Happiness and Greek Ethical Thought (Bloomsbury Studies in Ancient Philosophy)
This book presents a fresh exploration of happiness through the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers. It introduces readers to the main currents of Greek ethical thought (Socratic living, Platonism, Aristotelianism, Epicureanism, Scepticism, Stoicism, Cynicism) and takes a close look at characters such as Socrates, Diogenes and Alexander the Great.
Yet Happiness and Greek Ethical Thought is much more than just a casual stroll through ancient thinking. It attempts to show how certain common themes in Greek thought are essential for living a happy life in any age. The author maintains that, in many respects, the Greek integrative ideal, contrary to the hedonistic individualism that many pluralistic societies at least implicitly advocate, is a much richer alternative that warrants honest reconsideration today.
avoid 76 HAPPINESS Figure 3.1 AND GREEK ETHICAL THOUGHT Epicurus’ account of desires pains, and thereby favor the health of the body and the equanimity of the soul. ‘For we are in need of pleasure only when we are in pain because of the absence of pleasure, and when we are not in pain, then we no longer need pleasure.’45 In contrast, the natural and unnecessary desires, like the desire for sex, are unneeded for continually happy living.46 Moreover, the vain desires, as a result of false
(Gr. sophrosune) in all a¡airs. These were re£ected by two inscriptions on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the most famous Greek oracle in antiquity: Know yourself and Nothing in excess. The ¢rst inscription, early in Greek culture, was likely an injunction that meant each person should know his limitations as a human being ^ that is, no mortal should strive for godhood, as did Croesus of Lydia. With the in£uence of philosophical investigation somewhat later, it came to enjoin self-re£ection
exposition of Stoic ethics in the last half of Chapter 7. For now, I return to Sextus’ general attack on dogmatism and his distinction between Pyrrhonic and Academic Skepticism. Happiness and Doubt 105 In Chapter 23 of Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Sextus distinguishes true Pyrrhonic scepticism from the skepticism of the New Academy (i.e. Carneades and Clitomachus). Academic Skeptics13 assent to the proposition, All things are inapprehensible,14 which itself is self-defeating dogmatism of a sort,
59 60 61 62 63 131 M. Andrew Holowchak, Ancient Science and Dreams: Oneirology in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001), 9^11. Exper. Med. XXV. Sect. Intr. IV. Walzer and Frede’s translation. See Galen, Three Treatises on the Nature of Science: On the Sects for Beginners; An Outline of Empiricism; and On Medical Experience, trans. Richard Walzer and Michael Frede (Indianapolis: Hackett), 1985. Subf. Emp. II. Subf. Emp. II^III. Subf. Emp. IX. Sect. Intr. III^V.
which in turn makes light of the importance of ethics as a normative and regulative discipline for human activity. For instance, consider one who truly thinks that the utterance Abortion is killing does no more than re£ect one’s a¡ective state at the time of the utterance. Now it would seem strange for this person to believe this and yet campaign vigorously against abortion, as the only rationale one could give is this: I want others to feel as I do about this issue. Vigorously campaigning