Menoeceus 127

From Epicurus Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

<<Prev | Letter to Menoeceus | Next>>


One ought to remember that future days are neither wholly ours, nor wholly not ours. We must neither expect that something is sure to happen, nor despair that it surely won't.


In this brief, tangential passage, appearing rather incongruously between the larger subtopics of death that precedes it and the doctrine of the desires that follows it, Epicurus strikes nevertheless an extremely important, helpful, and healthy balance between fatalism and determinism, as well as unconditional optimism and pessimism.

One must not forget a simple, undeniable, easily demonstrable fact: the future is neither totally hemeteron, i.e. "ours", ours to know, ours to control, according to our wishes, nor is it diametrically opposite, totally unpredictable, uncontrollable, or somehow against us.

If one bears this simple truth in mind, one neither expects (less yet foolishly demands of) the future to turn out just as one had wished it to, nor does one despair, convinced a priori that things will turn out badly; both the unconditional optimist and the unconditional pessimist commit essentially the same logical error.

Implicit in this Principal-Doctrine-like passage is the intended moral: the one who understands this basic truth is certainly the happier for it. Aware of the admonition made in Principal Doctrine 16, one ought rather to accept outcomes, both positive and negative, with a degree of forbearance, relying instead primarily on reason. The future may, or may not turn out to be to our liking; all the same, we can attain and retain our ataraxia regardless of outcomes. And that, of course, is all that matters to an Epicurean.

Personal tools