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Summary Epicurus (341-271 BCE) was one of the most influential Hellenistic philosophers. He revived the atomism of Democritus and rejected the teleology of Aristotle and the immaterial soul and forms of Plato. All events are the result of indivisible bodies (atoms) interacting in the void, and the gods have no role in the workings of the world. Epicurus' ethics is a form of ascetic egoistic hedonism. Only one's own pleasure is intrinsically valuable, but the limit of pleasure is freedom from bodily distress and (especially) peace of mind, and the way to acquire peace of mind is by limiting your desires. Epicurus' arguments against the fear of death have been especially influential: death is annihilation, and so your death is bad for you neither when you are alive (as you are not dead) nor when you are dead (as you no longer exist).
Key works Most of Epicurus' writings are lost, but book ten of Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers, in its summary of Epicurus' life and teachings, contains three letters by Epicurus that summarize his physics, views on celestial and meteorological phenomena, and ethics. It also includes the "Principal Doctrines," short sayings mainly on ethics. Many of Epicurus' philosophical views must be gleaned from the works of later philosophers,such as Lucretius and Cicero. Long & Sedley 1987 and Gerson 1994 are compendiums of many of the crucial texts, with Long & Sedley 1987 including extensive commentary.
Introductions Konstan 2008 is a good encyclopedia entry on Epicurus. O'Keefe 2009 is an accessible book-length overview of the Epicurean philosophical system, while Warren 2009 contains chapters that deal more extensively with the current scholarly literature.
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  1. Death Does Not Harm the One Who Dies Because There is No One to Harm.David E. Rowe - manuscript
    If death is a harm then it is a harm that cannot be experienced. The proponent of death's harm must therefore provide an answer to Epicurus, when he says that ‘death, is nothing to us, since when we are, death is not present, and when death is present, then we are not’. In this paper I respond to the two main ways philosophers have attempted to answer Epicurus, regarding the subject of death's harm: either directly or via analogy. The direct (...)
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  2. The Problem of Evil - A Socratic Dialogue.Brent Silby - manuscript
    Epicurus asked: “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?” This Socratic dialogue explores a popular version of the Argument From Evil. Suitable as an introduction to the topic.
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  3. The Pleasures of Tranquillity.Alex Voorhoeve - manuscript
    Epicurus posited that the best life involves the greatest pleasures. He also argued that it involves attaining tranquillity. Many commentators have expressed scepticism that these two claims are compatible. For, they argue, Epicurus’ tranquil life is so austere that it is hard to see how it could be maximally pleasurable. Here, I offer an Epicurean account of the pleasures of tranquillity. I also consider different ways of valuing lives from a hedonistic point of view. Benthamite hedonists value lives by the (...)
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  4. Epicuro nella Critica della ragion pratica.Roberto Torzini - unknown - Annali Del Dipartimento di Filosofia 9:61-91.
    Within the Critique of practical reason, Epicurus plays an important, even if very often neglected, role. First at all in the Analytic, where the Epicurean ethics appears as the more serious opponent to the Kantian foundation of the morality. The discussion becomes more cogent on the topic of the motivation, question which is again debated in the Dialectic.
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  5. Epicureanism.Thomas A. Blackson - forthcoming - In Tom Angier (ed.), The History of Evil in Antiquity: 2000 Bce to 450 Ce. Routledge.
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  6. Epicurus on Properties.Ana Gavran Miloš - forthcoming - Mind.
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  7. The Oxford Handbook to Epicurus and Epicureanism.Phillip Mitsis (ed.) - forthcoming - Oxford England: Oxford University Press.
    This volume offers authoritative discussions of all aspects of Epicurus's philosophy and then traces out some of its most important subsequent influences throughout the Western intellectual tradition. Such a detailed and comprehensive study of Epicureanism is especially timely given the tremendous current revival of interest in Epicurus and his rivals, the Stoics. The thirty-one contributions in this volume offer an unmatched resource for all those wishing to deepen their knowledge of Epicurus' powerful arguments about happiness, death, and the nature of (...)
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  8. To Disorder and Discompose the Whole Machine of the World: Adam Smith, Epicurus and Lucretius.Warren Montag - forthcoming - Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia.
  9. Living Without Fear.Tim O'Keefe - forthcoming - In Nathan Powers & Jacob Klein (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy.
    Explores the role of eliminating fear in Epicurean ethics and physics, focusing on techniques to eliminate the fear of death and the fear of the gods.
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  10. Keeping the Friend in Epicurean Friendship.Thomas Carnes - 2021 - Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science 54 (4).
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  11. Epicurus: A Case Study of Nietzsche's Conception of a "Typical Decadent".David Hurrell - 2021 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 52 (1):78-104.
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  12. The Normativity of Nature in Epicurean Ethics and Politics.Tim O'Keefe - 2021 - In Christof Rapp & Peter Adamson (eds.), State and Nature: Essays in Ancient Political Philosophy. De Gruyter. pp. 181-199.
    Appeals to nature are ubiquitous in Epicurean ethics and politics. The foundation of Epicurean ethics is its claim that pleasure is the sole intrinsic good and pain the sole intrinsic evil, and this is supposedly shown by the behavior of infants who have not yet been corrupted, " when nature's judgement is pure and whole. " Central to their recommendations about how to attain pleasure is their division between types of desires: the natural and necessary ones, the natural but non-necessary (...)
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  13. Epicurus in Rome: Philosophical Perspectives in the Ciceronian Age.Sergio Yona & Gregson Davis (eds.) - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    The role of Greek thought in the final days of the Roman republic is a topic that has garnered much attention in recent years. This volume of essays, commissioned specially from a distinguished international group of scholars, explores the role and influence of Greek philosophy, specifically Epicureanism, in the late republic. It focuses primarily on the works and views of Cicero, premier politician and Roman philosopher of the day, and Lucretius, foremost among the representatives and supporters of Epicureanism at the (...)
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  14. Epicureans on Friendship, Politics, and Community.Anna B. Christensen - 2020 - In Kelly Arenson (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy. pp. 307-318.
    Though Epicurus recommends that his followers eschew politics and live “unnoticed” apart from society, he also recommends that they live in communion with other Epicureans. I show that both pieces of this seemingly contrasting advice function to help the Epicurean achieve her goal, tranquility. Politics is (usually) to be avoided because it disrupts tranquility; but the Epicurean community of friends supports and strengthens the ability to reach tranquility, secure from the challenges that beset the traditional, non-Epicurean political community.
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  15. Epicureanism and Early Christianity.Ilaria L. E. Ramelli - 2020 - In Phillip Mitsis (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Epicureanism. Oxford 2020: pp. 582-612.
    Many fragments and testimonies in Usener’s collection, Epicurea, come from ancient Christian sources. This essay explores Patristic interest in Epicureanism, which is often critical, and sometimes imprecise or distorted, but tangible. It shows how the fading away of the availability and use of good sources on Epicureanism, along with the disappearance of the Epicurean school itself, brought about a progressive impoverishment and hostility among Christian authors with respect to Epicurus and Epicureanism. A comparison between the representation of Epicureanism in Acts (...)
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  16. Can Epicurus Write a Will?Orestis Karatzoglou - 2020 - Ancient Philosophy 40 (1):197-208.
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  17. Health and Hedonism in Plato and Epicurus by Kelly Arenson.David Konstan - 2020 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (2):401-402.
    Epicurus had a distinctive position on pleasure: the greatest possible pleasure consists in the absence of pain. The pain in question may be physical or psychological. Not to be hungry, cold, or otherwise distressed is the greatest pleasure that the body can know; to be free of fear, particularly the kind of vague, undirected anxiety that Lucretius called cura, is the most pleasant state that the mind can achieve. As Lucretius exclaims, "Do you not see that our nature cries out (...)
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  18. Epicureans, Earlier Atomists, and Cyrenaics.Stefano Maso - 2020 - In Kelly Arenson (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy. New York, Stati Uniti: pp. 58-70.
    The theory developed by Leucippus (5th cent. BCE), Democritus (470/460-380 BCE), and later Epicurus (341-271/270 BCE) and his school is commonly defined as atomistic materialism. According to this theory, matter is the fundamental principle of existent and ever-evolving reality, and it is constituted of atoms. But whereas for the first atomists atoms were not so much a substance (ousia) as an ideal form (idea) through which they could explain sensible bodies and their movement, with Epicurus atoms effectively turned into a (...)
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  19. Epicurean Advice for the Modern Consumer.Tim O'Keefe - 2020 - In Kelly Arenson (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy. pp. 407-416.
    Epicurus thought that the conventional values of Greek society—in particular, its celebration of luxury and wealth—often led people astray. It is by rejecting these values, reducing our desires, and leading a moderately ascetic life that we can attain happiness. But Epicurus’ message is also pertinent for those of us in modern Western culture, with an economy based on constant consumption and an advertising industry that molds us to serve that economy by enlarging our desires. This paper begins with an outline (...)
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  20. Ancient Theories of Freedom and Determinism.Tim O'Keefe - 2020 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:00-00.
    A fairly long (~15,000 word) overview of ancient theories of freedom and determinism. It covers the supposed threat of causal determinism to "free will," i.e., the sort of control we need to have in order to be rightly held responsible for our actions. But it also discusses fatalistic arguments that proceed from the Principle of Bivalence, what responsibility we have for our own characters, and god and fate. Philosophers discussed include Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, Carneades, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Plotinus. (...)
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  21. Is It Possible to Be Better Off Dead? An Epicurean Analysis of Physician-Assisted Suicide.Andrew Pavelich - 2020 - Conatus 5 (2):115.
    Epicurus wrote that death cannot be bad for a person who dies, since when someone dies they no longer exist to be the subject of harm. But his conclusion also applies in the converse: Death cannot be good for someone, since after their death they will not exist to be the subject of benefit. This conclusion is troubling when it is brought to bear on the question of physician assisted suicide. If Epicurus is right, as I think he is, then (...)
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  22. Health and Hedonism in Plato and Epicurus, Written by Kelly Arenson. [REVIEW]Benjamin A. Rider - 2020 - Polis 37 (3):591-595.
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  23. Epicurean Philosophy and Its Parts.Clerk Shaw - 2020 - In Kelly Arenson (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy. pp. 13-24.
    This chapter offers an overview of the Epicurean conception of philosophy, with special attention to the value of physics. The Epicureans value physics not only for its ability to help remove superstitious beliefs about the gods and death, but also for its ability to stabilize our beliefs and to give causal accounts of ethically-relevant kinds such as pleasure and desire.
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  24. Epicureanism, Charvaka and Consumerism: A Search for Philosophy of Happiness.Desh Raj Sirswal - 2020 - Interdisciplinary Studies.
    Epicurus was a Greek philosopher interested in pleasure or pursuit of it more than other ideals. He said, "No pleasure in itself is a bad thing, but the things that produce certain pleasures involve disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves." Epicurus tells us that the knowledge of which pleasures are good for us is wisdom. While this sometimes led to a negative view of his philosophy, in many regions of the world today the reality is that his thinking (...)
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  25. Memmius, Cicero and Lucretius: A Note on Cic. Fam. 13.1.Christopher V. Trinacty - 2020 - Classical Quarterly 70 (1):440-443.
    A recent piece in this journal by Morgan and Taylor made the case that C. Memmius is not to be seen as an active prosecutor of Epicureanism but rather as an Epicurean himself, who merely has disagreed with the grimly orthodox Epicurean sect in Athens. As such, Memmius’ building intentions for Epicurus’ home could have been to create an honorary monument or possibly even construct a grander locus for pilgrimage and the practice of Epicureanism. This note adds to their findings (...)
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  26. Why Is Spinoza an Epicurean?Dimitris Vardoulakis - 2020 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (2):389-409.
    The article argues that Spinoza’s political philosophy is best understood by tracing the influence of epicureanism in his thought.
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  27. Freedom as Overcoming the Fear of Death: Epicureanism in the Subtitle of Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise.Dimitris Vardoulakis - 2020 - Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy 32:33-60.
    It is often put forward that the entire political project of epicureanism consists in the overcoming of fear, whereby its scope is deemed to be very narrow. I argue that the overcoming of the fear of death should actually be linked to a conception of freedom in epicureanism. This idea is further developed by Spinoza, who defines the free man as one who thinks of death least of all in the Ethics, and who develops this idea more in the Theological (...)
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  28. Hobbes or Spinoza? Two Epicurean Versions of the Social Contract.Dimitris Vardoulakis - 2020 - InCircolo - Rivista di Filosofia E Culture 9:186-210.
    I argue that both Hobbes and Spinoza rely on a pivot epicurean idea to form their conceptions of the social contract, namely, the idea that the human acts by calculating their utility. However, Hobbes and Spinoza employ this starting principle in different ways. For Hobbes, this only makes sense if the calculation of utility is regulated by fear as the primary political emotion. For Spinoza, there is no primary emotion and the entire construction of the social contract relies on how (...)
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  29. Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism.Dimitris Vardoulakis - 2020 - Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
    Through a radical new reading of the Theological Political Treatise, Dimitris Vardoulakis argues that the major source of Spinoza’s materialism is the Epicurean tradition that re-emerges in modernity when manuscripts by Epicurus and Lucretius are rediscovered. This reconsideration of Spinoza’s political project, set within a historical context, lays the ground for an alternative genealogy of materialism. Central to this new reading of Spinoza are the theory of practical judgment (understood as the calculation of utility) and its implications for a theory (...)
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  30. Die Ordnung der Welt: Darstellungsformen von Dynamik, Statik Und Emergenz in Lukrez' De Rerum Natura by Eva Marie Noller.Francesco Verde - 2020 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (3):610-611.
    According to a testimony of Sextus Empiricus's Against the Physicists, Epicurus began to study philosophy because his grammar teacher, dealing with the birth of Chaos in Hesiod's Theogony, was not able to explain what the cause and origin of Chaos were. If this evidence is reliable, the question of disorder was extremely significant for Epicurean philosophy. Usually, ancient pagan and Christian critics of materialistic philosophies accused Democritus and Epicurus of denying the power of providence. To Dante, Democritus is the philosopher (...)
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  31. Colloquium 4 Epicureans on Pity, Slavery, and Autonomy.Kelly E. Arenson - 2019 - Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 34 (1):119-136.
    Diogenes Laertius reports that the Epicurean sage will pity slaves rather than punish them. This paper considers why a hedonistic egoist would feel pity for her subordinates, given that pity can cause psychological pain. I argue that Epicureans feel bad for those who lack the natural good of security, and that Epicureans’ concern for others is entirely consistent with their hedonistic egoism: they will endure the pain of pity in order to achieve the greater pleasure of social cohesion and to (...)
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  32. Is Free Will Scepticism Self-Defeating?Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette - 2019 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 15 (2):55-78.
    Free will sceptics deny the existence of free will, that is the command or control necessary for moral responsibility. Epicureans allege that this denial is somehow self-defeating. To interpret the Epicurean allegation charitably, we must first realise that it is propositional attitudes like beliefs and not propositions themselves which can be self-defeating. So, believing in free will scepticism might be self- defeating. The charge becomes more plausible because, as Epicurus insightfully recognised,there is a strong connection between conduct and belief—and so (...)
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  33. Health and Hedonism in Plato and Epicurus.Kelly E. Arenson - 2019 - London: Bloomsbury.
    This book links Plato and Epicurus, two of the most prominent ethicists in the history of philosophy, exploring how Platonic material lays the conceptual groundwork for Epicurean hedonism. It argues that, despite their significant philosophical differences, Plato and Epicurus both conceptualise pleasure in terms of the health and harmony of the human body and soul. It turns to two crucial but underexplored sources for understanding Epicurean pleasure: Plato's treatment of psychological health and pleasure in the Republic, and his physiological account (...)
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  34. Psychological Universals in the Study of Happiness: From Social Psychology to Epicurean Philosophy.Sasha S. Euler - 2019 - Science, Religion and Culture 6 (1):130-137.
    Within the framework of Positive Psychology and Needing Theories, this article reviews cultural practices or perceptions regarding what happiness is and how it can be achieved. Mainly research on Subjective Well-Being (SWB) has identified many cultural differences in the pursuit of happiness, often described as East-West splits along categories such as highly expressed affect vs. quiet affect, self-assertion vs. conformity to social norms, independence vs. interdependence and the like. However, it is the overall goal of this article to show that (...)
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  35. The Comparison of Aesthetics of Aristotle and Hedonism of Epicurus.М. G. Fidrovska - 2019 - Вісник Харківського Національного Університету Імені В.Н. Каразіна. Серия: Теорія Культури Та Філософіі Науки 59.
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  36. Epicurean in Hume and Original Epicurus.Seo-Yeon Hur - 2019 - Cogito 89:323-348.
  37. Mort (Entrée Grand Public, L'Encyclopédie Philosophique).Federico Lauria - 2019 - L'Encyclopédie Philosophique.
    La mort nous afflige, nous angoisse, voire nous terrifie. Qu’est-ce que la mort ? La tristesse et l’angoisse face à la mort sont-elles justifiées ? La mort est-elle un mal ? Vaudrait-il mieux être immortel ? Comment comprendre le deuil ? Cette entrée propose un aperçu des questions principales de la philosophie contemporaine de la mort. Tentons de sonder l’énigme la plus tragique de la vie.
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  38. ‘Why is Latin Spectrum a Bad Translation of Epicurus’ ΕΙΔΩΛΟΝ? Cicero and Cassius on a Point of Philosophical Translation’.Sean McConnell - 2019 - Mnemosyne 72 (1):154–162.
  39. Cicéron, la crainte de châtiment et la justice épicurienne.Jean-Philippe Ranger - 2019 - Politeia 1 (4):56-72.
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  40. The Ethical Significance of Gratitude in Epicureanism.Benjamin A. Rider - 2019 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (6):1092-1112.
    ABSTRACTMany texts in the Epicurean tradition mention gratitude but do not explicitly explain its function in Epicurean ethics. I review passages that mention or discuss gratitude and ingratitude a...
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  41. Cicero Against Cassius on Pleasure and Virtue: A Complicated Passage From de Finibvs.Geert Roskam - 2019 - Classical Quarterly 69 (2):725-733.
    In the first two books of De finibus, Cicero deals with the Epicurean view of the final goal of life. This philosophical discussion, which is preceded by a rhetorical proem that stands on itself, is framed as a dialogue between Torquatus, who defends the Epicurean position, Cicero, who attacks it, and Triarius, who confines himself to a few critical interventions. If philosophy starts in wonder, according to the celebrated passage from Plato's Theaetetus, the company meets this criterion admirably well, for (...)
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  42. A Dilemma for Epicureanism.Travis Timmerman - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):241-257.
    Perhaps death’s badness is an illusion. Epicureans think so and argue that agents cannot be harmed by death when they’re alive nor when they’re dead. I argue that each version of Epicureanism faces a fatal dilemma: it is either committed to a demonstrably false view about the relationship between self-regarding reasons and well-being or it is involved in a merely verbal dispute with deprivationism. I first provide principled reason to think that any viable view about the badness of death must (...)
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  43. Spinoza’s Law: The Epicurean Definition of the Law in the Theological Political Treatise.Dimitris Vardoulakis - 2019 - Radical Philosophy 5 (2):23-33.
    In the first few pages of chapter 4 of his Theological Political Treatise (1670), Spinoza defines his conception of the law. In fact, he defines the law twice, first in terms of compulsion or necessity and then in terms of use. I would like to investigate here these definitions, in particular the second one, as it is Spinoza’s preferred one. The difficulty with understanding this definition is that it contains an expression, ratio vivendi, that is repeated several times in the (...)
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  44. Manifesto of the Epicurean Philosophy of Life.Marian Andrzej Wesoły - 2019 - Peitho 10 (1):85-102.
    Epicurus’ philosophy grew out of his life experiences, contacts, polem­ics, journeys and other activities. Apart from such great works as the monumental On nature in 37 books, Epicurus authored also various extracts, principle doctrines, sayings and letters. The letters, while addressed to many students and friends, were for him a very important tool of propagating his own philosophy. Epicurus’ fascinating Letter to Menoeceus can be regarded as a manifesto of his philosophy of life. In historiography, it is often characterized as (...)
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  45. Epicurean Wisdom.Catherine Wilson - 2019 - The Philosophers' Magazine 87:90-95.
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  46. Marx’s Discussion About the AtomicDeflection of Epicurus.玥斐 潘 - 2019 - Advances in Philosophy 8 (1):7-12.
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  47. Epicurean Hedonism as Qualitative Hedonism.Andrew Alwood - 2018 - Journal of Value Inquiry 52 (4):411-427.
    Epicurus’ theory of what is good for a person is hedonistic: only pleasure has intrinsic value. Critics object that Epicurus is committed to advocating sensualist excess, since hedonism seems both to imply that more pleasure is always of some good for you, and to recommend even debauched, sensual kinds of pleasure. However, Epicurus can respond to this objection much like J. S. Mill responds to the objection that hedonism is a “doctrine worthy only of swine”. I argue that Epicurus’ hedonism (...)
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  48. Nietzsche and Kant on Epicurus and Self-Cultivation.Keith Ansell-Pearson - 2018 - In Matthew Dennis & Sander Werkhoven (eds.), Ethics and Self-Cultivation: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. New York, USA: Taylor & Francis. pp. 68-83.
    A consideration of Nietzsche on Epicurean teaching on self-cultivation and making a contrast with Kant on this teaching.
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  49. When Wisdom Assumes Bodily Form : Nietzsche and Marx on Epicurus.Keith Ansell-Pearson - 2018 - In Manuel Dries (ed.), Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind. De Gruyter. pp. 309–328.
    A consideration of Nietzsche and Marx on Epicurus, and focused on Epicurus as a philosopher in whom, as Nietzsche puts it, 'wisdom assumes bodily form'.
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  50. Plotinus and Epicurus: Matter, Perception, Pleasure.Cinzia Arruzza - 2018 - Ancient Philosophy 38 (1):232-236.
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