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Epicurus classified desires into three, broad categories:

  1. Natural and necessary
  2. Natural but unnecessary
  3. Unnatural and unnecessary

The first category includes those desires which, if not satisfied, would lead first to extreme pain and, eventually, death (e.g. the desire to quench one's thirst by drinking some potable liquid). This category, remarkably small in Epicureanism (compared e.g. to the numerous "good things" of Aristotle) includes merely (basic) food, drink, shelter from the elements, and personal safety.

The second category includes desires for things that give one pleasure, and are therefore natural (Ref: pleasure as natural) but whose lack would not make life unbearable or impossible (e.g. the desire for a specific kind of drink, such as champagne).

The third category includes the desire for social standing (e.g. impressing one's dinner guests by serving champagne), political power, fame, glory, etc.

Epicurus acknowledged the imperative of the first category of desires, condoned the second when no greater harm was caused, and frowned upon the vanity of the third.

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