All of us have heard our elders or other supposedly wise people tell us that “Virtue is its own reward.” This applies to whether we should expect a reward for returning a lost wallet, or whether we should be expect to go to heaven for eternity as the reward for living a “good life.” In fact, most of us have also been told that if we even think about whether we will be rewarded for our actions, that very thought tarnishes the action and makes it bad in itself.
Just like Epicurus rejected the idea of punishment or reward after death, Epicurus also rejected the view that there is such a thing as “virtue” or “doing good” which is an end in itself. That’s because Epicurus was a rigorously logical thinker, and when someone suggested that something was “good,” Epicurus asked “Why?” If we are not going to be rewarded with heaven after death for “doing good,” why should we do good? How do we even know what “doing good” means? Epicurus was not the kind of philosopher who would say “Because I say so,” or “Because the gods say so,” or “Because everyone says so.” Epicurus always wanted to know “why.”
The answer that Epicurus reached is that if we want to live according to Nature, rather than according to our own idea of right and wrong, we should look to the guidance of Nature in all things, and Epicurus observed that the only faculty that Nature gives us to know what to choose and what to avoid is pleasure and pain.
Recognize that prudence (practical wisdom) brings great pleasure, including that of appreciating the dangers from which wisdom protects you.
Recognize that Nature has established that neither our bodies nor our minds require great wealth or power over others
Recognize that Wealth, power, and the like are no guarantee of happiness - only reason has power over the fear of death and other irrational fears
Recognize that only through the reasoned study of Nature can we cure our fears and anxieties