The philos. system of Epicurus.* The community that he est. at Athens was called The Garden from the garden in which he taught. Though he is said to have written voluminously, only 3 letters and numerous aphorisms survive. From these remains and from the works of such followers as Lucretius* and Philodemus it is evident that the school's chief tenets were organized under a few main heads: canonic (Epicurean logic), physics, and ethics. Of these divisions the first two interested Epicurus only to the extent that they provided a basis for the 3d. Prominent among his principles: The only avenue to knowledge is sense-perception, which all men have in common. Through senseperception we learn that there are only 2 things in the universe whose existence is certain and enduring: atoms and void. From these primordial, eternal atoms of matter and their chance combination everything else arises: this world with its human inhabitants and an infinite number of other worlds, with anthropomorphic gods inhabiting the empty regions bet. the worlds and beyond. The gods are blissfully and immortally free of all concern for this world or any other. Man, on the other hand, is characterized by mortality. When he dies, the atoms of his body patently begin slow dissolution; the atoms of his soul, being much finer, are dispersed at once. Consequently, after death there is no life or consciousness; for when we are, death is not, and when death is, we are not. Therefore man's proper concern is with this life only, in which pleasure is the greatest good of man's nature and as such the aim of human existence. Pleasure must not be understood in the crass sense but as a peaceful, indep. state of body and mind, free from pain and trouble, resulting in imperturbability. In fact, imperturbability rather than pleasure is the catchword that marks Epicurus' ambition to free men from the fears that rob them of happiness: fear of death and fear of gods or of mysterious powers in nature. To maintain the imperturbability for which he believed his physics furnished a basis, Epicurus counseled shunning pub. life and withdrawing from the world.
Epicurea, ed. H. K. Usener (Leipzig, 1887); Epicurus: The Extant Remains, ed. and tr. C. Bailey Oxford, 126); The Philosophy of Epicurus: Letters, Doctrines, and Parallel Passages from Lucretius, ed. and tr. G. K. Strodach (Evanston, Illinois, 1963). RJ
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