Epicurus nsIn existographies, Epicurus (341-270BC) (IQ:185|#50) (Cattell 1000:240) [RGM:72|1,500+] (FA:22) (GAE:3) (GPhE:#) [CR:356], aka "Epikuros" (Thomas, 1875), was a Greek philosopher, noted for having built on the atomic theories of Leucippus and Democritus in the formulation of his “Epicurean philosophy”, centered around his ontic opening-like "Epicurean swerve" hypothesis, that the aim of existence is the satisfaction on one’s desires. Epicurus left his teachings in the form of three-hundred scrolls, which eventually found their way into the hands of Lucretius.

Epicurus, supposedly, said the following about good:

“I know not how to conceive the ‘good’, apart from the pleasures of taste, sexual pleasures, the pleasures of sound and the pleasures of beautiful form.”
— Epicurus (c.300BC), On the Ethical End; cited by Diogenes Laertius (c.230) in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (§10.6)

Epicurus, in his Health Ends (Peri Telous), supposedly, laid down emphasis on “physical pleasures”, which caused Cicero among other Epicureans to have strong antipathy to Epicurean ethics.

“Epicurus attests that he cannot envisage any good which is detached from luxurious and lewd pleasures.”
Cicero (45BC), On the Nature of the Gods [9]

The scholar Athenaeus (7.280a), supposedly, discusses this further. [9]

In 1997, Patrick Walsh, in his commentary on Cicero’s discussions of Metrodorus and Hermarchus, gives the following synopsis of the Epicurean chance model: [9]

Metrodorus and Hermarchus: it is said that Metrodorus would have followed his friend Epicurus as head of the Garden had he not died first; Hermarchus succeeded instead. They joined with Epicurus in attacking Pythagoras for equating all things with number, Plato for his notion of the demiurge initiating motion in the universe, and Empedocles for positing that love and strife combine and separate the four elements. All these views of purposive creation are at odds with the Epicurean doctrine of the fusion and separation of atoms by chance.”


Epicurus' works included a 37 book treatise On Nature, of which only fragments survive; book 14, according to Patrick Walsh (1997), appears to have been an attack against Platonic physics, and may have included disparagement of Pamphilus. [9]

The Epicureans were Alexander’s greatest enemies, while the followers of Plato, Chrysippus, and Pythagoras were his friends. (Ѻ)

At age 12, Epicurus was frustrated with his teacher's inability to explain to him the meaning of chaos; after which, through study, he found Democritus’ idea about the atom seemed to him the most promising clue. Epicurus, of note, once boasted in his writings, according to Cicero, in his On the Nature of the Gods (45BC), that he never had a teacher: [9]

“You Epicureans repeat these doctrines like parrots, as though they have been dictated to you. Epicurus dreamt them up when half-asleep, for as we not from his writings, he boasted that he never had a teacher. Even if he had not proclaimed this, I myself could readily have believed it of him. He reminds me of the owner of a badly constructed house, who boasts of not having employed an architect. There is not a whiff of the Academy or the Lyceum in him, nor even a hint of basic lessons learnt at school. He could have attended the lectures of Xenocrates (c.396-314BC) (Ѻ), an impressive enough teacher, heavens knows, and some believe that he did so. But he himself disavowed it, and I prefer his own testimony to that of others.

He says that he attended the school of a certain Pamphilus, one of Plato's disciples, on the island of Samos, where he lived as a young man with his father and brothers. (His father Neocles had gone there as a settler, but he turned schoolmaster, I believe, when his little farm provided too precarious a living.) But Epicurus shows extraordinary contempt for this Platonist, so fearful is he of appearing ever to have been taught anything. But he is caught red-handed in the case of Nausiphanes, a follower of Democritus; he does not deny that he heard him lecture, but he harries him with all manner of abuse. Yet if we assume that he had not attended these teachings of Democritus, what others could he have attended? What is there in the natural philosophy of Epicurus which does not stem from Democritus? It is true that he changed a few things, as for example the swerve of the atoms which I mentioned a moment ago, but the main lines are the same: atoms and void, images, infinity of space, countless worlds, their emergence and extinction—in fact, almost the entire range of natural philosophy.”

In 1875, Friedrich Lange, in his The History of Materialism, recounts Epicurus’ educational path as follows: [10]

“The father of Epicurus is said to have been a poor schoolmaster of Athens, who became a kleruchos, or colonist, at Samos. There Epicurus was born towards the end of the year 342, or at the beginning of 341. In his fourteenth year, it is said, he studied Hesiod's Cosmogony at school, and finding that everything was explained to arise from chaos, he cried out and asked: ‘Whence, then, came chaos?’ To this his teacher had no reply that would content him, and from that hour the young Epicurus began to philosophise for himself.

Epicurus must, in fact, be regarded as self-taught, although the most important ideas which he incorporated in his system were individually already commonly known. His general education is said to have been deficient. He joined himself to none of the then prevailing schools, but studied the more industriously the writings of Democritus, which supplied him with the corner-stone of his cosmology, the doctrine of atoms. Nausiphanes (c.375BC-300BC) (Ѻ), a somewhat skeptical follower of Democritus, is said to have first introduced this doctrine to him at Samos.

Nevertheless, we cannot assume that it was through ignorance of other systems that Epicurus took his own course; for already as a youth of eighteen he had been to Athens, and heard probably Xenocrates, the pupil of Plato, whilst Aristotle, accused of atheism, was at Chalcis, looking towards his end.”

At age 32, Epicurus founded a school in the garden in Athens, in which he constructed a whole account of the universe and a philosophy of existence. [5]

Epicurus was an atomic materialist (see: atomic theory), who, following in the steps of Democritus, was an advocate of materialism, led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention, and, following Aristippus — about whom very little is known — believed that pleasure is the greatest good, but the way to attain pleasure was to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one's desires; the following are two alternative translations of this view:

“When we say that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasure of the profligate or that which depends on the physical enjoyment – as some think who do not understand our teachings, disagree with them, or give them an evil interpretation – but by pleasure we mean the state wherein the body is free from pain and the mind from anxiety.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC), “Letter to Menoeceus”; cited by Erik Wielenberg (2005) [7]

The following is an alternative translation, with additional text, wherein we see "state of anxiety in the mind" replaced with "trouble in the soul" (see: soul terminology upgrades):

“When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul. Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC), “Letter to Menoeceus” (Ѻ)

This led one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. [6]

On death, Epicurus reasoned that: [1]

Death, the most dreaded of all evils, is of no concern for us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist.”


Marx | Historical materialism | Scientific socialism
In 1841, German thinker Karl Marx finished his dissertation entitled "Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature," from which his conception of historical materialism, and its near synonym description “scientific socialism”, coined by Friedrich Engels, supposedly, arose based on research on the materialism philosophy of Epicurus, as well as his reading of Adam Smith, and other writers in classical political economy. [4]

The life and atomic theory views of Epicurus were most-significantly revived by French philosopher Pierre Gassendi, as found in his 1647 book De vita, moribus, et doctrina Epicuri libri octo (On the Life and Death of Epicurus Book Eight) and followup 1649 book Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri (Arrangement of the Philosophy of Epicurus), in the latter of which the term “molecule” was first coined.

Problem of evil
Epicurus is often seen as the champion of atheism owing to his queried view, often classified as the "problem of evil", that:

“Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?”

which is one of the better known logic disproofs of the existence of god.

Swerve of the atoms | Free will
Epicurus, contrary to the views of Democritus, argued that humans have free will owing to the "swerve" of the atoms (see: ontic openings). [2]

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Epicurus:

Democritus, when at ripe old age warned him that mind and memory were failing, went freely to place his person in death’s path. Epicurus himself died when life’s light ran out, he who in mind surpassed all men—eclipsed them all, as the sun hung high in heaven, the stars.”
Lucretius (55BC), On the Nature of Things (pg. 81; 3:1039-44)

Epicurus was a foul-mouth bastard.”
Epictetus (c.120AD), Publication; cited by Diogenes Laertius (c.230AD) in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (§10.6); as translated (1963) by George Strodach [12]; note: seems to be a more aggressive translation as, say, compare to Robert Hicks (1925) translation

“Apollodorus, the Epicurean, in the first book of his Life of Epicurus, says that Epicurus turned to philosophy in disgust at the schoolmasters who could not tell him the meaning of ‘chaos’ in Hesiod. According to Hermippus, however, he started as a schoolmaster, but on coming across the works of Democritus turned eagerly to philosophy.”
Diogenes Laertius (c.230AD), Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (§:X.1)

“Among the early philosophers, says Diocles (c.150BC) (Ѻ), Epicurus’ favorite was Anaxagoras, although he occasionally disagreed with him, and Archelaus the teacher of Socrates.”
Diogenes Laertius (c.230), Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (§10.12)

Epicurus was a most prolific author and eclipsed all before him in the number of his writings: for they amount to about three hundred rolls, and contain not a single citation from other authors; it is Epicurus himself who speaks throughout. Chrysippus tried to outdo him in authorship according to Carneades, who therefore calls him the literary parasite of Epicurus. ‘For every subject treated by Epicurus, Chrysippus in his contentiousness must treat at equal length; hence he has frequently repeated himself and set down the first thought that occurred to him, and in his haste has left things unrevised, and he has so many citations that they alone fill his books: nor is this unexampled in Zeno and Aristotle’.”
Diogenes Laertius (c.230), Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (§10.26-27)

“There is no known Epicurean theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation.”
John Mill (1861), Utilitarianism [8]

“Although all of Epicurus’ original writing has long since disappeared, we have much of his philosophy via Lucretius' On The Nature Of Things (50BC), three letters, including his 40 principle doctrines (Ѻ), and the ruins of wall summarizing his philosophy, created by Diogenes of Oenoanda in Turkey.”
— Anon (c.2015), English 257 (Ѻ), University of Idaho

Quotes | Myth
The following are statements by Epicurus on myths and mythology:

“When someone admits one and rejects another which is equally in accordance with the appearances, it is clear that he has quitted all physical explanation and descended into myth.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC), “Letter to Pythocles” (Ѻ)

“It is impossible for anyone to dispel his fear over the most important matters, if he does not know what is the nature of the universe, but instead suspects something that happens in myth. Therefore, it is impossible to obtain unmitigated pleasure without natural science.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC), opening quote to Victor Stenger’s God and the Atom [6]

Quotes | By
The following are other noted quotes attributed to Epicurus:

“The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC) (Ѻ)

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”
— Epicurus (c.280BC) (Ѻ)

“Those who gave an adequate account of causes from the beginning, far surpassing not only their predecessors but their successors too in many ways, though they alleviated many great evils, failed to see what they were doing in making necessity and chance the cause of everything. The very thesis which asserts this broke down and involved the man [i.e., Democritus] unawares in a conflict between his actions and his opinion, so that, had he not in his actions forgotten his opinion, he would have been in a continual state of self-induced confusion, succumbing to the most extreme consequences when his opinion prevailed, and full of conflict when it did not, through the opposition of his actions and his opinion.”
— Epicurus (c.320BC), Fragment #34.30 Arrighetti [11]

Epicurus, as summarized by Diogenes Laertius (c.230AD), wrote on a total of 41 topics, all penned without citation, penned in 41 “books” (or volumes), totaling 300-scrolls:

● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Nature, thirty-seven books. Publisher.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Atoms and Void.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Love.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Epitome of Objections to the Physicists.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Against the Megarians.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Problems.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Sovran Maxims.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Choice and Avoidance.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of the End.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of the Standard, a work entitled Canon.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Chaeredemus.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of the Gods.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Piety.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Hegesianax.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Human Life, four books.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Just Dealing.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of the Angle in the Atom.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Fate.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Theories of the Feelings – against Timocrates.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Introduction to Philosophy.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Of Justice and the other Virtues.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Anaximenes.
● Epicurus (c.300BC). Correspondence.

Along with:
Of Touch.
Of Images.
Of Presentation.
Of Music.
Of Benefits and Gratitude.
Timocrates, three books.
Metrodorus, five books.
Antidorus, two books.
Theories about Diseases (and Death) – to Mithras.[41]
Of Kingship.
Neocles: dedicated to Themista.
Eurylochus: dedicated to Metrodorus.
Of Vision.
Discovery of the Future.


1. Harrison, Guy P. (2008). 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God (pg. 175). Prometheus Books.
2. (a) Doyle, Bob. (2011). Free Will: the Scandal in Philosophy (pg. xvii). I-Phi Press.
(b) Epicurus – InformationPhilosopher.com.
3. Epicureanism – Wikipedia.
4. (a) Foster, John B. (1999). Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (pg. #). San Val.
(b) Historical materialism – Wikipedia.
(c) Scientific socialism – Wikipedia.
5. Greenblatt, Stephen. (2011). The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began (abs) (pg. 74). Random House.
6. Stenger, Victor J. (2013). God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson: the Story of a Triumphant Idea (pg. 11). Prometheus Books.
7. (a) Epicurus. (c.280BC), “Letter to Menoeceus” (Ѻ), in: Letters, Principle Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings (pgs. 57, 131b). Macmillan, 1964.
(b) Wielenberg, Erik J. (2005). Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe (pg. 26). Cambridge University Press.
8. (a) Mill, John. (1861). Utilitarianism (pg. 8). Hackett, 1979.
(b) Wielenberg, Erik J. (2005). Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe (pg. 27). Cambridge University Press.
9. Cicero. (45BC). The Nature of the Gods (Introduction, translation, and notes: Patrick Walsh) (pgs. 27-28; On Nature, pg. 163; chance, pg. 167;(lewd ethics, pgs. 42, 170). Oxford University Press, 1998.
10. Lange, Friedrich A. (1875). The History of Materialism: and Criticism of its Present Importance, Volume 1: Materialism in Antiquity. The Period of Transition (translator: Ernst Thomas). The Seventeenth Century (translator: Ernest Thomas) (pgs. 98-99). Houghton, Osgood, and Co, 1879.
11. Taylor, C.C.W. (1999). The Atomists: Leucippus and Democritus: Fragments: a Text and Translation with a Commentary by C.C.W. Taylor (pg. 153). University of Toronto Press.
12. Strodach, George. (1963). Epicurus: the Art of Happiness (pg. 81). Penguin.

External links
Epicurus – Wikipedia.
Epicureanism – Wikipedia.
Epicurus wiki – Wiki.Epicurus.info.
Epicurus (fragments) – Attalus.org.

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