Epicurus: 'Live Hidden!'

Philosophy 63 (243):93 - 104 (1988)
Abstract
Epicurus, though popularly and indeed nominally associated with a doctrine advocating the procurement of rather expensive pleasure, lived very simply in his garden with a circle of friends. The 14th of his Sovran Maxims or Cardinal Tenets (kuriai doxai), as collected by Diogenes Laertius, reads: ‘When tolerable security against our fellowmen is attained, then on a basis of power sufficient to afford support and of material prosperity arises in most genuine form the security of a quiet private life withdrawn from the multitude’ R. D. Hicks, the translator, gives, as an alternative to ‘power sufficient to afford support’, ‘power to expel’, but on either reading, we are to think of Epicurus's garden, both the real place and the conceptualized, or tropologized, topos of wisdom and earthly felicity, as enclosed and exclusive. This enclosure, exclusivity, and—what is also implied—abstention of its inmates from participation in the affairs of state are given apophthegmatic expression in ‘Live hidden!’ We contemplate this adage, or slogan, from an enormous cultural distance and, for most of us, ‘Live hidden!’ is much more likely to trigger secondary reflections about the relations between ethics and politics, private and public, perfection of self and improvement of the world, than it is to constitute an actual, or potential, piece of advice we might think about whether, and how, to follow.
Keywords Epicurus
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