Principal Doctrine 7

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Some seek fame and status, thinking that they could thereby protect themselves against other men. If their lives really are secure, then they have attained a natural good; if, however, they're insecure, they still lack what they originally sought by natural instinct.


In this Doctrine, Epicurus expounds on and evaluates a complex psychological construction: some people, he tells us, have wanted to become famous, and to be held in high esteem; yet that desideratum was not a "final end", but only instrumental, a means to another, yet higher end. To wit: the reason why people have sought fame and high esteem is that they have believed that they would thus be safe from other, potentially hostile people.

That being the case, their success is pending on the actual outcome of their efforts: if their life is in fact safe, now that they are famous and respected, then they have succeeded; if, on the contrary, it is not, then they have failed to achieve that "familiar good" (i.e. safety) for whose sake they sought fame and respect to begin with.

Thus Epicurus undermines one more of the popular desires of his (and our) time, namely the desire for fame and high social esteem, reducing it instead to a "lower-grade", but to him far more important, natural desire for safety/security. This is yet another instance of Epicurus' systematic method of seizing on popular desires, then boiling them down to his own, natural and/or necessary ones. This method is part and parcel of the revisionary approach practiced by Epicurus and his followers who, instead of deducing general principles from generally accepted views (e.g. as Aristotle and his followers did), revise --often drastically-- those popular views.

It must be noted, however, that approbation (or lack thereof) by others plays a significant (positive or negative) role in respectively raising or lowering an individual's self-esteem; therefore Epicurus' conclusion is, in terms of a more rounded psychological examination of the matter, somewhat one-sided.

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