Monday, September 17, 2007

monday's word: epicurean

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ephebe [student] of marathon, attrib. praxiteles, 350 b.c.e.

ep i kyur ee un

devoted to sensual pleasure, especially good food + wine, + comfort

follower of the athenian philosopher epicurus, ca. 341-270 b.c.e., who taught his students the following life principles:

--the universe is infinite + eternal

--myths + religion contribute little to our understanding of the universe or to the meaningfulness of life

--we should believe nothing that cannot be either directly observed or logically deduced from what we directly observe

--all matter + all energy derives from ‘atoms’ [atomos], tiny, indestructible particles that move in empty space [khaos]

--the motion of atoms is both regular + random—regular motion sustains the integrity of objects, random motion creates change

--the gods are eternal + blessed, but unknowable, + people who attribute personal traits to the gods (or make personal petitions to them) are, at best, unwise +, at worst, impious

--the gods do not reward or punish human beings, either in life or in death

--death ends both body + soul

--we should not fear death because it involves no pain in itself + brings an end to the suffering that sometimes precedes it

--pleasure is good, pain is bad

--the highest good is ‘perfect peace of mind’ (ataraxia), freedom from pain + fear that precludes a need for pleasure

--temperance + restraint increase the pleasure + reduce the pain of our desires

--it is best to leave politics alone, to live away from the hubbub of society, in a garden, with a circle of well-chosen friends

--friendship contributes, more than any other factor, to happiness (epicurus never married)

--we should treat others as we wish them to treat us, in order to maximize our personal happiness + reduce the probability of harm coming to us or to others

--all people, including women + slaves, are equal (unlike other philosophers, epicurus permitted women + slaves to join him as students)

--the proper goals of life are pleasure, tranquility, freedom from pain + fear, self-sufficiency, + friendship

[later, the roman stoics + then the early christians maligned epicurean philosophy as mere self-indulgence + pleasure seeking, without ethics or meaning.]

synonyms: agnosticism, atomism, communalism, deism, egalitarianism, empiricism, hedonism, philosophical materialism, quantum physics

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