A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Epicureans

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EPICUREANS. They derive their name from Epicurus, the philosopher, who was born in the 109th olympiad, or about 240 years before Christ. He accounted for the formation of the world supposing that a finite number of that infinite multitude of atoms, which fills the immense space of the universe, falling fortuitously into the region of our world, were in consequence of their innate motion collected into one rude and indigested mass. All the various parts of nature were formed by those atoms, which were best fitted to produce them. The fiery particles formed themselves into air, and from those which subsided the earth was produced. The mind, or intellect, was formed of particles most subtle in their nature, and capable of the most rapid motion. The world is preserved by the same mechanical causes by which it was framed, and from the same causes it will at last be dissolved.

Epicurus admitted that there were in the universe divine natures: but asserted that these happy beings did not incumber themselves with the government of the world; yet that on account of their excellent nature they are proper objects of reverence.

The science of physics was, in the judgment of Epicurus, subordinate to that of ethics; and his whole doctrine concerning nature was professedly adapted to rescue men from the dominion of troublesome passions, and lay the foundation of a tranquil and happy life. He taught that man is to do every thing for his own sake; that is to make his own happiness his chief end, and do all in his power to secure and preserve it. He considered pleasure as the ultimate goal of mankind; but asserts, that he does not mean the pleasures of the luxurious; but principally the freedom of the body from pain, and of the mind from anguish and perturbation. His followers however applied the principle to sensual indulgence, and this made his philosophy so popular that people of high rank and luxurious character generally embraced it. The virtue he prescribes is resolved ultimately into our private advantage, without regard to the excellence of its own nature by the Supreme Being.[1]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Leland's discourse on the Christian Revelation