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"Epicurean" redirects here. For other uses, see Epicurean (disambiguation).

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 Aristippusabout whom very little is knownEpicurus believed that what he called "pleasure"
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 it is colloquially understood.
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; 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, and would
be resurrected in the 17th century by the atomist Pierre Gassendi, who adapted it to the Christian

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 papyrus 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.






5Epicurean physics



8Notable Epicureans

9Modern usage and misconceptions

10See also


12Further reading

13External links

The school of Epicurus, called "The Garden," was based in Epicurus' home and garden. It had a small
but devoted following in his lifetime. 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 Epicurus did not eat meat, although no prohibition against
eating meat was made.[1][2]
The school's popularity grew and it became, along with Stoicism and Skepticism, one of the three
dominant schools of Hellenistic Philosophy, lasting strongly through the later Roman Empire.[3] 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.

A library in the Villa of the Papyri, in Herculaneum, was perhaps owned by Julius Caesar's father-inlaw, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus. The scrolls which the library consisted of were preserved albeit
in carbonized form by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Several of these Herculaneum papyri which are
unrolled and deciphered were found to contain a large number of works by Philodemus, a late Hellenistic
Epicurean, and Epicurus himself, attesting to the school's enduring popularity. The task of unrolling and
deciphering the over 1800 charred papyrus scrolls continues today.
With the dominance of the Neo-Platonism and Peripatetic School philosophy (and later Christianity),
Epicureanism declined. By the late third century AD, there was very little trace of its existence.[4]
The early Christian writer Lactantius criticizes Epicurus at several points throughout his Divine Institutes.
In Dante'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" ().
By the 16th century, the works of Diogenes Laertius were being printed in Europe. 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.
In the Modern Age, scientists adopted atomist theories, while materialist philosophers embraced
Epicurus' hedonist ethics and restated his objections to natural teleology.

Epicureanism emphasizes the neutrality of the gods, that they do not interfere with human lives. It states
that gods, matter, and souls are all made up of atoms. Souls are made from atoms, and gods possess
souls, but their souls adhere to their bodies without escaping. Humans have the same kind of souls, but
the forces binding human atoms together do not hold the soul forever. The Epicureans also used
the atomist theories of Democritus and Leucippus to assert that man has free will. They held that all
thoughts are merely atoms swerving randomly.
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
Lactantius, De Ira Deorum[5]
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.[6] 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.[7] The earliest extant version of this trilemma appears in the
writings of the skeptic Sextus Empiricus.[8]
Epicurus' view was that there were gods, but that they were neither willing nor able to prevent evil. This
was not because they were malevolent, but because they lived in a perfect state of ataraxia, a state
everyone should strive to emulate; it is not the gods who are upset by evils, but people.[6] Epicurus
conceived the gods as blissful and immortal yet material beings made of atoms inhabiting
the metakosmia: empty spaces between worlds in the vastness of infinite space. In spite of his
recognition of the gods, the practical effect of this materialistic explanation of the gods' existence and

their complete non-intervention in human affairs renders his philosophy akin in divine effects to the
attitude of Deism.
In Dante's Divine Comedy, the flaming tombs of the Epicureans are located within the sixth circle of hell
(Inferno, Canto X). They are the first heretics seen and appear to represent the ultimate, if not
quintessential, heresy.[9] Similarly, according to Jewish Mishnah, Epicureans (apiqorsim, people who
share the beliefs of the movement) are among the people who do not have a share of the "World-toCome" (afterlife or the world of the Messianic era).
Parallels may be drawn to Buddhism, which similarly emphasizes 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.






The philosophy originated by Epicurus flourished for seven centuries. It propounded an ethic of
individual pleasure as 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 an absence of divine principle. Lawbreaking was counseled
against because of both 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 divinely
ordered or innately noble, but because it was personally beneficial. Friendships rested on the same

mutual basis, that is, the pleasure resulting to the possessors. 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[10]
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
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"[11]
The Epicureans believed in the existence of the gods, but believed that the gods were made of atoms
just like everything else. 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; this was the goal to strive for during one's own human life.
"Live unknown was one of [key] maxims. This was completely at odds with all previous ideas of seeking
fame and glory, or even wanting something so apparently decent as honor."[12]
Epicureanism rejects immortality and mysticism; it believes in the soul, but suggests that the soul is as
mortal as 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."[13] 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.[14]

Epicurus was an early thinker to develop the notion of justice as a social contract. He defined justice as
an agreement "neither to harm nor be harmed". 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 (agreeing "neither to harm
nor be harmed"[15]),
and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.[16]
Epicureanism incorporated 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.
The human soul is mortal because, like everything, it is composed of atoms, but made up the most
perfect, rounded and smooth. It disappears with the destruction of the body. We don't have to fear death
because, firstly, nothing follows after the disappearance of the body, and, secondly, the experience of

death is not so: "the most terrible evil, death, is nothing for us, since when we exist, death does not exist,
and when death exists, we do not exist "(Epicurus," Letter to Menoeceus ").
Nature has set a target of every actions of living beings (including men) seeking pleasure, as shown by
the fact that children instinctively and animals tend to shy away from pleasure and pain. Pleasure and
pain are the main reasons for each actions of living beings. Pure pleasure is the highest good, pain the
supreme evil.
The pleasures and pains are the result of the realization or impairment of appetites. Epicurus
distinguishes three kinds of appetites:

Natural and necessary: eating, drinking, sleeping; They are easy to please.
Natural but not necessary: as the erotic; they are not difficult to master and are not needed
for happiness.
Those who are not natural nor necessary: we must reject them completely.

Types of pleasures: since man is composed of body and soul there are two general types of pleasures:

Pleasures of the body: Although considered to be the most important, in the background the
proposal is to give up these pleasures and seek the lack of body pain. There are soul aches and
pains of the body, but the body is bad because the pain of the soul is directly or indirectly related to
body aches occurring in the present or to anticipations of future pains. Epicurus believed there was
no need to fear bodily pain because when it is intense and unbearable, it is also usually shorter.
When it lasts longer and is less intense, it is more bearable. He also believed one should relieve
physical pain with the memory of past joys, and in extreme cases, to suicide.

Pleasures of the soul: the pleasure of the soul is greater than the pleasure of the body:
pleasures of the body are effective in the present, but those of the soul are more durable; the
pleasures of the soul, Epicurus believed, can eliminate or reduce bodily pains or displeasures.

Epicurean physics[edit]
Epicurus' philosophy of the physical world is found in his Letter to Herodotus: Diogenes Laertius 10.34
If the sum of all matter ("the totality") was limited and existed within an unlimited void, it would be
scattered and constantly becoming more diffuse, because the finite collection of bodies would travel
forever, having no obstacles. Conversely, if the totality was unlimited it could not exist within a limited
void, for the unlimited bodies would not all have a place to be in. Therefore, either both the void and the
totality must be limited or both must be unlimited and as is mentioned later the totality is unlimited
(and therefore so is the void).
Forms can change, but not their inherent qualities, for change can only affect their shape. Some things
can be changed and some things cannot be changed because forms that are unchangeable cannot be
destroyed if certain attributes can be removed; for attributes not only have the intention of altering an
unchangeable form, but also the inevitable possibility of becomingin relation to the form's disposition
to its present environmentboth an armor and a vulnerability to its stability.
Further proof that there are unchangeable forms and their inability to be destroyed, is the concept of the
"non-evident." A form cannot come into being from the voidwhich is nothing; it would be as if all forms
come into being spontaneously, needless of reproduction. The implied meaning of "destroying"
something is to undo its existence, to make it not there anymore, and this cannot be so: if the void is that
which does not exist, and if this void is the implied destination of the destroyed, then the thing in reality
cannot be destroyed, for the thing (and all things) could not have existed in the first place

(as Parmenides said, ex nihilo nihil fit: nothing comes from nothing). This totality of forms is eternal and
Atoms move, in the appropriate way, constantly and for all time. Forms first come to us in images or
"projections"outlines of their true selves. For an image to be perceived by the human eye, the "atoms"
of the image must cross a great distance at enormous speed and must not encounter any conflicting
atoms along the way. The presence of atomic resistance equal atomic slowness; whereas, if the path is
deficient of atomic resistance, the traversal rate is much faster (and clearer). Because of resistance,
forms must be unlimited (unchangeable and able to grasp any point within the void) because, if they
weren't, a form's image would not come from a single place, but fragmented and from several places.
This confirms that a single form cannot be at multiple places at the same time.
Epicurus for the most part follows Democritean atomism but differs in proclaiming the clinamen (swerve
or declination). Imagining atoms to be moving under an external force, Epicurus conceives an
occasional atom "swerving" for reasons peculiar to itself, i.e. not by external compulsion but by "free
will". In this, his view absolutely opposes Democritean determinism as well as developed Stoicism.
Otherwise he conceives of atoms as does Democritus in that they have position, number, and shape.
To Democritus' differentiating criteria, Epicurus adds "weight", but maintains Democritus' view that atoms
are necessarily indivisible and hence possess no demonstrable internal space.
And the senses warrant us other means of perception: hearing and smelling. As in the same way an
image traverses through the air, the atoms of sound and smell traverse the same way. This perceptive
experience is itself the flow of the moving atoms; and like the changeable and unchangeable forms, the
form from which the flow traverses is shed and shattered into even smaller atoms, atoms of which still
represent the original form, but they are slightly disconnected and of diverse magnitudes. This flow, like
that of an echo, reverberates (off one's senses) and goes back to its start; meaning, one's sensory
perception happens in the coming, going, or arch, of the flow; and when the flow retreats back to its
starting position, the atomic image is back together again: thus when one smells something one has the
ability to see it too [because atoms reach the one who smells or sees from the object.]
And this leads to the question of how atomic speed and motion works. Epicurus says that there are two
kinds of motion: the straight motion and the curved motion, and its motion traverse as fast as the speed
of thought.
Epicurus proposed the idea of 'the space between worlds' (metakosmia) 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.

Epicurean epistemology has three criteria of truth: sensations (aisthsis), preconceptions (prolepsis),
and feelings (path). Prolepsis is sometimes translated as "basic grasp" but could also be described as
"universal ideas": concepts that are understood by all. An example of prolepsis 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.
According to Epicurus, the basic means for our understanding of things are the "sensations"
(aestheses), "concepts" (prolepsis), "emotions" (pathe), and the "focusing of thought into an impression"
(phantastikes epiboles tes dianoias).
Epicureans reject dialectic as confusing (parelkousa) because for the physical philosophers it is
sufficient to use the correct words which refer to the concepts of the world. Epicurus then, in his work On
the Canon, says that the criteria of truth are the senses, the preconceptions and the feelings. Epicureans

add to these the focusing of thought into an impression. He himself is referring to those in his Epitome to
Herodotus and in Principal Doctrines.[17]
The senses are the first criterion of truth, since they create the first impressions and testify the existence
of the external world. Sensory input is neither subjective nor deceitful, but the misunderstanding comes
when the mind adds to or subtracts something from these impressions through our preconceived
notions. Therefore, our sensory input alone cannot lead us to inaccuracy, only the concepts and
opinions that come from our interpretations of our sensory input can. Therefore, our sensory data is the
only truly accurate thing which we have to rely for our understanding of the world around us.
And whatever image we receive by direct understanding by our mind or through our sensory organs of
the shape or the essential properties that are the true form of the solid object, since it is created by the
constant repetition of the image or the impression it has left behind. There is always inaccuracy and
error involved in bringing into a judgment an element that is additional to sensory impressions, either to
confirm [what we sensed] or deny it.
Letter to Herodotus, 50
Epicurus said that all the tangible things are real and each impression comes from existing objects and
is determined by the object that causes the sensations.
Sextus Empiricus, To Rationals, 8.63
Therefore all the impressions are real, while the preconceived notions are not real and can be modified.
Sextus Empiricus, To Rationals, 7.20645
If you battle with all your sensations, you will be unable to form a standard for judging which of them are
Principal Doctrines, 23
The concepts are the categories which have formed mentally according to our sensory input, for
example the concepts "man", "warm", and "sweet", etc. These concepts are directly related to memory
and can be recalled at any time, only by the use of the respective word. (Compare
the anthropological SapirWhorf hypothesis). Epicurus also calls them "the meanings that underlie the
words" (hypotetagmena tois phthongois: semantic substance of the words) in his letter to Herodotus.
The feelings or emotions (pathe) are related to the senses and the concepts. They are the inner
impulses that make us feel like or dislike about certain external objects, which we perceive through the
senses, and are associated with the preconceptions that are recalled.
In this moment that the word "man" is spoken, immediately due to the concept [or category of the idea]
an image is projected in the mind which is related to the sensory input data.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, X, 33
First of all Herodotus, we must understand the meanings that underlie the words, so that by referring to
them, we may be able to reach judgments about our opinions, matters of inquiry, or problems and leave
everything undecided as we can argue endlessly or use words that have no clearly defined meaning.
Letter to Herodotus, 37
Apart from these there is the assumption (hypolepsis), which is either the hypothesis or the opinion
about something (matter or action), and which can be correct or incorrect. The assumptions are created
by our sensations, concepts and emotions. Since they are produced automatically without any rational
analysis and verification (see the modern idea of the subconscious) of whether they are correct or not,
they need to be confirmed (epimarteresis: confirmation), a process which must follow each assumption.
For beliefs they [the Epicureans] use the word hypolepsis which they claim can be correct or incorrect.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, X, 34

Referring to the "focusing of thought into an impression" or else "intuitive understandings of the mind",
they are the impressions made on the mind that come from our sensations, concepts and emotions and
form the basis of our assumptions and beliefs. All this unity (sensation concept or category emotion
focusing of thought into an impression) leads to the formation of a certain assumption or belief
(hypolepsis). (Compare the modern anthropological concept of a "world view".) Following the lead
of Aristotle, Epicurus also refers to impressions in the form of mental images which are projected on the
mind. The "correct use of impressions" was something adopted later by the Stoics.
Our assumptions and beliefs have to be 'confirmed', which actually proves if our opinions are either
accurate or inaccurate. This verification and confirmation (epimarteresis) can only be done by means of
the "evident reason" (henargeia), which means what is self-evident and obvious through our sensory
An example is when we see somebody approaching us, first through the sense of eyesight, we perceive
that an object is coming closer to us, then through our preconceptions we understand that it is a human
being, afterwards through that assumption we can recognize that he is someone we know, for example
Theaetetus. This assumption is associated with pleasant or unpleasant emotions accompanied by the
respective mental images and impressions (the focusing of our thoughts into an impression), which are
related to our feelings toward each other. When he gets close to us, we can confirm (verify) that he is
Socrates and not Theaetetus through the proof of our eyesight. Therefore, we have to use the same
method to understand everything, even things which are not observable and obvious (adela,
imperceptible), that is to say the confirmation through the evident reason (henargeia). In the same way
we have to reduce (reductionism) each assumption and belief to something that can be proved through
the self-evident reason (empirically verified). Verification theory and reductionism have been adopted, as
we know, by the modern philosophy of science. In this way, one can get rid of the incorrect assumptions
and beliefs (biases) and finally settle on the real (confirmed) facts.
Consequently the confirmation and lack of disagreement is the criterion of accuracy of something, while
non-confirmation and disagreement is the criterion of its inaccuracy. The basis and foundation of
[understanding] everything are the obvious and self-evident [facts].
Sextus Empiricus, To Rationals, 7.21116
All the above-mentioned criteria of knowledge form the basic principles of the [scientific] method, that
Epicurus followed in order to find the truth. He described this method in his work On the Canon or On
the Criteria.
If you reject any sensation and you do not distinguish between the opinion based on what awaits
confirmation and evidence already available based on the senses, the feelings and every intuitive faculty
of the mind, you will send the remaining sensations into a turmoil with your foolish opinions, thus getting
rid of every standard for judging. And if among the perceptions based on beliefs are things that are
verified and things that are not, you are guaranteed to be in error since you have kept everything that
leads to uncertainty concerning the correct and incorrect.[18]
(Based on excerpt from Epicurus' Gnoseology Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the
Stoics Analysis and Fragments, Nikolaos Bakalis, Trafford Publishing 2005, ISBN 1-4120-4843-5)

Main article: Tetrapharmakos

Part of Herculaneum Papyrus 1005 (P.Herc.1005), col. 5. Contains Epicurean tetrapharmakos from
Philodemus' Adversus Sophistas.
Tetrapharmakos, or "The four-part cure", is Epicurus' basic guideline as to how to live the happiest
possible life. 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.
Philodemus, Herculaneum Papyrus, 1005, 4.914

Notable Epicureans[edit]

De rerum natura manuscript, copied by an Augustinian friar for Pope Sixtus IV, c. 1483, after the
discovery of an early manuscript in 1417 by the humanist and papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini
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, as he showed in his De Rerum Natura. 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.

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.[19]
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.[20]
Other modern-day Epicureans were Gassendi, Walter Charleton, Franois Bernier, SaintEvremond, Ninon de l'Enclos, Denis Diderot, Frances Wright and Jeremy Bentham. Christopher
Hitchens referred to himself as an Epicurean.[21] In France, where perfumer/restaurateur Grald Ghislain
refers to himself as an Epicurean,[22] Michel Onfray is developing a post-modern approach to
Epicureanism.[23] In his recent book titled The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt identified himself as strongly
sympathetic to Epicureanism and Lucretius.

Modern usage and misconceptions[edit]

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 drinksee the definition of gourmet at Wiktionary.
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 constant partying, 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.[11]

See also[edit]



Epicurean paradox

Epikoros (Judaism)

Hedonic treadmill


List of English translations of De rerum natura

Philosophy of happiness

Crvka, a hedonic Indian school

Separation of church and state

Zeno of Sidon



Jump up^ The Hidden History of Greco-Roman Vegetarianism


Jump up^ The Philosophy of Vegetarianism Daniel A. Dombrowski


Jump up^ Erlend D. MacGillivray "The Popularity of Epicureanism in LateRepublic Roman Society" The Ancient World, XLIII (2012) 15172.


Jump up^ Michael Frede, Epilogue, The Cambridge History of Hellenistic

Philosophy pp. 79596.


Jump up^ Lactantius, De Ira Deorum, 13.19 (Epicurus, Frag. 374,

Usener). David Hume paraphrased this passage in his Dialogues Concerning Natural
Religion: "EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but
not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both
able and willing? whence then is evil?"


^ Jump up to:a b Mark Joseph Larrimore, (2001), The Problem of Evil, pp. xixxxi.


Jump up^ Reinhold F. Glei, Et invidus et inbecillus. Das angebliche

Epikurfragment bei Laktanz, De ira dei 13, 2021, in: Vigiliae Christianae 42 (1988), pp.


Jump up^ Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, 175: "those who firmly
maintain that god exists will be forced into impiety; for if they say that he [god] takes care
of everything, they will be saying that god is the cause of evils, while if they say that he
takes care of some things only or even nothing, they will be forced to say that he is either
malevolent or weak"


Jump up^ Trans. Robert Pinsky, The Inferno of Dante, p. 320 n. 11.


Jump up^ On Goals, 1.65


^ Jump up to:a b Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus", contained in Diogenes

Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book X


Jump up^ The Story of Philosophy: The Essential Guide to the History of
Western Philosophy. Bryan Magee. DK Publishing, Inc. 1998.


Jump up^ Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy, pp. 23940


Jump up^ Epicurus (c 341270 BC) British Humanist Association


Jump up^ Tim O'Keefe, Epicurus on Freedom, Cambridge University Press,

2005, p. 134


Jump up^ Epicurus Principal Doctrines tranls. by Robert Drew Hicks (1925)


Jump up^ Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, X, 31.


Jump up^ Principal Doctrines, 24.


Jump up^ Cf. Sallust, The War With Catiline, Caesar's speech: 51.29 & Cato's
reply: 52.13).


Jump up^ "Full text of "The writings of Thomas Jefferson;"".

Retrieved 2016-05-06.


Jump up^ Radio Online::Radio Show

Jump up^ Anon., Grald Ghislain Creator of The Scent of Departure.
IdeaMensch, July 14, 2011.


Jump up^ Michel Onfray, La puissance d'exister: Manifeste hdoniste, Grasset,

Further reading[edit]

Dane R. Gordon and David B. Suits, Epicurus. His Continuing Influence and
Contemporary Relevance, Rochester, N.Y.: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2003.

Holmes, Brooke & Shearin, W. H. Dynamic Reading: Studies in the Reception of

Epicureanism, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Jones, Howard. The Epicurean Tradition, New York: Routledge, 1989.

Neven Leddy and Avi S. Lifschitz, Epicurus in the Enlightenment, Oxford: Voltaire
Foundation, 2009.

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

Long, Roderick (2008). "Epicureanism". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of

Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute.
p. 153. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n95. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCL
C 750831024.

Martin Ferguson Smith (ed.), Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean inscription, edited
with introduction, translation, and notes, Naples: Bibliopolis, 1993.

Martin Ferguson Smith, Supplement to Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean Inscription,

Naples: Bibliopolis, 2003.

Warren, James (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism, Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 2009.

Wilson, Catherine. Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity, New York: Oxford University
Press, 2008.

Zeller, Eduard; Reichel, Oswald J., The Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics, Longmans,
Green, and Co., 1892

External links[edit]

Society of Friends of Epicurus

Epicureans on PhilPapers Epicurean Philosophy Online Epicurus and Epicurean Philosophy

Karl Marx's Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy

Marx's Doctoral Dissertation On the Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean
Philosophy of Nature

Commentary on the 40 Principal Doctrines by Nikos

Jules Evans' Epicureans piece for his Philosophy for Life series