According to Epicurus, which statement is correct?

A) One ought to pursue wealth, as it can afford us greater comfort and pleasure

B) Not all pleasures are to be chosen

C) The happy life requires that one pursue only the vain desires

D) No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of evils

Expert Answers

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Epicurus is often considered a hedonist: someone concerned with pleasure. Far from being gluttonous, Epicurus was more concerned with what forms pleasure took, and what motivated us to seek it. He concluded that the majority of human action was motivated by a desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

He determined that most pleasures, once fed, could never be fully "satisfied", just as one would never tire of good food or money. He reasoned that these were not bad things, but that a desire for them would lead to pain at their absence. Thus, one should focus on simple pleasures, such as friendship, wisdom, and satisfy their basic bodily needs, and enjoy other pleasures in moderation. Finally, he reasoned that death should hold no terror for us, because life ends with death; we will not "experience" death, and the knowledge that life is finite will make us appreciate it.

Based on these ideas, we can eliminate three of the four answers listed above.

Epicurus didn't say "we aren't sure if death ISN'T evil" - in fact quite the opposite, he considered it good or evil at all.

Epicurus didn't encourage the pursuit of wealth; wealth was not necessary, and its absence would cause us pain. Likewise, "vain desires" would produce happiness, but also pain at their absence, and a happy life did not require these things.

The correct answer appears to be B: Not all pleasures are chosen. This makes sense from Epicurus's point of view; we cannot necessarily choose what we take pleasure in, nor are we in control of circumstances of fortune that sometimes lead to pleasure.

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