Through gods have no influence on each of

Through all of our readings, Stoic
ethical doctrines have touched upon harsh criticisms and inspired enthusiastic allies.
The Stoics defined the goal of life to be living in agreement with nature.
Humans are constituted by nature to develop reasoning as adults, which forms
their understanding of themselves and their own true good and desire. Contrary
to Aristotle, the Stoics believed that although virtue is in fact good and is
both necessary and sufficient for happiness; it is not in any way based on
luck. The virtuous life is free of all passions, which are intrinsically
disturbing and harmful to our souls, but includes appropriate natural responses
conditioned by rational understanding and the fulfillment of all one’s
personal, social, professional, and civic duties. The Stoics believed that the
person who has achieved perfect wellbeing without flaw, the “wise
man,” is extremely rare, yet serves as a prescriptive model for all to
strive for.

Epicurus insists that courage and
the other virtues are needed in order to attain everlasting happiness. However,
the virtues for Epicureans are all purely instrumental goods. These goods are
valuable only for the sake of the happiness that they can bring someone in
terms of what they have a passion or desire for. Epicurus says that all of the
virtues are ultimately forms of wisdom and good judgement. Its contemplating
what is in one’s own best interest. In this, Epicurus goes against the majority
of Greek ethical theorists, such as the Stoics, who relate
happiness with virtue, and Aristotle,
who relates happiness with a life of virtuous activity. Epicurus believes that
natural science and philosophy itself are also instrumental goods. On the other
hand, philosophy helps to show us the natural limits of our desires and to minimize
the fear of death. Epicurus rejected the existence of Platonic forms and an
immaterial soul and stated that the gods have no influence on each of our
lives. Epicurus also thought skepticism was untenable, and that we could gather
knowledge of the world relying upon the senses. He taught that the essence of
our actions was simply to attain pleasure for oneself.

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Aristotle conceives of ethical
theory as a field different from the theoretical sciences. Its methods must
match its subject matter and must respect the fact that in this field many
generalizations hold only for a set amount of time. We study ethics in order to
improve our lives, and therefore its most important concern is the nature of human’s
well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be the
focal point of a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues as
emotional and social skills. But he declines Plato’s idea that a training in
the sciences is a necessary prerequisite for a full understanding of our most
good. What we need, in order to live what we consider well, is the proper
appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, virtue, and wealth combine
as a whole. In order to apply that basic understanding to individual cases, we
must acquire, through proper habits, the ability to see, on each occasion,
which course of action is most supported by reasoning. Therefore, practical
wisdom, as he makes of it, cannot be acquired only by being taught general
rules. We must also acquire, through practice, emotional, and social skills
that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice that
are suitable to each possible occasion.

Epicureanism considers pleasure as
the highest good, but it is more than just hedonism disguised as philosophy.
Pleasure is divided into two categories. “Kinetic pleasure” which
consists of sexual activity, fulfilling meals, and other things we normally
consider pleasurable, whereas “static pleasure” consists of contentment,
tranquility, freedom from care and pain. Static pleasure is considered the Epicureans’
greatest good. This keeps their philosophy from being based on unbridled
pleasure-seeking.

Moreover, wisdom is attained in the
recognition that “desire is insatiable”. Once we have a small amount
of pleasure, we will want more and more; as no man can be happy when he is in
want, kinetic pleasure cannot be the greatest good. Desire for so-called
virtues, for example, is foolhardy. Pursuing courage or bravery will lead to
recklessness, which will invariably bring unhappiness. It is only through
knowing that true happiness comes through satiety that one can find
peace. 

Cicero,
however, is unconvinced. The first and most serious criticism he levies against
Torquatus is that Epicureans are needlessly unclear about what
“pleasure” means. It’s all well and good to divide the common notion
of pleasure into kinetic and static, but if we are, as Torquatus claims, to
pursue only static pleasure, then why does Epicurus famously claim that an
Epicurean on the rack would be untroubled because he knew true pleasure?
Torture is as far from freedom and pain as physically possible. When Torquatus
rebuts with Epicurus’s claim that great pain is short in duration and only mild
pain lasts long, Cicero scoffs. “It is a pithy saying.” he says, but it is
utterly untrue. Freedom from pain is also inhuman. Aristotle said that man
is made to think and act, but even a sheep grazing in a field can be free from
pain. Surely, we are meant for more than a farm animal is. Furthermore,
Epicureanism is too calculating. True philosophy, Cicero claims, is
spontaneous. Finally, freedom from pain is capricious; once attained, it is
easily lost. How can true happiness and true philosophy be so ephemeral?
Happiness is therefore dependent on the whims of chance, and yet Epicurus
claims that chance does not affect the wise.