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Epicurus On Pleasure, Epicurus On Human Excellence, Epicureans And Stoics Compared, Other Aspects Of Epicureanism

Epicureanism gets its name from Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.), who founded his philosophical school (The Garden) in 306 B.C.E. at Athens. Epicureanism emerged at roughly the same time as Stoicism, which was founded by Zeno of Citium (c. 335–c. 263 B.C.E.) and developed by Chrysippus of Soli (c. 280–206 B.C.E.). Epicureanism was introduced into Rome in the early second century B.C.E. where it caught the attention of Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.) and also the poet Lucretius (c. 96–c. 55 B.C.E.), who wrote De rerum natura in an effort to explain Epicureanism. Horace (65–8 B.C.E.) and Virgil (70–19B.C.E.) were also notably associated with Epicureanism.

Epicureanism, as an acceptable metaphysical viewpoint, was suppressed once Christianity began to experience some success by the second century C.E. Christians were critical of the apparently selfish nature of Epicurean teachings on pleasure. Epicureanism essentially disappeared for about one thousand years until it was revived by Lorenzo Valla (1405–1457), who criticized Scholasticism in Disputazioni dialettiche and supported Epicureanism in De Voluptate. Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), the critic of Scholasticism and of Descartes, often gets the credit for rediscovering Epicureanism, however, with his De vita et Moribus Epicuri. The influence of Gassendi's work on John Locke (1632–1704) has been credited with providing the impetus for Locke's social contract theory and, by extension, for the American Revolution. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) himself claimed, in a letter to William Short (dated 31 October 1819), to be an Epicurean. Finally, Epicureanism must be distinguished from utilitarianism, which arose during the nineteenth century. Utilitarianism retains the Epicurean view that humans naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain, but while Epicureans laud pleasure seeking and pain avoidance for their effects on the psychological state of the actor, utilitarians use it to express the consequentialist view that a good action maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ephemeris to Evolution - Historical Background