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Pleasure “The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.” As Aristotle once famously remarked in his time, pleasure is a certain, powerful, and overwhelming force that often demonstrates the values of life’s rewards and efforts. It’s a phenomenon that philosophers have interrogated and struggled to comprehend since the beginning of time, and to no avail. Even in the enduring works of The Essential Pictures and the Republic, the respective authors explore this motif by explaining their different theories on the understanding of happiness, both physically and mentally. Both Epicurus and Plato parallel their theories of happiness with each other, ultimately emphasizing hat we all desire happiness as an end in itself, and all other things are desired as a means for producing happiness. Despite their similarity in message, however, The Essential Pictures and the Republic still differ in their characterizations of the understanding of pleasure, which likely stems from a difference in Greek and Roman culture. II. Texts within The Essential Pictures “…we regard many pains as better than pleasures, since a greater pleasure will attend us after we have endured pain for a long time. Every pleasure, therefore, because of its natural relationship to us, is good, but not every pleasure is to be chosen” (Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus” 65)”When we say that pleasure is the goal, we are not talking about the pleasure of profligates or that which lies in sensuality, as some ignorant persons think, or else those who do not agree with us or have followed our argument badly; rather it is freedom from bodily pain and mental anguish.” (Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus” 66)”No pleasure is evil in itself; but the means of obtaining some pleasures bring in their wake trouble many times greater than the pleasures.” (Epicurus, “Principal Doctrines” 70) “Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we always come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.” (Epicurus, “Principal Doctrines” 66)Epicurus argues that there are two self-imposed beliefs that determine what makes our lives unhappy or full of pain. He mentions the belief that we will be punished by gods for our bad actions and that death is something to be feared. However, both these theories are completely unnecessary since they are based on fictions and are used to to invoke fear and anxiety. Epicurus further notes that we need wisdom to see which pleasures are really pleasurable, and which pains are necessary to produce pleasure. While some pleasures lead to greater pains, he argues that certain pains like sadness can lead to an appreciation for life or compassions. Anticipating a response to the limited roles that external conditions play in making one happy such as money, marriage, or aesthetics, Epicurus argues that the greatest secret to happiness is to be as independent of external things as possible. He argues that being content with the simple things in life prevents one from being disappointed. For instance, placing stock in unnecessary pleasures such as luxuries and food will be more upsetting once they are gone and cause greater anxiety to having to obtain them. In keeping with this sentiment, Epicurus disparages the “crass hedonism” which emphasizes physical pleasure, and instead claims that the philosophical pursuit of wisdom with close friends is the greatest of pleasures.A different translation of the quote taken from Socrates’ “Letter to Menoeceus”: “When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and the aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, that produces a pleasant life. It is rather sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs that lead to the tumult of the soul” (Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus” 66).Based on this conception of happiness, Epicurus argues that  it is the philosopher who is the happiest of all people, for he chooses the stable pleasures of knowledge over the temporary and volatile pleasures of the body. “We have need of pleasure when we suffer pain because of pleasure’s absence. But when we are not suffering this pain, although in a state of sensation, there is no need for pleasure. For it is not natural pleasure that sets wrongdoing into action, but rather the striving after idle fancies. (Epicurus, Fragments 98) Different Translation:”Exercise yourself in these precepts day and night both by yourself and with one who is like minded; then never, either in waking or in one’s dreams will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.” (Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus 128).Note the emphasis Epicurus places on practicing the precepts “with one who is like minded.” In keeping with Aristotle, Epicurus sees the indispensable value of friendship as a crucial motivator towards one’s own true happiness. The problem is that more often than not, other people are a detriment to our happiness, by creating false competition for unnecessary pleasures. The solution to this is to remove oneself from ordinary society and to create a special commune where you interact only with those fellow like-minded pursuers of wisdom. Needless to say, Epicurus believed pleasure was the aim of all human action. To him, pleasure was the standard of goodness, and was the key to a happy life from beginning to end. Epicurus emphasized that the pursuit of pleasure must be guided by reason, and that a man should make calculations in a clear mindset, with respect to his motives and rationale for every choice and avoidance, and that simplicity is the key to pleasure. On the other hand, we see how Plato’s theory of pleasure in the Republic compares with the philosophies of Epicurus. Highlighting four cardinal virtues of moral standards, Plato’s case for his view of happiness is based on wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice to be happy. III. Texts with Republic Similar to Epicurus, Plato argues that the key to achieving happiness requires wisdom to under the moral reality of one’s situations to apply it to her daily life. In book IV, Plato offers a pioneering argument for the value of understanding of happiness by explaining to Adeimantus the concept of establishing a city government whose goals are to make the city as whole happy instead of the individuals. Suggesting a democratic system where everyone’s happiness is on an equal level, Plato argues that it would not be fair to provide the guardians with the sort of happiness that would make them something other than guardians. “Some of our unnecessary pleasures and desires seem to me to be lawless. They are probably present in everyone, but they are held in check by the laws and by the better desires in alliance with reason.” (Republic 571b).Plato maintains a virtue-based eudaemonistic conception of ethics. That is to say, happiness or well-being is the highest aim of moral thought and conduct, and the virtues are the requisite skills and dispositions needed to attain it. “…I suppose that after that he spends as much money, effort, and time on unnecessary pleasures as on necessary ones. If he’s lucky, and his frenzy doesn’t go too far when he grows older, and the great tumult within him has spent itself he welcomes back some of the exiles ceases to surrender himself completely to newcomers, and puts his pleasures on an equal footing.” (Republic 561a)Plato shuns the external merits that provide limited happiness, telling Adeimantus that a city without poverty nor wealth will be able to limit the size of the city from becoming so large that it can no longer be governed well under a satisfactory system. Plato maintains a virtue-based eudaemonistic conception of ethics. That is to say, happiness or well-being is the highest aim of moral thought and conduct, and the virtues are the requisite skills and dispositions needed to attain it. In his later arguments, Aristotle mentions that the needs for achieving bodily pleasures requires the practice of virtues to achieve a moral excellence. True happiness is defined as a matter of who we are. Without standards, people cannot find an understanding of the certain requirements to become self-satisfied both emotionally and with other people around them. These considerations are spelled out most fully in Book IX 580c–588a, where, as part of his demonstration, suggests that  best person is the happiest and the worst the most wretched.”And we’ll also attribute to the man what we mentioned before namely, that he is inevitably envious, untrustworthy, unjust, friendless, impious, host and nurse to every kind of vice, and that his ruling makes him even more so.” (Republic 580a)”Then, if a good and just person’s life is that much more pleasant than the life of a bad and unjust person won’t it’s grace, fineness , and virtue be incalculably greater? (Republic 588a)Socrates argues that the life of the best person is the best, and that of the worst person the worst, not in respect of orderliness and fineness and excellence.IV. Conclusion The works of The Essential Pictures and the Republic truly describe the ubiquitous nature of the definition of pleasure and happiness in similar, yet vastly different ways, exploring the motifs of satisfaction and wisdom in context to their individual cultures. Ultimately, each piece is historically significant in their own right, and have even propelled the philosophical discussions of pleasure and happiness in literacy and vast cultures. Even today, we can see how the assumptions given by both authors serves as a historical example to exploring the themes of pleasure in the 21st century.

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