A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

1. The first of the five divisions of science is the only one in which the Cyrenaic view is connected with the Socratic. Socrates considered happiness (i. e. the enjoyment of a well-ordered mind) to be the aim of all men, and Aristippus, taking up this position, pronounced pleasure the chief good, and pain the chief evil; in proof of which he referred to the natural feelings of men, children, and animals; but he wished the mind to preserve its authority in the midst of pleasure. Desire he could not admit into his system, as it subjects men to hope and fear : the τέλος of human life was momentary pleasure (μονόχρονος, μερική). For the Present only is ours, the Past is gone, and the Future uncertain; present happiness therefore is to be sought, and not εὐδαιμονία, which is only the sum of a number of happy states, just as he considered life in general the sum of particular states of the soul. In this point the Cyrenaics were opposed to the Epicureans. All pleasures were held equal, though they might admit of a difference in the degree of their purity. So that a man ought never to covet more than he possesses, and should never allow himself to be overcome by sensual enjoyment. It is plain that, even with these concessions, the Cyrenaic system destroys all moral unity, by proposing to a man as many separate τέλη as his life contains moments.