Ideas of Epicurus, by Theme

[Greek, 341 - 271 BCE, Born on Samos. Taught by Nausiphanes. Founded own school, at 'The Garden', near the Academy in Athens. Died in Athens.]

idea number gives full details    |    back to list of philosophers    |     expand these ideas
1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
It is a great good to show reverence for a wise man
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 2. Invocation to Philosophy
In study of philosophy, pleasure and knowledge arrive simultaneously
Slavery to philosophy brings true freedom
Begin philosophy when you are young, and keep going when you are old
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 4. Aims of Philosophy / b. Philosophy as transcendent
We should come to philosophy free from any taint of culture
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 1. Analysis
We should say nothing of the whole if our contact is with the parts
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 2. Conceptual Analysis
If we are to use words in enquiry, we need their main, unambiguous and uncontested meanings
2. Reason / C. Styles of Reason / 1. Dialectic
Epicurus despises and laughs at the whole of dialectic
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 8. Subjective Truth
Observation and applied thought are always true
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
Nothing comes to be from what doesn't exist
If disappearing things went to nothingness, nothing could return, and it would all be gone by now
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
The totality is complete, so there is no room for it to change, and nothing extraneous to change it
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
Astronomical movements are blessed, but they don't need the help of the gods
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 8. Properties as Modes
The perceived accidental properties of bodies cannot be conceived of as independent natures
Accidental properties give a body its nature, but are not themselves bodies or parts of bodies
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / b. Individuation by properties
Bodies are combinations of shape, size, resistance and weight
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / b. Unifying aggregates
A 'body' is a conception of an aggregate, with properties defined by application conditions
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Bodies have impermanent properties, and permanent ones which define its conceived nature
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / c. Possible but inconceivable
Above and below us will never appear to be the same, because it is inconceivable
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 3. Belief / c. Aim of beliefs
We aim to dissolve our fears, by understanding their causes
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 3. Innate Knowledge / b. Recollection doctrine
We can't seek for things if we have no idea of them
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 9. A Priori from Concepts
To name something, you must already have an idea of what it is
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / c. Primary qualities
Atoms only have shape, weight and size, and the properties which accompany shape
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
Epicurus says colours are relative to the eye, not intrinsic to bodies
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 5. Interpretation
Sensations cannot be judged, because similar sensations have equal value, and different ones have nothing in common
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
The criteria of truth are senses, preconceptions and passions
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 4. Pro-Empiricism
Reason can't judge senses, as it is based on them
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 3. Illusion Scepticism
Epicurus says if one of a man's senses ever lies, none of his senses should ever be believed
Illusions are not false perceptions, as we accurately perceive the pattern of atoms
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 1. Relativism
When entering a dark room it is colourless, but colour gradually appears
If two people disagree over taste, who is right?
Bath water is too hot for some, too cold for others
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuché
The soul is fine parts distributed through the body, resembling hot breath
Soul is made of four stuffs, giving warmth, rest, motion and perception
The rational soul is in the chest, and the non-rational soul is spread through the body
16. Persons / G. Free Will / 1. Free Will / a. Nature of free will
Epicurus was the first to see the free will problem, and he was a libertarian
16. Persons / G. Free Will / 2. Free Will Theories / a. Fate
We should not refer things to irresponsible necessity, but either to fortune or to our own will
Sooner follow mythology, than accept the 'fate' of natural philosophers
16. Persons / G. Free Will / 2. Free Will Theories / b. Determinism
If everything is by necessity, then even denials of necessity are by necessity
There is no necessity to live with necessity
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 5. Causal Argument
The soul cannot be incorporeal, because then it could neither act nor be acted upon
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 7. Anti-Physicalism / a. Physicalism critique
How can pleasure or judgement occur in a heap of atoms?
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Prudence is more valuable than philosophy, because it avoids confusions of the soul
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 5. Responsbility for Actions
Our own choices are autonomous, and the basis for praise and blame
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
What happens to me if I obtain all my desires, and what if I fail?
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
The best life is not sensuality, but rational choice and healthy opinion
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / a. Nature of pleasure
True pleasure is not debauchery, but freedom from physical and mental pain
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / b. Value of pleasure
Fine things are worthless if they give no pleasure
Pleasure is the chief good because it is the most natural, especially for animals
We only need pleasure when we have the pain of desire
Pleasure is the first good in life
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / c. Types of pleasure
Pains of the soul are worse than pains of the body, because it feels the past and future
Pleasure is the goal, but as lack of pain and calm mind, not as depraved or greedy pleasure
Pleasures only differ in their duration and the part of the body affected
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / e. Role of pleasure
Pleasure and virtue entail one another
All pleasures are good, but it is not always right to choose them
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 5. Moral Responsibility
It was Epicurus who made the question of the will's freedom central to ethics
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 3. Moral Luck
Sooner a good decision going wrong, than a bad one turning out for the good
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
Justice is merely a contract about not harming or being harmed
Justice has no independent existence, but arises entirely from keeping contracts
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
Prudence is the greatest good, and more valuable than philosophy, because it produces virtue
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
We choose virtue because of pleasure, not for its own sake
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
We value our own character, whatever it is, and we should respect the characters of others
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Justice is a pledge of mutual protection
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / a. External goods
A wise man would be happy even under torture
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
Friendship is by far the most important ingredient of a complete and happy life
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 1. Death
Fearing death is absurd, because we are not present when it occurs
It is absurd to fear the pain of death when you are not even facing it
The wisdom that produces a good life also produces a good death
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
It is small-minded to find many good reasons for suicide
Wise men should partake of life even if they go blind
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / d. Social contract
A law is not just if it is not useful in mutual associations
26. Natural Theory / A. Heart of Nature / 2. Natural Purpose
Only Epicurus denied purpose in nature, for the whole world, or for its parts
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / a. Space
The void cannot interact, but just gives the possibility of motion
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / c. Substantival space
Space must exist, since movement is obvious, and there must be somewhere to move in
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / a. Time
Stoics say time is incorporeal and self-sufficient; Epicurus says it is a property of properties of things
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / a. Scientific essentialism
We aim to know the natures which are observed in natural phenomena
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / c. Atoms
There exists an infinity of each shape of atom, but the number of shapes is beyond our knowledge
Atoms just have shape, size and weight; colour results from their arrangement
There cannot be unlimited division, because it would reduce things to non-existence
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 3. Infinite in Nature
Totality has no edge; an edge implies a contrast beyond the edge, and there can't be one
Bodies are unlimited as well as void, since the two necessarily go together
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 4. Unique Cosmos
There are endless cosmoi, some like and some unlike this one
A cosmos is a collection of stars and an earth, with some sort of boundary, movement and shape
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 2. Divine Nature
For Epicureans gods are made of atoms, and are not eternal
28. God / C. Proofs of Reason / 1. Ontological Proof
Epicurus saw that gods must exist, because nature has imprinted them on human minds
28. God / E. Attitudes to God / 3. Deism
God does not intervene in heavenly movements, but is beyond all action and perfectly happy
28. God / E. Attitudes to God / 4. Atheism
Some say Epicurus only pretended to believe in the gods, so as not to offend Athenians
29. Religion / A. Religious Thought / 1. Religious Belief
If god answered prayers we would be destroyed, because we pray for others to suffer