Principal Doctrine 6

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That natural benefit of kingship and high office is (and only is) the degree to which they provide security from other men.


This Doctrine is one of the few references Epicurus ever makes to matters of civics and state. His point is that people have sought distinction among their peers for the (rather implicit) purpose of attaining security for themselves among others, so that "they have no fear among men". Thus individuals, according to Epicurus, have sought to become rulers or kings not so much on account of any intrinsic value that such offices may have, but because being in such an exalted position is instrumental to the individual who holds the office, i.e. that the individual enjoys personal safety/security by virtue of being ruler or king.

  • There is some vagueness caused by what is meant by "which" (hon) and what is the object of "to procure oneself" (paraskeuazesthai). The former stands for all those "means by which" people have sought personal safety (e.g. kingship, high office, wealth, power, etc.); the latter is safety itself, as that is precisely what people seek to "procure themselves", the natural good.

Epicurus further claims that this is the (perhaps only) natural good in rulership. This Doctrine may strike one as slightly paradoxical, especially in light of Epicurus' strong recommendation that one avoid the public arena, and his suggestion that a decidedly private, secluded life is preferable. This Doctrine can be read most plausibly as a "cultural/anthropological" observation (akin to the more extensive discussion of this same cultural phenomenon by Lucretius, in DRN V, 1105-1135), i.e. of how rulership came to be altogether, rather than as a recommendation in favor of this specific behavior to actively seek primacy among peers. Thus read, this Doctrine is yet another instance in which Epicurus reduces the commonly held belief that rulership is a good thing because of the glamor and glory that it bestows on the ruler to one of his own, natural and necessary desires, i.e. the basic desire for personal safety.

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