Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 7, Section 2, Chapter 2: Prudence

Chapter 2: Systems which make Virtue consist in Prudence

55 Epicurus' system is the most ancient one that renders virtue as prudence.

56 According to him, bodily pleasure and pain were the sole ultimate objects of natural desire and aversion.

Bodily pain and pleasure were not the sole ultimate objects of desire and aversion.

57 According to Epicurus, all the mind's pleasures and pains were ultimately derived from those of the body.

58 But the mind's pleasures and pains were vastly greater than their original bodily pains and pleasures.


Since our happiness and misery depended chiefly on the mind, how our body was affected was of little importance if: Though under great bodily pain, we might still enjoy a considerable share of happiness if our reason and judgment maintained their superiority.

60 If the positive pain was so little to be feared in itself, that of pleasure was still less to be desired.

61Therefore, the perfect state of human nature consisted in ease of body and in tranquility of mind.

62 For example, prudence is the source and principle of all the virtues.

63 It could never be desirable, for its own sake, to:

The whole value of prudence arose from:

64 Fortitude would often lead us to:

These were surely still less the objects of natural desire.

65 It is the same case with justice.

66 Such is Epicurus' doctrine on the nature of virtue.

67 This system is totally inconsistent with my moral system.

The practice of virtue is generally so advantageous.

68 Philosophers fondly cultivate the propensity to account for all appearances from as few principles as possible.

69 Epicurus' system agreed with the systems of Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno, in making virtue consist in acting in most suitably to obtain the primary objects of natural desire.

70 According to Epicurus, the primary objects of natural desire consisted in bodily pleasure and pain only.

71 According to Epicurus, virtue too did not deserve to be pursued for its own sake.

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Next: Chapter 3: Systems which peg virtue to Benevolence