According to the Cyrenaics, a man knows that things external to himself exist because they have an effect upon him, but he can know nothing about their nature. All that he can perceive is the way in which he himself is affected by them; how other men are affected is unknown. The fact that two men give the same name to their experiences is no guarantee of identity. Thus, the only admissible objective of action is to ensure that one’s own affections are pleasant. The three possible conditions of the human constitution are violent change, gentle change, and stability. The first is accompanied by pain
, the second by pleasure, the last by neither. Man must avoid the first and seek the second; it is a mistake to suppose that the third is pleasant or desirable. Moreover, the pleasure to be sought is that of the moment; only present experience can give present pleasure. Happiness, the sum of pleasures, is to be valued because it includes momentary pleasures, which are like in kind, their relative value depending only on their intensity. Bodily pleasures (and pains) are more intense than those of the mind. Nevertheless, the latter were recognized and even held to include some that have an altruistic aspect; e.g.,
joy in the prosperity of one’s country. To be stronger than pleasure is a true Socratic ideal and distinguishes the Cyrenaic from the wastrel.