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10 - Politics and society

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2009

James Warren
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Epicurean thoughts about politics contrast sharply with those of other prominent Greek and Roman philosophers. Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics agree that human beings are naturally political animals, by which they mean that to realize fully our natural capacities and be perfectly successful as human beings, we need to contribute to the polis. Accordingly, they believe that humans should start a family and should, at least if circumstances are favourable, engage in politics. These philosophers also agree that justice exists by nature and not by convention, by which they mean that standards of right and wrong for social life do not depend upon any particular agreements or customs. The Epicureans differ. They discourage starting a family and engaging in politics, and they deny that justice exists by nature. It would be a mistake, however, to infer that Epicureanism is apolitical. First, these sweeping contrasts need some qualification: the Epicureans do not absolutely reject ordinary politics and do not think that justice is whatever a society decides it is. Second, and more importantly, the Epicureans' pursuit of pleasure requires that they cultivate their own just community of friends, apart from the madding crowd.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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  • Politics and society
  • Edited by James Warren, University of Cambridge
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism
  • Online publication: 28 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521873475.011
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  • Politics and society
  • Edited by James Warren, University of Cambridge
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism
  • Online publication: 28 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521873475.011
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Politics and society
  • Edited by James Warren, University of Cambridge
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism
  • Online publication: 28 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521873475.011
Available formats
×