Principal Doctrine 28

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The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing terrible lasts forever, or even for long, also enables us to see that in the midst of life's limited evils, nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.


Although Epicurus claims that the conclusions he draws stem from "the same opinion/conviction", the argumentation in this Doctrine is twofold:

  • Relating back to Principal Doctrine 4: there is nothing terrible that lasts forever, or even for a long time.
  • Relating to Principal Doctrine 27: the best way for one to attain personal safety and security is by having friends.

The (admittedly weak) link between the two branches of this Doctrine is that, once one recognizes the former argument, one also recognizes the latter; there is, however, no linear conjunction between the two. According to Epicurus, this "same opinion/conviction" allays one's fear -- it certainly does, although the brevity of pain and the value of friendship are distinct matters.

Yet we should also bear in mind that the ancient Greek word for what we conveniently (but approximately) term "opinion" may also denote an attitude of far broader application, such as "world-view", of "view of life", the German Weltanschauung.

Cicero (De Finibus I 20, 65-68) translates this Doctrine almost literally:

Eadem sententia confirmavit animum, ne quod aut sempiternum aut diuturnum timeret malum, quae perspexit in hoc ipso vitae spatio amicitiae praesidium esse firmissimum.

This [same] conviction/judgment has

  • confirmed [in our] mind [that] there is nothing bad [that is] either everlasting or [even] longlasting to fear, and
  • has discerned that, in this same (only?) lifetime (lit. life-space), the safe haven (lit. fortification, garrison) [that is] friendship is the firmest [one of all].

Cicero opts for the narrower (and legalistic, considering his profession) translation of gnome as sententia, i.e. judgment, determination. He is aided significantly in conjoining the two branches of this Doctrine by using two direct cognates in his native Latin, confirmavit and firmissimum.

This may well have been the meaning Epicurus intended to convey; the weakness of the logical link, however, between the two claims of this Doctrine remains. Perhaps the salient implication is that true, lasting friendship outlasts occasional, fleeting suffering and pain; this would be consistent with the "durational value" Epicurus ascribes to some things (e.g. friendship, wisdom, et al.) and denies others (i.e. fame, wealth, et al.)

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