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Master Thesis

La notion de désir chez les Épicuriens

Abstract : As desire cannot be reduced to reason, a philosophy attempting to understand this passion is forced to reveal its ethical postulates. Moreover, it is impossible for a philosophy positing pleasure both as the sovereign good and as the object of all wishes to sidestep the study of desire. Hence, this dissertation intends to identify and analyse the epicurean theory of desire. The phyiscal logic of desire, which finds its roots in epicurean atomism, enables to discern not only the inner workings of this passion, but also its definition, that is, its delimitation in relation to human nature. From pain to assuagement, from want to satisfaction, desire gives the impetus towards the limit of perfection, the attainment of which confers divine status. But as soon as this limit is crossed, desire starts working against us, becoming impossible to satisfy and thereby an endless source of torment. Once this realm of desire is defined, one can draw up its inner map, notably thanks to the Letter to Menoeceus, which also enables to understand the epicurean ethical theory of desire. However, the classification contained in the Letter should not be conceived as an infallible guide that explicitly tells us how to handle our desires. When a choice has to be made, it is only by following the criterion of pleasure that one can be sure to take the right decision. But this requires to understand the exact nature of the ultimate pleasure, that is, of perfection. Its first element consists in the absence of bodily and spiritual trouble, a state attained by the pursuit of specific types of pleasures. But perfection also implies the attainment of positive pleasure. This study, that primarily relies on the ethical texts written by Epicurus (in Jean Bollack's translation), is completed by analyses of fragments from Diogenes of Oenoanda and of Philodemus de Gadara's treatise, On Choices and Avoidances (the column VI of which is interpreted in the annex). This work also draws from the texts of Lucretius, but following Pierre Vesperini's thesis, he is considered as a witness of epicurism rather than as a follower of this school of thought.
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Master Thesis
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Célia Charlois. La notion de désir chez les Épicuriens. Philosophie. 2019. ⟨dumas-02491865⟩

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