Examples of essays and research papers on many topics :: Socrates, Epicurus and the Fear of Death .The philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.) was a complete and interdependent system, involving a view of the goal of human life (happiness, resulting.
11 Feb 2014 This is a collection of original essays on issues that emerge from On the one hand, Epicurus did claim that death is not intrinsically bad.
Epicurus taught in a garden in Athens from approximately 306 b.c.e. until his death. Athens had also witnessed the brilliance of Aristotle within the preceding 20 years and the astonishing conquests of Alexander the Great in Asia Minor and Egypt. Greek culture was becoming one of the most dynamic forces of the world. Yet, a time of such change and innovation also led to a sense of impermanence and the fear of the unknown. According to Epicurus, the sensible approach of any adult was to seek the maximization of pleasure and peace, rather than appease or appeal to the supernatural. This is the philosophy of hedonism, which holds the seeking of pleasure to be the ultimate purpose of life.
However, Epicurus differs from Epictetus in that Epicurus does not believe that it is the virtues that bring about happiness, but rather, one’s own pleasure.
Whether Epicurus also postulated the existence of such a swerve of one or more soul atoms, early on in life, to account for man's free will is a matter for current conjecture. What we are sure of is that, by apparent contrast with Democritus, Epicurus was an atomist who was also profoundly antideterminist.
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.
By the 15th century, the philosophical speculation initiated by the works of Aquinas and his critics, coupled with the transmission of classical works that had been preserved by the Moslems, led to a greater general interest in the Greek and Roman classics. This trend was particularly evident in Italy, where the humanists began circulating translations of classical works and writing essays on classical themes. Of particular importance to the story of Epicureanism was Poggio Bracciolini, who rediscovered De Rerum Natura at a German monastary in 1414, and made a copy which was transmitted it to Italy (where it was recopied by Niccolò Niccoli). Another important Italian humanist was Lorenzo Valla, who wrote the essay De Voluptate defending Epicurean hedonism.
After the Garden's closure, the only fragments of Epicureanism to be remembered in Europe were those that the church chose to preserve. Apart from Lucretius's De Rerum Natura, almost no original Epicurean source material survived outside of what had been quoted by various biographers and critics. For many hundreds of years, Epicurus could only be openly discussed by those whose reputations were already ruined, liked the imprisoned Boethius in his Consolations of Philosophy and in the ribald songs of monastic drop-outs in Germany, known to us today as the Carmina Burana (“Songs of Beuren”). Even though Aristotle was made respectable again by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century (giving rise to the Scholastic philosophy), Epicurean doctrines were still suppressed. One theologian from the mid-14th century, Nicolaus of Autrecourt, did champion Epicurean atomism. However, the church stripped him of his teaching post and ordered him to burn his own writings, which he did on November 25th, 1347.
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).
Christianity, having become the official state religion of Rome and Byzantium by this time, no longer required mere argumentation alone—it had power, money, and status on its side, and a fierce intolerance of its rivals. Epicureans still had the Garden in Athens, but its ability to spread the teachings of Epicurus had been fatally hobbled. For the time being, the Christian faith had emerged victorious over the cause of human happiness and rationality.
Although human beings, like everything else, are composed of atomsthat move according to their fixed laws, our actions are not whollypredetermined — rather than entertain such a paralyzingdoctrine, Epicurus says, it would be better to believe in the oldmyths, for all their perversities (LM 134). What enables us to wrestliberty from a mechanistic universe is the existence of a certainrandomness in the motion of atoms, that takes the form of a minuteswerve in their forward course (evidence for this doctrine deriveschiefly from later sources, including Lucretius and Cicero). It is notentirely clear how the swerve operates: it may involve a small angleof deviation from the original path, or else a slight shift sideways,perhaps by a single minimum, with no change in direction. The idea ofsuch a minute veering, said to occur at no determinate time or place,is less strange in the modern age of quantum physics than it was inEpicurus' time, and it gave rise to mocking critiques. Moreproblematic today is how the swerve might explain freedom of will— if indeed Epicurus' idea of the will was like our own. It did,at all events, introduce an indeterminacy into the universe, and ifsoul atoms, thanks to their fineness, were more susceptible to theeffects of such deviations than coarser matter, the swerve could atleast represent a breach in any strict predestination of humanbehavior. And this might have been enough for Epicurus' purposes: hemay not have invoked the swerve in order to explain voluntary action(claiming that it is action deriving, immediately or ultimately, froma swerve or some swerves of the soul's atoms). He may have wishedmerely to establish the possibility of action not deriving from thepositions of the soul's constituent atoms at any time plus the effectsof collisions among them resulting from their given movements at thattime. According to Lucretius (2.225–50), the swerve was also putto use to solve a cosmological problem: if at some (as it were)initial moment all atoms were moving uniformly in a single direction(downward) at the same speed, it is impossible to conceive how theprocess of atomic collisions could have begun, save by some suchdevice. This seems a curious idea: given that time, like space, wasinfinite according to Epicurus, he need not have imagined a time priorto collisions. Just possibly the tendency of atoms to emerge fromcollisions in a preferred direction (by definition “down”)might lead over time to local regions of parallel motion, and theswerve could serve to reintroduce contact among them. In any event,Epicurus may have thought of atoms moving in some uniform directionrather than in diverse ones as a default position for physical theory(because of the simplicity of that hypothesis); thus he may have feltthe need to explain how the diversity of the atoms' motions could havearisen.