Epicurus(redirected from Epicureus)
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See studies by E. Asmis (1984), R. M. Strozier (1985), and H. Jones (1989).
Born 342 or 341 B.C. on the island of Samos; died 271 or 270 B.C. in Athens. Greek materialist philosopher.
From 306 B.C., Epicurus lived in Athens, where he founded the school of philosophy known as the Garden of Epicurus. Out of his extensive writings (approximately 300 works), only his aphorisms, several letters, and his last will were preserved.
The philosophy of Epicurus is divided into ethics, physics, and “canonics” (that is, theory of knowledge). His ethics evolved from the ideas of Democritus and the Cyrenaic school. Epicurus declared that the true nature of human beings was their sensory ability (rather than their ability to reason, as the Stoics maintained); therefore, he claimed, the meaning and ultimate goal of human life is the attainment of pleasure. According to Epicurus, pleasure is the absence of suffering. The cause of suffering is found within man himself, and philosophy is called upon to rid people of the fears and passions that cause their suffering. Pleasure cannot be attained without ascetic self-restraint. Right living results in unruffled spiritual serenity (ataraxia), happiness (synonymous with virtue), freedom, and delights—the greatest of which are wisdom, justice, and especially friendship.
In his physics, Epicurus followed the atomistic teaching of Democritus, albeit with substantial changes. Specifically, Epicurus replaced the swirling motion of the atoms with their downward fall, introducing the concept of atomic “weight.” Of particular note is Epicurus’ doctrine about the atoms’ arbitrary divergence (or “swerve”) from their straight-line fall, resulting in an infinite number of universes as well as freedom for the individual (that is, individual atoms and human beings). In his struggle against the classical concept of fate of traditional natural philosophy, Epicurus came to an unprecedented conclusion—namely, the denial of the lawlike regularity of heavenly phenomena.
Epicurus regarded the source of knowledge to be the sensations and concepts arising from repeated sense experiences (prolepses) or from their anticipation. The criterion of truth is correspondence to these sensations, whose origins are explained by Democritus’ theory of effluences.
Rejecting the popular mythological notion of the gods as impious, Epicurus held that the gods lead a blissful and serene existence in the spaces between the universes (that is, in the “metacosmoses,” or intermundia) and do not interfere with the life of the universes, thereby setting an example for the wise man to emulate.
The philosophy of Epicurus represented a new stage in classical atomism, and it was an important influence in late classical and modern European philosophy.
WORKSEpicurea. Edited by H. Usener. Leipzig, 1887.
Opere. Turin, 1973.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Iz rannikh proizvedenii. Moscow, 1956. Pages 17–98, 99–215.
Guyau, M. Moral’ Epikura i ee sviaz’s sovremennymi ucheniiami. In Sobr. soch., vol. 2. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Shakir-Zade, A. S. Epikur. Moscow, 1963.
Bailey, C. The Greek Atomists and Epicurus. Oxford, 1928.
Hadzsits, G. D. Lucretius and His Influence. London, 1935.
Epikurus (Epikur): Von der Überwindung der Furcht. Compiled and translated by O. Gigon. Zurich, 1949.
DeWitt, N. W. Epicurus and His Philosophy. Minneapolis, 1954.
Hicks, R. D. Stoic and Epicurean. New York, 1962.
A. L. DOBROKHOTOV