The Moral Virtues and Instrumentalism in Epicurus

Lyceum (2010)
Abstract
Julia Annas, in The Morality of Happiness, claims that the more traditional interpretation of Epicurus–i.e., one which sees him along more straightforward hedonistic or monistic lines and therefore as recommending justice and the other moral virtues as instrumental means to one’s pleasure–is mistaken. She argues that Epicurus regards virtue as a part of happiness, that he takes seriously the independent value of the moral virtues, and so agrees, or is in alignment, with the likes of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. However, Annas’ treatment of Epicurus’ ethics is controversial and open to several crucial objections. My objective in this paper is to try to cash out these objections. It is my belief that the traditional interpretation of Epicurus’ ethics is indeed the correct one.
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