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The beliefs in myths and gods in the times of the epicurus

Life Epicurus was born around 341 B. He was about 19 when Aristotle died, and he studied philosophy under followers of Democritus and Plato. Epicurus founded his first philosophical schools in Mytilene and Lampsacus, the beliefs in myths and gods in the times of the epicurus moving to Athens around 306 B.

There Epicurus founded the Garden, a combination of philosophical community and school. The residents of the Garden put Epicurus' teachings into practice. Epicurus died from kidney stones around 271 or 270 B. After Epicurus' death, Epicureanism continued to flourish as a philosophical movement.

Communities of Epicureans sprang up throughout the Hellenistic world; along with Stoicismit was one of the major philosophical schools competing for people's allegiances. Epicureanism went into decline with the rise of Christianity. Certain aspects of Epicurus' thought were revived during the Renaissance and early modern periods, when reaction against scholastic neo-Aristotelianism led thinkers to turn to mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena.

Sources Epicurus was a voluminous writer, but almost none of his own work survives. A likely reason for this is that Christian authorities found his ideas ungodly. Diogenes Laertius, who probably lived in the third century CEwrote a 10-book Lives of the Philosophers, which includes three of Epicurus' letters in its recounting of the life and teachings of Epicurus. These three letters are brief summaries of major areas of Epicurus' philosophy: It also includes the Principal Doctrines, 40 sayings which deal mainly with ethical matters.

Because of the absence of Epicurus' own writings, we have to rely on later writers to reconstruct Epicurus' thought. Two of our most important sources are the Roman poet Lucretius c. Cicero was an adherent of the skeptical academywho wrote a series of works setting forth the major philosophical systems of his day, including Epicureanism.

Another major source is the essayist Plutarch c. However, both Cicero and Plutarch were very hostile toward Epicureanism, so they must be used with care, since they often are less than charitable toward Epicurus, and may skew his views to serve their own purposes. Although the major outlines of Epicurus' thought are clear enough, the lack of sources means many of the details of his philosophy are still open to dispute.

Metaphysics Epicurus believes that the basic constituents of the world are atoms which are uncuttable, microscopic bits of matter moving in the void which is simply empty space. Ordinary objects are conglomerations of atoms. Furthermore, the properties of macroscopic bodies and all of the events we see occurring can be explained in terms of the collisions, reboundings, and entanglements of atoms.

Arguments for the Existence of Atoms and Void Epicurus' metaphysics starts from two simple points: Epicurus takes the first point to be simply a datum of experience.

The second point is a commonplace of ancient Greek philosophy, derived from the Principle of Sufficient Reason the principle that for everything which occurs there is a reason or explanation for why it occurs, and why this way rather than that. First, because bodies move, there must be empty space for them to move in, and Epicurus calls this empty space 'void. However, Epicurus thinks that this process of division cannot go on indefinitely, because otherwise bodies would dissolve away into nothing.

Also, there must be basic and unchangeable building blocks of matter in order to explain the regularities in nature. These non-compound bodies are atoms--literally, 'uncuttables. Other things--such as colors, time, and the beliefs in myths and gods in the times of the epicurus ultimately explicable as attributes of bodies. Properties of Atoms, Limitlessness of the Universe Because Epicurus believes that nothing comes into existence from nothing, he thinks that the universe has no beginning, but has always existed, and will always exist.

Atoms, too, as the basic building blocks of all else, cannot come into existence, but have always existed. Our particular cosmos, however, is only a temporary agglomeration of atoms, and it is only one of an infinite number of such cosmoi, which come into existence and then dissolve away.

Against Aristotle, Epicurus argues that the universe is unlimited in size. If the universe were limited in size, says Epicurus, you could go to the end of it, stick your fist out, and where your fist was located would be the new 'limit' of the universe.

Of course, this process could be reiterated an endless number of times. Since the universe is unlimited in size, there must also be an unlimited number of atoms and an infinite amount of void. If the number of atoms were limited, then the 'density' of atoms in any region would effectively be zero, and there would be no macroscopic bodies, as there evidently are.

  • It promises to liberate us from rigid necessity only to substitute an alternative human mechanism, perhaps more undependable and eccentric but hardly more autonomous;
  • None of this is likely to be mere coincidence;
  • Here at all events 'destiny' must be eliminated;
  • Atoms, too, as the basic building blocks of all else, cannot come into existence, but have always existed.

And there must be an unlimited amount of void, since without a limitless amount of void, the infinite number of atoms would be unable to move. Differences from Democritus Up to this point, Epicurus is largely following the thought of Democritus, a pre-Socratic philosopher and one of the inventors of atomism. However, he modifies Democritus' atomism in at least three important ways. Weight The first is that Epicurus thinks that atoms have weight.

Like Democritus, Epicurus believes that atoms have the properties of size, shape, and resistance. Democritus explains all atomic motion as the result of previous atomic collisions, plus the inertia of atoms. Aristotle, however, criticizes Democritus on this point, saying that Democritus has not explained why it is that atoms move at all, rather than simply standing still. Epicurus seems to be answering this criticism when he says that atoms do have a natural motion of direction--'downward'--even though there is no bottom to the universe.

This natural motion is supposed to give an explanation for why atoms move in the first place. Also, Epicurus thinks that it is evident that bodies do tend to travel down, all else being equal, and he thinks that positing weight as an atomic property the beliefs in myths and gods in the times of the epicurus for this better than thinking all atomic motion is the result of past collisions and inertia.

The Swerve The second modification of Democritus' views is the addition of the 'swerve. One reason for this swerve is that it is needed to explain why there are atomic collisions.

The natural tendency of atoms is to fall straight downward, at uniform velocity. If this were the only natural atomic motion, the atoms never would have collided with one another, forming macroscopic bodies.

As Lucretius puts it, they would 'fall downward, like drops of rain, through the deep void. If the laws of atomic motion are deterministic, then the past positions of the atoms in the universe, plus these laws, determine everything that will occur, including human action.

Cicero reports that Epicurus worries that, if it has been true from eternity that, e. Sensible Qualities The third difference between Epicurus and Democritus has to do with their attitudes toward the reality of sensible properties. Democritus thinks that, in reality, only atoms and the void exist, and that sensible qualities such as sweetness, whiteness, and the like exist only 'by convention. The sensible qualities that we think bodies have, like sweetness, are not really in the object at all, but are simply subjective states of the percipient's awareness produced by the interaction of bodies with our sense-organs.

This is shown, thinks Democritus, by the fact that the same body appears differently to different percipients depending on their bodily constitution, e. From this, Democritus derives skeptical conclusions. He is pessimistic about our ability to gain any knowledge about the world on the basis of our senses, since they systematically deceive us about the way the world is.

Epicurus wants to resist these pessimistic conclusions. He argues that properties like sweetness, whiteness, and such do not exist at the atomic level--individual atoms are not sweet or white--but that these properties are nonetheless real. These are properties of macroscopic bodies, but the possession of these properties by macroscopic bodies are explicable in terms of the properties of and relations amongst the individual atoms that make up bodies.

Epicurus thinks that bodies have the capability to cause us to have certain types of experiences because of their atomic structure, and that such capabilities are real properties of the bodies. Similar considerations apply for properties like "being healthy," "being deadly," and "being enslaved.

And these sorts of properties are also relational properties, not intrinsic ones. For example, cyanide is deadly--not deadly per se, but deadly for human beings and perhaps for other types of organisms.

Nonetheless, its deadliness for us is still a real property of the cyanide, albeit a relational one.

Epicurus (341—271 B.C.E.)

Mechanistic Explanations of Natural Phenomena One important aspect of Epicurus' philosophy is his desire to replace teleological goal-based explanations of natural phenomena with mechanistic ones. His main target is mythological explanations of meteorological occurrences and the like in terms of the will of the gods.

Because Epicurus wishes to banish the fear of the gods, he insists that occurrences like earthquakes and lightning can be explained entirely in atomic terms and are not due to the will of the gods.

  • If he is indoctrinated in the Epicurean philosophy, he learns to distinguish desires which arise from nature and must be satisfied from those which arise from nature but need not be satisfied and from those which do not arise from nature and are best eliminated;
  • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura There are many different editions of Lucretius' masterpiece, an extended exposition of Epicurus' metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and natural science;
  • Giussani's two elements look like a temporal sequence - free spontaneous thoughts illuminate the subsequent decision of the will to act 'The complete conception of the will according to Epicurus, Giussani argues in an admirable summary of his position, 'comprises two elements, a complex atomic movement which has the characteristic of spontaneity, that is, is withdrawn from the necessity of mechanical causation;
  • For indeed, if we look back over it, we find that here and there crudities of thought or incoherences in the connexion of ideas have been noted, yet as a whole the general theory is self-consistent and complete; but at the back of it always lies the difficulty which must beset Epicureanism or any other form of materialism;
  • Therefore, in many cases, not much at all can be confirmed exclusively - there are several possibilities, more often than not, such as with the question of the size of the heavenly bodies:

Epicurus is also against the intrinsic teleology of philosophers like Aristotle. Teeth appear to be well-designed for the purpose of chewing.

Aristotle thinks that this apparent purposiveness in nature cannot be eliminated, and that the functioning of the parts of organisms must be explained by appealing to how they contribute to the functioning of the organism as a whole.

Other philosophers, such as the Stoics, took this apparent design as evidence for the intelligence and benevolence of God. Epicurus, however, following Empedocles, tries to explain away this apparent purposiveness in nature in a proto-Darwinian way, as the result of a process of natural selection.

The Gods Because of its denial of divine providence, Epicureanism was often charged in antiquity with being a godless philosophy, although Epicurus and his followers denied the charge. The main upshot of Epicurean theology is certainly negative, however. Epicurus' mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena are supposed to displace explanations that appeal to the will of the gods.

In addition, Epicurus is one of the earliest philosophers we know of to have raised the Problem of Evil, arguing against the notion that the world is under the providential care of a loving deity by pointing out the manifold suffering in the world. Despite this, Epicurus says that there are gods, but these gods are quite different from the popular conception of gods. We have a conception of the gods, says Epicurus, as supremely blessed and happy beings.

Troubling oneself about the miseries of the world, or trying to administer the world, would be inconsistent with a life of tranquility, says Epicurus, so the gods have no concern for us. In fact, they are unaware of our existence, and live eternally in the intermundia, the space between the cosmoi. For Epicurus, the gods function mainly as ethical ideals, whose lives we can strive to emulate, but whose wrath we need not fear.

Ancient critics the beliefs in myths and gods in the times of the epicurus the Epicurean gods were a thin smoke-screen to hide Epicurus' atheismand difficulties with a literal interpretation of Epicurus' sayings on the nature of the gods for instance, it appears inconsistent with Epicurus' atomic theory to hold that any compound body, even a god, could be immortal have led some scholars to conjecture that Epicurus' 'gods' are thought-constructs, and exist only in human minds as idealizations, i.

Philosophy of Mind Epicurus is one of the first philosophers to put forward an Identity Theory of Mind. In modern versions of the identity theory, the mind is identified with the brain, and mental processes are identified with neural processes. Epicurus' physiology is quite different; the mind is identified as an organ that resides in the chest, since the common Greek view was that the chest, not the head, is the seat of the emotions. However, the underlying idea is quite similar.

The main point that Epicurus wants to establish is that the mind is something bodily. The mind must be a body, thinks Epicurus, because of its ability to interact with the body.

The mind is affected by the body, as vision, drunkenness, and disease show. Likewise, the mind affects the body, as our ability to move our limbs when we want to and the physiological effects of emotional states show.

  • Ethics Epicurus' ethics is a form of egoistic hedonism; i;
  • Since the universe is unlimited in size, there must also be an unlimited number of atoms and an infinite amount of void.

Only bodies can interact with other bodies, so the mind must be a body. Epicurus says that the mind cannot be something incorporeal, as Plato thinks, since the only thing that is not a body is void, which is simply empty space and cannot act or be acted upon.