The Stoics believed that the meaning or purpose of life is the pursuit of wisdom and virtue, first and foremost, rather than seeking pleasure or tranquillity. Antiochus’ view is presented as being that the best life consists in a combination of virtue and sufficient “external goods”, such as health, property, and friends, etc. Nevertheless, many people today continue to be drawn to Epicureanism.

The central paradox of Epicureanism is that achieving lasting pleasure and freedom from pain often requires us to endure short-term pain or discomfort and to renounce certain transient pleasures, for the sake of our own long-term happiness. Epicurus therefore recommended living a very simple life. For example, someone who is serious about maximising their own pleasure and who pursues it philosophically might judge it prudent to undertake vigorous physical exercise and follow a healthy diet, enduring “short-term pain for long-term gain,” as we say today. Torquatus essentially says that the pursuit of pleasure has acquired a bad name undeservedly because people confuse the foolish and reckless pursuit of short-term pleasures with the prudent long-term pursuit of pleasure taught by Epicurus and his followers.

Cicero took these conflicting philosophical views about the most important thing in life very seriously indeed and tried to carefully evaluate their pros and cons. What do you think? Was this a bad philosophy that deserved to be consigned to the dustbin of history or is the meaning of life hidden in the garbage of the Lorem ipsum placeholder text?

meaning of life

This idea was widely rebuked in the ancient world, not least by Stoic and Academic philosophers such as Cato and Cicero. However, Torquatus argues that those who criticise the pursuit of pleasure do so not because they think pleasure itself is bad but because harmful consequences often follow from irrational over-indulgence.

The whole of the relevant section from De Finibus reads as follows in H. Rackham’s 1914 Loeb Classical Library translation, with the fragments included in the lorem ipsum placeholder text underlined:

  • Quot illum nulla pro at, viderer adolescens eum ei.
  • An qui meis constituam, in est magna impetus
  • commodo phaedrum consequuntur ea vim.
  • Quo torquatos disputando ne, at summo denique quaerendum has.
  • Illum propriae ea mei vis ea utinam prompta.
  • Usu ei voluptua platonem intellegebat,
  • In probo populo pro, natum explicari ut sit.
  • Instructior consequuntur no usu.

Although it’s usually just referred to by the Latin name De Finibus, the full title is De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, which is notoriously tricky to translate into English. Literally, it means “On the ends of good and evil”, but really it concerns different philosophical views about the best way of life, which comes fairly close to what today we refer to as the “meaning of life”.

tendani

Quot illum nulla pro at, viderer adolescens eum ei. An qui meis constituam, in est magna impetus, commodo phaedrum consequuntur ea vim. Quo torquatos disputando ne, at summo denique quaerendum has.

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