A Sweet Evil: Schadenfreude in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Epikhairekakía: is pleasure at someone else’s troubles”

ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς

Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philosophorum 7. 114

“Pleasure is irrational excitement at gaining what seems to be needed. As a subset of pleasure, are elation, pleasure at someone else’s pain (epikhairekakía) and delight, which is similar to turning (trepsis), a mind’s inclination to weakness. The embrace of pleasure is the surrender of virtue.”

῾Ηδονὴ δέ ἐστιν ἄλογος ἔπαρσις ἐφ’ αἱρετῷ δοκοῦντι ὑπάρχειν, ὑφ’ ἣν τάττεται κήλησις, ἐπιχαιρεκακία, τέρψις, διάχυσις. κήλησις μὲν οὖν ἐστιν ἡδονὴ δι’ ὤτων κατακηλοῦσα· ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς· τέρψις δέ, οἷον τρέψις, προτροπή τις ψυχῆς ἐπὶ τὸ ἀνειμένον· διάχυσις δ’ ἀνάλυσις ἀρετῆς.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1107a 8-11

“There are some vices whose names are cloaked with evil, for instance, pleasure at evils [epikhairekakía], shamelessness, and envy; and there are deeds too: adultery, theft, and manslaughter. All these things and those of this sort are called evil on their own, it is not an indulgence in them or an improper use that is wrong.”

ἔνια γὰρ εὐθὺς ὠνόμασται συνειλημμένα μετὰ τῆς φαυλότητος, οἷον ἐπιχαιρεκακία
ἀναισχυντία φθόνος, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν πράξεων μοιχεία κλοπὴ ἀνδροφονία· πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγεται τῷ αὐτὰ φαῦλα εἶναι, ἀλλ’ οὐχ αἱ ὑπερβολαὶ αὐτῶν οὐδ’ αἱ ἐλλείψεις.

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Chance, Wealth and the Wise Man: More Maxims

More of Epicurus’ Maxims from Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

“Chance only briefly impedes the wise man—reason has selected for him what is most important, it guides him throughout his life and will guide him.”

XVI. Βραχέα σοφῷ τύχη παρεμπίπτει, τὰ δὲ μέγιστα καὶ κυριώτατα ὁ λογισμὸς διῴκηκε καὶ κατὰ τὸν συνεχῆ χρόνον τοῦ βίου διοικεῖ καὶ διοικήσει.

“The just man is the least agitated; the unjust full of the most trouble.”

XVII. ῾Ο δίκαιος ἀταρακτότατος, ὁ δ’ ἄδικος πλείστης ταραχῆς γέμων.

“Pleasure for the flesh will not increase once pain from want has been removed, but it can only be varied. The contemplation of these things [which bring pleasure] and their concomitants, however, produces the limit of pleasure for the mind, insofar as it is those very things that also bring the mind the greatest fears.”

XVIII. Οὐκ ἐπαύξεται ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ ἡ ἡδονὴ ἐπειδὰν ἅπαξ τὸ κατ’ ἔνδειαν ἀλγοῦν ἐξαιρεθῇ, ἀλλὰ μόνον ποικίλλεται. τῆς δὲ διανοίας τὸ πέρας τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀπεγέννησεν ἥ τε τούτων αὐτῶν ἐκλόγισις καὶ τῶν ὁμογενῶν τούτοις ὅσα τοὺς μεγίστους φόβους παρεσκεύαζε τῇ διανοίᾳ.

“It is not possible that the man who has transgressed one of the laws we have in common—not harming or being harmed—to believe that he will get away with it, even if he already has ten thousand times to the present day. It will be unclear whether or not he will escape right up until he dies.”

XXXV. Οὐκ ἔστι τὸν λάθρᾳ τι ποιοῦντα ὧν συνέθεντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους εἰς τὸ μὴ βλάπτειν μηδὲ βλάπτεσθαι πιστεύειν ὅτι λήσει, κἂν μυριάκις ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος λανθάνῃ. μέχρι μὲν καταστροφῆς ἄδηλον εἰ καὶ λήσει.

Image result for Ancient Greek Epicurus fear

Diogenes Laertius 10.2

“Apollodorus the Epicurian writes in his first book of On the Life of Epicurus that the philosopher turned to the study of philosophy when he noted that his teachers could not explain to him the meaning of Chaos in Hesiod.”

᾿Απολλόδωρος δ’ ὁ ᾿Επικούρειος ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ περὶ τοῦ ᾿Επικούρου βίου φησὶν ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν καταγνόντα τῶν γραμματιστῶν ἐπειδὴ μὴ ἐδυνήθησαν ἑρμηνεῦσαι αὐτῷ τὰ περὶ τοῦ παρ’ ῾Ησιόδῳ χάους.

10.6

“I cannot conceive what the good is if I separate it from the pleasures of taste, from the pleasures of sex, from the pleasures of sound, or those of beautiful bodies.”

Οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε ἔχω τί νοήσω τἀγαθόν, ἀφαιρῶν μὲν τὰς διὰ χυλῶν ἡδονάς, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι᾽ ἀφροδισίων καὶ τὰς δι᾽ ἀκροαμάτων καὶ τὰς διὰ μορφῆς.

Eat and Take the Pleasure that Is Near

In the first passage, Eumaios the Swineherd speaks to Odysseus…

Homer, Odyssey 14.443-445

“Eat, blessed stranger, and take pleasure in these things
Which are near. God will give one thing and pass by another
Whatever he wishes in in his heart. He is capable of everything.”

“ἔσθιε, δαιμόνιε ξείνων, καὶ τέρπεο τοῖσδε,
οἷα πάρεστι· θεὸς δὲ τὸ μὲν δώσει, τὸ δ’ ἐάσει,
ὅττι κεν ᾧ θυμῷ ἐθέλῃ· δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα.”

Theognis 1069-70ab

“Humans are foolish and dumb because we mourn
The dead but not the wilting flower of youth.
Take some pleasure, my dear heart. For all too soon
there will be other people here. And, dead, I will be dark earth.”

῎Αφρονες ἄνθρωποι καὶ νήπιοι, οἵτε θανόντας
κλαίουσ’, οὐ δ’ ἥβης ἄνθος ἀπολλύμενον.
τέρπεό μοι, φίλε θυμέ· τάχ’ αὖ τινες ἄλλοι ἔσονται
ἄνδρες, ἐγὼ δὲ θανὼν γαῖα μέλαιν’ ἔσομαι.

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Suspicious Speech and the Pleasure Principle

Quintilian Inst Orat. 5.14

“In addition, the harsher something is by nature, the more it must be peppered with pleasures. A speech’s content is less suspicious thanks to disguise; and the audience’s pleasure aids much the speech’s credibility. Unless, of course, we believe that Cicero put it badly in his suggestion that ‘laws keep quiet among arms’ or ‘sometimes a sword is handed to us by the laws themselves.’ In these cases, the devices must be consideration as an ornament, not an impediment.”

quoque quid est natura magis asperum, hoc pluribus condiendum est voluptatibus, et minus suspecta argumentatio dissimulatione, et multum ad fidem adiuvat audientis voluptas: nisi forte existimamus Ciceronem haec ipsa male in argumentatione dixisse, ‘silere leges inter arma’, et ‘gladium nobis interim ab ipsis porrigi legibus’. In his tamen habendus is est modus ut sint ornamento, non impedimento.

Image result for medieval manuscript pleasure
Roman de la Rose. Bruges c. 1490-150

Suspicious Speech and the Pleasure Principle

Quintilian Inst Orat. 5.14

“In addition, the harsher something is by nature, the more it must be peppered with pleasures. A speech’s content is less suspicious thanks to disguise; and the audience’s pleasure aids much the speech’s credibility. Unless, of course, we believe that Cicero put it badly in his suggestion that “laws keep quiet among arms’ or “sometimes a sword is handed to us by the laws themselves.” In these cases, the devices must be consideration as an ornament, not an impediment.”

quoque quid est natura magis asperum, hoc pluribus condiendum est voluptatibus, et minus suspecta argumentatio dissimulatione, et multum ad fidem adiuvat audientis voluptas: nisi forte existimamus Ciceronem haec ipsa male in argumentatione dixisse, ‘silere leges inter arma’, et ‘gladium nobis interim ab ipsis porrigi legibus’. In his tamen habendus is est modus ut sint ornamento, non impedimento.

Image result for medieval manuscript pleasure
Roman de la Rose. Bruges c. 1490-150

Eat and Take the Pleasure that Is Near

In the first passage, Eumaios the Swineherd speaks to Odysseus

Homer, Odyssey 14.443-445

“Eat, blessed stranger, and take pleasure in these things
Which are near. God will give one thing and pass by another
Whatever he wishes in in his heart. He is capable of everything.”

“ἔσθιε, δαιμόνιε ξείνων, καὶ τέρπεο τοῖσδε,
οἷα πάρεστι· θεὸς δὲ τὸ μὲν δώσει, τὸ δ’ ἐάσει,
ὅττι κεν ᾧ θυμῷ ἐθέλῃ· δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα.”

Theognis 1069-70ab

“Humans are foolish and dumb because we mourn
The dead but not the wilting flower of youth.
Take some pleasure, my dear heart. For all too soon
there will be other people here. And, dead, I will be dark earth.”

῎Αφρονες ἄνθρωποι καὶ νήπιοι, οἵτε θανόντας
κλαίουσ’, οὐ δ’ ἥβης ἄνθος ἀπολλύμενον.
τέρπεό μοι, φίλε θυμέ· τάχ’ αὖ τινες ἄλλοι ἔσονται
ἄνδρες, ἐγὼ δὲ θανὼν γαῖα μέλαιν’ ἔσομαι.

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Image taken from this site.

Chance, Wealth and the Wise Man: More Maxims

More of Epicurus’ Maxims from Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

“Chance only briefly impedes the wise man—reason has selected for him what is most important, it guides him throughout his life and will guide him.”

XVI. Βραχέα σοφῷ τύχη παρεμπίπτει, τὰ δὲ μέγιστα καὶ κυριώτατα ὁ λογισμὸς διῴκηκε καὶ κατὰ τὸν συνεχῆ χρόνον τοῦ βίου διοικεῖ καὶ διοικήσει.

“The just man is the least agitated; the unjust full of the most trouble.”

XVII. ῾Ο δίκαιος ἀταρακτότατος, ὁ δ’ ἄδικος πλείστης ταραχῆς γέμων.

“Pleasure for the flesh will not increase once pain from want has been removed, but it can only be varied. The contemplation of these things [which bring pleasure] and their concomitants, however, produces the limit of pleasure for the mind, insofar as it is those very things that also bring the mind the greatest fears.”

XVIII. Οὐκ ἐπαύξεται ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ ἡ ἡδονὴ ἐπειδὰν ἅπαξ τὸ κατ’ ἔνδειαν ἀλγοῦν ἐξαιρεθῇ, ἀλλὰ μόνον ποικίλλεται. τῆς δὲ διανοίας τὸ πέρας τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀπεγέννησεν ἥ τε τούτων αὐτῶν ἐκλόγισις καὶ τῶν ὁμογενῶν τούτοις ὅσα τοὺς μεγίστους φόβους παρεσκεύαζε τῇ διανοίᾳ.

“It is not possible that the man who has transgressed one of the laws we have in common—not harming or being harmed—to believe that he will get away with it, even if he already has ten thousand times to the present day. It will be unclear whether or not he will escape right up until he dies.”

XXXV. Οὐκ ἔστι τὸν λάθρᾳ τι ποιοῦντα ὧν συνέθεντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους εἰς τὸ μὴ βλάπτειν μηδὲ βλάπτεσθαι πιστεύειν ὅτι λήσει, κἂν μυριάκις ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος λανθάνῃ. μέχρι μὲν καταστροφῆς ἄδηλον εἰ καὶ λήσει.

Image result for Ancient Greek Epicurus fear

Diogenes Laertius 10.2

“Apollodorus the Epicurian writes in his first book of On the Life of Epicurus that the philosopher turned to the study of philosophy when he noted that his teachers could not explain to him the meaning of Chaos in Hesiod.”

᾿Απολλόδωρος δ’ ὁ ᾿Επικούρειος ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ περὶ τοῦ ᾿Επικούρου βίου φησὶν ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν καταγνόντα τῶν γραμματιστῶν ἐπειδὴ μὴ ἐδυνήθησαν ἑρμηνεῦσαι αὐτῷ τὰ περὶ τοῦ παρ’ ῾Ησιόδῳ χάους.

10.6

“I cannot conceive what the good is if I separate it from the pleasures of taste, from the pleasures of sex, from the pleasures of sound, or those of beautiful bodies.”

Οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε ἔχω τί νοήσω τἀγαθόν, ἀφαιρῶν μὲν τὰς διὰ χυλῶν ἡδονάς, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι᾽ ἀφροδισίων καὶ τὰς δι᾽ ἀκροαμάτων καὶ τὰς διὰ μορφῆς.