Epicurus Philosophy Summary


Epicurus Philosophy: Happiness, Death and Desire

The philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC.) has lived in Greece at trouble times, when the Hellenic cities have declined.

He will leave an immense work, but we only retrived the following letters:

– A Letter to Herodotus

– A Letter to Pythocles

– A Letter to Menoeceus

– … And a few maxims

Lucretia, Epicurus disciple, inherits essentially ideas that he revered as equal to God, as he tells us himself in the De Natura Rerum (On the Nature of things). Only the concept of clinamen seems to differentiate the two works (although the issue is very controversial).

Epicurus and Lucretius are great representatives of ancient materialism: according to them, everything is material, including the human soul.

Epicurs and Senses

The starting point of the doctrine of the Epicureans is the canonical set of canons of thought, that is to say, criteria or rules for the truth.

– Are the criteria of true feelings, sensitive performances, direct and exact truth.

– In the eyes of Epicurus, all that is seen, far from being subjective and relative, is the contrary true, real and truthful.

– The feeling born of an encounter and contact with simulacra, a kind of fine particulate matter or effluvia emitted by the body.

Epicurus is sensationalist: it attaches to the sensitive portrayal a crucial role in knowledge formation.

– However, it also involves prolepses, also called preconceptions or expectations of perception.

– When a feeling or sense experience is repeated several times, it leaves an imprint in us, reminiscent of earlier sensations, which allows us to anticipate any new feel and recognize objects.

Epicurus and Physics: an atomistic doctrine

The physical centerpiece of the doctrine of the Epicureans assume a representation of nature.

– Developed based on the teachings of Leucippus and Democritus pre Socratic two thinkers, she adopts as explanatory principles of various aspects of reality, gaming and various combinations of atoms, elements immutable, indivisible and infinite in number forming the body compounds.

– The movements of atoms in the infinity of emptiness, their gravity and shocks give the key to all the phenomena of the universe.

– So, are eliminated various mythological, which now leaves room for a rational doctrine based on reason.

Finally, the Epicurean doctrine involves the notion of clinamen (no one knows who is really the author):

– The clinamen means the spontaneous movement by which the atoms are able to deviate from the line of fall caused by gravity.

– There is a kind of mechanical freedom using physical basis of human freedom.

► By their clinamen or declination, the atoms take the initiative of a movement “breaking the laws of destiny,” as Lucretius wrote precisely.

The soul, too, is a material composed of atoms, a very subtle spread throughout the body.

– It’s a part of the body like the feet or ears.

Finally, the gods, simple aggregates of atoms, are tangible realities and blissful living in interworlds. Thus the atom constitutes Does the center of the Epicurean doctrine.


Epicurus, wisdom and morality:

This opens the materialistic physical paths of peace and serenity, ataraxia, namely the absence of disorder and anxiety.

First, we need not fear the gods, who are blessed and immortal beings. But we must also penetrate the idea that death does not concern us at all.

– That means, in fact, dead? dissolution and the permanent loss of sensitivity, a single episode that does not physically disturb us.

– Being dead is to be dissolved, that is to say, be devoid of feeling.

– But we have no reason to experience the anxiety about a simple physiological fact.

– Death is the death of death, since, once dead, we do not think of.

The only real thing before us is the pleasure, enjoyment stable and painless, with roots in the body and in the flesh.

– “The pleasure we have in mind is characterized by the absence of bodily pain and disorders of the soul.”

– The pleasure is at rest and in equilibrium: the search for natural pleasures wise and necessary, generating a stable enjoyment, natural and peaceful.

Here sits a distinction famous Epicurean ethics. There are three types of desires:

– The natural desires and requirements:

► The only people who should be selected, which represent the movement lead us to fulfill in accordance with nature (to be free of physical needs, eating bread, water …)

– The natural desires and unnecessary:

► Correspondent to search for various objects, refined (eg, fine drinks, exquisite food …)

– The desires that are neither natural nor necessary:

► Are the tensions of the soul to the opinions or judgments hollow or empty (eg the desire for glory and fame …)

The wise man is content only natural and necessary pleasures.

Thus emerges the fig of Epicurean Wise, enjoying peace, stability and quiet pleasure. He acquired a perfect peace of soul, having banished the vain fears of the gods and death.

– The wise man is one whose rule of reason judgments and that suffices to itself.

– Everything is material, he thinks he professes and materialism opens to spiritual peace.

Philosophy means in this context, not a pure science and theoretical, but an action to grow the life at its climax.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Epicurus Philosophy Summary, April 24, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 24, 2012, https://www.the-philosophy.com/epicurus-philosophy.

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