Principal Doctrine 19

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Infinite and finite time afford equal pleasure, if one measures its limits by reason.


In this Doctrine, Epicurus begins to present his understanding of the "durational" attribute of pleasure; this topic is continued in the following Principal Doctrine 20.

A (hypothetical) infinite amount of time contains no more pleasure than a finite one, claims Epicurus. With this terse, apostrophic pronouncement, he refers to several crucial tenets of his overall teaching: pleasure, wealth, mortality, et al.

Epicurus seems to hold the truth of this observation nearly self-evident, claiming that just about "anyone who has reasoned" about the limits of pleasures surely sees the point as he does. If, for example, one has had a satisfactory dinner that lasted for an hour, there is no good reason to stay around the dinner-table for yet another hour, or countless more; the pleasure would simply be no greater.

As wealth --at least "natural" wealth-- provides for the gratification of such natural and necessary desires as hunger for food, it, too, is time-indifferent: more wealth would only buy "more time at the dinner-table", and is therefore of no additional value.

Finally, death is, as far as the individual is concerned, "the end of time"; yet it is hardly to be dreaded, as it ends a time which, even if it had been extended indefinitely, would have contained no more pleasure whatsoever than it already has.

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