Vatican Saying 55

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Further enriching his vision of philosophy-qua-medicine, Epicurus suggests that we should "heal" our pain, brought on by calamitous misfortunes, by taking a two-prong recourse to his philosophy, which always interconnects the natural with the ethical. (It is telling that Epicurus uses a derivative of the verb therapeuein; both in Greek and in English, a therapist is quite literally a "healer".)

From the ethical standpoint, one ought not be ungrateful (e.g. for a live well spent, for a dear friend, or a loved one in general) at the moment of loss. One ought to be instead deeply grateful for whatever good once was, but is no more. Here, Epicurus may have had in mind the noble sentiment and approach to a friend's demise that he outlines so beautifully in Principal Doctrine 40.

From the natural standpoint, Epicurus reminds us to bear in mind that what is done cannot be undone. In this respect, laments are both futile and foolish. If one is somehow shocked by a friend's demise, perhaps one harbored those irrational superstitions regarding immortality; if one never anticipated the likelihood of misfortune, perhaps one was irrationally over-confident.

At once harsh and warm-hearted, this wise consolation serves all those who need both a rational and an emotional way out of their grief. Unlike the Stoics, who would probably rush to discount the emotional aspect of our behavior as based on some sort of "error", Epicurus wisely conflates the two, as inseparable parts of the human experience. Many present-day philosophers and behavioral scientists would agree.

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