Did you hear about the Greek and the Roman?

Does this sound about right?

“Everything is made of invisible particles called atoms, space and time are infinite, nature is an endless experiment, human society began as a battle to survive, there is no afterlife, religions are cruel delusions, and the universe has no clear purpose. The world is material – with a smidgen of free will. How should we live? Rationally, by dropping illusion. False ideas largely make us unhappy. If we minimise the pain they cause, we maximise our pleasure.”

This sounds remarkably insightful for something composed more than 2,000 years ago.This is the essence of the teachings of a Greek called Epicurus, born 2360 years ago. Although he wrote at least 300 articles, almost all have been lost, so most of what we know about him comes from the six books written about his teachings by the Roman philosopher Lucretius, about 50bce, a few hundred years after his death.

Lucretius was really keen on the Epicurean philosophy and used his expensive education to write in the fashion of the day, as a poem, albeit one with 7400 lines called ‘On the Nature of Things’. Each book was devoted to a separate part of the philosophy, beginning with the concept of atoms, the nature of the mind, explanations of sensation and thought, the development of the world and its phenomena and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. Events in the universe come about by chance “fortuna” and not the divine intervention of the deities.

In his day, Epicurus scandalized Greek society by opening his school, The Garden, to women and slaves who he thought had just as much right to education as anyone.

His philosophy was accepting that we are finite creatures with no future past the end of our lives means we can more easily achieve a happy, tranquil life of peace, free of the fear of death and the wrath of deities by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

I would have liked him.

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