A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus

A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus

A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus

A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This book is a new edition of Some Aspects of Epicurean Psychology, originally published by E.J. Brill in 1973. Besides being brought up to date in a great many details, it includes much wholly new material, for example this preface, the entire first chapter, and more. This revised edition was first published in Italian (Konstan 2007a), thanks to the kind encouragement of my dear friend, Ilaria Ramelli, who also translated it, and of Professors Roberto Radice and Giovanni Reale, the editors of the series, “Vita e Pensiero,” published under the auspices of the Universite Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, in Milan.

A word of justification is needed for republishing a book on Epicureanism that is now more than thirty-five years old. The field has changed greatly over the past few decades. New editions of papyri from the Epicurean library in Herculaneum, accompanied by fine commentaries, have greatly augmented our knowledge both of the later tradition of Epicurean theory and of the original form it took at the hands of Epicurus himself, for example in his magnum opus, On Nature. In addition, Epicureanism has come in for intensive investigation, stimulated both by the work of Marcello Gigante and his associates in Naples and other scholars in Italy, as well as by the meetings and publications sponsored by the Symposium Hellenisticum, where specialists from various countries focussed critical attention on Epicureanism, Stoicism, skepticism, and other relatively obscure philosophical traditions. We understand a great deal better today Epicurean epistemology, physics . . .

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