Pleasure and the Absence of Pain: Reading Epicurus' Hedonism Through Plato's "Philebus"


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




What is the nature of pleasure and its role in the good life? This disseration examines the solution offered by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who held that the highest pleasure is to be without pain. First, this dissertation argues for the view that Epicurus described the absence of pain in terms of the perception of the proper functioning of the organism. On this reading, he understood pleasures like those of taste and sex to be among the best pleasures, for they indicate the presence of the body’s good state. Second, the dissertation argues that, interpreted in this way, Epicureanism can be seen as a response to the anti-hedonism of Plato’s Philebus. Third, it examines the ethical implications of Epicurus' hedonism as it is understood in this dissertation, and contends that he identified a positive role for the body in the good life.