Cicero, the Fear of Punishment, and Epicurean Justice

Author: Ranger, Jean-Philippe
Title: Cicero, the Fear of Punishment, and Epicurean Justice
Review/Collection: in David Konstan, David Sider (eds.), Philodorema: Essays in Greek and Roman Philosophy in Honor of Phillip Mitsis
Place edition: Sioux City
Editor: Parnassos Press – Fonte Aretusa
Year edition: 2022
Pages: 271-284
Keywords: Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy
Description: How would the Epicurean sage behave if he knew that no one would find out he was the perpetrator of a crime? Epicurus seems to have examined this problem in his Disputed Questions (Plutarch, Adv. Col. 1127d2–5). Unfortunately, the only answer found in the fragments is that it is a complicated question.³ Obviously, such an answer cannot satisfy. Cicero examines this same question in book 2 of De finibus. He suggests that any consistent Epicurean must admit that he would act unjustly if he were able simultaneously to maximize his pleasure and conceal his crime. According to Cicero, the reason why Epicurus states that this is a complex question is that he does not want to recognize openly that his hedonism makes it impossible to be just.4 Is Cicero’s criticism of Epicurean ethics justified? I argue that Epicurean ethics can respond to Cicero’s challenge. My argument proceeds in three stages. First, I summarize Cicero’s objection. Second, I situate the criticism within the context of Plato’s rejection of instrumental justice in Republic 2. Finally, in the third stage, I argue that since the fear of punishment is not taken into account by the Epicurean sage in his calculus, Cicero’s objection has no basis. [Author]
Author initials: Ranger 2022