In a recent thread from the Epicurean Friends forum, we were invited to create our own outlines of Epicurean philosophy. The exercise has great didactic value, as it helps us to assimilate what we’ve learned in philosophy. Epicurus himself encouraged this exercise among his disciples in his epistles. Here is my own outline:
Physics / The Nature of Things
- Things are made, ultimately, of particles and void.
- Bodies have inherent / primary and relational / secondary properties.
- Nothing comes from nothing.
- All that exists, exists within nature and there can not be a super-natural or un-natural “realm”; it would not have a way of existing outside of nature, that is: reality.
- All things obey laws of nature, which apply everywhere.
- True philosophy is based on the study of nature and, unlike religions, rather than furnish an escape, must ultimately reconcile us with nature.
Canon / Epistemology
- External and “objective” nature is knowable via the five senses.
- Internal and “subjective”, or that which is dis/advantageous to us is knowable via the pleasure and aversion faculties.
- We may infer the unseen / un-apprehended based on what has been previously seen / apprehended by any of our faculties; and we may re-adjust our views based on new evidence presented to our faculties.
- Our words and their meanings must be clear, and conform to the things that nature has presented to our faculties, in order to be useful and efficient.
Ethics / Art of Living (My views are mine, not necessarily the orthodox view–I allow for both the second and third interpretations of the Epicurean gods)
- It is possible that the pleasures of religion are natural, but it is unclear whether they are necessary. Religion is, therefore, an optional feature in an ethical person’s life.
- If a person adopts belief in gods (even if they are viewed as cultural constructs, imaginary, or works of art meant for utility within contemplative practices), those beliefs must be pure, not fear-based, and not go against the god’s incorruptibility and bliss; they must have pleasant psycho-somatic effects.
- The goal of religion, as with all else, is the experience of pure, unalloyed pleasure.
- Death is nothing to us because when we are, death is not and when death is, we are not.
- Choices and avoidances are carried out successfully (that is, producing stable pleasure as the final product) if we measure advantages/pleasures versus disadvantages/pains over the long term. This means that we may sometimes defer pleasure, or choose temporary disadvantage, but only and always for the sake of a greater advantage later.
- If we wish to live pleasantly, we must have confident expectation that we will be able to secure the chief goods: those things that are natural and necessary. Therefore, whatever we do to secure safety, friendship, autarchy, provision of food and drink and clothing, and other basic needs, is naturally good.
- Under normal circumstances, we are in control of our mental dispositions.
- Autarchy furnishes much greater possibilities of pleasure than slavery, or dependence, or living at the mercy of the whims of luck; ergo the unplanned life is not worth living, and we must make what is in our future better than what was in our past.
- We must not force nature; We study nature in order to live pleasantly, not to wage war against reality/nature.
- True philosophy has utility: it must serve human needs and happiness.