Epicurus

Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded a school of philosophy now called Epicureanism.

Epicurus is a key figure in the development of science and scientific methodology because of his insistence that nothing should be believed, except that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction. Like Democritus, he was an atomist, believing that the fundamental constituents of the world were indivisible little bits of matter (atoms; Greek: ἄτομος atom os, “indivisible”) flying through empty space (Greek: κενόν kenon). Everything that occurs is the result of the atoms colliding, rebounding, and becoming entangled with one another.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. He also taught that the gods neither reward nor punish humans; that the universe is infinite and eternal.

Epicurus’ philosophy is based on the theory that all good and bad derive from the sensations of what he defined as pleasure and pain: What is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is painful. His teachings were more about striving for an absence of pain and suffering, both physical and mental, and a state of satiation and tranquillity that was free of the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. Epicurus argued that when we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and we enter a state of ataraxia, “tranquillity of soul” or “imperturbability”.

Epicurus distinguishes between two different types of pleasure: “moving” pleasures and “static” pleasures. “Moving” pleasures occur when one is in the process of satisfying a desire and involve an active titillation of the senses. After one’s desires have been satisfied, (e.g., when one is full after eating), the state of satiety is a “static” pleasure.

When a man dies, he does not feel the pain of death because he no longer is and therefore feels nothing. Therefore, as Epicurus famously said, “death is nothing to us.” When we exist, death is not; and when death exists, we are not.

 

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