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Prudence, Sex, Love and Friendship
A Humanist View
Morality is the business of moral philosophy not of religion, but some theologians try to claim a monopoly in deciding matters of right and wrong. Humanists through the ages have used judgements about pleasure, pain and prudence as their guide — theology is irrelevant.
Epicurus perhaps explained it best. He said, “It is not drinking bouts and continuous partying and sexual indulgence, or consuming fish and the other dainties of an extravagant table, which produce the pleasant life, but sober calculation which searches out the reasons for everything to be chosen or avoided and banishes those beliefs which are the cause of the greatest agony of the mind. We must laugh and philosophise and manage our households and look after our other affairs all at the same time, and never stop proclaiming the words of the true philosophy”.
He also said, “Of all the things that wisdom advises to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the greatest is the acquisition of friends”.
Love and Sex
According to Epicurus there is a threefold criterion for the classification of desires. Those which are natural and necessary, those which are natural but unnecessary, and those which are neither natural nor necessary. Sexual indulgence belongs in the second category.
Epicurus said “sexual intercourse never did a man any good, and it is fortunate if it did him no harm”. This does not mean that sex is to be absolutely avoided. Even if it is not strictly necessary in terms of being a requisite for absence of bodily pain and anxiety of mind, sexual desire is still a natural impulse and Epicurus recognises this. He is quoted from his lost book Symposium as having discussed whether before dinner, or after dinner, is the preferred time for sexual pleasure.
To summarise, there must be a proper balancing of positive and negative effects. Love may be more important than sex, but friendship is the most important of all.