Squaring the Epicurean Circle: Friendship and Happiness in the Garden

Ancient Philosophy 37 (1):153-168 (2017)
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Abstract

Epicurean ethics has been subject to withering ancient and contemporary criticism for the supposed irreconcilability of Epicurus’s emphatic endorsement of friendship and his equally clear and striking ethical egoism. Recently, Matthew Evans (2004) has suggested that the key to a plausible Epicurean response to these criticisms must begin by understanding why friendship is valuable for Epicurus. In the first section of this paper I develop Evans’ suggestion further. I argue that a shared conception of the human telos and of what is required to attain it structures the confidence that characterizes friendship. In the second part of the paper I return to two contemporary criticisms of Epicurean friendship. The first criticism focuses on the problem of free riders. The second criticism points to a seeming inconsistency in Epicurean doctrine. I suggest that both criticisms can be adequately addressed once we understand Epicurean friendship in greater depth.

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Benjamin Rossi
Duke University

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