Epicurus 342-270 B.C.
By Richard E. Noble
Epicurus was not an “Epicurean”. He believed that in life Man should seek happiness and pleasure, but yet he ate only bread and water, an occasional piece of dried cheese and a sip of wine, and didn’t have sex. He didn’t like eating because it caused indigestion, drinking led to a hangover, and sex led to passion, frustration and, least we should forget ... children. He didn’t like politics because expressing a political point of view led to the creation of enemies and if one is to be happy one should only have friends. He believed in God, or the Gods, and liked Church. Supposedly he worshipped daily and was considered devoutly religious, yet he hated and despised religion because it promoted mysticism, superstition, fear, and barbaric human sacrifices. He believed in the Gods but realized that if the Gods were to remain happy they had to ignore mankind (a good point, don’t you agree?).
The Gods didn’t control anything, and atoms acted independently often without rhyme or reason. Chaos ruled the universe and not design or divine planning. Because of this notion Epicurus is basically considered an atheist.
He is criticized on two counts by believers. One, he gives no account of “consciousness” or an explanation of how unconscious matter can produces conscious thought. And two, if random atoms or particles, chaotically bumping into one another are the building blocks of man and his universe, who or what sets them or keeps them in motion? How can anything “revolve” without a “Revolver”?
But do we have an answer to either of these questions today? What is the source of consciousness, reflection, thought?
No one knows.
And what is the source of motion?
Gravity and electromagnetism are simply possible descriptions of the movement as observed, but the cause or the source of the motion as of yet has not been determined.
Those that posit the Big Bang Theory, as an explanation of the motion of the universe still have the problem of explaining the source of the energy causing the Big Bang to bang. And those that posit God still have the age old problem of answering from whence came God, His power, consciousness and energy?
From what I can see “conscious thought” is really no cause for divination. Human consciousness seems to me to be a most primitive, elementary, and imperfect a process of understanding that only the immense ego of man could assign it to the ranks of the Godly. Even our so called scientific method when viewed objectively must appear to any “conscious” observer like a poor ram butting his head up against the dam, or a spider reconstructing his bridge from wall to wall, over and over and over. Man’s inductive process of learning is mighty slow. Computers have already surpassed the most of us, and who knows what the future has in store?
Epicurus was a poor guy, unlike Plato and Aristotle. He started up his school in what appears to have been “a bad neighborhood”. He took into his school a lot of local riffraff, for which he has received endless bad mouthing.
I don’t get “schools of Philosophy” in ancient Athens and Greece. Everybody and his uncle seemed to have had one. I picture these schools to be on every street corner, kind of like barrooms in South Boston, or independent churches throughout the South.
What was the deal on this, man?