necessary, and neither natural nor necessary. The desires in the first class, e.g. the desire for necessary food, drink, and clothing, should be satisfied and can be easily and cheaply satisfied. Those in the second class, of which sexual desire is a notable representative, are to be satisfied only in moderation. Those in the third class—the desires for all kinds of luxuries which are in no way necessary for life-must be eliminated, because they cannot be satisfied and unsatisfied desire means pain: they cannot be satisfied, because they are unlimited, so that there is always a gulf between what we want and what we get.
From all this it can be seen that Epicurus was fully justified in claiming that “when we say that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of debauchees or the pleasures of sensuality” (Ep. ad Men. 131); it can be seen how unjust are the charges, made by Cicero (Pis. 16.37) and Horace (Epist. 1.4.16), that Epicurus’ school was fit for swine; it can be seen how remote is the Epicurean from the epicure. In fact, Epicurus recommended and lived a life of great simplicity. We learn from Diogenes Laertius (10.11) that he was content with bread and water, and that he once wrote to a friend: “Send me a bit of preserved cheese, so that I may have a sumptuous feast whenever I want.”
As well as holding the view that most bodily pleasure is to be achieved by living frugally and limiting one’s desires, Epicurus regarded mental pleasure as more important than bodily pleasure. The mind not only shares the pleasurable sensations of the body at the time when they are experienced, but also derives pleasure from the memory of past
pleasures and the anticipation of future pleasures; and mental pleasure can always outweigh physical pain. However, as well as experiencing pleasure, the mind suffers pain. Sometimes it suffers pain in sympathy with the body. But it also has its own pains. Like the body, it may be afflicted with unnecessary desires, notably the desire for wealth (avarice) and the desire for power and honour (ambition). Both these desires are unlimited and impossible to satisfy, and therefore involve pain, and therefore must be eliminated. Hence Epicurus’ statement that “poverty, when measured by the natural end of life, is great wealth, and unlimited wealth is great poverty”50; hence his advice to Idomeneus concerning a young disciple: “If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not increase his means, but diminish his desire”51; hence his insistence that his followers should take no part in politics or public life.
The mind’s ability to anticipate the future means that it may also have unnecessary fears. The most serious of these fears are, as we have seen, fear of the gods and fear of death, and only when they have been eradicated by the study of physics can we achieve the ideal of freedom from disturbance (ἀταραξίa), the katastematic pleasure of the mind.
The Epicurean attitude to the virtues is utilitarian. They are not ends themselves, but merely the means to the end: in other words, they are not desirable for their own sake, but only because they are productive of pleasure. But, since it is impossible to live a pleasant life without living virtuously, and to