Principal Doctrine 21

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He who understands the limits of life knows that things which remove pain arising from need are easy to obtain, and furnish a complete and optimal life. Thus he no longer needs things that are troublesome to attain.


In this Doctrine, Epicurus associates once again two core principles of his philosophy, namely that life is finite, and that satisfying basic desires is easy. Such truths can easily be demonstrated, and are widely accepted. Yet, while these two claims are clearly and repeatedly mentioned as corollaries by Epicurus, one must bear in mind that this correlation was not held in common among all Hellenistic schools of philosophy.

A. He who has understood what the limits of life are, claims Epicurus, knows,


B. that what removes the "pain caused by need" (e.g. water, when one is thirsty) is easy to get

(and thus also knows)

C. how to make one's entire life complete in all respects.

The connection between B and C is relatively intuitive, assuming that one accepts that a "complete" life is one in which mere, basic needs have been satisfied. The connection between A and B, however, requires considerable consent with Epicurus' revisionary belief that the desire for anything above those basic needs is, perhaps subconsciously, a "pursuit of immortality". Such a premise is, of course, contestable.

D. Thus, concludes Epicurus, such a person needs none of those things that require struggles to attain.

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