Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 September 2009
The Epicureans set the absence of mental disturbance, ataraxia, as the goal of human life and claimed that it is identical with the greatest mental pleasure. They can be expected, therefore, to offer an account of the psychology of mental disturbance and the proper methods for managing and eradicating it. Their basic conception of value, that pleasure is the only good and pain the only bad, is supplemented by the assurance that we should feel no anxiety about our chances of living a good life since pleasure is easy to obtain and pain is easy to avoid. In addition, they identified two major sources of common mental disturbance: fear of the gods and the fear of death, and they dedicated considerable effort and philosophical ingenuity to the removal of these. Before we come to consider their arguments in detail, it is important to look at the general Epicurean account of the sources and nature of mental disturbance since this provides the general framework for their understanding of how mental disturbance should be tackled.