(341-270 B.C.E.)

“Let no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old grow weary of his study. For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul. And the man who says that the age for philosophy has either not yet come or has gone by is like the man who savs that the age for happiness is not yet come to him, or has passed away.”

Marble bust of Epicurus. Roman copy of Greek original, 3rd century BC London

Marble bust of Epicurus. Roman copy of Greek original, 3rd century BC. London.


Cambridge Classics
Edited by Hermann Usener
2010, 530 pgs.

Hermann Karl Usener (1834-1905) published his monumental Epicurea in 1887. The volume is a collection of Epicurean texts and citations from a wide range of classical authors including Arrian, Cicero, Diodorus, Euripides, Plato and Seneca. The volume includes critical texts of Epicurus’ most important letters: Letter to Menoeceus, Letter to Herodotus and Letter to Pythocles, preserved by the third-century compiler Diogenes Laertius. The letters give important summaries of Epicurus’ philosophy. Usener’s pioneering work represented the first attempt to deal critically with the manuscript traditions behind Epicurean texts. His reconstructions of the texts included in this volume are based on a thorough understanding of the trajectories of textual transmission. Each text is supported by a detailed critical apparatus, and another apparatus records manuscript glosses and scholia. This work provided for the first time accurate and reliable texts for the critical study of Epicureanism.

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Diogenes Laercio

Diogenes Laertius

This rich compendium on the lives and doctrines of philosophers ranges over three centuries, from Thales to Epicurus (to whom the whole tenth book is devoted); 45 important figures are portrayed. Diogenes Laertius carefully compiled his information from hundreds of sources and enriches his accounts with numerous quotations. Diogenes Laertius lived probably in the earlier half of the 3rd century CE, his ancestry and birthplace being unknown. His history, in ten books, is divided unscientifically into two ‘Successions’ or sections: ‘Ionian’ from Anaximander to Theophrastus and Chrysippus, including the Socratic schools; ‘Italian’ from Pythagoras to Epicurus, including the Eleatics and sceptics. It is a very valuable collection of quotations and facts. The Loeb Classical Library edition of Diogenes Laertius is in two volumes.

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De Witt“Epicurus and His Philosophy”
by Norman Wentworth DeWitt
(1954, 396 pgs)

Epicurus and His Philosophy was first published in 1954. In this volume, the first comprehensive book in English about Epicurus, existing data on the life of the ancient philosopher is related to the development of his doctrine. The result is a fascinating account that challenges traditional theories and interpretations of Epicurean philosophy. Professor DeWitt demonstrates the fallacy of centuries of abuse of Epicurus and the resulting distortion of most discussions of Epicureanism that appear in standard philosophical works…

[+] Book Review at JSTOR

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St Paul“St. Paul and Epicurus”
by Norman Wentworth DeWitt
(1954, 212 pgs.)

St. Paul and Epicurus was first published in 1954. Everyone who is interested in the meaning of the Bible will find this a revealing study, for it opens up a new window on the New Testament, a window that was walled up centuries ago by prejudice. Professor DeWitt throws new light on the writings of the Apostle Paul by showing how they were influenced by the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. That Epicureanism could have a place in Christian religion may come as a surprise to those familiar with the conventional concept of the philosophy of Epicurus. As demonstrated in the meaning of the English word epicure, derived from the name of the ancient philosopher, the modern world has long associated Epicurus with the indulgence of sensual pleasure in food and drink. But,as Professor DeWitt makes clear both in this volume and in its predecessor, Epicurus and His Philosophy, the pleasures which the ancient Greek espoused as constituting the chief good of life were not the pleasures of the flesh. The merit and the lure, however, of the Epicurean ethic, which allied happiness with pleasure, were so appealing and so widely acknowledged that Paul had no choice but to adopt it and bless it for his followers with the sanction of religion. He could not, though, admit indebtedness to a philosopher who had long been accused of sensualism and atheism, and there was no choice, therefore, but to consign Epicurus to anonymity. Through his scholarly investigation into the Epicurean source of certain portions of the Epistles, Professor DeWitt provides new explanations or translations for seventy-six biblical verses. The close scrutiny of biblical passages is carried out, not in a spirit of vandalism, but in a quest for accuracy, and the result is a challenging, readable, and absorbing book.

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Konstan“A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus”
by David Konstan
(2008, 200 pgs)

Epicurus, and his Roman disciple Lucretius, held that the primary cause of human unhappiness was an irrational fear of death. What is more, they believed that a clear understanding of the nature of the world would help to eliminate this fear; for if we recognise that the universe and everything in it is made up of atoms and empty space, we will see that the soul cannot possibly survive the extinction of the body – and no harm to us can occur after we die. This liberating insight is at the core of Epicurean therapy. In this book, Konstan seeks to show how such fears arose, according to the Epicureans, and why they persist even in modern societies. It offers a close examination of the basic principles of Epicurean psychology: showing how a system based on a materialistic world view could provide a coherent account of irrational anxieties and desires, and provide a therapy that would allow human beings to enjoy life to the fullest degree.

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Festugieres“Epicurus and His Gods”
Andre-Jean Festugière
(Harvard, 108 pgs)

Table of Contents




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Tim O Keefe“Epicurus On Freedom”
Tim O’Keefe
(Cambridge, 2005, 186 pgs)

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-271/0 BCE) has attracted much contemporary interest. Tim O’Keefe argues that the sort of freedom which Epicurus wanted to preserve is significantly different from the ‘free will’ which philosophers debate today, and that in its emphasis on rational action has much closer affinities with Aristotle’s thought than with current preoccupations. His original and provocative book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in Hellenistic philosophy.

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Facing Death by James Warren“Facing Death”
James Warren
(Oxford, 2006, 256 pgs)

The ancient philosophical school of Epicureanism tried to argue that death is “nothing to us.” Were they right? James Warren examines the arguments they offered and evaluates their success, setting them against modern philosophical accounts of how death can be a harm. He also asks whether a life free from all fear of death is an attractive option and what the consequences would be of a full acceptance of the Epicureans’ views.

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Epicurus and the Epicurean Tradition

“Epicurus and the Epicurean Tradition”
Jeffrey Fish, Kirk R. Sanders
(Cambridge, 2011, 281 pgs)

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“The Greek Atomists and Epicurus”
by Cyril Bailey
(1964, 619 pgs)

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“Lucretius and the Transformation of Greek Wisdom”
David N. Sedley
(Cambridge, 2008, 254 pgs)

This book studies the structure and origins of De Rerum Natura (On the nature of things), the great first-century BC poem by Lucretius. By showing how he worked from the literary model set by the Greek poet Empedocles but under the philosophical inspiration of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, the book seeks to characterize Lucretius’ unique poetic achivement. It is addressed to those interested both in Latin poetry and in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.

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Lucretius2“Lucretius: On the Nature of Things (1873 press)”
Titus Lucretius Carus, translation by W.H.D. Rouse

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“The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius”
Stuart Gillespie, Philip Hardie
(Cambridge, 2007, 382 pgs)

Lucretius’ didactic poem De rerum natura (‘On the Nature of Things’) is an impassioned and visionary presentation of the materialist philosophy of Epicurus, and one of the most powerful poetic texts of antiquity. After its rediscovery in 1417 it became a controversial and seminal work in successive phases of literary history, the history of science, and the Enlightenment. In this Cambridge Companion experts in the history of literature, philosophy and science discuss the poem in its ancient contexts and in its reception both as a literary text and as a vehicle for progressive ideas. The Companion is designed both as an accessible handbook for the general reader who wishes to learn about Lucretius, and as a series of stimulating essays for students of classical antiquity and its reception. It is completely accessible to the reader who has only read Lucretius in translation.

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“Oxford Readings in Lucretius”
Monica R. Gale
(Oxford, 2007, 400 pgs)

This book gathers together some of the most important and influential scholarly articles of the last sixty to seventy years (three of which are translated into English here for the first time) on the Roman poet Lucretius. Lucretius’ philosophical epic, the De Rerum Natura or On the Nature of the Universe (c.55 BC), seeks to convince its reader of the validity of the rationalist theories of the Hellenistic thinker Epicurus. The articles collected in this volume explore Lucretius’ poetic and argumentative technique from a variety of perspectives, and also consider the poem in relation to its philosophical and literary milieux, and to the values and ideology of contemporary Roman society. All quotations in Latin or Greek are translated.

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Lucretius Serres“The Birth of Physics”
Michel Serres
(2001, 109 pgs)

The Birth of Physics focuses on the largest text still intact to reach us from the Ancient Greek Atomists – Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura – but mobilises everything we know about the related scientific work of the time (Archemides, Epicurus et al) in order to demand a complete reappraisal of the legacy. Serres argues that the Greeks had all the mathematical resources to formulate an adequate picture of the physical principles acting on matter. Crucial to his reconception of the Atomists’ thought is a recognition that their model of atomic matter is essentially a fluid one – they are describing the actions of turbulence. Recognition of this fact throws in relief the force of this ancient thought with respect to the recent disciplines of chaos and complexity. It explains the continuing presence of Lucretius in the work of such scientific giants as Nobel Laureates Schroedinger and Prigogine. This book is truly a landmark in the study of ancient physics and will promote not only more work in the area but also stimulate a more general rebirth of philosophical interest in the ancients.


Alan Watts (1915-1973): What’s Wrong With Our Culture


Alan Watts: What’s Wrong With Our Culture

“Why is it that we don’t seem to be able to adjust ourselves to the physical environment without destroying it?

Why is it that in a way this culture represents in a unique fashion the law of diminishing returns? That our success is a failure.

That we are building up an enormous technological civilization which seems to promise the fulfillment of every wish almost at the touch of a button. And yet as in so many fairy tales when the wish is finally materialized, they are like fairy gold, they are not really material at all.

In other words, so many of our products, our cars, our homes, our clothing, our food, It looks as if it were really the instant creation of pure thought; that is to say it’s thoroughly insubstantial, lacking in what the connoisseur of wine calls body.

And in so many other ways, the riches that we produce are ephemeral. and as the result of that we are frustrated, we are terribly frustrated. We feel that the only thing is to go on and getting more and more.

And as a result of that the whole landscape begins to look like the nursery of a spoiled child who’s got too many toys and is bored with them and throws them away as fast as he gets them, plays them for a few minutes.

Also we are dedicated to a tremendous war on the basic material dimensions of time and space. We want to obliterate their limitations. We want to get everything done as fast as possible. We want to convert the rhythms and the skills of work into cash, which indeed you can buy something with but you can’t eat it.

And then rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves. You know, for the vast majority of American families what seems to be the real point of life, what you rush home to get to is to watch

an electronic reproduction of life. You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste.

You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or an orgy of love-making or a riot of music and dancing; But nothing of the kind.

It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen. You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.

And so we don’t get with each other except for public expressions or getting rid of our hostility like football or prize-fighting.

And even in the spectacles one sees on this television it’s perfectly proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other but oh dear no, not people loving each other, except in a rather restrained way.

One can only draw the conclusion that the assumption underlying this is that expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption is basically crazy and devoted – unintentionally indeed but nevertheless in-fact devoted not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.”



Psychedelics and Religious Experience
by Alan Watts

“The experiences resulting from the use of psychedelic drugs are often described in religious terms. They are therefore of interest to those like myself who, in the tradition of William James, are concerned with the psychology of religion. For more than thirty years I have been studying the causes, the consequences, and the conditions of those peculiar states of consciousness in which the individual discovers himself to be one continuous process with God, with the Universe, with the Ground of Being, or whatever name he may use by cultural conditioning or personal preference for the ultimate and eternal reality. We have no satisfactory and definitive name for experiences of this kind. The terms “religious experience,” “mystical experience,” and “cosmic consciousness” are all too vague and comprehensive to denote that specific mode of consciousness which, to those who have known it, is as real and overwhelming as falling in love. This article describes such states of consciousness induced by psychedelic drugs, although they are virtually indistinguishable from genuine mystical experience. The article then discusses objections to the use of psychedelic drugs that arise mainly from the opposition between mystical values and the traditional religious and secular values of Western society.”


Carl Sagan’s thoughts about the Afterlife (or rather our wishful thinking about it…), looking Death straight in the eye, & daily gratitude to Life’s brief and magnificent opportunity… [By Zen Pencils]

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The Keepers Of Our Past & The Guides To Our Future (By Arundhati Roy)


“The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination — an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future.”

—Arundhati Roy

(The image that illustrates this post was found in Flick; it’s a “Pachamama” Mural in Bariloche (Argentina), near the artisan market. “Pachamama” refers to “Mother Earth” and is central to many indigenous cultures across South America.)

“Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old / A friend when you’re lonely, or peace to your soul…”

“Satisfied Mind”

Songwriters: Jack Rhodes, Red Hayes
Interpreter: Jeff Buckley
Album: Sketches From My Sweetheart The Drunk (1998)
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How many times have you heard someone say
“If I had money, I would do things my way”?
But little they know, that it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old,
A friend when you’re lonely, or peace to your soul.
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind.

My life is over and my time has run out,
My friends and my loved ones, i’ll leave these no doubt.
One things for certain, when it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.