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15 - Epicureanism in early modern philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2009

James Warren
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

The recovery of Epicurus' natural and moral philosophy in the Renaissance and its dissemination in the early modern period had a significant effect on the evolution of philosophy. The theses of the plurality of worlds, their self-formation, the non-existence of any god or gods concerned with the affairs of men and women, and the centrality and validity of the hedonic motive in human life, came under extended scrutiny in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although it was once customary to regard Epicureanism as a fringe movement represented in the seventeenth century almost uniquely by the enigmatic Pierre Gassendi, it is now increasingly recognized that Epicurus' letters and sayings, and his follower Lucretius' Latin poem, On the nature of things, contributed to the formation of a rival image of nature - the corpuscularian, mechanical philosophy - that replaced the scholastic synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christian doctrine, and that found special favour in the new scientific academies of Europe.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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