In this paper, I intend to examine Cicero’s objection to the Epicurean conception that “Pleasure” is the highest or greatest good, and that “pleasure” is merely defined as the absence of pain. I will then show how the Epicurean would defend their theory, based upon the fact that Cicero does not truly understand pleasure in the Epicurean sense, and that Cicero’s understanding of the Epicurean ethics in regards to rationally pursuing pleasure is non-existent.
To properly understand Cicero’s objection to the Epicurean conception of “Pleasure”, it is first necessary to provide the basic tenants of Epicureanism to adequately frame Cicero’s criticism. Epicureans are Eudemonists, or in other words, belong to a school of thought that believed that…show more content… In nature, animals instinctively know and seek pleasure, and conversely, avoid pain. Nature is the only judge of what is or is not in accordance with nature, and shows this judgment through pleasure and pain. This fact demonstrates that there is no need to argue if pleasure is desirable or that pain is to be avoided. In fact, pleasure itself is never avoided unless those who do not understand how to pursue pleasure rationally experience consequences that can be extremely painful. The same can be said for pain in that no one will attempt to obtain pain, because of pain itself, but rather from the understanding that on occasion painful circumstances can lead to great pleasure. Here the Epicurean would use Cicero’s example of Torquatus to show the logic of these statements. While Torquatus did order the beheading of his own son, did he do so without thought of his own interests or advantage? Of course this could not be so. In ordering his son to be beheaded, Torquatus was able to gain a firm hold over those around him and to establish his authority in a time of war. By taking pain unto his self, Torquatus was thus able to ensure the safety of his fellow citizens. This, the Epicurean would argue, shows how one is able to rationally pursue pleasure and avoid