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

3. Actions are in themselves morally indifferent, the only question for us to consider being their result; and law and custom are the only authorities which make an action good or bad. This monstrous dogma was a little qualified by the statement, that the advantages of injustice are slight; but we cannot agree with Brucker (Hist. Crit. 2.2), that it is not clear whether the Cyrenaics meant the law of nature or of men. For Laertius says expressly, ὁ σπουδαῖος οὐδὲν ἄτοπον πράξει διὰ τὰς ἐπικείμενας ζημίας καὶ δόξας, and to suppose a law of nature would be to destroy the whole Cyrenaic system. Whatever conduces to pleasure, is virtue--a definition which of course includes bodily exercise; but they seem to have conceded to Socrates, that the mind has the greatest share in virtue. We are told that they preferred bodily to mental pleasure; but this statement must be qualified, as they did not even confine their pleasures to selfish gratification, but admitted the welfare of the state as a legitimate source of happiness, and bodily pleasure itself they valued for the sake of the mental state resulting from it.