59 - James Warren on Epicureanism

James Warren of Cambridge University talks to Peter about Epicurus, his atomism, his hedonism and the Epicurean arguments against the fear of death.

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Further Reading: 

• J. Warren, Facing Death. Epicurus and his Critics (Oxford: 2004).

• J. Warren (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism (Cambridge: 2009).

James Warren's blog

Philip's picture

When Epicurus was influential...

With Plato and Aristotle you managed to convey their possible significance at the time without it ever becoming a history lesson and on the Hellenists you have set out the context of Alexander and the three kingdoms helpfully. But Epicurus sounds like he was really influential much later than he lived (given Lucretius) around the time a lot was happening in the world, including Christianity. It would be nice to get a bit more context and even why he flourished then and Plato and Aristotle wer e for the time being lost? Maybe you'll do this in the Stoics?

Peter Adamson's picture

Social context

Hi Philip,

Thanks for the comment. I guess the part where I tried to address this is the end of the Lucretius episode, about the unrest of both the Alexander period and following in Greece, and then again in 1st c BC Roman society. This is a bit of cliche but I guess there is something to it.

I would say on the other hand that Stoicism and even Cynicism seem to have gripped the popular ancient imagination somewhat more than Epicureanism which was a philosophy which invited withdrawal from public life and was widely seen (unfairly) as "hedonistic" in the modern sense of involving self-indulgence.

Peter