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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS

Author(s): T. H. Irwin
Source: The Monist, Vol. 74, No. 1, Morality and the Self (JANUARY 1991), pp. 55-82
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27903224
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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS

L Cyrenaic Innovations

Many Greek moralists are eudaemonists; they assume that happiness


(eudaimonia) is the ultimate end of rational human action. Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and most of their successors treat this assumption as the basis of
their ethical argument.1 But not all Greek moralists agree; and since the
eudaemonist assumption may not seem as obviously correct to us as it seems
to many Greek moralists, it isworth considering the views of those Greeks
who dissent from it.
The most radical dissenters we know of are the Cyrenaic school,
descended (in some way) from Aristippus, a disciple of Socrates.2 Our
sources, scanty though they are, report clearly that the Cyrenaics reject hap
piness as the ultimate end:
... the end is not the same as happiness. For the end is particular (kata meros)
pleasure, whereas happiness is a collection (sustenta)made out of particular
pleasures, among which are counted together (sunarithmounta?)both past and
future pleasures.
Particular pleasure is choiceworthy because of itself.Happiness, on the
other hand, is choiceworthy not because of itself, but because of the particular
pleasures. (Diogenes Lertius ii 87-88)3
The Annicerians <i.e., followersofAnniceris> in theCyrenaic succession
set down no definite end of thewhole of life,but claimed that there is a special
end for each action?the pleasure resulting from the action. These Cyrenaics
repudiateEpicurus' account of pleasure as the removal of pain, denouncing itas
the condition of a corpse. (Clement, Strom, ii 21, 130.7-8)
Aristippus welcomed the experience of pleasure (h?dupatheia), and said it
is the end, and that happiness is founded on it.And he said that itwas for a
single time only (monochronos). Like prodigal people, he thought that neither
the memory of past gratifications nor the expectation of future ones was
anything to him, but he discerned the good by the singlepresent timealone. He
regarded having been gratified and being about to be gratified as nothing to
him, on the ground that the one no longer is and the other is not yet and is
unclear?just likewhat happens to self-indulgentpeople, who suppose thatonly
what is present benefits them. (Athenaeus, Deipn. xiv 514a.)4

These reports attribute quite an unusual view to the Cyrenaics, and for
that reason are less likely to be simply the product of misunderstanding or
confusion in the sources.5 They do not, however, explain why the Cyrenaics
reject eudaemonism. An explanation is bound to be speculative, because of

Copyright? 1991,THE MONIST, La Salle, IL 61301.

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56 T. H. IRWIN

the inadequacy of our sources; but even a speculative explanation may


focus our attention on some important questions raised by eudaemonist
assumptions.
To see why someone might reject eudaemonism, it is useful to ask why
someone might accept it, or even take it for granted. Aristotle seems to
think it is generally taken for granted. For he thinks people will generally
agree that the final good is to be identified with happiness, which is also to
be identified with "living well" (eu zeri) and "doing well" (eu pratteiri) (EN
1095al5-20). Aristotle remarks that, in contrast to this point of general
agreement, people disagree about what happiness is.
If Aristotle's remark tempts us to suppose that there is no room for
disagreement about whether the final good is happiness, then the Cyrenaics'
view should change our minds. For they believe that pleasure is the ultimate
good, choiceworthy (hairetori) for its own sake, and that anything else is
choiceworthy for the sake of it; but they deny that this ultimate good is hap
piness.
Aristotle, however, also tries to explain why the ultimate good should
be identified with happiness.6 In EN i 7 he argues that the good must be
complete and self-sufficient; and he infers that since happiness satisfies
these criteria, it is the fiin?l good (1097a34-b6, M5-21). This argument
helps to fix the points of dispute between the Cyrenaics and eudaemonism.
If the Cyrenaics deny that heppiness is the final good, then theymust claim
either (i) thatAristotle iswrong in his claims about the criteria for the good,
or (ii) that Aristotle is right about the criteria, but wrong in thinking that
happiness meets them, or (iii) that Aristotle is wrong on both counts. The
basis of the Cyrenaics' disagreement with Aristotle will become clearer ifwe
examine their conception of the good.
Aristippus identifies the good with pleasure, without distinguishing
better from worse types of pleasure.

Those who adhered to the views of Aristippus and were called Cyrenaics held
the following view: They established two affections (path?), pain and pleasure,
taking one of them,pleasure, to be a smoothmotion, and theother, pain, to be
a roughmotion. In theirview, one pleasure is not superior to7 another, nor is
one at all pleasanter than another. One affection is welcome, and the other
repellent, to all animals. (DL ii 87)

He is not only a hedonist, but also a hedonist of the present. He claims that
past and future pleasures and pains do not count towards a person's good:

Further, they do not thinkpleasure is achieved by memory or expectation of


goods, as Epicurus believed. For they think themovement of the soul isworn
out by time.

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 57

. . . they think that though pleasure is choiceworthy in itself,thedisturbing


things that produce certain pleasures are often of the contrary sort.And so it
appears to them that the accumulation (hathroismos) of pleasures thatdoes not
produce8 happiness ismost disagreeable. (DL ii 89-90)

I suggest thatAristippus' version of hedonism is connected with his re


jection of eudaemonism, and that the connexion lies in his views on per
sonal identity. To explain the nature of the connexion, I will say a little
more about the connexion between hedonism and the rejection of
eudaemonism. For Aristippus' main line of argument is not eccentric or un
connected with the concerns of his predecessors. On the contrary, he
develops further an argument that is already part of Plato's criticism of
hedonist eudaemonism.

2. Hedonism and Anti-hedonism inPlato

The elder Aristippus was a disciple of Socrates.9 This fact does not
justify us in supposing that he must have agreed with Socrates' views on
ethics; still, Socrates' examination of pleasure and happiness might suggest
a starting point forCyrenaic arguments. For Socrates himself appears to de
fend hedonism in the Protagoras;10 and a disciple of his might intelligibly
believe that this is themost plausible account of the good from which to de
fend some of Socrates' other leading ethical claims.
Cyrenaic hedonism of the present differs sharply from the hedonism
defended by Socrates in the Protagoras. For Socrates, hedonism is firmly
subordinate to eudaemonism. He takes eudaemonism to be obviously true
(Euthd. 278e3-6, 289b5-6, 282al-2), and he defends hedonism by arguing
that we seek to maximize the surplus of pleasure over pain in our life as a
whole (Pr. 353c9-354e2). The assumed truth of eudaemonism determines
the sense inwhich pleasure is taken to be the end (telos, 354b7); it is not the
pleasure of themoment (en to(i) parachrema, 353dl), but pleasure summed
over one's whole life. Socrates argues that the science of measuring
pleasures and pains is needed for "the salvation of life" (soteria tou biou,
356d4-5); 'life' refers to one's life as a whole.
Both Plato and the Cyrenaics depart from the view of Socrates in the
Protagoras; and Plato's disagreement with Socrates helps to explain
Cyrenaic disagreement with both of them.
In the Gorgias Socrates argues that Callicles cannot consistently accept
both hedonism and his assumption that bravery is a virtue promoting the
agent's happiness. In assuming that an agent's virtues must promote his
happiness Callicles agrees with Socrates' position both in the Gorgias and in
the Protagoras. The Protagoras, however, sees no difficulty in reconciling

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58 T. H. IRWIN

acceptance of bravery with hedonism; for there Socrates claims that bravery
is the knowledge of what maximizes one's overall pleasure in life
(359d4-360a2). In the Gorgias, by contrast, Socrates replies that in fact the
coward seems to get more pleasure than the brave person gets, so that a
hedonist has no reason to count bravery as a virtue (Gorg. 498el0-499b3).
We might suspect that either Socrates is not being fair to hedonism or
he does not really reject the hedonism of theProtagoras. For theProtagoras
does not consider simply the short-term pleasure that seems to concern
Socrates in the Gorgias, but the long-term pleasure that is summed over the
agent's life as a whole; if this is taken into account, surely it is no longer true
that the coward gains more pleasure?
This reply, however, ought not to convince us, ifwe have understood
the Gorgias. For Socrates challenges the hedonist eudaemonist's claim that
the brave person gets more pleasure than the coward gets overall. Callicles
has agreed that we gain more pleasure if, say, we eat when we are very
hungry than ifwe eat when we are not especially hungry; but the coward is
far more afraid of danger than the brave person is, and therefore corres
pondingly more pleased if the threatened evil passes him by. Moreover, if
his cowardice exposes him to more danger in the future, he can look for
ward to greater pleasure if he is lucky enough to avoid the threatened evils.
Of course, he may be unlucky; but it is not clear that he isworse off, from a
purely hedonist point of view, than the brave person is. For even if the
brave person secures himself (again, not certainly) against some future
pains, he both exposes himself to pains that the cowardly person avoids and
denies himself the opportunity for the intense pleasures of the coward who
sighs with relief when the danger is past.
Callicles suggested a different reason for rejecting the coward's life.He
admires brave people because they "are strong enough to achieve what they
have in mind, and do not shrink back because of softness of soul"
(491b2-4). These strong and resolute people have plans for themselves and
want to carry them out; since fears and 'softness' deter us from carrying out
our own plans, agents who care about carrying out their plans will want to
restrain fear and prevent themselves from falling into cowardice. Callicles'
ideal person is the one who carries out his own plans, and satisfies his own
appetites (491e8-492a3), without fear of what other people will think
(492a3-bl).
It does not occur to Callicles at first that his admiration for this well
planned and resolute way of life conflicts with the particular content he
assumes itwill have?the unrestrained pursuit of the satisfaction of one's
appetites. But Socrates points out the conflict to him. For the sort of plan
ning and resolution that Callicles values must appear to a hedonist to be

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 59

valuable only if it is a sensible strategy formaximizing pleasure over one's


life. The example of the coward shows that planning and resolution may be
no better than cowardice as a strategy for maximizing pleasure; hence
hedonism does not justify Callicles in preferring bravery over cowardice.
Socrates need not show that a hedonist must reject such virtues as
bravery; he need only show that hedonism cannot explain the value that is
properly attached to such virtues. Even if hedonists can give some reason
for advising us to do what the brave person would do, theywill not have ex
plained what is really valuable about bravery. If we attach the value that
Callicles attaches to the virtues that express our concern for our rational
plans and their execution, then we have reason to reject hedonism.11
A perceptive hedonist might notice that the anti-hedonist argument of
theGorgias relies on the assumption thatwe conceive ourselves as temporal
ly extended rational agents who have some proper concern for our lives as a
whole, and for the execution of our long-term plans. Bravery is valuable for
agents who care about their longer-term plans, and who do not want to be
diverted from them by more immediate fears; and ifwe want to live by our
longer-term plans, we will reject the sort of life that prevents us?as the
coward's life prevents us?from forming and executing these plans. Now it
might occur to the hedonist that if eudaemonism is false, then concern for
ourselves as temporally extended rational agents is unjustified, and the
Socratic objections to hedonism collapse.
A similar question about the relation of hedonism to eudaemoism
arises in the Philebus. After first saying that Philebus recognizes only
pleasure as good (1 lb4-6), Socrates assumes that both he and Philebus want
to identify the condition of soul that makes a human being's life happy
(lld4-6); he clearly does not think this is a new question from the question
about goods. Since the question is about happiness, it is taken to be about a
desirable property of a peson's life as a whole (ton bion hapanta, 21a8; cf.
b3, d3, 22b6); that iswhy the argument is about a choice between two ways
of conducting one's whole life.
Socrates assumes that the good must be complete and adequate, in such
a way that a life that has itneeds nothing else added (20e5-21a2). To show
that the life of pleasure without intelligence (phron?sis) is not complete,
Socrates appeals to the importance of memory and anticipation. The un
mixed life of pleasure lacks intelligence, and hence lacks the different forms
of rational consciousness?memory, belief (about the present) and calcula
tion (for the future)?that involve the agent's thinking of himself as a ra
tional agent persisting through his different experiences and pleasures.
Since we lack memory, we do not remember thatwe had pleasure; in lacking
belief, we lack the awareness that we are having the enjoyment we are hav

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60 T. H. IRWIN

ing; in lacking rational calculation we lack the ability to calculate that we


still enjoy ourselves in the future (21c).
Socrates would be dealing unfairly with the hedonist position if he
meant to recommend these forms of rational consciousness simply as means
to greater pleasures.12 For he has already conceded that the unmixed life of
pleasure includes the greatest pleasures (21b3-4). If the various forms of ra
tional consciousness are necessary as means to these pleasures, then they are
already included in the life of pleasure; but since they are purely instrumen
tal to pleasure (on the hedonist view being considered), they presumably do
not themselves constitute any of the goodness in the life of pleasure. Plato is
therefore justified in asking what the life of pleasure is like without these
aspects of rational consciousness, and asking whether it contains all the
elements of intrinsic value that we think should be included. The hedonist
does not concede that rational consciousness is one of the elements con
stituting the intrinsic value of the life.
The rational consciousness that concerns Plato is the sort involved in
being aware of myself over time; memory, self-consciousness, and rational
calculation are different ways I am aware of myself as the same agent in all
these experiences. Plato does not speak simply of memory of pleasure in the
past; he speaks specifically of my remembering that I was previously enjoy
ing myself (21cl). Part of what is good about a life, and part of what is
missing in the unmixed life of pleasure, is the awareness of myself as a ra
tional agent inmy different experiences. Part of what makes memory and
anticipation pleasant tome ismy belief that they are mine; and that belief is
relevant tomy enjoyment in so far as it connects these experiences with my
concern formyself and my life as a whole. If hedonism attaches no intrinsic
value to the relevant sort of rational consciousness of oneself, then it cannot
attach the appropriate value tomemory and anticipation. Since it cannot do
this, it cannot give the right account of the nature of happiness.
Once again, as in the Gorgias, a hedonist might notice that Plato's
argument depends on the rationality of concern formyself as a whole. In at
taching value to rational consciousness of my past, present, and future, and
of their connexion, Plato assumes that it is appropriate for me to be con
cerned for a temporally extended rational agent. Ifwe reject eudaemonism,
we challenge the foundation of Plato's argument.

3. Temporal Aspects of Happiness


Plato's arguments suggest why a hedonist might think of challenging
some anti-hedonist arguments by disputing some eudaemonist assumptions,
and why an attack on the rationality of concern for a temporally extended

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 61

self would be a serious attack on eudaemonism. This Platonic background


should make it easier to see why the Cyrenaics reject eudaemonism; and we
will see that they probably support rejection of eudaemonism by challeng
ing belief in a temporally extended self.
Some aspects of Aristippus' position suggest that he rejects
eudaemonism because he thinks it relies on disput?bale assumptions about
the temporal character of happiness. Four connected claims are especially
relevant:

1. He describes happiness as a collection (sustemd) including past and


future pleasures.
2. He thinks this accumulation (hathroismos) of pleasures is
disagreeable because it involves a good deal of pain.
3. He does not recognize pleasures of memory and anticipation.
4. He thinks pleasures of the body are superior to pleasures of the
soul.

The fourth of these claims is relevant to the others, because it rests on


the third claim, which in turn is connected to the first two claims. This
becomes clear from the Epicurean reply to the Cyrenaic view. The
Epicureans argue that the pleasures and pains of the mind may be much
greater than those of the body:

For with the body we can be aware of nothing except the present and what is
here now (quod adest), but with themind we can be aware of both thingspast
and things future.For ifwe assume that < in two cases > when we are inbodily
pain the < bodily > pain is equal, still there can be a great addition ifwe think
some limitlessand endless evil is coming to us. (Cicero, Fin. i 55)13

The Epicurean argument assumes eudaemonism; for it claims that pleasures


and pains of anticiption affect one's present pleasures and pains if one con
siders one's overall pleasure and pain over past and future. Aristippus
focusses on bodily pleasures and pains because he is concerned with the pre
sent rather than the past and future.
Aristippus' first two claims also focus on the present in contrast to the
past and future. Happiness is said to be a collection (sustemd) including past
and future as well as present pleasures; and since we have to undertake
short-term pains to acquire pleasure later, the accumulation of this collec
tion is disagreeable.
It is intelligible, in the light of Plato's anti-hedonist arguments, that
Aristippus focusses on the temporal extension of happiness; for Plato ap
peals to exactly this feature of it to show that a hedonist conception of hap
piness cannot explain the value we attach to rational consciousness of

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62 T. H. IRWIN

ourselves as temporally extended rational agents. In reply Aristippus con


cedes that a hedonist conception of happiness cannot meet Plato's condi
tion, but he argues that this does not matter; for since happiness is not the
good or the ultimate end, any objections appealing to facts about happiness
have no force against a hedonist conception of the good.
Why, then, does Aristippus suppose that the temporal aspect of hap
piness explains why happiness cannot be the ultimate end?

4. The Epistemological Basis

At this point we ought to turn to an aspect of Cyrenaic doctrine that


the ancient evidence connects quite prominenly with ethical hedonism?the
extreme sensationalism of Cyrenaic epistemology. Some of the sources say
that both in epistemology and in ethics Cyrenaics trust exclusively in our af
fections, path?, and are complete sceptics about everything else.

The Cyrenaics say that the criteria are the affections; theyalone are grasped,
and are undeceivng, whereas none of the things that produce the affections is
graspable14 or undeceiving. For, they say, it is possible to say without being
deceived or refuted thatwe are being whitened or sweetened; but we cannot af
firmwhether the thingproducing the affection iswhite or sweet. (Sextus, AM
vii 190-91)
.. .Hence, if one must the truth, only the affection is apparent to us;
speak
the external thing thatproduces theaffection perhaps exists,but isnot apparent
to us. (194)
... It seems that what these people say about ends corresponds to what
they say about criteria. For the affections also extend as far as the ends. For
some affections are pleasant, some painful, others itermediate, and, in their
view, the painful ones are evil and theirend is pain, the pleasant ones are good
and their undeceiving end is pleasure, and the intermediateones are neither
good nor evil and their end is what is neither good nor evil, an affection in
termediate between pleasure and pain.
Of all things, then, the affections are criteria and ends, and, they say, we
liveby following these, relyingon obviousness15 and approval?on obviousness
in relation to the other affections, and on approval in relation to pleasure.
(199-200)

Thispassage claims that the Cyrenaics find direct support in their


epistemology for their view that pleasure is the end. Our awareness that
pleasure is good in itself is supposed to have the same obvious and ir
refutable character that belongs to our awareness of our occurrent sensa
tions; and, in the Cyrenaic view, no other conception of goodness can claim
the same irrefutable basis in our affections.

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 63

In saying that they regard 'the affections' as the criterion, the


Cyrenaics cannot mean that they trust all affections equally. For some af
fections may involve assumptions about the future, for instance, that turn
out to be false. If I am afraid of having an injection because I believe itwill
be excruciatingly painful, that affection is not trustworthy; for it is refuted
by my finding later that it is not so painful after all. The Cyrenaics rely on
the subset of the affections that cannot be refuted by anything more evi
dent; nothing (in their view) can refutemy feeling that this taste is pleasant,
and the associated belief that there is something good about this pleasure;
and no equally evident belief can persuade me that anything else is good.
The Cyrenaics' reason for trusting some affections over others will prove to
be important later, when we consider their attitude to affections thatmight
seem to conflict with their conception of the end.16
If this defense of pleasure is to challenge the claim of happiness to be
the end, then the Cyrenaic must show that we have no equally direct and ir
refutable awareness of the goodness of happiness.
Itmay seem odd to claim, from this epistemological point of view, that
the goodness of happiness is less obvious than the goodness of pleasure. For
ifwe claim that happiness is simply a collection of pleasures, itmight ap
pear to inherit the obvious goodness of its components. If the Cyrenaics do
not agree, then theymust think that some special epistemological problem is
raised by claims about collections, even when the components are objects of
irrefutable direct awareness.
To see the problem raised by collections, we ought to consider a discus
sion thatmentions them in an analysis of our belief in external objects. In
the Theaetetus Plato develops a Heracleitean account of perception and
reality, claiming that it supports Protagoras' belief that as things appear to
each person, so they are. The Heracleitean theory considers my seeing a
white stone, and claims that both the seeing subject and the white stone are
the products or "offspring" of an encounter between substrates or
"parents" (156c6-e7). The theory claims that the substrates are nothing "in
themselves" (157a8), but acquire whatever qualities they have only in en
counters between perceivers and perceived objects. The only things that
have properties are these things that come into being and perish as a result
of perceptual encounters; but we give names such as 'man', 'horse', and
'stone' to an 'accumulation' (hathroisma, 157b9).
It is not clear what accumulation Plato has inmind here. If we agree
that a man is nothing apart from particular perceptual encounters, he might
be thought to be an accumulation of perceived qualities inmore than one

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64 T. H. IRWIN

sense. Even ifwe consider a single perceiver at a single time, we cannot iden
tify Socrates, say, with just one perceived quality (for instance, his shape or
his complexion) that comes into being in a single perceptual encounter.
Socrates, as perceived by me at a single time, is the composite of a number
of such qualities. We have to "accumulate" or "bundle" these together if
we are to say that a man exists.
Further accumulations need to be added once we consider the com
monsense belief that Socrates exists outside a particular perceiver at a par
ticular time.We normally assume that he is not just thismomentary collec
tion of perceived qualities present to this perceiver. We suppose that he in
cludes the somewhat different qualities that are perceived by different
perceivers who perceive Socrates at the same time, or by the same perceiver
perceiving him at different times. In introducing two perceivers at one time,
or one perceiver at two times, we introduce two further 'accumulations' or
'collections' besides the collection that must underlie one perceiver's
recognition of Socrates at a particular time.
Questions about Socrates' existence at different times, and the sorts of
collections it involves, are raised just a little later in the Theaetetus. Socrates
argues (from a Protagorean point of view, 158e5-6) that the different
"Socrateses" perceived at different times are not stages of one and the same
continuing Socrates (158e5-160c5). In this case we are wrong to think that a
diachronic collection of qualities constitutes one and the same person.
Nothing is said, however, about any questions thatmight arise for the first
sort of collection, involving the application of 'man' to a number of
perceived qualities.
Now we cannot be sure that Aristippus knows this passage in the
Theaetetus or the theory itdescribes. Still, the passage allows us to focus on
a question that arises especially for him. For some questions about collec
tions arise for the Cyrenaic no less than for the Heracleitean.17
Since the Cyrenaics believe that only the affections are cognitively ac
cessible to us, and that these give us no rational ground for beliefs about the
properties of external objects or even for belief in the existence of these ob
jects, they are sceptics about the external world.18 But even before they raise
problems about external existence, the Cyrenaics face another question;
what grounds have we for recognizing the sort of collection in our im
mediate experiences that would give us reason for applying the concept
'man' to it (whether or not we thinkmen exist independently of our affec
tions)?
Fortunately, we have some evidence to show that the Cyrenaics are
concerned with questions abut this elementary sort of collection. Plutarch's

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 65

discussion of the Epicurean Colotes suggests that when the Cyrenaics use
terms such as 'whitened' or 'sweetened* to describe the having of a certain
kind of affection, they do not intend a parallel analysis of our experience of
objects; they do not say we are "manned" or "walled."

'The Cyrenaics', according toColotes, 'do not say that there is a man or a horse
or a wall, but that they themselvesare walled or horsed ormanned.' First of all,
like those who bring vexatious accusations, he uses termsmaliciously. For ad
mittedly these consequences follow for the Cyrenaics; but he ought to have
presented what happens as they themselves expound it. For they say they are
sweetened, turnedbitter, chilled, heated, lightened,or darkened, and that each
of these affections has its own proper and unchallenged obviousness within
itself. (Col. 1120de)

Plutarch claims that the Cyrenaics do not actually use the terms that Col
otes thinks they must use to describe our experience of men and
walls?though he believes that they are logically committed to accepting the
legitimacy of these terms.
If we attend to the problems about collections, we can see why the
Cyrenaics might be entitled to the distinction that Plutarch agrees they
draw. They use 'whitened', 'sweetened', and so on to refer to the content of
affections that are evident and irrefutable; such affections are the basis of
judgments that never have to be retracted in the light of further experience.
But to say that I am having a "wall-like" impression is not tomake a judg
ment simply about one affection; it is to assert some connexion between this
impression of (say) roughness and solidity with other actual or possible im
pressions of a certain kind of shape and size. To say I am having a "man
like" impression commits me to claiming that this impression belongs to a
stillmore complex collection. To say thatmy impression of (as we suppose)
Socrates' height, complexion, snub nose, and bulging eyes constitute a
"man-like" impression is tomake a claim about the appropriate way of col
lecting different impressions; and this claim lacks the irrefutability and
unrevisability of judgments about particular impressions. Hence the
Cyrenaics have good reason to deny that we are 'walled' or 'manned';
Plutarch is wrong to claim that their denial is arbitrary and unjustified.
I have argued that to explain Plutarch's testimony (as opposed to his
verdict on the Cyrenaic position), we need to suppose that the Cyrenaics see
an epistemological difficulty in claims about awareness of collections, and
specifically that they think our awareness of collections cannot be evident
and irrefutable. If this is right, then we can see why the Cyrenaics accept
pleasure as the good and the end, but refuse to infer that happiness is the
end. Happiness is a collection of pleasures including past and future

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66 T. H. IRWIN

pleasures; it is therefore subject to the difficulties that arise for all collec
tions. Though particular pleasures and pains are evident to us, the belief
that we are achieving happiness requires us to bundle these pleasures and
pains in one particular way, so that our attitude to our present experience is
affected by our views about the past and future. Ifwe think about our hap
piness, we may forgo this particular pleasure now because itwill harm us in
the future, but we would have pursued the pleasure ifwe had not looked at
it in this way. According to the Cyrenaics, nothing about our affections
themselves warrants us in looking at our present experience one way rather
than the other. Hence the evident fact (according to the Cyrenaics) that
pleasure is to be pursued gives us no warrant for pursuing the particular col
lection of pleasures that constitutes happiness.

5. Doubts About Personal Identity


So far we have seen why Cyrenaic epistemology raises questions about
happiness because happiness is a temporally extended collection. But
eudaemonism rests on a further assumption about happiness; it is the tem
porally extended good of one temporally extended person. If one conceives
happiness as a good life for oneself or as the achieving of one's own good,
one must conceive oneself as having a life?a sequence of actions and ex
periences that belong to one subject lasting through time. The incapacity of
animals and young children to form such a conception of themselves is
probably Aristotle's reason for denying that they can be happy (EN
1099b32-l 100a5). We have seen how Plato uses assumptions about the con
tinuing self to show the inadequacy of hedonism as an account of the good.
If, however, the Cyrenaics doubt the existence of the appropriate sort of
continuing self, then they have a reason for rejecting these arguments
against hedonism.
It should now be clear that a continuing self is exposed to Cyrenaic
doubts. For belief in a temporally extended selfmust, in the Cyrenaic view,
involve belief in a collection; and this belief must be exposed to sceptical
doubt.
Aristippus could also have known of an argument that exploits facts
about collections to reach the stronger conclusion that there is no continu
ing self. The 'growing argument' claims that every change in a subject im
plies the existence of a new subject. Plutarch ascribes this argument to
Epicharmus (CN 1083a);19 and a (purported) fragment of Epicharmus
argues for the remission of a debt for someone who is, allegedly, not the
same person as the original borrower (DL iii 10-11).20

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 67

This argument would not be cogent if it simply assumed without fur


ther defence that every change implies a new subjct. Proponents of the
argument, however, defend the assumption. They begin from examples of
quantitatively defined subjects?a length, a measure, a number, or a heap
(considered as a quantity of contiguous constituents, as Locke conceives a
mass of matter). Any 'growth' or 'shrinkage' in such a subject implies
perishing, since the subject essentially has the quantitative properties it has
(cf. Ar. Met 1043b36). If the conclusion about the debtor is to follow,
human beings have to be subjects of the same sort as quantities and heaps.
This argument leads us back to the Theaetetus. For some sources men
tion the argument about growth as a support for theHeracleitean doctrine
of flux and for the doctrine of extreme flux that Protagoras maintains in the
Theaetetus (which, according to Diogenes, is also Plato's own view).
Moreover, Plato himself introduces questions about change and persistence
in his exposition of the Heracleitean defence of Protagoras. Immediately
after the passage we discussed earlier on collections, he considers the
(allegedly) same person's perceptions at different times (when sick and
when healthy, for instance). Plato argues (on the basis of theHeracleitean
theory, 158e5-6) that no one person persists through health and sickness.
He relies, as Epicharmus did, on an argument from change to destruction
and replacement (158e7-159bl0). The argument seems to be this:

1. If Jtand y are dissimilar, then and y are different (non-identical)


(159a4-6).
2. Socrates when sick and Socrates when healthy are dissimilar
(159b2-9).
3. Therefore Socrates when sick and Socrates when healthy are dif
ferent, and not the same person (159c4-6).

The firstpremiss seems to be a simple application of Leibniz's Law, saying


that if two things do not share all their properties, then they are not iden
tical. But we might well protest at the use of (1) in deriving (3) from (2). It
certainly follows from (1) and (2) that Socrates-when-sick and Socrates
when-healthy are not the same person-stage; but why are they not the same
person? We (non-Heracleiteans) assume that a continuing person may have
different properties at different stages, and this difference does not by itself
show that there is no one person.
This reply will not convince theHeracleitean. For Socrates' persistence
must consist in the persistence of some collection of "parents" and "off
spring." But if this collection loses some of itsmembers over time?and we

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68 T. H. IRWIN

have conceded that itdoes?then it is not the same collection, and therefore
not the same person. Once we understand that the continuity of the same
person requires the continuity of a collection, we have no reason to believe
in a continuing Socrates who is healthy and sick at different times.
Now the Cyrenaics must agree with theHeracleitean view that the con
tinuity of a person over time consists in the continuity of a collection. If
they agree that the identity of a collection is determined by its composition,
then they have an argument for rejecting any belief in a persisting self.
Itmay be especially significant that Plato himself has sometimes been
taken to accept the growing argument. For in the Symposium Diotima
remarks that during an ordinary lifetime inwhich an animal "is said to be
alive and to be the same" (208d4-5), the creature constantly changes in
some respect or other, both bodily and mental. She infers: "In this way
every mortal creature is preserved, not by being always the same in every
way, as a divine being is, but by what goes away and gets old leaving behind
in its place some other new21 thing that is of the same sort as it was"
(208a7-b2). Both ancient and modern readers have supposed that Plato
argues from change to non-persistence, and therefore denies that any one
person persists through (what we ordinarily call) a lifetime.22
There is no good reason, however, for supposing that Plato must mean
to deny the persistence of persons through ordinary lifetimes. He may
equally well be taken to mean that persistence does not require any one
component of a person to stay qualitatively the same through a person's
lifetime, but only requires the appropriate causal and qualitative connex
ions between different stages.23 In fact itwould be a bit surprising, in the
light of our previous discussion, if Plato really rejected the persistence of
persons. For he has no doubt about the rationality of eudaemonism, which
is the basis of the desire for immortality; ifwe are not really beings that per
sist for a significant length of time at all, it is not clear why we should sup
pose that eudaemonist attitudes are rational at all.
None the less, even ifPlato means his remarks about change to explain
how persons persist, not to deny that they persist, some readers might easily
infer (i) that Plato denies persistence, and thereby (ii) undermines
eudaemonism without realizing it. Such readers might readily accept the
Cyrenaic position.
The argument derived from Epicharmus, and perhaps from Plato, does
not depend on Cyrenaic scepticism about anything beyond present affec
tions. But its compositional conception of identity and persistence should
seem especially plausible to a Cyrenaic. For ifwe are to reject the composi
tional conception of identity and persistence, we need to introduce some

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 69

non-compositional principle; Aristotle introduces form for this purpose.


But any non-compositional property of this sort will be even less evident
than purely compositional properties are.
Now the Cyrenaics already regard collections (even simultaneous ones)
as non-apprehensible, in so far as they are beyond the grasp of immediate
awareness. For they refuse to classify impressions as being "man-like" or
"wall-like"; and their refusal is intelligible if they deny the apprehensibility
of collections. In the light of these doubts, they have good reason to believe
that the growing argument casts doubt on the existence of persistent ob
jects. For reasons made clear in the Symposium, anyone who accepts a com
positional conception of persistence has reason for scepticism about the per
sistence of selves.
Scepticism about persisting selves constitutes a strong reason for rejec
ting the pursuit of happiness and the belief that happiness is the ultimate
good. A Cyrenaic can argue that affections do not support such a belief; for
they inform us merely of the flux of events, experiences, pleasures, and
pains; they do not reveal any continuing self, since all that they attach to
myself is a sequence of affections. Hence any concern with an extended
future formyself rests on illusion and unwarranted belief.
We have seen how Plato argues against hedonism by claiming that the
only reasonable conception of the good for a temporally extended rational
agent is non-hedonist eudaemonism. Cyrenaics, then, seem to accept
Plato's claim, and seem to deny that it constitutes a defence of eudae
monism for agents like us. For, in their view, we have no sufficient rea
son for believing that we are the sort of temporally extended agents for
whom eudaemonism would be the right conception of the good.
My attempt to connect Cyrenaic objections to happiness with doubts
about personal identity lacks direct support from the sources; for they never
say either (i) that Cyrenaics have sceptical doubts about personal identity or
(ii) that these doubts underlie the objections to happiness. None the less I
have tried to show that the sources support (i) and (ii) indirectly. They sup
port (i), in so far as they attribute to the Cyrenaics an epistemological posi
tion that requires them to accept the sceptical arguments about identity that
theymay well have been familiar with. For the Cyrenaics' scepticism about
collections commits them to scepticism about temporally extended collec
tions; and since they seem to have no alternative to a compositional concep
tion of trans-temporal identity for collections, they are committed to actual
disbelief in a temporally extended self. The sources support (ii), in so far as
statements of eudaemonism clearly rest on assumptions about identity that
Cyrenaics have good reason to challege (if (i) is correct). We know that the

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70 T. H. IRWIN

Cyrenaics challenge eudaemonism, and it is reasonable to suppose that they


have some specific basis for the challenge (given the widespread acceptance
of eudaemonism); and so I am inclined to find this basis in doubts about
personal identity.

6. Illusions About Happiness

Some further reasons for supposing that the Cyrenaics are sceptics
about personal identitymay emerge from their treatment of conceptions of
the good that go beyond the pleasure of the present moment. For if doubts
about personal identitymight reasonably be thought to explain some of the
Cyrenaics' criticisms of other views, we have further reasons for attributing
the doubts to the Cyrenaics themselves.
Though Aristippus is a quite extreme hedonist about the good, he is not
a psychological hedonist. He does not claim that everyone in fact pursues
only the pleasure of the present as the ultimate good; he regards other aims
not as psychological impossibilities, but as the products of groundless
beliefs, and in arguing against them he seeks to expose the groundlessness of
the beliefs underlying these aims. In particular he mentions four different
types of concern going beyond the present moment:

(1) Particular pleasure is choiceworthy because of itself.Happiness, on the


other hand, is choiceworthy not because of itself,but because of the particular
pleasures. (DL ii 88)
(2) They say that it ispossible for some people to fail to choose pleasure because
of perversion. (89)
(3) Not all pleasures and pains in the soul, however, follow on pleasures and
pains in the body. For joy arises in the prosperity of one's country all by itself
<i.e., with no furtherconnection with oneself> just as in one's own prosperi
ty. (89)
(4) The wise person will neither feel envy or love24 nor fear the gods
superstitiously,since all these are a resultof emptybelief. He will, however, feel
pain and fear, since these come about naturally. (91)

The fourth passage gives a hint of Aristippus' general approach to non


hedonists. He suggests that their aims are the result of groundless beliefs
that the Cyrenaic sage will avoid.
In calling the belief "empty" (ken?), he perhaps does not imply that it
is false. For he contrasts empty belief with the feelings that come naturally;
in his view only these are evident, and other things cannot be grasped. In
saying that things cannot be grasped he is claiming that we have insufficient
grounds for believing in their existence, not that we know they do not exist;
hence belief that lacks a basis in affections is groundless, but not thereby
false.

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 71

In the case of personal identity, however, Aristippus has a special


reason for claiming that the groundless belief is actually false. For, even if
we can overcome the general problem about justifying belief in collections,
the acceptance of a compositional criterion of identity for collections gives
us reason for denying that the collection constituting a person lasts for as
long as it is normally supposed to. In this case, then, a Cyrenaic has good
reason not only to doubt the crucial beliefs about persistence of persons,
but to believe that they are probably false.
The possibility of groundless belief explains the point of the second
passage quoted above. "Perversion" may well lead us away from natural
feelings into groundless beliefs; and in particular ifwe believe we are tem
porally extended agents, we may take our happiness seriously. In that case
we may pursue (supposed) goods other than pleasure, or (as suggested in the
first passage) we may pursue happiness for the sake of the pleasures that
compose it.
The significance of belief in our persistence is illustrated by the
disagreement between the Cyrenaics and Epicurus over memory and an
ticipation.

(1) However, the bodily pleasure that they<the Cyrenaics > take to be the end
(according to Panaetius in his book on the philosophical schools) is not the
static pleasure taken in (or 'following on\ epi) the removal of pains?a sort of
undisturbed condition (anochl?sia), which Epicurus accepts and takes to be the
end." (DL ii 87)
(2) the removal of pain, in theirview, is not pleasure, as Epicurus < takes it to
be >, nor is the absence of pleasure pain. For both pleasure and pain are found
inmotion, whereas neither absence of pleasure nor absence of pain ismotion,
since absence of pain is the condition of someone practically asleep. (89)
(3) Further, theydo not thinkpleasure is achieved bymemory or expectation of
goods, as Epicurus believed. For they think thatmovement of the soul isworn
out by time. (89-90)

The point of these disagreements is clear once we remember that Epicurus is


a eudaemonist, and wants pleasure to be a plausible candidate for hap
piness.26 He values the absence of pain because he thinks of an agent's at
titude to his life as a whole. If I think about how things have gone forme
and how I expect them to go forme, and I find that they have gone well and
can be expected to go on that way, I can claim to be in a desirable condition
even if I do not feel any particularly strong sensation at the time. But this
condition is of no interest to Cyrenaic sages; for since they have no concern
for themselves as temporally extended agents, they have no reason to attach
value to any consideration of how things are going for such an agent.

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72 T. H. IRWIN

From this point of view, it is easier to see what the Cyrenaics and
Epicurus really disagree about in their dispute over memory and anticipa
tion. Reports of their views sometimes make it look as though they are
disagreeing on some question of empirical psychology, about how much
people actually enjoy the pleasures of memory and anticipation. But this
may be a misleading way of presenting the issue. For Epicurus and the
Cyrenaics may not be conceiving the relevant pleasures in exactly the same
way.

"Remembering pleasure" or "anticipating pleasure" might be under


stood in either of two ways:

(a) Impersonal memories (anticipations). I remember (anticipate) the


occurrence of pleasure?i.e., I remember (anticipate) that it hap
pened (that itwill happen).
(b) First-person memories (anticipations). I remember (anticipate) hav
ing been pleased (being pleased)?i.e., I remember (anticipate) that
I was pleased (that I will be pleased).

In the second case the content of the memory or anticipation includes an


essentially first-person element; the content of thememory would not be the
same if I did not believe that the subject of the past pleasure is the same as
the subject of the present memory. This is not true in the first case.
Now a Cyrenaic sage may find himself having first-person memories or
anticipations; but he will not take them very seriously. For his scepticism
about continuing selves implies that such first-person attitudes to the past
and future are the products of empty belief. As the Cyrenaics remark, it is a
highly disagreeable business to pursue happiness:
. . . they think that though pleasure is choiceworthy in itself, the disturbing
things that produce certain pleasures are often of the contrary sort.And so it
appears to them that the accumulation (hathroismos) of pleasures thatdoes not
produce happiness ismost disagreeable. (DL ii 89-90)

The disagreeable things that produce pleasures can only produce future
pleasures; and so if a Cyrenaic is to think they are worth his while, the an
ticipation of these pleasures must be pleasant enough to outweigh the pre
sent pain. But theywill hardly give him so much pleasure that they count for
much against present pain. The same point applies tomemory. The memory
of some pleasure in the past may be a source of some pleasure; formerely
imagining a pleasure may be pleasant, and the thought that the pleasure has
actually happened may allow me to imagine itmore vividly.27 But we prob
ably do not expect a large hedonic gain from such memories of past
pleasure.

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 73

If I actually believed, as opposed to simply imagining, that the


remembered or anticipated pleasures have happened or will happen to me,
then I would have reason to count the past and future pleasures as parts of
my happiness. But the crucial belief is the one that Cyrenaics do not share.
Since they do not believe that I am a single subject at these different times,
they do not believe there is any single subject whose happiness is produced
by the accumulation of pleasures.28
It is reasonabale for Epicurus to take quite a different view of first
person memories and anticipations; it is quite rational, in his view, formy
belief in their truth to affect my judgment about my welfare, quite apart
from their immediate hedonic effects. For if I am a eudaemonist, I am con
cerned about the continuing self who is part of the content of the first
person attitudes. Since I am concerned about the welfare of this continuing
self,my concerns are satisfied in so far as I am aware of what has happened
or probably will happen to this self at different stages in its existence. If I
look beyond the present, I may be aware of pleasures that compensate for
present pains, in so far as they show that I am better off on thewhole than I
would think I was if I just focussed on the present. This is a legitimate ob
ject of concern and interest to the Epicurean, as it is to any other
eudaemonist; but it cannot matter in the same way to the anti-eudaemonist
Cyrenaic. For the Cyrenaic cannot take seriously the prospect of future
compensation to the self that is undergoing the present pain; to take that
prospect seriously one has to believe one really is the same self, not simply
find oneself inclined to believe that one is the same self. The dispute be
tween Cyrenaics and Epicureans overy memory and anticipation is not a
dispute about how much pleasure we are likely to get from the same beliefs;
for adherents of the two theories hold different beliefs that affect their
judgments about their welfare.
Cyrenaic doubts about personal identitymay explain an odd dispute
with the Epicureans that is also connected with anticipation. The Cyrenaics,
as reported by Cicero, claim that the anticipation of future evils makes them
less severe when they actually come:

The Cyrenaics think that pain is produced, not by every sort of evil, but by an
evil that has not been hoped for or expected. That indeed has no moderate
weight in increasinga pain; for all sudden thingsappear more serious. . . .This
anticipation (praemeditatio), therefore,of future evils softens the arrival of
those evilswhich one has seen coming fromafar. (Cicero, TD iii28-29; cf. 52)29

Epicurus, on the other hand, advises against dwelling on future evils, and
argues that the Cyrenaic strategymakes things worse; he thinks it is no more
sensible to dwell on future evils than to dwell on past evils (iii 32-33). Cicero

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74 T. H. IRWIN

does not explain why Cyrenaics and Epicureans take these different views;
but we may reasonably try to explain them in the light of their different
general views about pleasures and pains of memory and anticipation.
For the Cyrenaics, impersonal anticipation may be useful in reducing
the disturbance we sufferwhen something painful happens. If I believe that
an injection will be painful, the pain will be less of a surprise tome when it
comes, and if I am prepared for it, it will be less disturbing. Since the
Cyrenaics think that the goodness and badness of pleasure and pain consists
in the sort of change or disturbance it causes, theymight argue that the an
ticipation of pain produces a little disturbance in advance, and so the actual
pain causes relatively less disturbance when it comes.
Suppose, for instance, that at time tl I anticipate some painful injec
tion, and the anticipation causes a disturbance of force 1 (supposing that
disturbances can be measured as gales or earthquakes can); suppose that at
t2 when I get the injection, I suffer a further disturbance of force 2; and
suppose that if I had not anticipated the pain of the injection, I would have
suffered a disturbance of force 3 at t2. In this case the Cyrenaics will argue
that I am better off having anticipated the pain, since the disturbance at t2 is
less than itwould have been without the anticipation. The fact that the total
disturbance at tl and t2 is equal whether or not I anticipate does not matter
to the Cyrenaics; for we will be concerned about the total disturbance only
if we believe in our identity through time, and the Cyrenaics reject this
belief.
Suppose, on the other hand, thatmy anticipation at tl causes a force 2
disturbance, and the injection at t2 causes a further force 2 disturbance,
whereas the injection at t2 without the anticipation would have caused a
force 3 disturbance. Even in these cases the Cyrenaics will still say I am bet
ter off anticipating; for I have no reason to be concerned about the total
pain resulting from the comparison of two times, since I am not the same
person at these two times.
These precautionary uses of impersonal anticipation also make first
person anticipation reasonable for Cyrenaics. For once again they are free
to admit that if I imagine the future pain happening tome, I will imagine it
more vividly, so thatmy precautionary imagination may be more effective.
But my judgment about my welfare will not be affected by the belief that I
really will suffer the pain, since a Cyrenaic regards the underlying belief in
personal identity through time as groundless.
For an Epicurean, however, the first-person character of an anticipa
tion makes a vital difference. For if I do not just think of the pain happen
ing to someone, but believe that itwill happen tome, then I discover some

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 75

threat tomy happiness. If I am an Epicurean, and I anticipate or remember


my own pain, I believe I am discovering something thatmay affect my hap
piness over time; for I am concerned with the interests of a temporally ex
tended self. Hence an Epicurean, unlike a Cyrenaic, is concerned about the
total result of anticipating the injection at tl plus having the injection at t2.
Anticipation of pain is bad for an Epicurean inways inwhich it cannot be
bad for a Cyrenaic. Cyrenaics and Epicureans have good reasons for recom
mending the opposite attitudes that they recommend to anticipation of
pain.

7. Cyrenaic Attitudes

explanation of the Cyrenaic position, however, raises a further


This
question about whether the position is consistent. To whom, and for what
purpose, do the Cyrenaics recommend the precautionary use of anticipa
tion? Imight think: "If I think about the painful effects of different kinds
of events, I will be prepared for the events when they come." But how can
Cyrenaics take this thought seriously? It presupposes the identity of the sub
ject of the present thought (and anticipatory pain) and the subject of the
future pain. On the Cyrenaic view, there should be no more reason to take
this thought seriously than therewould be to take seriously the thought: "If
I think about the painful effects of different kinds of events, someone will
be prepared for them when they come." But this second thought seems to
have no obvious force forCyrenaics at all; they do not see any reason to im
pose burdens on themselves for the sake of benefits to other people.
The appropriate reply to this objection may be clearer ifwe consider a
more general problem that seems to arise for the Cyrenaics' epistemological
claims. They claim that any belief going beyond our affections is open to
sceptical doubt; that iswhy they challenge the belief in a persistent self and
the conception of happiness as the final good. But it seems obvious that
some affections and feelings are focussed on my future; I seem to have fears
and hopes about what will happen tome at a time in the futurewhen (accor
ding to the Cyrenaic) there is no reason to believe that I will be the subject
undergoing the events I now fear or hope for. Our emotions themselves
seem to show the future-oriented concern that results in the desire for one's
happiness as one's ultimate good. Must the Cyrenaic not agree, then, that
the pursuit of one's own happiness iswarranted by the impressions and feel
ings that the Cyrenaic theory takes to be epistemologically basic?
To answer this objection, Cyrenaics need to insist that they do not
think all affections are reliable.30 Some affections?for instance, fears
resting on beliefs about the future?may rest on assumptions that are

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76 T. H. IRWIN

found, in comparison with irrefutable impressions of my present condition,


to be false. My being afraid is a present affection, and that I am afraid of
something is true and refutable; but the belief underlying the fear?e.g.,
that the injection will be very painful for me?may well be false, either
because the pain will not be severe or because itwill not be me who suffers
it. Even if some affections presuppose belief in a continuing self, the
Cyrenaic is not required to endorse that belief.
Still, if we have affections that lead us to be concerned about our
future, the fact that we have them is significant for the Cyrenaic; for ifwe
do nothing about them, we may suffermore pain than we would suffer ifwe
did something about them. If we feel like sacrificing something in the pre
sent for the sake of the future, we have no reason to refrain from this
sacrifice, if the feeling is strong enough; but equally ifwe feel some urgent
desire for present satisfaction and we are indifferent to the future costs, we
are doing nothing irrational.
If this is the Cyrenaics' attitude to affections that rest on unjustified
beliefs, they can explain why we might practise precautionary anticipation
tominimize our future disturbances. Ifwe have a relatively vivid conception
of our future and we find ourselves concerned for it, then we have reason to
satisfy that concern by thinking about ways to reduce our future distur
bance by precautionary anticipation. If we do this, we can remove our pre
sent anxiety without actually accepting the belief that we are temporally ex
tended persons who have reason to be concerned about our long-term hap
piness.
By examining some of the questions raised by Cyrenaic views on
memory and anticipation, I have tried to show how the Cyrenaic position
might be defended against the suspicion that it is incoherent. I do not want
to argue that it clearly is coherent, or that it can be maintained without
unacceptably large alterations in agents' conception of themselves and of
practical reason. A consistent outlook based on Cyrenaic assumptions
might be difficult to practise, or even to imagine; but it is none the less
worth while for the Cyrenaics to explore the consequences of their claims
about personal identity and happiness.

8. The Reply to Eudaemonism

Earlier I remarked that inEN i 7 Aristotle argues that since the good
must meet certain criteria, and happiness meets them, happiness must be the
good. We can now see where Aristippus disagrees with Aristotle's argu
ment. He has no quarrel with Aristotle's claim that the good must be com
plete; indeed the Cyrenaics claim as much for pleasure.31 Moreover, it is

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 77

also the only thing that is chosen only for itself;Aristippus insists that virtue
is to be chosen purely for the sake of pleasure (DL ii 91), and suggests no
other good that might be chosen for the sake of anything other than
pleasure. It is also difficult to see why he should deny that pleasure is self
sufficient (autarkes), incapable of being added to or improved. Hence he
has no reason to reject Aristotle's criteria, since he thinks pleasure meets
them.

He explicitly denies, however, that happiness is to be chosen for its own


sake; he claims that it is to be chosen32 only for the sake of its constituent
pleasures. If there is no continuing self that has a good in its own right, then
there is no agent who has any reason to regard happiness as a good in
itself?though it is true that ifwe achieve the collection of pleasures that
constitutes happiness we will also achieve pleasure at particular moments.
What does Aristippus mean, however, by suggesting that happiness is
to be chosen for the sake of the particular pleasures that compose it?We
might take him to be saying that though it is not the ultimate good, it is
none the less worth choosing for the sake of our real ultimate good, the
pleasure of the moment. But this attitude to happiness seems confused. If
Aristippus really advocates the pursuit of happiness as a strategy for ac
cumulating maximum pleasure, he again faces the question we raised above
about anticipation; for whom is this strategy being undertaken? If it is for
some continuing self, then are we not conceding the essential point to
eudaemonism? If not, then why should one short-lived self think
strategically about the pleasure of a later short-lived self?
Perhaps, then, we should not take the remark about pursuing hap
piness for the sake of particular pleasure as a description of an enlightened
Cyrenaic, but as the product of "empty belief." The empty belief would be
the belief inmy own persistence through time, persuading me to be con
cerned about the momentary pleasure of (what I groundlessly take to be)
future stages of myself. But if this belief is after all presupposed in the pur
suit of happiness as an instrumental good, it becomes difficult to see how
someone holding the belief will not also be concerted about his happiness as
an intrinsic good; for happiness just is the good of a temporally extended
self, and someone who is concerned about the accumulation of future
pleasures seems to be precisely someone who is concerned about the good of
such a self.
The Cyrenaics, then, seem to have no escape fromAristotle's argument
unless they reject belief in a continuing self. For ifwe consider a temporally
extended self, it seems obvious that the pleasure of themoment cannot be a
complete or self-sufficient good; a hedonist must admit that for a temporal
ly extended agent more durable pleasure would be a better good, and that

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78 T. H. IRWIN

pleasure in one's whole lifewould be the best good. For the Cyrenaics, the
most controversial part of Aristotle's argument from the good to happiness
is an assumption that Aristotle does not even mention?that we are con
cerned with the good for a temporally extended agent, and therefore with
the character of a whole life (as we normally conceive it). Even though we
have not found direct evidence to show that the Cyrenaics are sceptics about
personal identity, they seem to need some sceptical claims in order to
answer eudaemonism.
Aristippus shows that the eudaemonist assumption that a rational
agent's final good is happiness is neither trivial nor indisputable. He raises
an especially important question for Epicurus, who wants to argue for
hedonism from the Cyrenaic epistemological basis, but also accepts
eudaemonism. Epicurus does not seem to confront themost basic Cyrenaic
challenge to his position. For he does not seem to distinguish the claim that
immediate impressions show us that pleasure is the good from the claim that
they show us that happiness is the maximization of pleasure over our
lifetime (as ordinarily conceived), and that this is the good. The Cyrenaics
suggest that his epistemological basis shows both that pleasure is the good
and that happiness is not the good; they imply that eudaemonism cannot re
ly on his epistemological basis. If they are right about this, then their
epistemological basis is insufficient for the Epicurean version of hedonist
eudaemonism.

Epicurus does not seem to see this difficulty; but he ought to have seen
it, since it suggests that he must abandon the Cyrenaic epistemological
basis. And if he must abandon the Cyrenaic epistemological basis in order
to defend eudaemonism, how can he avoid being forced to recognize ir
reducibly non-hedonic goods?
Epicurus, then, seems not to have learned all he ought to have learned
from the Cyrenaics. For Cyrenaic arguments actually support Plato's claim
that the point of view thatmakes hedonism seem attractive is also a point of
view thatmakes eudaemonism seem unattractive. Whether we regard this as
an argument against eudaemonism (as the Cyrenaics suppose) or as an argu
ment against hedonism (as Plato supposes), the claim that we must choose
between hedonism and eudaemonism is not easily refuted.33

.H. Irwin
Cornell University

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 79

NOTES

1. Gregory Vlastos writes: "I may now introduce the principle, frequently
termed 'eudaemonism', which, once staked out by Socrates, become axiomatic for
all subsequentmoralists of classical antiquity. This is thathappiness is desired by all
human beings as theultimate and (telos) of all theirrational acts." ("Happiness and
Virtue inSocrates' moral theory,"Proc. Cambridge Philol. Soc. 30 (1984), 181-213,
at p. 183.)
The extent to which Epicureans and Stoics accept eudaemonism also deserves
discussion; but the questions arising here are somewhat different from those that
arise with theCyrenaics.
2. One major difficultyabout theCyrenaic school arises here. It is difficult to
say how many of the characteristicCyrenaic doctrines should be ascribed toAristip
pus the Socratic, how many to his daughterArete, and how many to his grandson,
also called Aristippus, who was "taught by his mother" (m?trodidaktos). Some
believe that the philosophical theories associated with Cyrenaicism (as opposed to a
less theoretical commitment to hedonism as a way of life,associated with Aristippus
the Socratic) originate with the laterAristippus. This belief rests primarily on the
frail support of Eusebius, PE xiv 763d-764a. See E. Mannebach, Aristippi et
Cyrenaicorum Fragmenta (Leiden, Holland: Brill, 1961), pp. 114-17; G. Giannan
toni, /Cirenaici (Florence: Sansoni, 1958), pp. 74-115; W. K. C. Guthrie,History of
Greek Philosophy, vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp.
494-94; Giannantoni, Socraticorum Reliquiae (4 vols., Naples: Ateneo, 1983), vol.
3, pp. 164-69.1 have not taken a position on thisquestion about thedevelopment of
Cyrenaicism. Still, ifmy argument is plausible, itmay indirectlysupport the view
thatCyrenaic philosophical doctrinesmay go back to theAristippus theSocratic; for
the fact that some Cyrenaic positions can be understood as reasonable reactions to
views put forward in thePlatonic dialogues reduces the improbabilityof ascribing
these positions toAristippus the Socratic.
3. The sources that I quote from on the Cyrenaics will be found reprinted in
Giannantoni, Socraticorum Reliquiae, vol. 1.
4. A similar view is described inAelian, VH xiv 6.
5. Aristippus the Socratic also appears inXenophon's Memorabilia; themost
importantpassage is the long conversation in ii 1,which includesProdicus' storyof
theChoice ofHeracles (ii 1.21-34). Xenophon's account assumes thatAristippus ac
cepts eudaemonism (see 1.11, 26). But it is interestingthat a largepart of Socrates'
advice and a major theme of the Choice of Heracles deal with the importance of
postponing immediate gratification for the sake of greater pleasure in the future.
Socrates concludes bywarning Aristippus to attend towhat concerns the futuretime
in his life (34). Xenophon may realize thatAristippus tends to neglect the long-term
prudential attitude that is characteristic of the hedonism in theProtagoras. Such
'neglect' has a special point ifAristippus accepts Cyrenaic objections to hedonistic
prudence. If that is so, thenXenophon might be taken to provide some indirect,but
early, evidence of anti-eudaemonism.
6. The threeAristotelian ethical works do not seem to treat the relation between
agathon and eudaimonia in exactly the same way. Here I confinemyself to theEN.
7. Or perhaps "different from" (diaphereiri).

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80 T. H. IRWIN

8. I read m? poiounta, following one ms., in agreement with Mannebach,


Aristippi Fragmenta, p. 42. The Oxford Text (ed. H. S. Long) (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1964) and Giannantoni, Socraticorum Reliquiae, vol. 1, p. 257,
favour the emendation poious?n, deleting them?. Others editors suggestpoiounta.
The reference to producing pleasures in the previous sentencemight appear to sup
port the deletion of m?; but I think the negation can be justified ifwe consider the
difference between accumulating pleasure and accumulating happiness. See n. 28
below.
9. On Aristippus as a Socratic see Ar. Rhet. 1398b30-33: "When Aristippus
heard Plato saying something in a rather authoritative tone (epangeltik?teron) (as
Aristippus thought), he said to Plato, 'Well, but our friend<said> nothing of that
sort," meaning Socrates.' It isnot clear if 'nothingof that sort*means (a) no view of
that sort, so thatAristippus attacks Plato's view, or (b) nothing in that dogmatic
tone, so thatAristippus attacks Plato's non-Socratic confidence. In the context (a)
makes Aristotle's point better. On Aristippus as a companion of Socrates see also
DL ii 60, iii 36.
10. There is a persistentdispute about thedegree towhich Plato means to convey
his endorsement of hedonism in theProtagoras. I generally agree with theviews of J.
C. B. Gosling and C. C. W. Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure, pp. 58-68 (though I do
not agree with theiraccount of the relation between theProtagoras and theGorgias,
pp. 75-82). For present purposes, however, it does not matter whether Socrates ac

tually endorses the hedonism in theProtagoras or not; all thatmatters for under
standing Aristippus is the apparent fact that Socrates takes hedonism seriously
enough to formulate it quite carefully and to explore some of its consequences.
The connection between Aristippus and theProtagoras is stressedbyG. Grote,
Plato and theotherCompanions of Socrates (London: Murray, 2nd ed., 1888), vol.
1, ch. 3 (= ch. 38 of 1st ed.), pp. 199-201. Grote remarks thatAristippus does not
appear to emphasize the importance of practical wisdom in planning formaximum
pleasure in one's life as a whole. This silence inAristippus is intelligible if he has
doubts about eudaemonism.
11. The argument with Callicles is discussed furtherby N. P. White, 'Rational
prudence in Plato's Gorgias*, in Platonic Investigations, ed. D. J. O'Meara
(Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), ch. 6.
12. Gosling, Plato's Philebus (Oxford, 1975), p. 183, takes Plato to be making a
hedonist point: "The admission that intelligence is needed ... is extracted on
straighthedonistic grounds, or can be interpreted so. Protarchus is not asked to con
template with horror a life inwhich he cannot do mathematics, but one where he
cannot rememberor recognize or predict his enjoyments. The first two could be seen
as adding to one's pleasures, the last as giving us assured means of obtaining them."
He renders logizesthai ta deonta, libi, as "calculation of your need." This is un
justifiablynarrow; 'calculating what is fitting' (R. Hackforth, Plato's Examination
of Pleasure [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1945] ad loc.) or "reasoning
about what is right" are preferable.
13. This remark occurs in a series of Epicurean replies to Cyrenaic objections
(55-57).
14. Or perhaps "grasped" (katal?pton).
15. Or "evidence" (enargeia).

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ARISTIPPUS AGAINST HAPPINESS 81

16. See Part 7 below. The affections are irrefutableabout things that can be
grasped by "internal contact" (tactu intimo,Cic. Acad. ii 76). This Cyrenaic doc
trine is discussed by A. Laks, "Pathologie cyr?naique: quelques rep?res" (read to
Symposium Hellenisticum, 1989).
17. The connection between theHeracleitean theory and Cyrenaic scepticism is
noticed inAnon., in Tht. 65.18-39 (ed. H. Diels and W. Schubart [Berlin:Weid
mann, 1905]). I am not suggestingthat theCyrenaic position is actually alluded to in
the Theaetetus (on this question see Giannantoni, / Cirenaici p. 144f;Mannebach,
Aristippi Fragmenta, p. 114).
18. This is perhaps what Sextus means, PH i 215, in saying thatCyrenaics differ
fromSceptics in claiming that external objects have a phusis akatal?ptos. This isnot
the dogmatic claim that such objects exist (which would conflictwith AM vii 194,
tacha men estin on, with no commitment to its existence), but the dogmatic claim
that their nature is cognitively inaccessible in principle. The Sceptic, by contrast,
claims only thatwe have found no reliable cognitive access to external objects.
19. See A. A. Long & D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers (2 vols., Cam
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987-88) no. 28A, B.
20. See J.Barnes The Presocratics (London: Routledge, 1979) vol. 1,p. 106f.The
referenceto the debtor comes from the reports inPlu. De Sera Num. 559a, Anon, in
Tht. 71.12-40. See DK 23 A 2.
21. Or 'young* (neon).
22. Evidence of ancient Platonists who attribute the growing argument toPlato in
the Symp. is found in Seneca, Ep. 58.22-24; Plutarch, De E 392c-e; Anon, inTht.
70.5-26 (= Long and Sedley no. 28 B). The thirdpassage refers explicitly to the
Symp.; the other two are clearly influencedby it.While Anon, inTht. suggests that
he Academics use the argument only for destructive purposes against the Stoics,
Seneca and Plutarch put it forwardas positive doctrine, and inparticular as a reason
for not fearingdeath ("Vis tu non timerene semelfiat quod cotidiefit" Seneca,
58.23).
23. 'Leaving behind' indicates the causal connection. "Of the same sort as it (sc.
the person at the previous stage) was" indicates the qualitative connection.
24. Perhaps "fall in love" (erari).
25. Epicurus: see DL 136 = Long & Sedley, p. 118.
26. The importanceof eudaemonism inEpicurean hedonism is stressedby P. Mit
sis, Epicurus' Ethical Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), pp.
15-17, 55-56 (on theCyrenaics), and by J.Annas, "Epicurus on pleausre and hap
piness," Philosophical Topics 15 (1987), 5-21.
27. The Cyrenaics seem to recognize this sort of effect; see Plutarch, Non posse
suaviter vivere, 1089a.
28. This point about happiness supports the readingme poiounta inDL ii90; see
n8 above.
29. The last two sentences are Cicero's expression of agreement with the
Cyrenaics, rather than an explicit report of theirview.
30. See Part 4 above.
31. See Clem. Strom, ii 21, 178.43 (= H. Usener, Epicurea [Leipzig: Teubner,
1887], no. 450), teleionde agathon rnonen ten h?don?n.

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82 T. H. IRWIN

32. It is especially difficult in this case to know whether hairet?n (DL ii 88) should
be translated "choiceworthy" or "chosen."
33. I am grateful to Phillip Mitsis, Jennifer
Whiting, and Gail Fine, for helpful
comments. I believe some suggestions by Phillip Mitsis startedme thinkingon lines
that led to thispaper. Though I am grateful to him for the suggestions,he was sensi
ble enough not to endorse them, and so he isnot to be blamed for the results. I have
benefited from reading the careful discussion byAndr? Laks (see nl6 above), though
I have not tried to examine ithere.

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