Epicurus Essay -- Papers Philosophy Happniess
One of the founders of America, Thomas Jefferson, was an avowed Epicurean in his later years, and many others were largely under the influence of Locke and the other English intellectuals of the preceding century. Jefferson wrote a where he outlines his Epicurean views. While Jefferson is sometimes portrayed by scholars as being a sphinx-like mystery, his Epicurean orientation in fact explains many of the seeming contradictions of Jefferson's life—his dislike for organized religion, his higher estimate of his roles as an advocate of liberty and education over his roles as Governor of Virginia and President of the United States, and even the love that he may have had for one of his slaves (such attitudes reflecting the willingness of Epicurus to admit slaves and women into his school in ancient times).
02.09.2017 · Epicurus Epicurus was a ..
Epicurus not only made his dramatic escape from Mytilene, he departed from the realm of Antigonus Monophthalmus altogether and migrated to the relatively liberal city of Lampsacus on the Hellespont. In Lampsacus he began to build up a devoted circle of friends who became the nucleus of his new school. Hermarchus came over from Mytilene with Epicurus. They were soon joined by prominent Lampsacenes, including the financier Idomeneus, Leonteus and his wife Themista, the satirist Colotes, the mathematician Polyaenus, and the most famous popularizer of Epicureanism, Metrodorus. Epicurus was recognized as the leader, or hegemon of the school, while Hermarchus, Metrodorus, and Polyaenus became the associate leaders or kathhegemones.
What do you agree with in Epicurus? What do you think he gets wrong about happiness? This might be a good time to think of examples from the documentary.
Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, vol
If one does not fear the gods, what motive is there for living justly?Where law obtains, Epicurus indicates, it is preferable not to commitcrimes, even secret ones, since there will always be anxiety over thepossibility of detection, and this will disrupt the tranquillity orataraxy that is the chief basis of happiness in life(see Principal Beliefs = KD 34–35). Justice,for Epicurus, depends on the capacity to make compacts neither to harmothers nor be harmed by them, and consists precisely in thesecompacts; justice is nothing in itself, independent of sucharrangements (KD 31–33). According to Epicurus(LM 132, KD 5), someone who is incapable of livingprudently, honorably, and justly cannot live pleasurably, and viceversa. Moreover, prudence or wisdom (phronêsis) is thechief of the virtues: on it depend all the rest. This again soundscalculating, as though justice were purely a pragmatic and selfishmatter of remaining unperturbed. Epicurus does not entertain thethought experiment proposed by Plato in the Republic(359C–360D), in which Plato asks whether a person who isabsolutely secure from punishment would have reason to be just. DidEpicurus have an answer to such a challenge? He may simply have deniedthat anyone can be perfectly confident in this way. Perhaps, however,he did have a reply, but it was derived from the domain of psychologyrather than of ethics. A person who understands what is desirable andwhat is to be feared would not be motivated to acquire inordinatewealth or power, but would lead a peaceful life to the extentpossible, avoiding politics and the general fray. An Epicurean sage,accordingly, would have no motive to violate the rights ofothers. Whether the sage would be virtuous is perhaps moot; whatEpicurus says is that he would live virtuously, that is prudently,honorably, and justly (the adverbial construction may besignificant). He would do so not because of an acquired dispositionor hexis, as Aristotle had it, but because he knows how toreason correctly about his needs. Hence his desires would be limitedto those that are natural (not empty), and so easily satisfied, or atleast not a source of disturbance if sometimes unsatisfied.
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This early form of social life had various advantages: among others,the relative scarcity of goods prevented excessive competition(sharing was obligatory for survival) and thereby set limits on thoseunnatural desires that at a later, richer phase of society would leadto wars and other disturbances. It would appear too that, beforelanguage had developed fully, words more or less conformed to theiroriginal or primitive objects, and were not yet a source of mentalconfusion. But thanks to a gradual accumulation of wealth, thestruggle over goods came to infect social relations, and there emergedkings or tyrants who ruled over others not by virtue of their physicalstrength but by dint of gold. These autocrats in turn were overthrown,and after a subsequent period of violent anarchy people finally sawthe wisdom of living under the rule of law. This might seem torepresent the highest attainment in political organization, but thatis not so for the Epicureans. For with law came the generalized fearof punishment that has contaminated the blessings of life (Lucretius5.1151; cf. [Philodemus] On Choices and Avoidancescol. XII). Lucretius at this point gives an acount of the origin ofreligious superstition and dread of the gods, and although he does notrelate this anxiety directly to the fear of punishment under humanlaw, he does state that thunder and lightning are interpreted as signsthat the gods are angry at human sins (5.1218–25). Whileprimitive people in the presocial or early communal stages might havebeen awed by such manifestations of natural power and ascribed them tothe action of the gods, they would not necessarily have explained themas chastisement for human crimes before the concept of punishmentbecame familiar under the regime of law. People at an early time knewthat gods exist thanks to the simulacra that they give off, althoughthe precise nature of the gods according to Epicurus remains obscure(for contrasting intepretations, see Konstan 2011 and Sedley 2011);but the gods, for him, do not interest themselves in human affairs,since this would compromise their beatitude (see Obbink 1996:321–23).