Epicureanism by Tim O’Keefe

In my view Epicurus was the real deal among the ancient thinkers. He got more right than any other about the human condition and sits behind the great humanistic tradition in Western thought. First point to make is that Epicurus does not recommend sybaritic excess! Forget delicatessen jars full of fine and exotic foods. Although he is standardly described as a ‘hedonist’, self-indulgence is not his idea of pleasure. Moderation, self-discipline, discussion, contemplation, and the tranquil company of good friends were much more his line.

The Epicurean school of philosophy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus_And_Epicureanism) was one of the dominant philosophies of the Hellenistic period. Founded by Epicurus of Samos (century 341-270 BCE) it was characterized by an empiricist epistemology and a hedonistic ethics. This new introduction to Epicurus offers readers clear exposition of the central tenets of Epicurus’ philosophy, with particular stress placed on those features that have enduring philosophical interest and where parallels can be drawn with debates in contemporary analytic philosophy. Part 1 of the book examines the fundamentals of Epicurus’ metaphysics, including atoms and the void, emergent and sensible properties, cosmology, mechanistic biology, the nature and functioning of the mind, death, and freedom of action. Part 2 explores Epicurus’ epistemology, including his arguments against scepticism and his ideas on sensations, preconceptions and feelings. The final part deals with Epicurus’ ethics, exploring his arguments for hedonism, his distinctive conceptions of types of pleasure and desire, his belief in virtue, his notions of justice, friendship and his theology. O’Keefe provides extended exegesis of the arguments supporting Epicurus’ positions, indicating their strengths and weaknesses, while showing the connections between the various parts of his philosophy and how Epicureanism hangs together as a whole.

Enquire at your local library or available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Epicureanism-Ancient-Philosophies-Tim-OKeefe/dp/1844651703/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420313749&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=epicureanism+no%27keefe

For a 144 page quick introduction turn to the admirable Very Short Introduction series from Oxford where you will find Catherine Wilson’s Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction , 2015, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/019968832X?colid=2UM7UCT97283H&coliid=IY4O16ZM11CAJ&ref_=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl)

You can listen to a brief 15 minute discussion with Catherine Wilson about Epicurus in the Philosophy Bites series at the podcast here http://philosophybites.com/2016/05/catherine-wilson-on-epicureanism.html

Continue with Catherine Wilson’s excellent 2008 study Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. Wilson shows how this thinker, who lived 22 centuries ago, has influenced our modern world view. She traces the influence through figures such as Gassendi, Hobbes, Boyle, Locke, Leibniz, and Berkeley. There are chapters devoted to Epicurean physics and cosmology, the corpuscularian or “mechanical” philosophy, the question of the mortality of the soul, the grounds of political authority, the contested nature of the experimental philosophy, sensuality, curiosity, and the role of pleasure and utility in ethics. The author makes a persuasive case for the significance of materialism in seventeenth-century philosophy without underestimating the depth and significance of the opposition to it, and for its continued importance in the contemporary world. Lucretius’s great poem, On the Nature of Things, supplies the frame of reference for this deeply-researched inquiry into the origins of modern philosophy. A richly rewarding read. Cf. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Epicureanism-Origins-Modernity-Catherine-Wilson/dp/0199238812/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Into your stride now, turn to James Warren, Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics (Oxford University Press, 2004) This is good on the argument of Epicurus that there is nothing to fear in death. Enquire at your local library or available at  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Facing-Death-Epicurus-His-Critics/dp/0199252890/ref=sr_1_1_twi_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418736397&sr=1-1&keywords=facing+death+warren

Facing death with equanimity by this stage – reach for James Warren (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Enquire at your local library or available at  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cambridge-Companion-Epicureanism-Companions-Philosophy/dp/0521873479/ref=sr_1_1_twi_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418736641&sr=1-1&keywords=cambridge+companion+epicureanism

For a lifetime of study and thought on Epicurus and his influence follow the bibliography at the Stanford Encyclopedia here  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epicurus/

Do listen to the excellent BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ 45 minute episode on Epicurus available at the link  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qf083  With Angie Hobbs – Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield; David Sedley Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; and James Warren Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Chaired by Melvyn Bragg. First broadcast Thursday 7 Feb 2013.

256 pages in Routledge

First published 2009

ISBN 978-1844651696

Epicurus enjoys the company of good friends, radiating ataraxia and aponia

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