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 A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms  Francis Garden


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Introductory Paragraph

Early Ionic Natural Philosophers

The Pythagoreans

The Eleatics


Later Natural Philosophers

General Character of the First Period in the History of Greek Philosophy

The Sophist


The Followers of Socrates

The Lesser Socratics

Plato. Life. Works

Plato. Philosophy

The Disciples of Plato

The Old Academy

Aristotle: Life and works

Aristotle: Theory of Knowledge

Aristotle: Metaphysics

Aristotle: Physics

Aristotle: Psychology

Aristotle: Practical Philosophy

Aristotle: Rhetoric and Poetic

Aristotle: Sources

Aristotle: Unity of Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle: result

The Peripatetic School

Three Leading Post-Aristotelian Schools

The Stoics and Stoicism

The Epicureans and Epicureanism

The Sceptics

The Common Ground of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics

Philosophy in Rome: Eclecticism

The Later Peripatetics

The Later Academics

The Later Stoics

General Character of the Second Period

Standpoint and Schools of the Third and Latest Period of Greek Philosophy

Jewish-Alexandrian School


The Eclectic Platonist

Neo-Platonism. Plotinus

Neo-Platonism. Porphyry. Jamblichus

Neo-Platonism. Proclus




B. C. BURT (1852-1915) - Table of contents                        




§ 18 - Epicurus and his School

Epicurus, the founder of the Epicurean School, was born in Samos, in the year 342 or 341 B.C. Stimulated to inquiry (according to one account) by the reading of Hesiod, and failing to get satisfactory answers to his inquiries (concerning chaos) from his instructors, he began, at the age of fourteen, the study of philosophy. At the age of eighteen he went to Athens, and remained there as a student of philosophy until, at the age of thirty, he began teaching it, first at Mytelene, then at Lampsacus, and finally (about 306 B.C.) at Athens, where he taught for thirty-six years. His knowledge of and regard for other philosophers was slight.


 He had received some instruction in the doctrines of Plato, and thought him " golden," and in those of Democritus, whom he derisively called Leocritus (humbug?), but whose physical theories he borrowed freely; had perhaps been a pupil of Xenocrates and Nausiphanes, a Democritean, who had been a pupil of Pyrrho, the Sceptic; he ridiculed Aristotle as a debauchee, glutton, and vendor of drugs; called Protagoras a "porter," Heraclitus a "disturber," the Cynics the "enemies" of Greece; declared that the Dialecticians (the Stoics?) were "eaten up with envy." 

 He is said to have thought highly of Anaxagoras, though it is hard to see why; there are no traces of any influence of Anaxagoras upon his thinking. The same may be said with regard to his admiration of Plato. His opinion of other philosophers is indicative of his attitude towards things in general, which is negative. His criticism of other philosophers, it would appear, and doubtless, also, the character of his doctrines, excited towards him hostile feeling and comment, and there were those who spoke of him as an extreme voluptuary; but Diogenes Laertius declares him to have been a man of excessive modesty (a modesty that caused him to "avoid affairs of state"), of filial gratitude, of philanthropy and piety; to have been warmly regarded by very numerous friends, and honored by his country with brazen statues. He died in 270 B.C., made cheerful in spirits, in the midst of great physical suffering, by the "recollection" of "his philosophical contemplations". He bequeathed the garden in which he had met his disciples in philosophical converse to the surviving members of his school and to all coming after them who should choose to "abide and dwell in it" and maintain his doctrines. Between him and the members of the school there was a very strong personal tie, and his personality, as well as his dogmas, was deeply impressed upon their minds. His dogmas embodied in brief statements, and, regarded as common intellectual possessions (κυρίαι δόξαι), were committed to memory by his disciples and were handed down traditionally. Diogenes Laertius(1) speaks of the "perpetual succession of his school, which, when every other school decayed, continued without any falling off, and produced countless numbers of philosophers, succeeding one another without any interruption". In his productivity as a writer he almost rivalled Chrysippus. He boasted of the originality of his writings, of the perspicuity of their style and freedom from rhetorical constraints and ornaments. But he was guilty of a neglect of true rhetorical method which has justly brought down upon his style the condemnation of critics, ancient and modern. Of eminent Epicureans there should be mentioned the following: Hermarchus of Mytelene, president of the school after the death of Epicurus; Metrodorus and Polyœnus of Lampsacus; Apollodorus; Zeno of Sidon; Lucretius, the Latin poet, who has followed Epicurus closely in essential points in his poem De Rerum Natura. Among the immediate personal disciples of Epicurus were several women(2), a fact that gave occasion to rival schools for disagreeable gossip about the Epicurean school.

The Parts of Philosophy

Epicurus divides philosophy into three parts: Canonics, Physics, and Ethics. Canonics is the science of the criteria of truth. It contains nothing of dialectic, for Epicurus declared that the "correspondence of words with things was sufficient for the philosopher". Epicurus regarded it as scarcely more than a mere introduction to physics, which in turn was held subsidiary to ethics, for Epicureanism, like Stoicism, Cynicism, and indeed most of the other post-Socratic systems in ancient philosophy, was primarily (and one-sidedly) ethical in its aim. There seems, in fact, to have been a strong tendency to make, or, rather, a habit of making, two parts of philosophy, Physics (including Canonics) and Ethics(3). It will be seen in detail, as we proceed, how the physics, very largely, and the canonics less so, are determined by the leading ethical doctrines of Epicurus, viz., that the end of human existence is pleasure. It cannot be said, however, that there is a deduction of the parts of his system from the notion of pleasure, and to attempt such a deduction here would convey a wrong idea of the tone and mode of his thinking.

Canonics: Criteria of Truth in Ideas(4)

The criteria of truth in ideas are, according to Epicurus, the "senses," preconceptions, or anticipations (πρλήψεις), or "recollection of an external object often perceived anteriorly," and the "passions". "But," says Diogenes, "the Epicureans, in general, add also the perceptive impressions of the intellect". Of these criteria the senses are primary: "Every notion proceeds from the senses, either directly or in consequence of some analogy or proportion, or combination". The senses are entirely pure of all influence of memory, reason, or any other mental operation: they merely receive impressions from external causes, adding nothing, subtracting nothing. Each sense and sensation, furthermore, is independent of every other. One sensation cannot be a criterion for another resembling it or differing from it. The senses are, therefore, their own guarantee: reason cannot pronounce upon them; rather are the senses the foundation of reason. An error in perception must, therefore, not be attributed to the senses, but to judgment, or inference, (wrongly added preconceptions or "perceptive impressions of the intellect") attending sensation(5). An example of a preconception or anticipation is the idea that arises in the mind immediately upon pronouncing the word "man" in the sentence, "Man is such and such a nature." The idea is one we "owe to the preceding operation of the senses," and it is to be depended upon as a correct one. Such an idea is a necessary condition to every perception or judgment. (That is, "representation" is a condition of "presentation" and judgment.) "To be able to affirm that what we see at a distance is a horse or an ox, we must have some anticipation in our minds which makes us acquainted with the form of a horse or an ox. We could not give names to things if we had not a preliminary notion of what things were". The certainty of our judgment depends upon our properly applying our anticipations. "Error and false judgment always depend upon the supposition that a preconceived idea will be confirmed or at all events will not be overturned by evidence". The passions are pleasure and pain, the former being natural, and the other foreign, to human nature. They are the criteria of ethical judgment; i.e., (according to Epicurus), judgment employed in determining what things should be chosen and what avoided. "Opinion" (δόξα) and "supposition" (ύπόληψις) are partly true and partly false: true when supported, not contradicted, by evidence; false if contradicted by any evidence. It is often necessary to suspend the judgment. There is a certain degree of truth and objectivity in dreams.

Canonics: Method in the Study of Nature(6)

Now as to method in the study of nature, we must proceed "from the known to the unknown". First, there must be an exact notion for each term, or there will result mere "verbal demonstration in infinitum". Leading terms must represent indemonstrable notions; i.e., notions true according to some one or more of the criteria. We must be able to bring into our investigation, when necessary, the "impressions we receive in the presence of objects". We may pass to the unknown by analogy and by induction, but it is necessary to be on our guard against false analogies and against accepting unverified induction as equal in value to immediate certainty. Proper analogies are those founded on appearances, and are to be held superior to hypotheses. Now appearances may be susceptible of different "explanations," and it is a rule, made and insisted on by Epicurus, that we must guard against supposing that there is only one way of explaining phenomena. Phenomena may have many different causes and require as many different explanations. The Epicureans gave little attention to deductive logic as such.

Physics: Aim and General Character(7)

Besides the principles of method laid down in the canonic, physical speculation must be conditioned by the idea that man's chief end is happiness, and that, therefore, he requires to know only so much as will preclude all ground for disquietude of soul,—the fear of death, of dæmons, of mysterious and unforeseen events.

First Principle

The fundamental conception (material principle) of physics is, according to Epicurus, that nothing can come of nothing: the All has always been, and always will be, such as it now is, since there is nothing into which it can change, nor is there anything which, entering it, can cause it to change. The universe is a material universe. Our senses bear testimony to the existence of bodies; and reasoning upon the testimony of the senses (for the senses, we have seen, are the foundation of reason) we infer the existence of space, for if there were not "that which we call vacuum, or space, or intangible nature, there would be nothing in which the bodies could be contained or across which they could move, as they really do move". We cannot, in other words, perceive, or conceive by the aid of inference or analogy, any universal quality or thing that is not body, or quality of body, or vacuum.


Bodies perceptible to the senses are composite and dissoluble. But there must be something "solid and indestructible" that remains after their dissolution; because if we suppose bodies to be divisible in infinitum, we are brought to the absurdity of "reducing everything to nothing," and consequently of saying that something can come of nothing. Composite bodies, then, have as their element the atom. The atom, though not cognizable by the senses, must have magnitude, it being solid and destructible, and a part of that which has magnitude. But since the process of division of bodies may conceivably be carried to an indefinite extent, we must assign to the atom the smallest possible dimensions. And in order to account for sensations and differences of quality in bodies we must suppose that atoms differ in magnitude. Again, it is impossible to account for the vast variety of form in bodies without supposing a great, an incalculable, variety in form among atoms. In any particular finite body the number of atoms is finite: in the entire universe the number is infinite, for the universe, not being limited by anything, is infinite, and body and vacuum are consequently infinite, because "if the vacuum were infinite, the number of bodies being finite, the bodies would not be able to rest in any place: they would be transported about, scattered across the infinite vacuum for want of any power to steady themselves, or to keep one another in their places by mutual repulsion: if, on the other hand, the vacuum were finite, the bodies being infinite, then the bodies clearly could never be contained in the vacuum". Furthermore, atoms have weight. Finally, the motion and the dissolution of sensible bodies (which can be caused only by a knocking together of the atoms) presuppose motion of the atoms. The atoms, in fact, must have been continually moving and with an equal rapidity from all eternity, since the vacuum offers no more resistance to the lightest than it does to the heaviest. Because of the different weight of the atoms, some of them move downward, some are pressed upward. Because of the "reciprocal percussion of the atoms, some of them have a horizontal movement to and fro". An atom has not any movement perceptible to the senses. The motion of the atoms is not due, as Democritus held, merely to natural necessity, i.e., to their weight, but to a certain power of self-movement, the ability, as it were, to "swerve a little" from a straight, fixed, and otherwise necessary, line of movement. Among the arguments employed by Lucretius (who may be regarded as an authority for the Epicurean physical theories) is the following: "If all motion is ever linked together, and a new motion ever springs from another in a fixed order, and first beginnings do not, by swerving, make some commencement of motion to break through the decrees of fate that cause follow not cause from everlasting, —whence have all living creatures here on earth, whence, I ask, has been wrested from the fates the power by which we go forward whither the will leads each, by which we likewise change the direction of our motions, neither at a fixed time nor fixed place, but when and where the mind itself has prompted? For, beyond a doubt, in these things his own will makes for each a beginning, and from this beginning notions are willed through the limbs"(8). There is, however, no other cause of motion in the atoms than that which is contained in themselves. The distances of the atoms from one another vary, some being great, others small.

Properties of Bodies

The properties of bodies, such as forms, colors, magnitude, weight, are not particular substances (as the Stoics asserted), nor can it be said that they have no reality at all. They cannot be conceived as independent of the bodies, and must be conceived when we form an idea of bodies. Of these there are two classes: attributes, which constitute by their union the "eternal substance and essence of the entire body"; and accidents, which are not entirely inherent in bodies, but which, nevertheless, cannot be ranged among the incorporeal and invisible things. "These last, as they are not necessarily inherent in the idea of a body," can be conceived only in the moment in which they affect the senses. (Here we have, or appear to have, the modern psychological distinction between primary and secondary qualities of bodies. Democritus had made the same, or a similar, distinction.)

The Visible Universe

Of the worlds in distant space we must reason very much as we do regarding bodies that we "observe under our own eves". Worlds and all other objects that may be compared to those objects "under our own eyes" have each been separated from the infinite by a movement peculiar to itself(9), and they will be destroyed, some more, others less, rapidly. Epicurus did not believe that any worlds were formed by violent motions and crashings of other worlds, but by a flowing together of atoms to form a nucleus, and a gathering of "germs" about the nucleus thus formed. The number of worlds is infinite; but it is not reasonable to suppose that the worlds are identical in form, or that there are worlds of every possible form. There is no increase or decrease of body in the universe as a whole. The earth is suspended in the air. Lucretius explains why the earth does not drop or sink from its place in the centre of the world, as follows: "In order that the earth may rest in the middle of the world, it is proper that its weight should be lessened, and that it should have another nature underneath it, conjoined from the beginning of its existence and formed into one being with the airy portions of the world in which it is embodied and lives". The sun and the moon are in size what they appear to the senses to be. They are not reabsorbed into the whole. We must "beware" of supposing that the heavenly phenomena—"the motions and courses of the stars, the eclipse, their rising, setting, etc."—are "produced by any particular being which has regulated or whose business it is to regulate, for the future, the order of the world, a being immortal and perfectly happy: for the cares and anxieties, the benevolence and the anger, far from being compatible with felicity are, on the contrary, the consequence of weakness, of fear, and the want which a thing has of something else". The truth is that these phenomena are governed by a "kind of necessity"; they have an order that was given them at the first organization of the universe. And yet we must not try to explain these phenomena in accordance with any idea of uniformity of cause: of supposing that there is but "one single mode of production" and of rejecting "all other explanations which are founded on probability". The eclipses of the sun and moon, for example, may be due to the fact that these bodies extinguish themselves, or to the fact that other bodies interpose between them and us; lightning may be the effect of a "shock and collision of the clouds," of the lighting up of the clouds by the winds, of the mutual pressure of the clouds, or of the pressure of the winds against them, or of various conditions. .


  Susceptible of explanation upon the principle of a "plurality of causes" (to employ a modern phrase for a very old idea in the history of philosophy) are, likewise, the difference in the length of days and nights, clouds, thunder, hurricanes, earthquakes, winds, hail, snow, dew, comets, falling stars, etc. Regularity in celestial phenomena should not be made any more of than the little coincidences daily occurring immediately about us, a fact, the full appreciation of which would bring the perfect quietude and confidence of soul that characterize the wise man.

The Gods

Nature, we have just seen, is, to the Epicureans, in no sense controlled by a divine power or by divine powers. The Epicureans, nevertheless, believed in the existence of gods and treated of them in that branch of their philosophy called physics. Of the gods, philosophers—but not the οί πολλοί, whose ideas of the gods are mere "opinion" and are impious—have distinct knowledge through anticipations, πρλήψεις. The gods are infinite in number and dwell in the vacant spaces between the worlds, in immortality and perfect felicity, without concern for the universe about them. Prayer and divination are, consequently, discarded by the Epicureans as the offspring of ignorance and fear. Epicurus says, however, that it is better to follow the fables about the gods than to be a slave to the "fate" of the natural philosophers [Stoics], better to believe that the gods are to be moved by gifts and honors than to believe in an inexorable necessity.

The Human Soul(10)

The human soul is a "bodily substance composed of slight particles diffused all over the members of the body, presenting a great analogy to a sort of spirit": it is composed of "atoms of the most perfect lightness and roundness," "wholly different from those of fire" (Democritus had said that the soul was composed of fiery atoms). The soul cannot be incorporeal, for it would then be, like the vacuum, incapable of 'doing' or 'suffering' anything," and merely a "condition and place of movement". In the soul is the seat of sensation, though doubtless sensation depends in part upon the body. There are "reciprocal bonds of sympathy uniting soul and body by virtue of which the soul takes cognizance of the changes that take place in the body which is its envelopment, and then reflects these into the body as sensible affections". "But there are certain affections of the soul of which the body is not capable". The irrational part of the soul, only, is diffused over the whole body, the rational part, as the emotions of joy and fear prove, having its seat in the chest. On the death and dissolution of the body the soul leaves it and dissolves and no longer has power of sensation or motion. Sensation is explained by Epicurus as being produced by the impact upon the organs of sense of infinitely small, thin, film-like emanations from bodies, which having the same arrangement and motion as the atoms in the bodies glide with infinite rapidity through vacant space, escaping all obstacles. These are termed images. "One must admit that something passes from external objects to us in order to produce sight and the knowledge of forms; for it is difficult to conceive that external objects can affect us through the medium of the air which is between us and them or by means of rays, whatever emissions proceed from us to them, so as to give us an impression of their form and color. This phenomenon, on the contrary, is perfectly explained, if we admit that certain images of the same color, of the same shape, and of a proportionate magnitude pass from the objects to us, and so arrive at being seen and comprehended. These images are animated by an exceeding rapidity, and, as, on the other side, the solid forming a compact mass, and comprising a vast quantity of atoms, emits always the same quantity of particles, the vision is continued, and produces in us one single perception which always preserves the same relation to the object. Every conception, every sensible perception which has to do with the form or other attributes of these images is only the same form of the solid body perceived directly, either in virtue of a sort of actual and continual condensation of the image, or in consequence of the traces which it has left in us". Hearing is produced, not by the air, but by "some sort of current" which, by virtue of the affinity of the small bodies composing it with one another and their identity in nature with the object from which they emanate "puts us very frequently into communication of sentiments with this object, or at least causes us to become aware of the existence of some external circumstances". Perception, in this case, depends on a "sort of sympathy" between subject and object. The case of smell is similar.—The human will is free, and man is accordingly a proper subject of moral praise and blame.

Ethics: First Principle, Pleasure

All good and evil, says Epicurus, are in sensation: that which is the privation or absence of sensation, e.g., death, is nothing to us. The first good is pleasure, it being that to which all human "choice and avoidance" have reference, "for the sake of which we do everything," "the beginning and end of living happily" (i.e., well), that without which we are unsatisfied and seek it, with which we are satisfied and desire nothing. The desire of pleasure is connate with us, and it is inherent in animals. No pleasure is intrinsically bad; but not every pleasure is always worthy of being chosen, for the "efficient causes of some pleasures bring with them a great many perturbations of pleasure," and the choice of such pleasures would contravene the law that pleasure is the chief good. Even some pains are better than some pleasures, because of the greatness in degree of the pleasures consequent upon the choice of them. The pleasure, therefore, that is the chief good, is of a certain sort.

Kinds of Pleasure

Now pleasures are in kind either bodily or mental, and they are either "motions" [the Cyrenaic doctrine], e.g., cheerfulness and joy, or "states," e.g., freedom from fear or bodily pain. The pleasure that is the chief good is not the bodily pleasure of the debauchee, but the "freedom of the body from pain and the soul from confusion," "the sober contemplation which examines into the reasons for choice and avoidance, and which puts to flight the vain opinions from which the greater portion of the confusion arises which troubles the soul". But though the pleasures of the mind or soul are superior to those of the body, the pains of the soul are worse than those of the body, since the body is "sensible to present affliction while the soul feels the past, present, and future". The noblest pleasure is inseparable from prudence and the other virtues; but, nevertheless, not the virtues but pleasure is the chief good. "We choose the virtues for the sake of pleasure; not on their own account". Justice and injustice have no independent existence; they have significance only as means and hindrances to pleasure. "Courage does not exist by nature, but is engendered by a consideration of what is suitable". "Friendship is caused by one s wants," and "arises from a community of participation in pleasures". It appears, then, that me highest pleasure is not, as the Cyrenaics declared, a motion, but a state; e.g., contentment, freedom from ambition, from fear and apprehension. Specifically, the highest happiness of which human life is capable is a freedom from all apprehension relative to death and eternity, a state of the soul born of the knowledge that death is "no concern either of the living or of the dead, since to the one it has no existence and the other class has no existence itself".

The "Wise Man"

Epicurus "said that injuries existed among men either in consequence of hatred or of envy or of contempt, all of which the wise man overcomes by reason; also that a man who has been once wise can never receive a contrary disposition, nor can he of his own accord invent such a state of things as that he should be subjected to the dominion of the passions; nor can he hinder himself in his progress towards wisdom; that the wise man, however, cannot exist in every state of body nor in every nation; that if the wise man were to be put to the torture, he would still be happy; that the wise man will not only feel gratitude to his friends, but to them equally whether they are present or absent... Nor will he marry a wife whom the laws forbid. He will punish his servants, but also pity them, and show indulgence to any that are virtuous. The Epicureans do not think that the wise man will ever be in love or that he will be anxious about his burial, or that love is a passion inspired by the gods... They also assert that he will be indifferent to the study of oratory. Marriage, say they, is never a benefit to a man, and we must be quite content if it does no harm; and the wise man will never marry and beget children... still, under certain circumstances of life, he will forsake these rules and marry. Nor will he ever indulge in drunkenness, nor will he entangle himself in affairs of state. Nor will he become a tyrant. Nor will he become a Cynic... or a beggar. And even though he should lose his eyes, he will still cling to life. The wise man will be subject to grief. He will also not object to go to law. He will leave books and memorials of himself behind him; but he will not be fond of frequenting assemblies. He will take care of his property, and provide for the future. He will like being in the country; he will resist fortune, and will grieve none of his friends. He will show a regard for a fair reputation to such an extent as to avoid being despised; and he will find more pleasure than other men in speculations... The wise man may raise statues if it suits his inclination; if it does not, it does not signify. The wise man is the only person who can converse correctly about music and poetry; and he can realize poems, but not become a poet... The wise man will also, if he is in need, earn money, but only by his wisdom. He will propitiate an absolute ruler when occasion requires, and will humor him for the sake of correcting his habits. He will have a school, but not on such a system as to draw a crowd about him. He will also recite in a multitude, but that will be against his inclination. He will pronounce dogmas(11). He will be the same man asleep and awake, and he will be willing even to die for a friend". "It is possible for one man to be wiser than another"(12).


Independent as the "Wise Man" of the Epicureans is, he yet needs friends; and friendship is to him, next to freedom from fear of death, the greatest source of pleasure. If one cannot make friends, he should avoid making enemies. "The happiest men are they who have arrived at the point of having nothing to fear from those who surround them ; such men live with one another most agreeably, having the firmest grounds of confidence in one another, enjoying the advantages of friendship in all their fulness, and not lamenting as a pitiable circumstance, the premature death of their friends." Epicurus's theory here agrees precisely with his practice.

The State

Towards the state the Epicureans were somewhat shy. Epicurus himself, we have seen, avoided affairs of state; and he declared that the wise man would never busy himself greatly with these unless there were special reasons for so doing. But, as may be inferred from Diogenes's account of the Epicurean "Wise Man," they did not believe or advocate a haughty independence of and disregard for governmental authority; and they were not republican but monarchical in political sentiment. They adopted here as elsewhere an independence for the individual which did not overshadow or threaten the independence of any other individual.


Substantially the same is the Epicurean attitude towards the universal order of things—an attitude of independence and easy freedom. Man, if he be wise, is not overawed by the contemplation of nature and the gods, but dwells in serenity and happiness. Nature is not an object of fear or worship; the gods are not reached by divination and prayer; rather, are they to be merely contemplated in their perfect immortality and felicity. Such contemplation is to man the source of the purest happiness.

Historical Sources of the Epicurean Theories

In physics Epicurus was obviously a follower of Democritus; in ethics, of the Cyrenaics; though he departs somewhat from the doctrines of both schools. Democritus seems to have arrived at his doctrine of the atom by combining Eleatic and Heraclitean conceptions: Epicurus attempts to deduce the atom from what is given in sense as such. To the Cyrenaic doctrine of pleasure, Epicurus added an ingredient of subjective intellectualism, giving the theory a certain appearance of refinement but no higher ethical value. No such definite historical sources for the the Epicurean canonic can be pointed out.


The logical key to the system of Epicurus, if system it may be called, is doubtless the idea of the easy and undisturbed independence and being-for-self of the individual. This idea, obviously, has most interest for Epicurus in its ethical bearings. His "Wise Man" is one who possesses independence, not by positively mastering all that might otherwise interfere with his independence, or by actively cooperating with others to secure for himself and all others the independence he seeks, but by withdrawing from the world into a place specially prepared for those whose aim is to realize the conception of the independent individual in quiet contemplation, and pleasant converse with those who are not inclined to oppose but mildly to second their thoughts and wills. With this view there is a certain natural, but not necessary, agreement in the doctrine of the atoms and empty space. The atom, like the human individual, is an independent entity and, to a certain extent, also, it, like the human individual, follows its "own sweet will,"—it is self-moving, moves rapidly and without violent contact with other atoms,—the atoms "flow". As the atoms are independent of one another and human individuals likewise, so are man and the universe, man and the gods, the gods and the worlds surrounding them. There is, however, a certain mild sympathy between subject and object in the Epicurean theory of knowledge. Considered as a whole, then, the system of Epicurus, though possessing a certain kind of inner refined harmony, is not a really logical, close, concrete system; its parts, instead of having the ultimate synthetic interrelation that springs from a positive, definite, and all-penetrating conception, exist, as it were, side by side (as the atoms do in unlimited space), held together merely by the vague conception of quiet, passive pleasure.


(1) See Lives of the Philosophers (Bohn's Class. Lib.); Life of Epicurus, pp. 424-479.

(2) The Leontion of Landor's Imaginary Conversation, Epicurus, Leontion, and Ternissa, bears the name of one of these.

(3) Diog. Laert., Life of Epicurus, p. 434.

(4) Diog. Laert., Life of Epicurus, pp. 435, 436.

(5) Ibid., p. 435.

(6) Diog. Laert., Life of Epicurus, pp. 437, 438, 456, 459, etc.

(7) Diog. Laert., Life of Epicurus, pp. 438-466.

(8) Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (Munro's Trans.), p. 34.

(9) See Zeller.

(10) Diog. Laert, Life of Zeno, pp. 441-443, 447, 448, etc.

(11) Zeller supposes that the long-continued existence of the Epicurean school was a consequence of the dogmatism (and conservatism) practised and cultivated by Epicurus himself.

(12) Diog. Laert., Life of Zeno, pp. 466-468 (trans. somewhat altered).



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