1. Although Epicurus is a hedonist, he is clearly opposed to vulgar hedonism. Can you find additional arguments for or against the theory of vulgar hedonism? Is it not terribly “ judgmental” for us to claim that some pleasures are “higher” or “ lower” than others? Shouldn’t we just tolerate and accept differences of opinion in this area? Or does it make more sense to argue that there is a natural hierarchy of pleasures and pains?
2. Epicurus believes that fear of divine retribution is the greatest source of fear and anxiety. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
3. Epicurus argues that the best and happiest way of life is one in which one seeks to satisfy on the most basic, natural and necessary desires. Do you agree that embracing such a life of simplicity (no honor, fame, luxury or wealth) is really more conducive to happiness and tranquility than trying to “keep up with the Joneses”? If you said “yes,” then are you already taking measures to live in the Epicurean manner?
Chapter 5: St. Thomas Aquinas
4. How would St. Thomas defend himself (if, indeed, such a defense is possible) against the charge of being “homophobic” (a word that did not exist in his time, but which is fairly common today)? Would you find his defense plausible? Why or why not?
5. If one is not at all religious, is it still possible to take St. Thomas’ natural law principle seriously? Could it still be relied upon as a guide to living well? Explain.
Chapter 6: Thomas Hobbes
6. Do you think that being self-interested is a bad thing? If so, why? If not, why not?
7. Compare Christ’s Golden Rule with Hobbes’ Golden Rule. Which do you think is more effective in getting people to obey the laws, and why?
8. Do you agree with Hobbes that our natural condition is one of lawlessness and violence? How do you think you would behave if you knew you could get away with whatever you wanted to? Do we only obey the laws out of fear of punishment?