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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Epicurus Project Summary

Trent Dillihay, Justin Fox, Katelin Simmons
Philosophy 1030 Section 12

Epicurus Midterm Project Summary.
Our group has split our coverage of Epicurus and his philosophy into three parts: his life, his views on death, the soul, and the afterlife, and his interpretation of the meaning of happiness. Justin will be covering Epicurus' history, beginning with the philosopher's birth on the island of Samos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey, to a poor family. Epicurus was later forced off the island with his family, who fled to Athens where Epicurus was drafted into and served in the Athenian Army during the reign of Alexander the Great. Epicurus' exploration of philosophy started after he left military service, and he was majorly influenced by Democritus and the atomist idea that would later contribute to his own philosophy. In 311 BC, he started teaching in Mytelin, on the Greek island of Lesbos, before again being forced out due to controversy surrounding his ideas. Epicurus then moved to Athens in 306 BC, where he started his own school, the "Garden", in his home. Epicurus' philosophy only ever developed a small following in Greece, but would later become significantly popularized in the Roman empire.
Trent will cover Epicurus' thoughts on death, the soul, and the afterlife. Epicurus' idea of atoms, which was influenced by Democritus and like-minded atomic thinkers, was more of a metaphysical  and scientific theory, but it's most important idea, that all matter is made up of small particles called atoms that form the basis for everything, directly influenced these ideas. Epicurus thought that even the soul was composed of atoms, and was furthermore a completely physical thing. He also though the soul was the source of all sensation and perception in humans, and that the mind was simply the most sophisticated part of the soul. When a person died in the Epicurean view, their soul, whose atoms were too fragile to continue existing independently of their former physical person, would die as well. Epicurus though that people feared death because they believed it would leave their souls with regret and longing for what they would leave behind, or to face judgment by angry gods. He also thought that people should not worry about this or death in general, because we simply cease to exist when we die, and won't be around to feel any of these things happen anyway. For Epicurus, death was not a bad thing, as it caused no pain or displeasure to the dead person because all sensation of pain or pleasure ceases when we die, and thus death is not bad or good, but completely neutral. Epicurus also argued against the idea that a longer life was a better one; this ties into his happiness philosophy. For Epicurus, if people lived a happy life, their lives were complete, and thus it would not matter how long that life lasted, only how happily that life was lived.
Katelin will discuss Epicurus' philosophy of happiness, which is actually quite different than what we think it is in the modern day. Epicurus did have a hedonistic ethical view of happiness, but it was different from what we would call hedonism today. Epicurus thought that the best and happiest life was one where ataraxia, or inner tranquility, was achieved by being content with simple things in life, instead of giving in to unnecessary desires. In his view, it was better to focus on friendships and engaging in meaningful conversation with them than it was to focus on purely physical pleasures like food, drink, or sex.

Rider, Benjamin A. "Epicurus On The Fear Of
Death And The Relative Value Of Lives." Apeiron: A Journal For Ancient
Philosophy And Science
47.4 (2014): 461-484. Philosophers Index with
Full Text
. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
Konstan, David, "Epicurus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of
(Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

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