EPICUREANISM

EPICUREANISM
EPICUREANISM, a philosophy of adjustment to the social changes after alexander the great (336–323), founded by Epicurus, 342/1–270 B.C.E., "the most revered and the most reviled of all founders of thought in the Greco-Roman world" (De Witt). Recent scholarship sees in it a "bridge" to certain rabbinic and Christian moods. Epicurus taught freedom from fear and desire through knowledge as the natural and pleasurable life. He endorsed religious observance but denied earthly involvement of the perfect gods and with it providence, presage, punishment, and penitential prayer. The transformation of Epicureanism into a competitive sect celebrating Epicurus as "savior" increased the already existing opposition to it. Rhetorical literature falsely accused Epicurus of materialistic hedonism. Complaints of Epicurean dogmatism, "beguiling speech" (Col. 2:4), and compelling argumentation (of Avot 2:14 "…(know) what to answer the Epicurean") are frequently heard. Rabbinic condemnation reflects knowledge of Greco-Roman rhetoric, experiences with individuals and centers (Gadara, Gaza, Caesarea), and, possibly, the favoritism shown to Epicureanism by antiochus Epiphanes and hadrian . "Epicurean" became thus a byword for "deviance" – ranging from disrespect to atheism – in Philo, Josephus, and rabbinism alike (see apikoros ). An early unexpanded version of the "four who entered 'Paradise'" (Ḥag. 14b) may once have signified Epicurus' school ("the garden"), since it fits Akiva's past, Ben Azzai's celibacy and many Epicurean sayings, Elisha b. Avuyah's heterodoxy, and Ben Zoma's gnosticism (Epicureanism and Gnosticism were equated also by the Church Fathers). Akiva's "mystical" admonition (Ḥag. 14b) could easily have been a parody on the "apocalyptic"-enthusiastic style of the Epicureans (parallel parody H. Usener, Epicurea, fragm. 364; Gen. R. 1:5, Theodor-Albeck, p. 2 mentions "nothing from nothing"; Mid. Ps. to 1:22 the "automatic" universe; cf. Jos., Ant., 10:280). Agreements, however, both in content and literary form, between rabbinism and Epicureanism are striking: study for its own sake (Vatican fragment 45 and Avot 6:1); removal of doubt (Life 121b, Doctr. 22 and Avot 1:16); mortality and urgency (Vat. fr. 10 and Avot 2:15); acquisition of a companion (To Menoeceus, end, and Avot 1:6); diet of bread and water (Bailey, fr. 37 and Avot 6:4); satisfaction with one's lot (Bailey, fr. 69–70 and Avot 4:1); and avoidance of public office (Bailey, fr. 85–87; Vat. fr. 58; Doctr. 7 and Avot 1:10–11; 2:3; etc.). Epicurus anticipated Judaism's denial of astral divinity and rule. With the general rise of the lower classes he accorded human dignity even to the prostitute, an evaluation continued in the Midrash (Sif. Num. 78; Gen. R. 85:8) and the Gospels (Matt. 1:3; 5, etc.). In Hellenism and Christianity, too, denunciation of Epicurus together with partial adoption of his ethics is frequent. The centrality of the sage in post-Socratic ethics and rhetoric facilitated such developments. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Bailey, Epicurus (Greek and Eng., 1926); N.W. De Witt, Epicurus and his Philosophy (1954); A.M.J. Festugiére, Epicurus and his Gods (1956); S. Lieberman, in: A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and Other Studies (1963), 123–41; Reallexikon fuer Antike und Christentum, 5 (1962), 681–819, S.V. Epikur (contains bibliography). (Henry Albert Fischel)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Epicureanism — is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus ( c . 341 ndash; c . 270 BC), founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on… …   Wikipedia

  • Epicureanism — • In its popular sense, the word stands for a refined and calculating selfishness, seeking not power or fame, but the pleasures of sense, particularly of the palate, and those in company rather than solitude Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Epicureanism — Stephen Everson It is tempting to portray Epicureanism as the most straightforward, perhaps even simplistic, of the major dogmatic philosophical schools of the Hellenistic age. Starting from an atomic physics, according to which ‘the totality of… …   History of philosophy

  • Epicureanism — Ep i*cu*re an*ism, n. Attachment to the doctrines of Epicurus; the principles or belief of Epicurus. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • epicureanism — 1751, with reference to a philosophy; 1847 in a general sense, from EPICUREAN (Cf. epicurean) + ISM (Cf. ism). Earlier was epicurism (1570s) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Epicureanism — [ep΄ikyoor′ē əniz΄əm] n. 1. the philosophy of Epicurus or his school 2. adherence to or practice of this philosophy 3. [e ] EPICURISM …   English World dictionary

  • Epicureanism — /ep i kyoo ree euh niz euhm, kyoor ee /, n. 1. the philosophical system or doctrine of Epicurus, holding that the external world is a series of fortuitous combinations of atoms and that the highest good is pleasure, interpreted as freedom from… …   Universalium

  • epicureanism — noun Date: circa 1751 1. capitalized a. the philosophy of Epicurus who subscribed to a hedonistic ethics that considered an imperturbable emotional calm the highest good and whose followers held intellectual pleasures superior to transient… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Epicureanism — In common usage, a way of life based on sensual enjoyment. However, this is not the recommendation of Epicurus, who advocated the pursuit only of pleasures that can be controlled and enjoyed in moderation: pleasures of friendship, peace, and… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Epicureanism — Epicurean ► NOUN 1) a follower of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 270 BC), who taught that pleasure, particularly mental pleasure, was the highest good. 2) (epicurean) an epicure. ► ADJECTIVE 1) relating to Epicurus or his ideas. 2)… …   English terms dictionary

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