The Epicurus Group was named in 1978 for the famed Greek philosopher, Epicurus.
Despite this, Epicurus.com is not about Epicurean philosophy. It’s about simple, good food. Not haute cuisine nor hedonistic pleasures. We believe in a reasonably good, decent life with pleasure coming from goodness, quality and plain food.
Some philosophers today hold Epicurus to be a demi-god, believing that the man’s philosophy dominated his life from birth to death. They contend that our website is the antithesis of pure Epicurean philosophy. Fiddlesticks.
Prior to opening his school and “Garden” as you’ll read below, at age 35, Epicurus was a pig farmer on Samos for the early part of his life. He understood food. In fact, contemporaries report that when he would bring his pigs to market, he’d hand out instructions for cooking pork. It is in that context that we follow Epicurus and named our company and consequentially our site.
The Life and Philosophy of Epicurus
Epicurus was born around 341 BCE, seven years after Plato’s death, and grew up in the Athenian colony of Samos, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. He was about 19 when Aristotle died, and he studied philosophy under followers of Democritus and Plato. Epicurus founded his first philosophical schools in Mytilene and Lampsacus, before moving to Athens around 306 BCE. There Epicurus founded “The Garden”, a combination of philosophical community and school. The residents of the Garden put Epicurus’ teachings into practice. Epicurus died a very painful death from kidney stones around 271 or 270 BCE. It is a condition coincidentally shared by our founder.
Epicurus is one of the major philosophers in the Hellenistic period, the three centuries following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE (and of Aristotle in 322 BCE). Epicurus developed an unsparingly materialistic metaphysics, empiricist epistemology, and hedonistic ethics. Epicurus taught that the basic constituents of the world are atoms, uncuttable bits of matter, flying through empty space, and he tried to explain all natural phenomena in atomic terms. His teachings founded the modern science of physics and resulted in our present knowledge and understanding of space, atomic energy, and the bulk of contemporary science.
Epicurus rejected the existence of Platonic forms and an immaterial soul, and he said that the gods have no influence on our lives. Epicurus also thought skepticism was untenable, and that we could gain knowledge of the world relying upon the senses. He taught that the point of all one’s actions was to attain pleasure (conceived of as tranquility) for oneself, and that this could be done by limiting one’s desires and by banishing the fear of the gods and of death. Epicurus’ gospel of freedom from fear proved to be quite popular, and communities of Epicureans flourished for centuries after his death.
After Epicurus’ death, Epicureanism continued to flourish as a philosophical movement. Communities of Epicureans sprang up throughout the Hellenistic world; along with Stoicism, it was one of the major philosophical schools competing for people’s allegiances. Epicureanism went into decline with the rise of Christianity. Certain aspects of Epicurus’ thought were revived during the Renaissance and early modern periods, when reaction against scholastic neo-Aristotelianism led thinkers to turn to mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena. This Epicurean approach established modern science, from Galileo onwards.
Epicurus was a voluminous writer, but almost none of his own work survives. A likely reason for this is that authorities found his ideas ungodly. Diogenes Laertius, who probably lived in the third century CE , wrote a 10-book Lives of the Philosophers, which includes three of Epicurus’ letters in its recounting of the life and teachings of Epicurus. These three letters are brief summaries of major areas of Epicurus’ philosophy: the Letter to Herodotus, which summarizes his metaphysics, the Letter to Pythocles, which gives atomic explanations for meteorological phenomena, and the Letter to Menoeceus, which summarizes his ethics. It also includes the Principal Doctrines, 40 sayings which deal mainly with ethical matters.
Because of the absence of Epicurus’ own writings, we have to rely on later writers to reconstruct Epicurus’ thought. Two of our most important sources are the Roman poet Lucretius (c. 94-55 BCE) and the Roman politician Cicero (106-43 BCE). Lucretius was an Epicurean who wrote De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), a six-book poem expounding Epicurus’ metaphysics. Cicero was an adherent of the skeptical academy, who wrote a series of works setting forth the major philosophical systems of his day, including Epicureanism. Another major source is the essayist Plutarch (c. 50-120 CE), a Platonist. However, both Cicero and Plutarch were very hostile toward Epicureanism, so they must be used with care, since they often are less than charitable toward Epicurus, and may skew his views to serve their own purposes.
Although the major outlines of Epicurus’ thought are clear enough, the lack of sources means many of the details of his philosophy are still open to dispute.
Our founder, a follower of Epicurean philosophy, believes that Epicurus’ teachings about pleasure were greatly misunderstood, even in his own time, and most certainly following his death. Nevertheless, his name became synonymous with gourmet food, fine art, great travel and superior quality of life. It is doubtful he lived an Epicurean life, by the modern definition of the term, and probably lived a modest, simple life, avoiding conflicts and difficulty. The use of his name for this site is not a reflection of that misunderstanding of his philosophy, but a reflection of the spread of knowledge, and his belief that life should be fundamentally pleasurable.
Epicurus’ philosophy, even during his life, was considered a godless one because of his belief and teachings that there were mechanistic explanations for natural phenomena. He denied this charge as have his followers for more than 2200 years. We shared his view that the role of God in nature is not distinct or exclusive of the mechanistic methods for nature and atomism. Though belief in the creation of things is founded in the gods, even the gods needed a method to create.
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