In Christof Rapp & Peter Adamson (eds.), State and Nature: Essays in Ancient Political Philosophy. De Gruyter (forthcoming)

Tim O'Keefe
Georgia State University
Appeals to nature are ubiquitous in Epicurean ethics and politics. The foundation of Epicurean ethics is its claim that pleasure is the sole intrinsic good and pain the sole intrinsic evil, and this is supposedly shown by the behavior of infants who have not yet been corrupted, " when nature's judgement is pure and whole. " Central to their recommendations about how to attain pleasure is their division between types of desires: the natural and necessary ones, the natural but non-necessary ones, and the vain and empty ones. Elsewhere, the Epicureans talk about the " natural goods " of political power and fame, and they contrast " natural wealth " with wealth as " defined by empty opinion. " Finally, in their politics, Epicurus claims that the " the justice of nature is a pledge of reciprocal usefulness, [i.e.,] neither to harm one another nor to be harmed. " This paper explores two questions regarding these various appeals to nature. The first is: what is it for these things to be natural, i.e., what notion of " natural " or " nature " is at play here? (Furthermore, is there a single notion being used across these appeals, and if not, how are they related?) The second is: what normative work does a thing's being natural do? That is, what reason, if any, does a desire's being natural give me for pursuing the object of that desire and trying to fulfill that desire, as opposed to not doing so and trying to eliminate it, and similarly for the other appeals to nature?
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