πᾶσα δὲ ἀεὶ φευκτὴ πεφυκυῖα. τῇ μέντοι συμμετρήσει καὶ συμφερόντων καὶ ἀσυμφόρων βλέψει ταῦτα πάντα κρίνειν καθήκει. χρώμεθα γὰρ τῷ ἀγαθῷ κατὰ τινας χρόνους ὡς κακῷ, τῷ δὲ κακῷ τοὔμπαλιν ὡς ἀγαθῷ. 128-30) For this reason, we declare that pleasure is the beginning and end of the happy life. We are endowed by nature to recognize pleasure as the first and familiar good. Every choice and avoidance we make is guided by pleasure as our standard for judging the goodness of everything.

Although pleasure is the greatest good, not every pleasure is worth choosing. We may instead avoid certain pleasures when, by doing so, we avoid greater pains. We may also choose to accept pain if, by doing so, it results in greater pleasure. So while every pleasure is naturally good, not every pleasure should be chosen. Likewise, every pain is naturally evil, but not every pain is to be avoided. Only upon considering all consequences should we decide. Thus, sometimes we might regard the good as evil, and conversely: the evil as good.

130-1) Καὶ τὴν αὐτάρκειαν δὲ ἀγαθὸν μέγα νομίζομεν, οὐχ ἵνα πάντως τοῖς ὀλίγοις χρώμεθα, ἀλλ’ ὅπως ἐὰν μὴ ἔχωμεν τὰ πολλά, τοῖς ὀλίγοις ἀρκώμεθα, πεπεισμένοι γνησίως ὅτι ἥδιστα πολυτελείας ἀπολαύσουσιν οἱ ἥκιστα ταύτης δεόμενοι, καὶ ὅτι τὸ μὲν φυσικὸν πᾶν εὐπόριστόν ἐστι, τὸ δὲ κενὸν δυσπόριστον, οἵ τε λιτοὶ χυλοὶ ἴσην πολυτελεῖ διαίτῃ τὴν ἡδονὴν ἐπιφέρουσιν, ὅταν ἅπαν τὸ ἀλγοῦν κατ’ ἔνδειαν ἐξαιρεθῇ, καὶ μᾶζα καὶ ὕδωρ τὴν ἀκροτάτην ἀποδίδωσιν ἡδονὴν, ἐπειδὰν ἐνδέων τις αὐτὰ προσενέγκηται. τὸ συνεθίζειν οὖν ἐν ταῖς ἁπλαῖς καὶ οὐ πολυτελέσι διαίταις καὶ ὑγείας ἐστὶ συμπληρωτικὸν καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἀναγκαίας τοῦ βίου χρήσεις ἄοκνον ποιεῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον καὶ τοῖς πολυτελέσιν ἐκ διαλειμμάτων προσερχομένοις κρεῖττον ἡμᾶς διατίθησι καὶ πρὸς τὴν τύχην ἀφόβους παρασκευάζει. 130-1) We also regard self-sufficiency as a great virtue – not so that we may only enjoy a few things, but so that we may be satisfied with a few things if those are all we have. We are firmly convinced that those who least yearn for luxury enjoy it most, and that while natural desires are easily fulfilled, vain desires are insatiable. Plain meals offer the same pleasure as luxurious fare, so long as the pain of hunger is removed. Bread and water offer the greatest pleasure for those in need of them. Accustoming oneself to a simple lifestyle is healthy and it doesn’t sap our motivation to perform the necessary tasks of life. Doing without luxuries for long intervals allows us to better appreciate them and keeps us fearless against changes of fortune.
131-2) Ὅταν οὖν λέγωμεν ἡδονὴν τέλος ὑπάρχειν, οὐ τὰς τῶν ἀσώτων ἡδονὰς καὶ τὰς ἐν ἀπολαύσει κειμένας λέγομεν, ὥς τινες ἀγνοοῦντες καὶ οὐχ ὁμολογοῦντες ἤ κακῶς ἐκδεχόμενοι νομίζουσιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μήτε ἀλγεῖν κατὰ σῶμα μήτε ταράττεσθαι κατὰ ψυχήν· οὐ γὰρ πότοι καὶ κῶμοι συνείροντες οὐδ’ ἀπολαύσεις παίδων καὶ γυναικῶν οὐδ’ ἰχθύων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων, ὅσα φέρει πολυτελὴς τράπεζα, τὸν ἡδὺν γεννᾷ βίον, ἀλλὰ νήφων λογισμὸς καὶ τὰς αἰτίας ἐξερευνῶν πάσης αἱρέσεως καὶ φυγῆς καὶ τὰς δόξας ἐξελαύνων, ἐξ ὧν πλεῖστος τὰς ψυχὰς καταλαμβάνει θόρυβος. 131-2) Thus when we say that pleasure is the goal, we do not mean the pleasure of debauchery or sensuality, despite whatever the ignorant, disagreeable, or malignant people believe. By pleasure, we mean this: freedom from pain in the body and freedom from turmoil in the soul. For it is not continuous drinking and revelry, the sexual enjoyment of women and boys, or feasting upon fish and fancy cuisine which result in a happy life. Sober reasoning is what is needed, which decides every choice and avoidance and liberates us from the false beliefs which are the greatest source of anxiety.
133-5) Ἐπεὶ τίνα νομίζεις εἶναι κρείττονα τοῦ καὶ περὶ θεῶν ὅσια δοξάζοντος καὶ περὶ θανάτου διὰ παντὸς ἀφόβως ἔχοντος καὶ τὸ τῆς φύσεως ἐπιλελογισμένου τέλος, καὶ τὸ μὲν τῶν ἀγαθῶν πέρας ὡς ἔστιν εὐσυμπλήρωτόν τε καὶ εὐπόριστον διαλαμβάνοντος, τὸ δὲ τῶν κακῶν ὡς ἢ πόνους ἔχει βραχεῖς; τὴν δὲ ὑπό τινων δεσπότιν εἰσαγομένην πάντων ἐγγελῶντος <εἱμαρμένην; οὗτος γὰρ ἑαυτὸν παρέχει τῶν πραχθέντων ὑπεύθυνον, ἃ μὲν κατ’ ἀνάγκην γίνεσθαι τιθέμενος,> ἃ δὲ ἀπὸ τύχης, ἃ δὲ παρ’ ἡμᾶς, διὰ τὸ τὴν μὲν ἀνάγκην ἀνυπεύθυνον εἶναι, τὴν δὲ τύχην ἄστατον ὁρᾶν, τὸ δὲ παρ’ ἡμᾶς ἀδέσποτον, ᾧ καὶ τὸ μεμπτὸν καὶ τὸ ἐναντίον παρακολουθεῖν πέφυκεν. ἐπεὶ κρεῖττον ἦν τῷ περὶ θεῶν μύθῳ κατακολουθεῖν ἢ τῇ τῶν φυσικῶν εἱμαρμένῃ δουλεύειν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐλπίδα παραιτήσεως ὑπογράφει θεῶν διὰ τιμῆς, ἣ δὲ ἔχει τὴν ἀνάγκην. τὴν δὲ τύχην οὔτε θεόν, ὡς οἱ πολλοὶ νομίζουσιν, ὑπολαμβάνων, οὐθὲν γὰρ ἀτάκτως θεῷ πράττεται, οὔτε ἀβέβαιον αἰτίαν, οὐκ οἴεται μὲν ἀγαθὸν ἢ κακὸν ἐκ ταύτης πρὸς τὸ μακαρίως ζῆν ἀνθρώποις δίδοσθαι, ἀρχὰς μέντοι μεγάλων ἀγαθῶν ἢ κακῶν ὑπὸ ταύτης χορηγεῖσθαι· κρεῖττον εἶναι νομίζων εὐλογίστως ἀτυχεῖν ἢ ἀλογίστως εὐτυχεῖν· βέλτιον γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσι τὸ καλῶς κριθὲν <μὴ ὀρθωθῆναι ἢ τὸ μὴ καλῶς κριθὲν> ὀρθωθῆναι διὰ ταύτην. 133-5) Who could conceivably be better off than one who reveres the gods, who is utterly unafraid of death, and who has discovered the natural goal of life? Or one who understands that pleasure, the greatest good, is easily supplied to absolute fullness, while pain, the greatest evil, lasts only a moment when intense and is easily tolerated when prolonged? Or one who scoffs at fate, which is believed by some to be the mistress of all?

Such a man is better off than all, because he knows that the greater power of decision lies within oneself. He understands that while some things are indeed caused by fate, other things happen by chance or by choice. He sees that fate is irreproachable and chance unreliable, but choices deserve either praise or blame because what is decided by choice is not subject to any external power.

One would be better off believing in the myths about the gods than to be enslaved by the determinism proclaimed by certain physicists. At least the myths offer hope of winning divine favors through prayer, but fate can never be appealed.

One who is wise knows fortune is not god, as many believe, because the gods do not act randomly. Nor does he believe that everything is randomly caused. Nor does he believe that chance doles out good or evil for the sake of human happiness. He would actually prefer to suffer setbacks while acting wisely than to have miraculous luck while acting foolishly; for it would be better that well-planned actions should perchance fail than ill-planned actions should perchance succeed.

135) Ταῦτα οὖν καὶ τὰ τούτοις συγγενῆ μελέτα πρὸς σεαυτὸν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς <καὶ> πρὸς τὸν ὅμοιον σεαυτῷ, καὶ οὐδέποτε οὔθ’ ὕπαρ οὔτ’ ὄναρ διαταραχθήσῃ, ζήσῃ δὲ ὡς θεὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποις. οὐθὲν γὰρ ἔοικε θνητῷ ζῴῳ ζῶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν ἀθανάτοις ἀγαθοῖς. 135) So practice these and similar teachings daily and nightly. Study them on your own or in the company of a like-minded friend, and you shall not be disturbed while awake or asleep. You shall live like a god among men, because one whose life is fortified by immortal blessings in no way resembles a mortal being.
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