In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

THE PHILOSOPHY OF LAW OF THE EPICUREANS (Concluded) I N HIS effort to lay the foundation of a new philosophical syst~m based solely on reason,122 as well as in his attempt to elaborate this system in all its provinces and details, Epicurus did not omit also to deal with problems concerning 122 As a very young man (at the age of 14, if frag. 179 [UsenerJ-~Lvuepovfwews (Vol. Hercul. Papyr. 4, edit. Th. Gomperz, Hermes n [1876] 399 ff.; and ibid., 12 [1877] 510 :ff.), col. 12 line 6, informs us that his " opponents," the Cynics, claim that right and wrong do not exist if>VIYEL, but merely vow;J. Cf. Philodemus, Philodemi Volumina Rhetorica, edit. S. Sudhaus, l. 147. 128 Socrates himself refuses to disavow the validity of the Athenian laws which condemn him, the most righteous man, to death, and which thus could not have been if>vrm OlKawv. Cf. Plato, Crito 48A; 50A ff.; 51A; 54C. 129 Thus Seneca (Epist. 87. 15) states that he " disagrees with Epicurus on the point where the latter insists that nothing is just by nature--nihil iustum esse natura." It is quite possible that Seneca had in mind a passage found in K.vpaxt ilo~aEpovros els TO ILTJ {1AU1rretv aAl\?jl\ovs p;1Jiie {3AV1FreiYOa,. THE PHILOSOPHY OF LAW OF THE EPICUREANS Q~l fulness and expediency constitutes the absolute or natural principle of law and righL Hence Epicurus expressly acknowledges a law of nature or natural law, a rijvcrewc; oiKawv,132 and thus accepts the« natural origin of law and right." 133 We might even be permitted to define Epicurus' 4>vcn:.wc; SiKawv as the" idea of law, right, and justice," or, as the Germans would put it, as die Rechtsidee. Hence we could translate dictum 31 as follows: "the idea of law, right, and justice is declaratory of what is useful. . . ." Obviously the content of the cpva-Ewvo-uo-tv ol~eawv, or, To vo-€povros with " agreement concerning that which is useful," is likewise spurious in view of the fact that the passage in Kvptat o6~a' 81 does not read q{,p.fJoll.ov 1repl roll o-up,¢epovros as this translation would suggest, and as we find it, for instance, in Aristotle (Politics 1~80 a 39; ibid., 1~75 a 10). Neither does it read o-vp,{3oll.ov iJ1rep Toil o-vp,£povros, as we find it in KVptaL o6~a' 33. I strongly suspect that Zeller confounds Epicurus' definition of law (~lKawv) with that of justice (oc:Kawo-vv'Y/) . In legal phraseology, to be sure, ra o-vp,fJoXa usually mean a covenant between two or more parties. But then this term nearly always appears in the plural. Cf. Thucydides l. 77 (a/ c:bro o-vp,f36"Awv olKa.c:, meaning "lawsuits"); Aristotle, loc. cit.; Demosthenes, Orat. Attic. (edit. Reiske) 570 (ra o-vp.f3oll.a o-v"fxeew, meaning "to violate a treaty"); ibid. 79 (o-up,f3oll.a 1roc:eio-liac: 7rpos, meaning "to make a treaty with a city"); Antiphon, Orat. Attic. (edit. Stephens) 138. 31 (cbro o-vp.fJ6"Awv /lc:Kajeo-llac: ill~eas, meaning "to bring action under the terms of an agreement ") . In Polybius 24. l. 2, however, the phrase appears: .q Kara ro o-vp,fJoA.ov OLKaw/ioCTia 1rp6s nva. Cf. ibid., 32.17. 3; Appian, Civil Wars 8.l3!il. Hence we are on rather safe ground if we translate o-vp,f3ol\.op with "symbol" or "declaratory of." In addition, it would make little or no sense to state that "the law of nature or. the law, according to its nature, is a reciprocal agreement as to what is useful." For one does not agree on what is useful, that is, on what constitutes the principle of usefulness or utilitarianism, but rather on what conduct conforms to this principle of utilitarianism, the o-vp,epov. u 2 In Kvptat ll6~a' 15, Epicurus speaks of "natural riches," oTijs vo-ews 1r"!l.ollros. Cf. ibid., 7, where he defines steadfastness (MaA€ta) as ro T?]s VO"€WS a"fa06v. 183 He does not...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 217-267
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.