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Christian Mueller (01/01/2021, within the course "The Odyssey of Philosophy and Information" facilitated by J.M.Díaz)


(1) The comments of the facilitator will be edited using this style, brackets, 8 pt, color change. These will be introduced in between your own text to discuss and further co-elaborate the content. Whenever the authors consider to have addressed the issue, they can simply remove the comment
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"We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come nor despair of it as quite certain not to come." 

(Letter to Menoeceus, by Epicurus) [Pay attenttion to the formatting changes and apply to the direct quotations, in addittion modify the intext citation and the corresponding reference at the bibliographic section according to APA style -see general comment (a)]

Brief Introduction

[Not disregarding the need to introduce into the topic, it is better to have an abstract sumarizing the content of your whole contribution at the very beggining]

Epicurism is a philosophic system based on the teachings of ancient greek thinker Epicurus.

The main philosophy behind epicurism involves a clear goal for human life, an empiricist theory of knowledge and a theorem about atoms being the source of everything.

He was heavily influenced by another greek thinker named Democritus.

Atoms are the source of everything

Epicurus defines atoms as the very basic components forming every object and living thing in the universe.These uncuttable, microscopic bits of matter exist in the void, which he defines as an undefined empty space.

Every object is a union of atoms and its particular behavior is defined by the collusion and interaction of the individual atoms.His arguments for this theory are that we see bodies move. For them to move there must be empty space for them to move in, explaining the void. Secondly he states that nothing comes into existence from what does not exist.

This lead him to the conclusion that the universe also has no starting point. It has always been existing and will always be existing 

"Moreover, the universe as a whole is infinite, for whatever is limited has an outermost edge to limit it, and such an edge is defined by something beyond. Since the universe has no edge, it has no limit; and since it lacks a limit, it is infinite and unbounded. Moreover, the universe is infinite both in the number of its atoms and in the extent of its void."

(Epicurus (1964). “Letters: Principles Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings Translated, with an Introd. and Notes, by Russel M. Geor. Indianapolis Merrill”)

Like stated in this quotation the universe is also limitless and therefore there are an infinite amount of atoms.Based on that, those atoms need a infinite amount of voids to keep moving and interacting.These theorems weren’t all new. He was referencing Democritus thoughts of atomism and expanding it with his own understandings.

Special about his particular explanation was that atoms always keep on moving. This is important to understand his believes for human life and all life in general.

Perception and knowledge 

In anicent greek theory the chest was the main source for human emotions and feelings.This is a very different approach to define knowledge compared to todays standards.Asking anyone today where knowledge is located, you would probably get the same answers. Either the head or the brain in particular.

In the modern world we link every conscious part of our body to the brain.The brain is our most important organ to control all the other organs. 

Having a mind or a soul is rather unimportant because we don’t use it to control our bodies.

But epicurus strongly links ones mind and emotions to the particular body it is encaged in. Without a body there is no mind.He values the mind or the soul by making it an essential part for our body to function.Confirming this theory of a link between mind and body he mentions being ill or drunk can dramatically affect your mind and and therefore your body.

For example not being able to move while being sick. But also the other way around, when in a demanding psychological state the body can’t operate properly. The link between mind and body is stated to be a *spirit* allowing them to communicate throughout the the body.

*Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.*

(Epicurus, Lucretius, Cicero (2015). “Stoic Six Pack 3: The Epicureans”, p.15)

This brings an interesting new perspective to knowledge.Usually you associate knowledge with the wisdom that people with a lot of experience in life gain.

Epicurus takes age completely out of the equation. Important to distinguish is that knowledge or judgements about the world can only be acquired by learning basic concepts and defining them with your own senses.

Depending on this theory the only real source of knowledge for him are the senses.

This includes all senses in a human body interacting together.These senses are for example: hearing, feeling, seeing or smelling.

Every real piece of information can only be confirmed by the senses. This is a key argument in Epicurus philosophy.

Internal senses like pain and pleasure work hand in hand with those external, like hearing and sight and therefore are equal.

Recieving information from the senses is always a passive process and therefore the senses themselves don’t make judgements about a certain event or impression.That means errors only occur while processing what the senses give to a human.

To conclude his theory knowledge is something that has been proven to be right repeatedly by the senses and confirmed by the mind.

*If you reject any single sensation and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion as to the appearance awaiting confirmation and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations as well with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.*

(Letter to Herodotus,Epicurus)

Since Epicurus states that the mind is important for a functioning body and a healthy life, you can assume that knowledge for him, plays a huge part in ones life.

He is making gaining information and knowledge a major part of life.It helps to decide what is right or wrong an basically gives you all the information to life a happy life.

*It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.*

Being happy for Epicurus is a solid balance between the pleasures in life.There should not be a extrem use or urge for some sort of pleasure.Everything should be looked at moderately.

He valued emotions like pleasure and desires extremely important to him to life a succssesfull life.

But there were distinct differences in those pleasures. He creates different categories for pleasures and desires. The most important pleasure category for him were the so called *static pleasures*. These are the pleasures you gain after temporary satisfaction called *moving pleasures*.

For example if you are hungry and eat something you satisfy your moving pleasure of being hungry. Once you are full and no longer have to worry about eating you move into a state of static pleasure. You are now no longer in need of something and completely satisfied.

A different kind of static pleasure is knowledge.

Once obtained you are always able to relay on it, wich ultimately grants security in different life situations.Which is also the highest pleasure.

When we say that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasure of the profligate or that which depends on physical enjoyment--as some think who do not understand our teachings, disagree with them, or give them an evil interpretation--but by pleasure we mean the state wherein the body is free from pain and the mind from anxiety.

(Epicurus (1964). “Letters: Principles Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings Translated, with an Introd. and Notes, by Russel M. Geor. Indianapolis Merrill”)

One of the contrary feelings of pleasure is the fear of death. It was very popular among people at that time.It was determining how many people lived their day to day lifes and affected their morals.

One important result of Epicurus’ philosophy of mind is that death is annihilation.The mind is able to engage in the motions of sensation and thought only when it is housed in the body and the atoms that make it up are properly arranged. Upon death, says Epicurus, the container of the body shatters, and the atoms disperse in the air. The atoms are eternal, but the mind made up of these atoms is not, just as other compound bodies cease to exist when the atoms that make them up disperse.This was a radical theory for the time being because it basically disprove the afterlife and god himself. Death is basically just like being born, there is not part of our consciousness that exists to experience it. 

You can see why many people followed his ideas because they were really reasonable. People trust their own senses and experiences the most, rather than someone telling them what might be true.A quite popular example is that every person for them self must gain the knowledge that fire is hot and can hurt you. Once this experience is made you will never loose it as an information.


Like stated before senses are the key element for Epicurus to gain knowledge.But only if they are properly used and not abused.What is true and important is still your personal task for yourself to distinguish.

Epicurus defines three distinct criteria of truth.

First criteria: Sensations.These give us information about the external world.Allowing us to test these attained informations with future gained informations form other sensations.

For example if you think something is really heavy form a far that is the first sensation. You can confirm this sensation by later going towards the object and feeling it or even lifting it therefore denying or confirming this Information.Even when an information might not seem right at first, the senses never make errors because they are purely passive.Its the Person itself making mistakes by judging the ingoing information.This means you should always use as many of your senses as possible before you try to make judgements.Starting point for any real Knowledge should always be a basic concept upon you can built your own construct on.

This strongly collides with the Paradox of Inquiry explored by Plato in Meno.

Meno’s Paradox or the Paradox of Inquiry states that someone cannot inquire either about what he knows or about what he does not know – for he cannot inquire about what he knows, because he knows it, and in that case is in no need of inquiry; nor again can he inquire about what he does not know, since he does not know about what he is to inquire.This is stated by Socrates in their dialogue. Impling that if you know what you are looking for, there is no need for inquiry, altho  inquiry is unnecessary. Second, if you do not know what you are looking for, you cannot inquire, thus inquiry is impossible. Third and last, coming from the first and second statements, inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible.

However he doesn’t fully agree with Platos theory about our souls that supposedly had acquaintance with transcendent forms in the pre-natal existence.

He thinks that his second criteria for truth: Preconceptions are based on repeated sense related experiences of the same Object or situation.

Lastly he adds feelings to the list of criteria of truth.Pleasure and Pain play a huge role in his belief and it is really important to him to gain the knowledge about which should avoid and wich to embrace.

*He who understands the limits of life knows that it is easy to obtain that which removes the pain of want and makes the whole of life complete and perfect. Thus he has no longer any need of things which involve struggle.*

(Epicurus,Doctrine 21)

Closely following Democritus studies about atoms, he definitely distanced himself from skepticism and its view towards truth or knowledge.

Democritus had skeptic tendencies, which were not supported by Epicurus.

One of his key arguments against skepticism was that if a person really beliefs he know nothing then he wouldn’t have any reason to engage in any course of action instead of another. This means he had to engage in nothing at all and would ultimately die.As another not as drastic example Epicurus states is if a skeptic claims nothing can be known, you should ask him if he know that nothing can be known.If he answers with yes then he is not supporting skepticism. If he does not say yes he is not making enough of a claim and you should not listen to his opinion.

Another one of his key arguments against skepticism was if skeptics claim that nothing can be known, or that the truth can’t be known, you should ask him where he gets the knowledge of the concepts such as knowledge or truth. Skeptics claim that the senses can not be trusted or relied on, therefore Epicurus thinks a skeptic is not entitled to use concepts like knowledge or truth because in his opinion these strongly derive form the senses.


Epicurus was one of the most influential thinkers of ancient greek philosophy and many philosophers in more modern times were still referring to his belives. Even many of his scientific believes were found out to be a good base to what actually is happening.He was one of the first philosophers that didn’t want a philosophic concept that made people good in particular, he wanted to create a concept to make people happy with their lifes.

His approach to the topics of knowledge and wisdom was a completely different concept wich is still really relevant in todays world. Putting experiences over everything to gain knowledge.

And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it. 

(Epicurus,Letter to Menoeceus)

One of his main goals was to make people happy and encouraged them to gain knowledge their very own way. Basically bringing knowledge and wisdom to the level of ordinary people, not distancing them from archiving it.


  • Letter to Menoeceus ,By Epicurus,Translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1928), [Consulted: consulting 19/12/20]
  • Epicurus (1964). “Letters: Principles Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings Translated, with an Introd. and Notes, by Russel M. Geor. Indianapolis Merrill”
  • Epicurus, Lucretius, Cicero (2015). “Stoic Six Pack 3: The Epicureans”, p.15
  • Letter to Herodotus, Epicurus, translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1925), [Consulted: consulting 19/12/20]
  • (Epicurus,Doctrine 21,The Principal Doctrines of Epicurus,
  • h [Consulted: consulting 20/12/20]

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