On Moral Ends Essay

Submitted By Steven-SNAKEHEAD
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Cicero: On Moral Ends

Book I: Establishment of Epicureanism through Torquatus
Epicureanism appeals to the masses for its notion that happiness and pleasure consists of performing right and moral actions for one’s own sake. Pleasure is the highest good, without need for justification because we perceive them as true through our senses, and pain is the highest evil.

Epicurean Pleasure: Greatest pleasure is freedom from pain, Cicero says not true.
“The pleasure we deem greatest is that which is felt when all pain is removed. For when freed from pain, we take delight in that very liberation and release from all that is distressing.” (1.37)
“Every animal as soon as it is born seeks pleasure and rejoices in it, while shunning pain as the highest evil and avoiding it as much as possible. This is behavior that has not yet been corrupted, when nature’s judgment is pure and whole.” (1.30)
Kinetic pleasure: “the sort of pleasure which stirs our nature with its sweetness and produces agreeable sensations in us.” (1.37)
No one desires pain because it is pain, but there are times where “effort and pain are the means to some great pleasure,” (1.32) such as hard bodily exercise leading to an agreeable state thereafter.
Conversely, those who are blinded and corrupted by immediate pleasure and fail to see the pain to come or those who abandon their duties by avoiding effort and pain are to be criticized. (1.33)

Physics: Physics explains nature, and by understanding it, we free ourselves of ignorance and fear from things we do not know, which bring us pain.
“It is through physics that the meaning of terms, the nature of speech, and the rules of inference and contradiction can be understood. By knowing the nature of all things we are freed from superstition and liberated from the fear of death.” (1.63)
“We will never allow anyone’s rhetoric to sway us from our views. But if we do not clearly grasp the nature of the universe, then there is no way in which we will be able to defend the judgments of our senses.” (1.63-64)

Book II: Cicero’s examination of Epicureanism
Epicurean desires: Cicero disagrees with Epicurus that desires simply need to be limited - “the wise person who is always happy is one who sets desire within limits.” (1.62)
“It needs rather to be rooted out and destroyed, or else desire of every kind might be legitimate. So we would allow greed within limits, adultery within bounds, licentiousness likewise.” (2.27)

Epicurean inconsistencies: Cicero points out inconsistencies
Epicurus relies on kinetic pleasure to establish that pleasure is what we naturally seek. (“As soon as a living creature is born, it delights in pleasure and seeks it as a good, while shunning pain as an evil.” (2.31)) How can nature be driven by kinetic pleasure, yet static pleasure also be the supreme good?
Instead, Cicero believes a child is moved simply by self-preservation and self-love; to keep themselves safe and sound rather than seeking pleasure or avoiding pain.
Epicurus believes senses decide pleasure is good, but Cicero thinks senses can only judge “sweetness and bitterness, smoothness and roughness, proximity and distance, rest and motion, sureness and roundness.” (2.36)
Thus, “no theory of the supreme good will be approved if it gives either pleasure or freedom from pain a role, or gives no role to morality.” (2.38)
Humans born to do two things: to think and act, and human powers of reasoning indicate that human beings were not meant to simply do nothing but enjoy pleasures.
Criticizes other philosophers and through elimination, boils it down to pleasure (Epicurus) vs. virtue (Cicero). Since Epicurus thinks everything