Epicurean readings

THE PRINCIPAL DOCTRINES

TRANSFERRED IN CONTEMPORARY TERMS

By Haris Dimitriadis

  1. I philosophize on the necessities of life.
  2. Everything happens according to the natural laws, without any divine intervention.
  3. All creatures have sprung from within the mother Earth.
  4. I obey the laws of Nature.
  5. I pursue a happy life.
  6. I seek pleasure; I avoid pain.
  7. I make choices wisely.
  8. I live a quiet life away from the crowd.
  9. I cultivate friendship.
  10. I enjoy the moment.
  11. I recall the past with gratitude.
  12. I look to the future with optimism.

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I AM EPICUREAN

Thomas Jefferson to William Short,

October 31, 1819

Your favor of the 21st is received. My late illness, in which you are so kind as to feel an interest, was produced by a spasmodic stricture of the ilium, which came upon me on the 7th inst. The crisis was short, passed over favorably on the fourth day, and I should soon have been well but that a dose of calomel and jalap, in which there were only eight or nine grains of the former, brought on salivation. Of this, however, nothing now remains but a little soreness of the mouth. I have been able to get on horseback for three or four days past.

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The philosophy of Nature

By Haris Dimitriadis

The Natural Philosophy was founded by Thales, the first ever philosopher to seek for natural causes behind the natural phenomena and the functioning of human beings. The second pillar of Natural Philosophy was Democritus who established the atomic theory and the last and foremost Epicurus who emphasized the implications of the natural processes in the pursuit of human happiness. This claim of the Natural essence and functioning of the world was based on two simple observations: (1) We see that there are bodies in motion, and (2) that nothing comes into existence from what does not exist.

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THE BIOGRAPHY OF EPICURUS
 
By Haris Dimitriadis
 
 
“Epicurus, son of Neocles and Chaerestrate, was an Athenian of the Gargettus ward and the Philaidae clan, as Metrodorus says in his book On Noble Birth. He is said by Heraclides (in his Epitome of Sotion) as well as by others, to have been brought up at Samos after the Athenians had sent colonists there, and to have come to Athens at the age of eighteen, at the time when Xenocrates was head of the Academy and Aristotle was in Chalcis. After the death of Alexander of Macedon and the expulsion of the Athenian colonists from Samos by Perdiccas, Epicurus left Athens to join his father in Colophon; for some time he stayed there and gathered students around him, then returned to Athens again during the archonship of Anaxicrates.” (Diogenes Laertius).

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
 
By Haris Dimitriadis
 
 
The end of the city-state
 
There is no doubt that the Peloponnesian War marked the end of the city-state as a creative power that fulfilled the lives of the citizens. After the defeat of Athenians by the Spartans, Athenian participatory democracy lost its dominance in the Greek world. But the Spartan domination did not last long either. Full of arrogance and pride Sparta was embroiled in constant wars and was inevitably subjugated under the Macedonian yoke. The immediate cause of the collapse of classical Greece was the painful experience of a multiannual war with enormous losses in manpower, but also the brutal bleeding of financial resources. The city-state could no longer provide an acceptable standard of living for its citizens, and intellectuals began to move away from the principles of direct democracy, embracing the idea of monarchy.

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Diogenes Laertius (3rd Century AD) is the primary source for the surviving complete letters of Epicurus and for biographical and other pertinent information about him:

Index:

  • Biography of Epicurus
  • Epicurus’s followers and namesakes
  • Epicurus’s writings
  • Overview of Epicureanism
  • Epicurean epistemology and physics
  • Epicurean ethics
  • Biography of Epicurus

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Translated by Cyril Bailey, Oxford, 1926

Greeting

Let no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old grow weary of his study. For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul. And the man who says that the age for philosophy has either not yet come or has gone by is like the man who says that the age for happiness is not yet come to him, or has passed away. Wherefore both when young and old a man must study philosophy, that as he grows old he may be young in blessings through the grateful recollection of what has been, and that in youth he may be old as well, since he will know no fear of what is to come. We must then meditate on the things that make our happiness, seeing that when that is with us we have all, but when it is absent we do all to win it.

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Translated by Cyril Bailey - Oxford, 1926

  1. A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.

  2. Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.

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Translated by Cyril Bailey - Oxford, 1926.

  1. The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favour. For all such things exist only in the weak.

  2. Death is nothing to us, for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.

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