Epicurus in the Enlightenment

Voltaire Foundation (2009)
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Abstract

Eighteenth-century Epicureanism is often viewed as radical, anti-religious, and politically dangerous. But to what extent does this simplify the ancient philosophy and underestimate its significance to the Enlightenment? Through a pan-European analysis of Enlightenment centres from Scotland to Russia via the Netherlands, France and Germany, contributors argue that elements of classical Epicureanism were appropriated by radical and conservative writers alike. They move beyond literature and political theory to examine the application of Epicurean ideas in domains as diverse as physics, natural law, and the philosophy of language, drawing on the work of both major figures (Diderot, Helvétius, Smith and Hume) and of lesser-known but important thinkers (Johann Jacob Schmauss and Dmitrii Anichkov). Table of Contents Neven Leddy and Avi S. Lifschitz, Epicurus in the Enlightenment: an introduction Elodie Argaud, Bayle’s defence of Epicurus: the use and abuse of Malebranche’s Méditations chrétiennes Hans W. Blom, The Epicurean motif in Dutch notions of sociability in the seventeenth century Thomas Ahnert, Epicureanism and the transformation of natural law in the early German Enlightenment Charles T. Wolfe, A happiness fit for organic bodies: La Mettrie’s medical Epicureanism Natania Meeker, Sexing Epicurean materialism in Diderot Pierre Force, Helvétius as an Epicurean political theorist Andrew Kahn, Epicureanism in the Russian Enlightenment: Dmitrii Anichkov and atomic theory Matthew Niblett, Man, morals and matter: Epicurus and materialist thought in England from John Toland to Joseph Priestley James A. Harris, The Epicurean in Hume Neven Leddy, Adam Smith’s critique of Enlightenment Epicureanism Avi S. Lifschitz, The Enlightenment revival of the Epicurean history of language and civilisation Bibliography Index

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Avi Lifschitz
University College London

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