Modern Epicurean Atheists vs. Theists

Epicurus said that there is no Creator, that nothing can come from nothing, and that a perfect being would not intentionally disrupt human history.

Yet, Gassendi accepted Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Similarly, Epicurus advised Menoeceus to acknowledge the reality of the perfect existence.

Yet, many Epicureans in the secular world reject all forms of divinity.

Did Epicurean philosophy after the Renaissance enter a "neo-Epicurean" stage? Or can we attribute "neo-Epicureanism" to the Roman era, where otherwise conservative, apolitical Epicureans served in the Roman Senate and later assassinated the Emperor? Or could we even doubt the authenticity of Lucretius and Philodemus as orthodox "Epicureans" rather than later innovators, when they chose to write in poetic verse rather than frank prose? What of the ancient Greek Epicureans of the 2nd and 1st-centuries BCE whom were accused of being "Sophists" by other Epicureans due to differences in approaches to the nature of the mind? Or are we all Epicureans? Regardless, Epicurean theology seems to be the major point of contention throughout the world of modern Epicureans.

Image based on the "Are You Two Friends?" Star Trek meme []

Comments 5

  • This is a reminder of the question of what criteria we would apply to name someone a classical Epicurean. Just thinking about it quickly again I think my criteria remains: (1) clearly doesn't believe in supernatural gods, but has a view of "divinity" so not an absolute "atheist" in the modern sense; (2) clearly doesn't believe in life after death; (3) clearly holds "pleasure" to be the good / goal; (4) clearly holds "virtue" as relative and not absolute. Evidence of a materialist viewpoint, rejection of dialectical logic, eternal/infinite universe and a number of other core physics doctrines ("nothing comes or goes to nothing") would be additional helpful factors to consider, but it's hard to get past those first four (maybe even that single "1" I listed first) to begin to consider some of the others.

  • I see that Palladas of Alexandria is listed in Nate's list as the last known ancient Epicurean, but the Wikipedia article doesn't seem to bear that out, so we'd probably have to look into his epigrams to see what might be justified:

  • It is such a shame that it is not possible to think of a face to stick on one of those heads, or somewhere else in the picture, that really represents the viewpoint Epicurus argued for! ;)

    I'm not sure we've had anyone since the ancient world that would really qualify.

    And that might be an interesting question to think about: Who was the last (in time) "full-blooded" Epicurean we know about from the ancient world? I hope it's not Lucretius himself! Possibly Cassius Longinus outlived Lucretius for a short time, but surely there was some gung-ho Epicureans after that?

    (I added this to the forum's front page and invite answers in this thread. I know Nate did a thread on ancient Epicureans so we can compare that too.)

    Yikes looking at that list there are a lot of names I don't recognize. Perhaps Diogenes of Oinoanda is one of the last ones for whom we have much documentation?

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  • Who is that on the left? Christopher Hitchens?

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