For if, as we find it in the writings of Metrodorus,1
not only expediency but happiness in life depends
wholly upon a sound physical constitution and the
reasonable expectation that it will always remain
sound, then that expediency—and, what is more,
the highest expediency, as they estimate it—will
assuredly clash with moral rectitude. For, first of all,
what position will wisdom occupy in that system?
The position of collector of pleasures from every
possible source? What a sorry state of servitude
for a virtue—to be pandering to sensual pleasure!
And what will be the function of wisdom? To make
skilful choice between sensual pleasures? Granted
that there may be nothing more pleasant, what can
be conceived more degrading for wisdom than such
Then again, if anyone hold that pain is the
supreme evil, what place in his philosophy has fortitude, which is but indifference to toil and pain?
For, however many passages there are in which
Epicurus speaks right manfully of pain, we must
nevertheless consider not what he says, but what it
is consistent for a man to say who has defined the
good in terms of pleasure and evil in terms of pain.
And further, if I should listen to him, I should
find that in many passages he has a great deal to say
about temperance and self-control; but “the water
will not run,” as they say. For how can he commend self-control and yet posit pleasure as the
supreme good? For self-control is the foe of the
passions, and the passions are the handmaids of