pain of itself

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.


The text is an English translation of book 1, sections 32–33 of De finibus bonorum et malorum by Roman orator, politician and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: a treatise dating 45 B.C. on the theory of Ethics. Among others, it raises the question of what is the highest good, pondering whether it should be classified as virtue or pleasure. The first book of De finibus bonorum et malorum is a dissertation on hedonism, from which Lorem ipsum is derived.

Lorem ipsum is a filler text used by graphic designers, programmers and typographers for layout sketches and graphic mock-ups. Its main feature is to offer a uniform distribution of letters and to appear as a normal readable text block which could simulate the final text data with sufficient likelihood.

It is a nonsensical text, composed of words and parts of words in Latin language, pseudo-casively taken from the original script and reassembled. As the letters K, W, or Z are alien to Latin, these and others are inserted randomly into the text to mimic the typographic aspect of a large number of European languages.

Lorem ipsum was used for the first time in the 16th century by an anonymous typographer. Since then, it has been one of the most fundamental standards in the printing industry. It has come through the various evolutions in publishing techniques – including the transition from physical to computer-aided layout – with no substantial changes.

The present translation of De finibus bonorum et malorum is that of the Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, vol. XVII, second (revised) edition, 1931, by H. Harris Rackham. It is in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U.S. Copyright Code, because the copyright expired and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been in 1958 or 1959.

Paola Paleari, June 2018


The text was written for the catalogue connected to the show LANDSCAPE MODERN OIL PAINTING CANVAS PAINTING ABSTRACT OIL PAINTING WALL HANGING curated by JIR SANDEL at Galleri Benoni, Copenhagen in June 2017.

Click here to read more about the show.