Friday, August 24, 2007

Epicurus (c. 341-271 BCE)

reposted from Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy

Epicurus is one of the major philosophers in the Hellenistic period, the three centuries following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE (and of Aristotle in 322 BCE). Epicurus developed an unsparingly materialistic metaphysics, empiricist epistemology, and hedonistic ethics. Epicurus taught that the basic constituents of the world are atoms, uncuttable bits of matter, flying through empty space, and he tried to explain all natural phenomena in atomic terms. Epicurus rejected the existence of Platonic forms and an immaterial soul, and he said that the gods have no influence on our lives. Epicurus also thought skepticism was untenable, and that we could gain knowledge of the world relying upon the senses. He taught that the point of all one's actions was to attain pleasure (conceived of as tranquility) for oneself, and that this could be done by limiting one's desires and by banishing the fear of the gods and of death. Epicurus' gospel of freedom from fear proved to be quite popular, and communities of Epicureans flourished for centuries after his death.

Table of Contents (Clicking on the links below will take you to those parts of this article)
1. Life
2. Sources
3. Metaphysics
a. Arguments for the existence of atoms and void
b. Properties of Atoms, limitlessness of the Universe
c. Differences from Democritus
i. Weight
ii. The Swerve
iii. Sensible Qualities
d. Mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena
e. The gods
f. Philosophy of Mind
g. Perception
4. Epistemology
a. The Canon: sensations, preconceptions, and feelings
b. Anti-skeptical Arguments
i. The "lazy argument"
ii. The self-refutation argument
iii. The argument from concept-formation
5. Ethics
a. Hedonism, psychological and ethical
b. Types of pleasure
c. Types of desire
d. The virtues
e. Justice
f. Friendship
g. Death
i. The no subject of harm argument
ii. The symmetry argument
6. Select Bibliography

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