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Encyclopedia > Epicureanism

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus (c. 340–c. 270 BC), 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 the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it quite different from "hedonism" as it is commonly understood. Socrates (central bare-chested figure) about to drink hemlock as mandated by the court. ... Roman marble bust of Epicurus Epicurus (Epikouros or in Greek) (341 BC, Samos – 270 BC, Athens) was an ancient Greek philosopher, the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of thought in Hellenistic Philosophy. ... Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 350s BC 340s BC 330s BC 320s BC 310s BC 300s BC 290s BC 280s BC 270s BC 260s BC 250s BC 312 BC 311 BC 310 BC 309 BC 308 BC 307 BC 306 BC 305 BC 304... In natural philosophy, atomism is the theory that all the objects in the universe are composed of very small, indestructible elements - atoms. ... In philosophy, materialism is that form of physicalism which holds that the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter; that fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. ... ‎ Democritus (Greek: Δημόκριτος) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher (born at Abdera in Thrace around 460 BC[1][2]). Democritus was a student of Leucippus and co-originator of the belief that all matter is made up of various imperishable, indivisible elements which he called atomos, from which we get the... In philosophy, materialism is that form of physicalism which holds that the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter; that fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. ... Aristippus (c. ... Ataraxia (Αταραξία) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for freedom from worry or any other preoccupation, and is the first step to achieve Hêdonê, the pleasure. ... Aponia is a Greek term used by Epicurus for absence of pain and is regarded along with ataraxia to be the height of Hêdonê, the pleasure. ... Gadabout redirects here. ...


For Epicurus, the highest pleasure (tranquility and freedom from fear) was obtained by knowledge, friendship, and living a virtuous and temperate life. He lauded the enjoyment of simple pleasures, by which he meant abstaining from bodily desires, such as sex and appetites, verging on asceticism. He argued that when eating, one should not eat too richly, for it could lead to dissatisfaction later, such as the grim realization that one could not afford such delicacies in the future. Likewise, sex could lead to increased lust and dissatisfaction with the sexual partner. Epicurus did not articulate a broad system of social ethics that has survived. Ascetic redirects here. ...


Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism, though later it became the main opponent of Stoicism. Epicurus and his followers shunned politics. After the death of Epicurus, his school was headed by Hermarchus. During the later Roman era, Lucretius was its main proponent. By the end of the Roman Empire it had all but died out, and would be resurrected by the atomist Pierre Gassendi during the Enlightenment. Platonic idealism is the theory that the substantive reality around us is only a reflection of a higher truth. ... A restored Stoa in Athens. ... Hermarchus (in Greek Eρμαρχoς), sometimes, but incorrectly, written Hermachus. ... Pierre Gassendi (January 22, 1592 – October 24, 1655) was a French philosopher, scientist and mathematician, best known for attempting to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity and for publishing the first official observations of the Transit of Mercury in 1631. ... ...


Some writings by Epicurus have survived. In addition, many scholars consider the epic poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius to present in one unified work the core arguments and theories in Epicurus's writings. Not to be confused with The Nature of Things, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television show about natural science. ... == ...

Contents

The novelties of Epicureanism

Epicurean materialism is presented very simply, but anticipates a great deal of later scientific discovery in important respects. Ideas similar to John Dalton's atomic theory and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution can be seen in Epicurean writings. John Dalton John Dalton (September 6, 1766 – July 27, 1844) was an English chemist and physicist, born at Eaglesfield, near Cockermouth in Cumberland. ... Various atoms and molecules as depicted in John Daltons A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808). ... Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist [1] who achieved lasting fame by producing considerable evidence that species originated through evolutionary change, at the same time proposing the scientific theory that natural selection is the mechanism by which such change occurs. ... This article is about biological evolution. ...


Epicureanism is also probably the first philosophical school which gave a relatively full account of the social contract theory, following after a vague description of such a society in Plato's Republic. The social contract theory established by Epicureanism is based on mutual agreement, not divine decree. Social contract theory (or contractarianism) is a concept used in philosophy, political science, and sociology to denote an implicit agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members, or between individuals. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ...


Epicurus' school, called "The Garden," 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, and were probably vegetarians. Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Vegetarianism For plant-eating, non-human animals, see Herbivore. ...


Epicureanism and religion

Epicureanism emphasizes the neutrality of gods on earth and that they do not interfere with the world we live in. It also states that gods, matter and souls are all made from the same thing (atoms). Souls are made from atoms, and gods possess souls, but their souls adhere to the bodies without escaping. In the case of humans we do have the same kind of souls, but the forces between our atoms do not possess the fortitude to hold the soul forever. The Epicureans also used the atomist theories of Democritus and Leucippus to describe that man has free will. They held that all thoughts are merely atoms swerving randomly. This explanation was used to relieve the ever-curious minds of people who wondered anxiously about their role in the universe. For other uses, see Atom (disambiguation). ... Atomism is the theory that all the objects in the universe are composed of very small particles that were not created and that will have no end. ... ‎ Democritus (Greek: Δημόκριτος) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher (born at Abdera in Thrace around 460 BC[1][2]). Democritus was a student of Leucippus and co-originator of the belief that all matter is made up of various imperishable, indivisible elements which he called atomos, from which we get the... This article is about the philosopher. ...


Some would interpret this doctrine of the gods as really a disguised atheism. Fully aware of the fate of Socrates when brought up on a charge of impiety, Epicurus avoided expressing an overt atheism. Instead, he reduced the gods to mere physical beings and shut them up in a distant part of the cosmos, without a thought or care for what happens to mankind. This renders his philosophy atheistic on the practical level, but avoids the charge of atheism on the theoretical level. Socrates (Greek: Σωκράτης, invariably anglicized as , Sǒcratēs; 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. ... Atheist redirects here. ...


In Dante's Divine Comedy, the flaming tombs of the Epicureans are located within the sixth circle of hell (Inferno, Canto X). Similarly, according to Jewish Mishnah, Epicureans (people who share the beliefs of the movement) are among the people who do not have a share of the "World-to-Come" (afterlife or the world of the Messianic Era). Dante shown holding a copy of The Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, in Michelinos fresco. ...


Parallels may be drawn to Buddhism, which similarly emphasizes a lack of divine interference and great successes leading to great dissatisfactions. Buddhism is a dharmic, non-theistic religion, a philosophy, and a life-enhancing system of psychology. ...


The philosophy originated by Epicurus flourished for seven centuries. It centered around the idea that the pleasure of the individual was the sole or 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. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten. Unnecessary and, especially, artificially produced desires were to be suppressed. Since learning, culture, and civilization as well as social and political involvements could give rise to desires that are difficult to satisfy and thus result in disturbing one’s peace of mind, they were discouraged. Knowledge was sought only to rid oneself of religious fears and superstitions, the two primary fears to be eliminated being fear of the gods and of death. Viewing marriage and what attends it as a threat to one’s peace of mind, Epicurus lived a celibate life but did not impose this restriction on his followers.


The philosophy was characterized by a complete absence of principle. Lawbreaking was counseled against simply because of the shame associated with detection and the punishment it might bring. Living in fear of being found out or punished would take away from pleasure, and this made even secret wrongdoing inadvisable. To the Epicureans, virtue in itself had no value and was beneficial only when it served as a means to gain happiness. Reciprocity was recommended, not because it was right and noble, but because it paid off. Friendships rested on the same selfish basis, that is, the pleasure resulting to the possessor. While the pursuit of pleasure formed the focal point of the philosophy, paradoxically Epicurus referred to life as a “bitter gift.”


The Epicureans believed in the existence of gods, but that they, just like everything else, were made of atoms, though of finer texture. It was thought that the gods were too far away from the earth to have any interest in what man was doing; so it did not do any good to pray or to sacrifice to them. The gods, they believed, did not create the universe, nor did they inflict punishment or bestow blessings on anyone, but they were supremely happy, and this was the goal to strive for during one’s life. However, the Epicureans contended that the gods were in no position to aid anyone in this, that life came into existence by accident in a mechanical universe, and that death ends everything, liberating the individual from the nightmare of life. Although it was believed that man has a soul, the soul was thought to be composed of atoms that dissolve at the death of the body, just as water spills out of a pitcher that breaks.


Epicurean epistemology

The Epicurean epistemology has three criteria of truth: sensations (aesthêsis), preconceptions (prolêpsis), and feelings (pathê). Prolêpsis is sometimes translated as "basic grasp" but could also be described as "universal ideas": concepts that are understood by all. An example of prolêpsis is the word "man" because every person has a preconceived notion of what a man is. Sensations or sense perception is knowledge that is received from the senses alone. Much like modern science epicurean philosophy posits that empiricism can be used to sort truth from falsehood. Feelings are more related to ethics than Epicurean physical theory. Feelings merely tell the individual what brings about pleasure and what brings about pain. This is important for the Epicurean because these are the basis for the entire Epicurean ethical doctrine. This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Common dictionary definitions of truth mention some form of accord with fact or reality. ... In philosophy generally, empiricism is a theory of knowledge emphasizing the role of experience. ... Theoretical physics attempts to understand the world by making a model of reality, used for rationalizing, explaining, predicting physical phenomena through a physical theory. There are three types of theories in physics; mainstream theories, proposed theories and fringe theories. ...


Famous Epicureans

Thomas Jefferson referred to himself as an Epicurean and the preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence demonstrates Epicurean influence by inalienable right of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. One of the earliest Roman writers in favour of the Epicurus is Amafanius. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus include the poet Horace in Roman times, whose famous statement 'Carpe Diem' - Seize the day - illustrates the philosophy; at the same time Lucretius and his "De Rerum Natura" and later Gassendi, Walter Charleton, François Bernier, Saint-Evremond, Ninon de l'Enclos, Diderot, and Jeremy Bentham. This article is 150 kilobytes or more in size. ... A declaration of independence is a proclamation of the independence of an aspiring state or states. ... C. (probably Gaius) Amafanius (or Amafinius) was one of the earliest Roman writers in favour of the Epicurean philosophy. ... Horace, as imagined by Anton von Werner Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (December 8, 65 BC - November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. ... This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ... == ... Pierre Gassendi (January 22, 1592 – October 24, 1655) was a French philosopher, scientist and mathematician, best known for attempting to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity. ... Walter Charleton (1619 - 1707), miscellaneous writer, educated at Oxford, was titular physician to Charles I. He was a copious writer on theology, natural history, and antiquities, and published Chorea Gigantum (1663) to prove that Stonehenge was built by the Danes. ... François Bernier (1625 – 1688) was a French physician and traveler, born at Joué-Etiau /Anjou. ... Charles de Marguetel de Saint-Denis, seigneur de Saint-Évremond (April 1, 1610 - September 29, 1703), was born at Saint-Denis-le-Guast, near Coutances, the seat of his family in Normandy. ... Anne Ninon de lEnclos also spelled Ninon de Lenclos and Ninon de Lanclos (November 10? sometime between 1615 and 1623 - October 17, 1705) was a French author, and patron of the arts. ... Portrait of Diderot by Louis-Michel van Loo, 1767 Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713 – July 31, 1784) was a French philosopher and writer. ... Jeremy Bentham (IPA: or ) (February 15, 1748 O.S. (February 26, 1749 N.S.) – June 6, 1832) was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. ...


Modern usage and misconceptions

In modern popular usage, an epicure 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—see the definition of gourmet at Wiktionary.


This can largely be attributed to misunderstandings of the Epicurean doctrine. Due to the fact Epicureanism posits that pleasure is the ultimate good (telos) it is commonly misunderstood as a doctrine that advocates the partaking in fleeting pleasures such as constant partying, orgiastic sexual excess and expensive food. This is not the case. Epicurus regarded ataraxia (tranquility, freedom from pain) and aponia (absence of pain) combined to be the height of happiness. Therefore Epicurus regarded prudence as an important virtue and saw things like excess drinking to be contrary to the attainment of ataraxia and aponia. Ataraxia (Αταραξία) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for freedom from worry or any other preoccupation, and is the first step to achieve Hêdonê, the pleasure. ... Aponia is a Greek term used by Epicurus for absence of pain and is regarded along with ataraxia to be the height of Hêdonê, the pleasure. ...


External links

  • Epicurus.info - Epicurean Philosophy Online
  • Epicurus & Epicurean Philosophy
  • The Epicurean Garden of Delight
  • The Epicurean Group
  • A Yahoo Epicurean Group in Latin

References

A.A.Long & D.N.Sedley (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers Volume 1, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-27556-3



  Results from FactBites:
 
Epicureanism (1757 words)
It had the fortune to be adopted by the finest of didactic poets, Lucretius (91-51 B.C.), and was expounded by him in a poem (De rerum naturâ;) with a beauty of expression and a fervour of eloquence worthy of a nobler theme.
In the latter half of the second century, when Marcus Aurelius was founding chairs of philosophy at Athens, that emperor, himself a Stoic, recognized the Epicurean (together with his own, and the Platonic, and the Aristotelic systems) as one of the four great philosophies to be established and endowed on a footing of equality.
The freedom asserted by the Epicureans is not rational freedom in the true sense of the word.
Epicureanism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1678 words)
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus (c.
Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it quite different from "hedonism" as it is commonly understood.
Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism, though later it became the main opponent of Stoicism.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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