Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that what he called "pleasure" (ἡδονή) was the greatest good, but that the way to attain such pleasure was to live modestly, to gain knowledge of the workings of the world, and to limit one's desires. This would lead one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear as well as an absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from "hedonism" as colloquially understood.
Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism, though later it became the main opponent of Stoicism. Epicurus and his followers shunned politics. Epicureans shunned politics because it could lead to frustrations and ambitions which can directly conflict with the epicurean pursuit for peace of mind and virtues. After the death of Epicurus, his school was headed by Hermarchus; later many Epicurean societies flourished in the Late Hellenistic era and during the Roman era (such as those in Antiochia, Alexandria, Rhodes, and Ercolano). Its best-known Roman proponent was the poet Lucretius. By the end of the Roman Empire, being opposed by philosophies (mainly Neo-Platonism) that were now in the ascendant, Epicureanism had all but died out, but would be resurrected in the Age of Enlightenment.
Some writings by Epicurus have survived. Some scholars consider the epic poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius to present in one unified work the core arguments and theories of Epicureanism. Many of the scrolls unearthed at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum are Epicurean texts. At least some are thought to have belonged to the Epicurean Philodemus.
In Mytilene, the capital of the island Lesbos, and then in Lampsacus, Epicurus taught and gained followers. In Athens, Epicurus bought a property for his school called "Garden", later the name of Epicurus' school. Its members included Hermarchus, Idomeneus, Colotes, Polyaenus, and Metrodorus. Epicurus emphasized friendship as an important ingredient of happiness, and the school seems to have been a moderately ascetic community which rejected the political limelight of Athenian philosophy. They were fairly cosmopolitan by Athenian standards, including women and slaves. Some members were also vegetarians as, from slender evidence, Epicurus did not eat meat, although no prohibition against eating meat was made.
The school's popularity grew and it became, along with Stoicism, Platonism, Peripateticism, and Pyrrhonism, one of the dominant schools of Hellenistic philosophy, lasting strongly through the later Roman Empire. Another major source of information is the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero, although he was highly critical, denouncing the Epicureans as unbridled hedonists, devoid of a sense of virtue and duty, and guilty of withdrawing from public life. Another ancient source is Diogenes of Oenoanda, who composed a large inscription at Oenoanda in Lycia.
Deciphered carbonized scrolls obtained from the library at the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum contain a large number of works by Philodemus, a late Hellenistic Epicurean, and Epicurus himself, attesting to the school's enduring popularity. Diogenes reports slanderous stories, circulated by Epicurus' opponents. With growing dominance of Neoplatonism and Peripateticism, and later, Christianity, Epicureanism declined. By the late third century CE, there was little trace of its existence. The early Christian writer Lactantius criticizes Epicurus at several points throughout his Divine Institutes. In Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, the Epicureans are depicted as heretics suffering in the sixth circle of hell. In fact, Epicurus appears to represent the ultimate heresy. The word for a heretic in the Talmudic literature is "Apiqoros" (אפיקורוס).
In the 17th century, the French Franciscan priest, scientist and philosopher Pierre Gassendi wrote two books forcefully reviving Epicureanism. Shortly thereafter, and clearly influenced by Gassendi, Walter Charleton published several works on Epicureanism in English. Attacks by Christians continued, most forcefully by the Cambridge Platonists.
Epicureanism argued that pleasure was the chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one's lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. Emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Unnecessary and, especially, artificially produced desires were to be suppressed. Since the political life could give rise to desires that could disturb virtue and one's peace of mind, such as a lust for power or a desire for fame, participation in politics was discouraged. Further, Epicurus sought to eliminate the fear of the gods and of death, seeing those two fears as chief causes of strife in life. Epicurus actively recommended against passionate love, and believed it best to avoid marriage altogether. He viewed recreational sex as a natural, but not necessary desire that should be generally avoided.
The Epicurean understanding of justice was inherently self-interested. Justice was deemed good because it was seen as mutually beneficial. Individuals would not act unjustly even if the act was initially unnoticed because of possibly being caught and punished. Both punishment and fear of punishment would cause a person disturbance and prevent them from being happy.
Epicurus laid great emphasis on developing friendships as the basis of a satisfying life.
of all the things which wisdom has contrived which contribute to a blessed life, none is more important, more fruitful, than friendship— quoted by Cicero
While the pursuit of pleasure formed the focal point of the philosophy, this was largely directed to the "static pleasures" of minimizing pain, anxiety and suffering. In fact, Epicurus referred to life as a "bitter gift".
When we say . . . that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice or wilful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.— Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus"
Epicureanism rejects immortality. It believes in the soul, but suggests that the soul is mortal and material, just like the body. Epicurus rejected any possibility of an afterlife, while still contending that one need not fear death: "Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us." From this doctrine arose the Epicurean Epitaph: Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo ("I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care"), which is inscribed on the gravestones of his followers and seen on many ancient gravestones of the Roman Empire. This quotation is often used today at humanist funerals.
Epicureanism bases its ethics on a hedonistic set of values. In the most basic sense, Epicureans see pleasure as the purpose of life. As evidence for this, Epicureans say that nature seems to command us to avoid pain, and they point out that all animals try to avoid pain as much as possible. Epicureans had a very specific understanding of what the greatest pleasure was, and the focus of their ethics was on the avoidance of pain rather than seeking out pleasure.
Epicureanism divided pleasure into two broad categories: pleasures of the body and pleasures of the mind.
From this understanding, Epicureans concluded that the greatest pleasure a person could reach was the complete removal of all pain, both physical and mental. The ultimate goal then of Epicurean ethics was to reach a state of aponia and ataraxia. In order to do this an Epicurean had to control their desires, because desire itself was seen as painful. Not only will controlling one's desires bring about aponia, as one will rarely suffer from not being physically satisfied, but controlling one's desires will also help to bring about ataraxia because one will not be anxious about becoming discomforted since one would have so few desires anyway.
Epicurus distinguishes three kinds of desires: the natural and necessary, the natural but not necessary, and those that are neither natural or necessary.
If one follows only natural and necessary desires, then, according to Epicurus, one would be able to reach aponia and ataraxia and thereby the highest form of happiness.
Epicurus was also an early thinker to develop the notion of justice as a social contract. He defined justice as an agreement made by people not to harm each other. The point of living in a society with laws and punishments is to be protected from harm so that one is free to pursue happiness. Because of this, laws that do not contribute to promoting human happiness are not just. He gave his own unique version of the ethic of reciprocity, which differs from other formulations by emphasizing minimizing harm and maximizing happiness for oneself and others:
"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life."
- ("justly" meaning to prevent a "person from harming or being harmed by another")
Epicureanism incorporated a relatively full account of the social contract theory, and in part attempts to address issues with the society described in Plato's Republic. The social contract theory established by Epicureanism is based on mutual agreement, not divine decree.
Epicurean ideas on politics disagree with other philosophical traditions, namely the Stoic, Platonist and Aristotelian traditions. To Epicureans all our social relations are a matter of how we perceive each other, of customs and traditions. No one is inherently of higher value or meant to dominate another. That is because there is no metaphysical basis for the superiority of one kind of person, all people are made of the same atomic material and are thus naturally equal. Epicureans also discourage political participation and other involvement in politics. However Epicureans are not apolitical, it is possible that some political association could be seen as beneficial by some Epicureans. Some political associations could lead to certain benefits to the individual that would help to maximize pleasure and avoid physical or mental distress.
The avoidance or freedom from hardship and fear is ideal to the Epicureans. While this avoidance or freedom could conceivably be achieved through political means it was insisted by Epicurus that involvement in politics would not release one from fear and he advised against a life of politics. Epicurus also discouraged contributing to political society by starting a family, as the benefits of a wife and children are outweighed by the trouble brought about by having a family. Instead Epicurus encouraged a formation of a community of friends outside the traditional political state. This community of virtuous friends would focus on internal affairs and justice.
However, Epicureanism is adaptable to circumstance as is the Epicurean approach to politics. The same approaches will not always work in protection from pain and fear. In some situations it will be more beneficial to have a family and in other situations it will be more beneficial to participate in politics. It is ultimately up to the Epicurean to analyze their circumstance and take whatever action befits the situation.
Epicureanism does not deny the existence of the gods; rather it denies their involvement in the world. According to Epicureanism, the gods do not interfere with human lives or the rest of the universe in any way. The manner in which the Epicurean gods exist is still disputed. Some scholars say that Epicureanism believes that the gods exist outside the mind as material objects (the realist position), while others assert that the gods only exist in our minds as ideals (the idealist position). The realist position holds that Epicureans understand the gods as existing as physical and immortal beings made of atoms that reside somewhere in reality. However, the gods are completely separate from the rest of reality; they are uninterested in it, play no role in it, and remain completely undisturbed by it. Instead, the gods live in what is called the metakosmia, or the space between worlds. Contrarily, the idealist position holds that Epicurus did not actually conceive of the gods as existing in reality. Rather, Epicurus is said to have viewed the gods as just idealized forms of the best human life, and it is thought that the gods were emblematic of the life one should aspire towards. The debate between these two positions was revived by A. A. Long and David Sedley in their 1987 book, The Hellenistic Philosophers, in which the two argued in favor of the idealist position. While a scholarly consensus has yet to be reached, the realist position remains the prevailing viewpoint at this time.
Epicureanism also offered arguments against the existence of the gods in the manner proposed by other belief systems. The Riddle of Epicurus, or Problem of evil, is a famous argument against the existence of an all-powerful and providential God or gods. As recorded by Lactantius:
God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?— Lactantius, De Ira Deorum
This type of trilemma argument (God is omnipotent, God is good, but Evil exists) was one favoured by the ancient Greek skeptics, and this argument may have been wrongly attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius, who, from his Christian perspective, regarded Epicurus as an atheist. According to Reinhold F. Glei, it is settled that the argument of theodicy is from an academical source which is not only not Epicurean, but even anti-Epicurean. The earliest extant version of this trilemma appears in the writings of the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus.
Parallels may be drawn to Jainism and Buddhism, which similarly emphasize a lack of divine interference and aspects of its atomism. Epicureanism also resembles Buddhism in its temperateness, including the belief that great excess leads to great dissatisfaction.
Epicurean physics held that the entire universe consisted of two things: matter and void. Matter is made up of atoms, which are tiny bodies that have only the unchanging qualities of shape, size, and weight. Atoms were felt to be unchanging because the Epicureans believed that the world was ordered and that changes had to have specific and consistent sources, e.g. a plant species only grows from a seed of the same species.
Epicurus holds that there must be an infinite supply of atoms, although only a finite number of types of atoms, as well as an infinite amount of void. Epicurus explains this position in his letter to Herodotus:
Moreover, the sum of things is unlimited both by reason of the multitude of the atoms and the extent of the void. For if the void were infinite and bodies finite, the bodies would not have stayed anywhere but would have been dispersed in their course through the infinite void, not having any supports or counterchecks to send them back on their upward rebound. Again, if the void were finite, the infinity of bodies would not have anywhere to be.
Because of the infinite supply of atoms, there are an infinite amount of worlds, or cosmoi. Some of these worlds could be vastly different than our own, some quite similar, and all of the worlds were separated from each other by vast areas of void (metakosmia).
Epicureanism states that atoms are unable to be broken down into any smaller parts, and Epicureans offered multiple arguments to support this position. Epicureans argue that because void is necessary for matter to move, anything which consists of both void and matter can be broken down, while if something contains no void then it has no way to break apart because no part of the substance could be broken down into a smaller subsection of the substance. They also argued that in order for the universe to persist, what it is ultimately made up of must not be able to be changed or else the universe would be essentially destroyed.
Atoms are constantly moving in one of four different ways. Atoms can simply collide with each other and then bounce off of each other. When joined with each other and forming a larger object, atoms can vibrate as they into each other while still maintaining the overall shape of the larger object. When not prevented by other atoms, all atoms move at the same speed naturally downwards in relation to the rest world. This downwards motion is natural for atoms; however, as their fourth means of motion, atoms can at times randomly swerve out of their usual downwards path. This swerving motion is what allowed for the creation of the universe, since as more and more atoms swerved and collided with each other, objects were able to take shape as the atoms joined together. Without the swerve, the atoms would never have interacted with each other, and simply continued to move downwards at the same speed.
Epicurus also felt that the swerve was what accounted for humanity's free will. If it were not for the swerve, humans would be subject to a never-ending chain of cause and effect. This was a point which Epicureans often used to criticize Democritus' atomic theory.
Epicureans believed that senses also relied on atoms. Every object was continually emitting particles from itself that would then interact with the observer. All sensations, such as sight, smell, or sound, relied on these particles. While the atoms that were emitted did not have the qualities that the senses were perceiving, the manner in which they were emitted caused the observer to experience those sensations, e.g. red particles were not themselves red but were emitted in a manner that caused the viewer to experience the color red. The atoms are not perceived individually, but rather as a continuous sensation because of how quickly they move.
Epicurean philosophy employs an empirical epistemology. The Epicureans believed that all sense perceptions were true, and that errors arise in how we judge those perceptions. When we form judgments about things (hupolepsis), they can be verified and corrected through further sensory information. For example, if someone sees a tower from far away that appears to be round, and upon approaching the tower they see that it is actually square, they would come to realize that their original judgement was wrong and correct their wrong opinion.
Epicurus is said to have proposed three criteria of truth: sensations (aisthêsis), preconceptions (prolepsis), and feelings (pathê). A fourth criterion called "presentational applications of the mind" (phantastikai epibolai tês dianoias) was said to have been added by later Epicureans. These criteria formed the method through which Epicureans thought we gained knowledge.
Since Epicureans thought that sensations could not deceive, sensations are the first and main criterion of truth for Epicureans. Even in cases where sensory input seems to mislead, the input itself is true and the error arises from our judgments about the input. For example, when one places a straight oar in the water, it appears bent. The Epicurean would argue that image of the oar, that is the atoms traveling from the oar to the observer's eyes, have been shifted and thus really do arrive at the observer's eyes in the shape of a bent oar. The observer makes the error in assuming that the image he or she receives correctly represents the oar and has not been distorted in some way. In order to not make erroneous judgments about perceivable things and instead verify one's judgment, Epicureans believed that one needed to obtain "clear vision" (enargeia) of the perceivable thing by closer examination. This acted as a justification for one's judgements about the thing being perceived. Enargeia is characterized as sensation of an object that has been unchanged by judgments or opinions and is a clear and direct perception of that object.
An individual's preconceptions are his or her concepts of what things are, e.g. what someone's idea of a horse is, and these concepts are formed in a person's mind through sensory input over time. When the word that relates to the preconception is used, these preconceptions are summoned up by the mind into the person's thoughts. It is through our preconceptions that we are able to make judgments about the things that we perceive. Preconceptions were also used by Epicureans to avoid the paradox proposed by Plato in the Meno regarding learning. Plato argues that learning requires us to already have knowledge of what we are learning, or else we would be unable to recognize when we had successfully learned the information. Preconceptions, Epicureans argue, provide individuals with that pre-knowledge required for learning.
Our feelings or emotions (pathê) are how we perceive pleasure and pain. They are analogous to sensations in that they are a means of perception, but they perceive our internal state as opposed to external things. According to Diogenes Laertius, feelings are how we determine our actions. If something is pleasurable, we pursue that thing, and if something is painful, we avoid that thing.
The idea of "presentational applications of the mind" is an explanation for how we can discuss and inquire about things we cannot directly perceive. We receive impressions of such things directly in our minds, instead of perceiving them through other senses. The concept of "presentational applications of the mind" may have been introduced to explain how we learn about things that we cannot directly perceive, such as the gods.
Tetrapharmakos, or "The four-part cure", is Philodemus of Gadara's basic guideline as to how to live the happiest possible life, based on the first four of Epicurus' Principal Doctrines. This poetic doctrine was handed down by an anonymous Epicurean who summed up Epicurus' philosophy on happiness in four simple lines:
Don't fear god,
Don't worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.
One of the earliest Roman writers espousing Epicureanism was Amafinius. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace, whose famous statement Carpe Diem ("Seize the Day") illustrates the philosophy, as well as Lucretius, who wrote the poem De rerum natura about the tenets of the philosophy. The poet Virgil was another prominent Epicurean (see Lucretius for further details). The Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara, until the 18th century only known as a poet of minor importance, rose to prominence as most of his work along with other Epicurean material was discovered in the Villa of the Papyri. In the second century CE, comedian Lucian of Samosata and wealthy promoter of philosophy Diogenes of Oenoanda were prominent Epicureans.
Julius Caesar leaned considerably toward Epicureanism, which e.g. led to his plea against the death sentence during the trial against Catiline, during the Catiline conspiracy where he spoke out against the Stoic Cato.
In modern times Thomas Jefferson referred to himself as an Epicurean:
If I had time I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side. And I wish I could subjoin a translation of Gassendi's Syntagma of the doctrines of Epicurus, which, notwithstanding the calumnies of the Stoics and caricatures of Cicero, is the most rational system remaining of the philosophy of the ancients, as frugal of vicious indulgence, and fruitful of virtue as the hyperbolical extravagances of his rival sects.
Christopher Hitchens referred to himself as an Epicurean. In France, where perfumer/restaurateur Gérald Ghislain refers to himself as an Epicurean, Michel Onfray is developing a post-modern approach to Epicureanism. In his recent book titled The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt identified himself as strongly sympathetic to Epicureanism and Lucretius. Humanistic Judaism as a denomination also claims the Epicurean label.
In modern popular usage, an Epicurean is a connoisseur of the arts of life and the refinements of sensual pleasures; Epicureanism implies a love or knowledgeable enjoyment especially of good food and drink.
Because Epicureanism posits that pleasure is the ultimate good (telos), it has been commonly misunderstood since ancient times as a doctrine that advocates the partaking in fleeting pleasures such as sexual excess and decadent food. This is not the case. Epicurus regarded ataraxia (tranquility, freedom from fear) and aponia (absence of pain) as the height of happiness. He also considered prudence an important virtue and perceived excess and overindulgence to be contrary to the attainment of ataraxia and aponia.
Instead, Epicurus referred "the good", and "even wisdom and culture", to the "pleasure of the stomach". While some twentieth-century commentary has sought to diminish this and related quotations, the consistency with Epicurean philosophy overall has more recently been explained.
When Epicurus sought moderation at meals, he was also not averse to moderation in moderation, that is, to occasional luxury. His community also became known for its feasts of the twentieth (of the Greek month).
Francis Bacon wrote an apothegm related to Epicureanism.
There was an Epicurean vaunted, that divers of other sects of philosophers did after turn Epicureans, but there was never any Epicurean that turned to any other sect. Whereupon a philosopher that was of another sect, said; The reason was plain, for that cocks may be made capons, but capons could never be made cocks. Francis Bacon, Apothegms 280
"Aponia" (Ancient Greek: ἀπονία) means the absence of pain, and was regarded by the Epicureans to be the height of bodily pleasure.
As with the other Hellenistic schools of philosophy, the Epicureans believed that the goal of human life is happiness. The Epicureans defined pleasure as the absence of pain (mental and physical), and hence pleasure can only increase until the point in which pain is absent. Beyond this, pleasure cannot increase further, and indeed one cannot rationally seek bodily pleasure beyond the state of aponia. For Epicurus, aponia was one of the static (katastematic) pleasures, that is, a pleasure one has when there is no want or pain to be removed. To achieve such a state, one has to experience kinetic pleasures, that is, a pleasure one has when want or pain is being removed.Ataraxia
Ataraxia (ἀταραξία, literally, "unperturbedness", generally translated as "imperturbability", "equanimity", or "tranquillity") is a Greek term first used in Ancient Greek philosophy by Pyrrho and subsequently Epicurus and the Stoics for a lucid state of robust equanimity characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry. In non-philosophical usage, the term was used to describe the ideal mental state for soldiers entering battle.
Achieving ataraxia is a common goal for Pyrrhonism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism, but the role and value of ataraxia within each philosophy varies in accordance with their philosophical theories. The mental disturbances that prevent one from achieving ataraxia vary among the philosophies, and each philosophy has a different understanding as to how to achieve ataraxia.Clinamen
Clinamen (; plural clinamina, derived from clīnāre, to incline) is the Latin name Lucretius gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms, in order to defend the atomistic doctrine of Epicurus. In modern English it has come more generally to mean an inclination or a bias.Cyrenaics
The Cyrenaics or Kyrenaics (Ancient Greek: Κυρηναϊκοί; Kyrēnaïkoí) were a sensual hedonist Greek school of philosophy founded in the 4th century BCE, supposedly by Aristippus of Cyrene, although many of the principles of the school are believed to have been formalized by his grandson of the same name, Aristippus the Younger. The school was so called after Cyrene, the birthplace of Aristippus. It was one of the earliest Socratic schools. The Cyrenaics taught that the only intrinsic good is pleasure, which meant not just the absence of pain (as it did for Epicurus), but positively enjoyable sensations. Of these, momentary pleasures, especially physical ones, are stronger than those of anticipation or memory. They did, however, recognize the value of social obligation and that pleasure could be gained from altruistic behaviour. The school died out within a century and was replaced by the philosophy of Epicureanism.Epicurus
Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded a highly influential school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristotle, Pyrrho, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as "the Garden", in Athens. Epicurus and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects, and he openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. An extremely prolific writer, he is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him — the Letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus — and two collections of quotes — the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings — have survived intact, along with a few fragments and quotations of his other writings. Most knowledge of his teachings comes from later authors, particularly the Roman poet Lucretius, the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the statesman Cicero, and the philosophers Philodemus and Sextus Empiricus.
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear— and aponia—the absence of pain— and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that the root of all human neurosis is death denial, and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviors, and hypocrisy. According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. Likewise, Epicurus taught that the gods, though they do exist, have no involvement in human affairs and do not punish or reward people for their actions. Nonetheless, he maintained that people should still behave ethically because amoral behavior will burden them with guilt and prevent them from attaining ataraxia.
Like Aristotle, Epicurus was an empiricist, meaning he believed that the senses are the only reliable source of knowledge about the world. He derived much of his physics and cosmology from the earlier philosopher Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 BC). Like Democritus, Epicurus taught that the universe is infinite and eternal and that all matter is made up of extremely tiny, invisible particles known as atoms. All occurrences in the natural world are ultimately the result of atoms moving and interacting in empty space. Epicurus deviated from Democritus in his teaching of atomic "swerve", which holds that atoms may deviate from their expected course, thus permitting humans to possess free will in an otherwise deterministic universe.
Though popular, Epicurean teachings were controversial from the beginning. Epicureanism reached the height of its popularity during the late years of the Roman Republic, before declining as the rival school of Stoicism grew in popularity at its expense. It finally died out in late antiquity in the wake of early Christianity. Epicurus himself was popularly, though inaccurately, remembered throughout the Middle Ages as a patron of drunkards, whoremongers, and gluttons. His teachings gradually became more widely known in the fifteenth century with the rediscovery of important texts, but his ideas did not become acceptable until the seventeenth century, when the French Catholic priest Pierre Gassendi revived a modified version of them, which was promoted by other writers, including Walter Charleton and Robert Boyle. His influence grew considerably during and after the Enlightenment, profoundly impacting the ideas of major thinkers, including John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Jeremy Bentham, and Karl Marx.Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus (Classical Latin: [ˈgaː.i.ʊs ˈkas.si.ʊs ˈlɔŋ.gɪ.nʊs]; October 3, before 85 BC – October 3, 42 BC), often referred to as Cassius, was a Roman senator and general best known as a leading instigator of the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. He was also the brother-in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus, also a leader of the conspiracy. He commanded troops with Brutus during the Battle of Philippi against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's former supporters, and committed suicide after being defeated by Mark Antony.
Cassius was elected as a Tribune of the Plebs in 49 BC. He opposed Caesar, and he commanded a fleet against him during Caesar's Civil War: after Caesar defeated Pompey in the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar overtook Cassius and forced him to surrender. After Caesar's death, Cassius fled to the East, where he amassed an army of twelve legions. He was supported and made Governor by the Senate. Though he and Brutus marched west against the allies of the Second Triumvirate, Cassius was defeated at the Battle of Phillippi and committed suicide.
He followed the teachings of the philosopher Epicurus, although scholars debate whether or not these beliefs affected his political life. Cassius is a main character in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar that depicts the assassination of Caesar and its aftermath. He is also shown in the lowest circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno as punishment for betraying and killing Caesar.Hedone
Hedone (Ancient Greek: ἡδονή) was the personification and goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight. Hedone, also known as Voluptas in Roman mythology, is the daughter born from the union of the Greek gods Eros (Cupid) and Psyche in the realm of the immortals. She was associated more specifically with sensual pleasure. Her opposites were the Algos, personifications of pain.The term Hēdonē, which is a Greek word meaning pleasure, is used as a philosophical concept in ancient Greece. For instance, it played an important role in the Epicurean school. It is also the root of the English word "hedonism".Hedonism
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that the pursuit of pleasure and intrinsic goods are the primary or most important goals of human life. A hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain). However upon finally gaining said pleasure, happiness may remain stationary.
Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person's pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.Hellenistic philosophy
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.LGBT-affirming religious groups
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) affirming religious groups (also called gay-affirming) are religious groups that welcome LGBT members and do not consider homosexuality to be a sin. They include entire religious denominations, as well as individual churches and synagogues. Some are composed mainly of non-LGBT members and also have specific programs to welcome LGBT people, while others are composed mainly of LGBT members.Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (consul 58 BC)
Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (c. 100 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman senator and the father-in-law of Julius Caesar through his daughter Calpurnia. He was reportedly a follower of a school of Epicureanism that had been modified to befit politicians, as Epicureanism itself favored withdrawal from politics. Piso was consul in the year 58 BC with Aulus Gabinius as his colleague.Metakosmia
The metakosmia (Greek: μετακόσμια; Latin: intermundia), according to Epicurean philosophy were the relatively empty spaces in the infinite void where worlds had not been formed by the joining together of the atoms through their endless motion. Epicurus held that the metakosmia were the abode of the gods, whom he considered to be immortal and blissful living beings made of atoms.Rabirius (Epicurean)
Rabirius was a 1st-century BC Epicurean associated with Amafinius and Catius as one of the early popularizers of the philosophy in Italy. Their works on Epicureanism were the earliest philosophical treatises written in Latin. Other than Lucretius, Amafinius and Rabirius are the only Roman Epicurean writers named by Cicero.In his Academica, Cicero criticizes Amafinius and Rabirius from an elitist perspective for their unsophisticated prose style, and says that in their efforts to introduce philosophy to common people they end up saying nothing. He concludes indignantly: "they think there is no art of speechmaking or composition." Although Cicero in his writings is mostly hostile toward Epicureanism, his dear friend Atticus was an Epicurean, and this remark, occurring within a dialogue, is attributed to the interlocutor Varro, not framed as Cicero's own view.Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism is the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term humanism is contemporary to that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.Renaissance humanism was a response to the utilitarian approach and what came to be depicted as the "narrow pedantry" associated with medieval scholasticism. Humanists sought to create a citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity and thus capable of engaging in the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions. This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy.
According to one scholar of the movement,
Early Italian humanism, which in many respects continued the grammatical and rhetorical traditions of the Middle Ages, not merely provided the old Trivium with a new and more ambitious name (Studia humanitatis), but also increased its actual scope, content and significance in the curriculum of the schools and universities and in its own extensive literary production. The studia humanitatis excluded logic, but they added to the traditional grammar and rhetoric not only history, Greek, and moral philosophy, but also made poetry, once a sequel of grammar and rhetoric, the most important member of the whole group. Humanism was a pervasive cultural mode and not the program of a small elite, a program to revive the cultural legacy, literary legacy, and moral philosophy of classical antiquity. There were important centres of humanism in Florence, Naples, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Mantua, Ferrara, and Urbino.Sage (philosophy)
A sage (Ancient Greek: σοφός, sophos), in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained wisdom. The term has also been used interchangeably with a 'good person' (Ancient Greek: ἀγαθός, agathos), and a 'virtuous person' (Ancient Greek: σπουδαῖος, spoudaios). Among the earliest accounts of the sage begin with Empedocles' Sphairos. Horace describes the Sphairos as "Completely within itself, well-rounded and spherical, so that nothing extraneous can adhere to it, because of its smooth and polished surface." Alternatively, the sage is one who lives "according to an ideal which transcends the everyday."Several of the schools of Hellenistic philosophy have the sage as a featured figure. Karl Ludwig Michelet wrote that "Greek religion culminated with its true god, the sage"; Pierre Hadot develops this idea, stating that "the moment philosophers achieve a rational conception of God based on the model of the sage, Greece surpasses its mythical representation of its gods." Indeed, the actions of the sage are propounded to be how a god would act in the same situation.Sensualism
Sensualism is the persistent or excessive pursuit of sensual pleasures and interests. In philosophy, it refers to the ethical doctrine that feeling is the only criterion for what is good. In epistemology it is a doctrine whereby sensations and perception are the basic and most important form of true cognition. It may oppose abstract ideas. This ideogenetic question was long ago put forward in Greek philosophy (Stoicism, Epicureanism) and further developed to the full by the English Sensualists (John Locke, David Hume) and the English Associationists (Thomas Brown, David Hartley, Joseph Priestley). In the 19th century it was very much taken up by the Positivists (Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Hippolyte Taine, Émile Littré)Tetrapharmakos
The Tetrapharmakos (τετραφάρμακος) "four-part remedy" is a summary of the first four of the Κύριαι Δόξαι (Kuriai Doxai, the forty Epicurean Principal Doctrines given by Diogenes Laërtius in his Life of Epicurus) in Epicureanism, a recipe for leading the happiest possible life.
They are recommendations to avoid anxiety or existential dread.The "tetrapharmakos" was originally a compound of four drugs (wax, tallow, pitch and resin); the word has been used metaphorically by Roman-era Epicureans. to refer to the four remedies for healing the soul.The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature
The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (German: Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie) is a book written by the German philosopher Karl Marx as his university thesis. Completed in 1841, it was on the basis of this work that he earned his Ph.D. The thesis is a comparative study on atomism of Democritus and Epicurus on contingency and dedicated to Marx's friend, mentor, and future father-in-law Ludwig von Westphalen. It was described as "a daring and original piece of work in which Marx set out to show that theology must yield to the superior wisdom of philosophy". His thesis advisor was his fellow Young Hegelian and personal friend, Bruno Bauer.Villa of the Papyri
The Villa of the Papyri (Italian: Villa dei Papiri, also known as Villa dei Pisoni) was an ancient Roman villa in Herculaneum, in what is now Ercolano, southern Italy. It is named after its unique library of papyri (or scrolls), discovered in 1750. The Villa was considered to be one of the most luxurious houses in all of Herculaneum and in the Roman world. Its luxury is shown by its exquisite architecture and by the very large number of outstanding works of art discovered, including frescoes, bronzes and marble sculpture which constitute the largest collection of Greek and Roman sculptures ever discovered in a single context.It was situated on the ancient coastline below the volcano Vesuvius with nothing to obstruct the view of the sea. It was perhaps owned by Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus. Barker 1908 suggested Philodemus was owner of the Villa of the Papyri Library.In AD 79, the eruption of Vesuvius covered all of Herculaneum with some 30 m of volcanic ash. Herculaneum was first excavated in the years between 1750 and 1765 by Karl Weber by means of underground tunnels. The villa's name derives from the discovery of its library, the only surviving library from the Graeco-Roman world that exists in its entirety. It contained over 1,800 papyrus scrolls, now carbonised by the heat of the eruption, the "Herculaneum papyri".
Most of the villa is still underground, but parts have been cleared of volcanic deposits. Many of the finds are displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. The Getty Villa is a reproduction of the Villa of the Papyri.