Talking About Epicurus With Someone Who Is Secular Humanist / Atheist

  • This thread is to kick off discussion of how to approach discussing Epicurus with someone who is secular humanist / atheist.

    This would seem to be a category that almost doesn't have to be discussed, because secular humanists/atheists are often thought of as already Epicurean. In fact, however, it has been my experience that this is far from the truth. Secular humanists often adopt Judea-Christian ethics almost totally, simply dispensing with the idea of a supernatural god. That's a good start, but in Epicurean terms it doesn't go nearly far enough to firmly endorse pleasure as the guide of life, death as the end of consciousness, and - even more controversially - the Epicurean view of Justice as not built on abstract absolutes, bu on the individual happiness of the people concerned.

    For example, it is possible that in dealing with someone of this background that there are references in Nietzsche, or Dimitri Liantinis, which would point the way more directly to Epicurus.

    Anyway this is a kickoff thread -- please add your suggestions.

  • I think one key argument that helps them to consider E is to convince them of the need to take care of their existential health via some kind of therapeutic philosophy (and to then stress how E has something different to offer from Buddhism).

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Well, I am an atheist. But this whole thing called virtue, you can't possibly live up to it. So you might as well do what you want. I mean, I don't want to cause pain for other people. I can see an issue if you have some kind of sadist who doesn't care if they are hurting others, or even enjoys it. But come to think about it, I don't think that Christianity, or Secular Humanism for that matter will stop that kind of person. I don't think commandments from a supposed god or some kind of secular moral code is going to stop them.

  • From my little bit of knowledge of psychology at amateur level, I expect that even sadists can apply Epicurus' philosophy because it provides both feelings and reason as input for making decisions on what action to take.

    Sadists who are not psychopaths may trust their feelings as guide because they have compassion, which stops them from excessively harming their masochistic partners. They need reason mainly to carry out sadistic techniques safely to prevent unintentional hazards.

    Sadists who are psychopaths need to rely much more on reason to prevent themselves from severely harming or killing people. A life-time prison sentence might not scare them at the level of feelings but reasoning about such consequences might stop them from excessive actions.

  • I don't think commandments from a supposed god or some kind of secular moral code is going to stop them.

    Yes your main point there and the rest of your post is directly stated in the first paragraph of DIogenes of Oinoanda fragment 20