Epicurus’ perception of pleasure and justice

Epicurus is one philosopher who believed in living a life full of pleasure. According to him, life without harm therefore a life without pain was the definition of living a just life. Without harm, there was no possibility of pain and therefore pleasure is achieved which constituted justice. Injustice is brought about by pain which in his perspective does not bring pleasure. Consequently, a life that focuses on pleasure is a just one since it constitutes doing what is right to avoid pain.

Epicurus believes that pain is the beginning of injustice to oneself or society. A life filled with pain does not constitute a just life since there is no pleasure when pain is present. In his perception every human being should be in pursuit of pleasure because no one would love to live in pain.

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While in pursuit of pleasure, justice is achieved since the person would not bring or cause harm either to himself or society. Pain which is brought about by harm is the main source of injustice, pursuing pleasure involved refraining from doing what does not bring pleasure to oneself but ensuring that obtaining utmost personal pleasure would be the true definition of justice.

This would involve forming a circle of friends who believed in the same beliefs as you since associating with individuals who had different definitions of true happiness and pleasure would not bring true pleasure as this would mean that you would have to live a life of pleasing others other than yourself therefore not finding pleasure which ultimately results to injustice to self[1].

All efforts exerted by human beings are intended for the pursuit of personal pleasure. Desire for many things was not necessary as this would not cause pleasure since one cannot attain all that he believes he wants to acquire in life. Instead one should be content with what they have and this can be best portrayed by his perception about life and death. He did not think it pleasurable to pursuit the pain that is brought about by thoughts of death since when living death is not present and once you are dead then life is not there.

Therefore, there is no meaningful gain in bringing harm to oneself by contemplating the pain that is brought about by death since none exists in the presence of the other and such thoughts only brings pain thus creating a source of personal injustice. According to his understanding, limiting the desires that an individual may have and expelling all forms of fear especially the fear of the gods and death would result to a life full of pleasure and justice.

Epicurus also noticed that there are other forms of pleasure that have negative results and the acquisition of such pleasure brings more pain than pleasure once sought thus resulting to injustice of self. According to him, pleasure is achieved through happiness which is brought about by relating with friends who possess similar virtues to yours and also possessing a peace of mind. Honest living which brings about a peaceful mind and pleasure to oneself as well as bringing justice to self and to others[2].

Epicurus truly advocated for pleasure which would bring about justice. Avoiding all forms of fear and pain would bring about pleasure thus resulting to justice to self and to society in general. Pursuit of pleasure which was free from any forms of negative consequences was his definition of justice.


Armstrong, John. Epicurean Justice. Phronesis 42. 3 (1997): 324-334

Armstrong, John. Epicurean Justice. Phronesis 42. 3 (1997): 324-334
Armstrong, John. Epicurean Justice. Phronesis 42. 3 (1997): 324-334


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