PTypes - Personality Types
PTypes Virtue and Vice Good and bad

The End and Happiness

Stobaeus 2.77,16-27 (SVF 3.16)

"They [The Stoics] say that being happy is the end, for the sake of which everything is done, but which is not itself done for the sake of anything. This consists in living in accordance with virtue, in living in agreement, or, what is the same, in living in accordance with nature. Zeno defined happiness in this way: 'Happiness is a good flow of life.' Cleanthes too has made use of this definition in his writings, as have Chrysippus and all their successors, saying that happiness is no different from the happy life. Yet they say that while happiness is set up as a target, the end is to obtain happiness, which is the same as being happy" (trans. A. A. Long, pg. 394).

"eudaimonia 'happiness' or 'flourishing' or 'living well'. One achieves this end by learning the correct use of impressions, following God, and following nature" (Seddon).

Eudaimonia - The Stoics

Diogenes Laertius 7.87-89

"On which account Zeno was the first writer who, in his treatise On the Nature of Man, said, that the chief good was confessedly to live according to nature; which is to live according to virtue, for nature leads us to this point. And in like manner Cleanthes speaks in his treatise On Pleasure, and so do Posidonius and Hecaton in their essays On Ends as the Chief Good. And again, to live according to virtue is the same thing as living according to one�s experience of those things which happen by nature; as Chrysippus explains it in the first book of his treatise On the Chief Good. For our individual natures are all parts of universal nature; on which account the chief good is to live in a manner corresponding to nature, and that means corresponding to one�s own nature and to universal nature; doing none of those things which the common law of mankind is in the habit of forbidding, and that common law is identical with that right reason which pervades everything, being the same with Jupiter, who is the regulator and chief manager of all existing things.

"Again, this very thing is the virtue of the happy man and the perfect happiness of life when everything is done according to a harmony with the genius of each individual with reference to the will of the universal governor and manager of all things. Diogenes, accordingly, says expressly that the chief good is to act according to sound reason in our selection of things according to our nature. And Archidemus defines it to be living in the discharge of all becoming duties.

"Chrysippus again understands that the nature, in a manner corresponding to which we ought to live, is both the common nature, and also human nature in particular; but Cleanthes will not admit of any other nature than the common one alone, as that to which people ought to live in a manner corresponding; and re-pudiates all mention of a particular nature" (trans. Hicks).

Seneca, Letters 76.9-10 (SVF 3.200a)

"And what quality is best in man? It is reason; by virtue of reason he surpasses the animals, and is surpassed only by the gods. Perfect reason is therefore the good peculiar to man; all other qualities he shares in some degree with animals and plants . . . What then is peculiar to man? Reason. When this is right and has reached perfection, man's felicity is complete. Hence, if everything is praiseworthy and has arrived at the end intended by its nature, when it has brought its peculiar good to perfection, and if man's peculiar good is reason; then, if a man has brought his reason to perfection, he is praiseworthy and has readied the end suited to his nature. This perfect reason is called virtue, and is likewise that which is honourable" (trans. Gummere).

Epictetus, Discourses 1.6.12-22

"What, then, are these things done in us only. Many, indeed, in us only, of which the rational animal had peculiar need; but you will find many common to us with irrational animals. Do they them understand what is done? By no means. For use is one thing, and understanding is another: God had need of irrational animals to make use of appearances, but of us to understand the use of appearances. It is therefore enough for them to eat and to drink, and to sleep and to copulate, and to do all the other things which they severally do. But for us, to whom He has given also the faculty, these things are not sufficient; for unless we act in a proper and orderly manner, and conformably to the nature and constitution of each thing, we shall never attain our true end. For where the constitutions of living beings are different, there also the acts and the ends are different. In those animals, then, whose constitution is adapted only to use, use alone is enough: but in an animal which has also the power of understanding the use, unless there be the due exercise of the understanding, he will never attain his proper end. Well then God constitutes every animal, one to be eaten, another to serve for agriculture, another to supply cheese, and another for some like use; for which purposes what need is there to understand appearances and to be able to distinguish them? But God has introduced man to be a spectator of God and of His works; and not only a spectator of them, but an interpreter. For this reason it is shameful for man to begin and to end where irrational animals do, but rather he ought to begin where they begin, and to end where nature ends in us; and nature ends in contemplation and understanding, in a way of life conformable to nature. Take care then not to die without having been spectators of these things" (trans. George Long).

Seneca, Letters 92.3

"What is the happy life? It is peace of mind, and lasting tranquility. This will be yours if you possess greatness of soul; it will be yours if you possess the steadfastness that resolutely clings to a good judgment just reached. How does a man reach this condition? By gaining a complete view of truth, by maintaining, in all that he does, order, measure, fitness, and a will that is inoffensive and kindly, that is intent upon reason and never departs therefrom, that commands at the same time love and admiration. In short, to give you the principle in brief compass, the wise man's soul ought to be such as would be proper for a god" (trans. Gummere).

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.16 (part)

"And again, consider that for whatever purpose each thing has been constituted, for this it has been constituted, and towards this it is carried; and its end is in that towards which it is carried; and where the end is, there also is the advantage and the good of each thing. Now the good for the reasonable animal is society; for that we are made for society has been shown above. Is it not plain that the inferior exist for the sake of the superior? But the things which have life are superior to those which have not life, and of those which have life the superior are those which have reason" (trans. George Long).

Cicero, Tusculan disputations 5.40-1

[In defense of Stoic ethics] "But to me virtuous men seem also supremely happy: for what is wanting to make life happy for the man who feels assured of the good that is his? Or how can the man who is without assurance be happy? But the man who makes a three-fold division of good must necessarily be without assurance. XIV. For how will he be able to feel assured of neither strength of body or security of fortune? And yet no one can be happy except when good is secure and certain and lasting. What is so then in the goods of such thinkers? I am led to think that to them applies the saying of the Laconian who, when a certain trader boasted of the number of ships he had despatched to every distant coast, remarked: "The fortune that depends on cordage is not quite one to be desired." Or is there any question that nothing that can escape our grasp ought to be reckoned as one in kind with that which makes the fulness of happy life? For nothing of all that goes to make a happy life should shrivel up, nothing be blotted out, nothing fall to the ground. For the man who shall be afraid of the loss of any of such things cannot be happy. For our wish is that the happy man be safe, impregnable, fenced and fortified, and so made inaccessible not only to a little fear, but to any fear at all." (trans. King).

Cicero, Tusculan disputations 5.81-2

[In defense of Stoic ethics] "For it is characteristic of the wise man to do nothing of which he can repent, nothing against his will, to do everything nobly, consistently, soberly, rightly, not to look forward to anything as if it were bound to come, to be astonished at no occurrence under the impression that its occurrence is unexpected and strange, to bring all things to the standard of his own judgment, to abide by his own decision. And what can be happier than this I certainly cannot conceive.

"For the Stoics indeed the conclusion is easy, since they hold it the sovereign good to live according to nature and in harmony with nature, seeing that not only is this the wise man's settled duty by also it lies in his power, and so for them it follows necessarily that where a man has the chief good in his power, he also has the power of happy life: thus the life of the wise is rendered happy always" (trans. King).

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1945 c.1927). Cicero : Tusculan Disputations (Loeb Classical Library, No. 141) 2nd Ed. trans. by J. E. King. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press.

Long, A. A., Sedley, D. N. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers: vol. 1. translations of the principle sources with philosophical commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Seddon, Keith (2001). Epictetus [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Hellenistic Stoicism: 63 The end and happiness - D. L. Hitchcock.

Stoic Ethics [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy] - Dr. William O. Stephens.

An Imaginary Stoic-Aristotelian Conversation - by Dr. Jan Garrett.

Home - Summary - Correspondence - Pride - Personality Disorders
Search - Comments - Index
Copyright © 1998-2010 Dave Kelly

Creative Commons License
This article by Dave Kelly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. (See Copyrights for details.)


Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus