Montreal, November 11, 2007 • No 241




Sean Gabb is a British libertarian writer, broadcaster, Academic and Director of the Libertarian Alliance.




<<< Part I

by Sean Gabb


E TENEBRIS tantis tam clarum extollere lumen
qui primus potuisti inlustrans commoda uitae,
te sequor, o Graiae gentis decus, inque tuis nunc
ficta pedum pono pressis uestigia signis,
non ita certandi cupidus quam propter amorem
quod te imitari aueo; quid enim contendat hirundo
cycnis, aut quidnam tremulis facere artubus haedi
consimile in cursu possint et fortis equi uis?
tu, pater, es rerum inuentor, tu patria nobis
suppeditas praecepta, tuisque ex, inclute, chartis,
floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant,
omnia nos itidem depascimur aurea dicta,
aurea, perpetua semper dignissima uita.

          (Lucretius, III, 1-13)


From Darkness into the Light

          The purpose of the 37 volumes of his On Nature is to free us from the fear of death and therefore from the control of priests and from the internal fears of the religion that Plato and his followers had in mind. Epicurus says:

          ...[W]e must recognise generally that the soul is a corporeal thing, composed of fine particles, dispersed all over the frame....

          ...[T]he rest of the frame, whether the whole of it survives or only a part, no longer has sensation, when once those atoms have departed.... Moreover, once the whole frame is broken up, the soul is scattered and has no longer the same powers as before, nor the same notions; hence it does not possess sentience either.(21)

          The atoms that comprise the soul are immortal. They are passed on from being to being like the torch in one of the Athenian foot races. But the larger structure of atoms that is the soul of any one individual is itself mortal. Once we are dead, our atoms are recycled. Since there is nothing but atoms moving in the void, we as individuals are annihilated. After death, there is nothing; and because of that, death is nothing. Epicurus says:

          Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensations is nothing to us.(22)

          After two thousand years of Christian spiritual hegemony, this may seem to many of us a gloomy doctrine. For Epicurus and his followers, however, it was a removal of the greatest barrier to happiness as they conceived it. That barrier was fear of endless punishment for the alleged sin of seeking their own happiness in life.

          It may be, Lucretius says, that beating down religion is impious and the entry to a life of crime. Much rather, it is religion which has brought forth criminal and impious deeds. He lived before the most notable acts of religious mania. But he was poet enough to know the psychology of enthusiasm. In Book One of his poem, he produces one of the most striking of all denunciations of religion. He describes how, at the beginning of the Trojan War, the priests tell Agamemnon that a good passage across the Aegean required the sacrifice of his daughter. So a young girl was dragged to the altar for her throat to be cut by her own father.

          Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum he concludes – "Such are the evils to which religion leads."(23)

          He says later, in Book Three:

          Some wear out their lives for the sake of a statue or a name. Religion and its resulting fear of death can induce one man to violate honour, another to break the bonds of friendship, and to overthrow all natural feeling. It has induced men to betray their country or their parents for the sake of avoiding hellfire. For just as children tremble and fear all in the darkness, so we in the light of day often fear what is no more real. This terror must be dispersed, not by rays of sunshine nor by the bright shafts of daylight, but by the sight and understanding of nature.(24)

          It is Epicurus, he says, who brought us into this light of understanding. Do not fear the priests. Do not fear death. Pay no attention to dreams or omens. These latter have a natural explanation. The former

          Have neither a divine nature nor a prophetic power, but they are the result of images that impact on

          Follow the ethical teachings of Epicurus, and be happy.

          None of this means, by the way, that Epicurus and his followers were atheists. They did accept the existence of gods, and were willing outwardly to conform to whatever cults were established. They only denied that the gods were immaterial, and that the gods had any interest in human affairs. Confronted with evidence for any supernatural event, they were content, as said, with insisting on a natural cause, whether or not they were able to think of one that convinced.

The Social Contract

          But we return to the great question: what of social order? How, without the terrors of religion, can the many be kept from murdering and plundering the more fortunate?

          The answer, says Epicurus, lies in friendship and in an understanding of natural justice. This is, he says,

          a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.(26)

He says also:

          There never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among men in whatever places at various times providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

          We do not have any full explanation of this side of Epicureanism. But it seems that Epicurus believed a stable and just social order could be sustained by the self-interest of individuals. Let each person pursue his own happiness, only refraining from the lives and property of others, and a natural order of society would emerge – rather as the collision of atoms in the void had led to the emergence of a vast self-sustaining universe.

          Certainly, we know that he recommended his followers to avoid politics. This did not mean withdrawal from the world. Bearing in mind the quantity of his own writings and the missionary zeal of the school he founded, he was as active in impressing his ideas on the world as Plato or Aristotle were.

          According to Diogenes Laertius, the Epicurean

          will take no part in politics.... But... he will not withdraw himself from life.... And be will take a suit into court.... He will have regard to his property and to the future.

          He will be fond of the country. He will be armed against fortune and will never give up a friend. He will pay just so much regard to his reputation as not to be looked down upon. He will take more delight than other men in public festivals.

          ....And he will make money, but only by his wisdom, if he should be in poverty, and he will pay court to a king, if need be. He will be grateful to anyone when he is corrected.

          He will found a school, but not in such a manner as to draw the crowd after him; and will give readings in public, but only by request. He will be a dogmatist but not a mere sceptic; and he will be like himself even when asleep. And he will on occasion die for a friend.(27)

          As said, we do not have much Epicurean writing on this point. As with the Benthamites, he does not seem to have found any imperative for these ethical teachings. We may ask, for example, what reason there is against my killing someone if I can thereby take possession of his property – or just enjoy the sensation of killing – and if there is no chance of my being caught. The only answers we have are:

          Do nothing in your life that will cause you to fear if it is discovered by your neighbour.(28)


          The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.(29)

          If these are attempts at answering the question, they are feeble attempts. That the unjust are invariably unhappy is plainly false. As for the threat of discover, the opportunities for secret crime have always been everywhere.

          Nor does Epicurus take issue with the greatest injustice of ancient society. He admitted slaves to his school. He encouraged kindness to slaves. But he does not seem ever to have questioned the morality of or the need for slavery.

          But, these reservations being granted, what we seem to have in the complete system of Epicurus is something remarkably similar to modern classical liberalism. While respecting the equal rights of others, we should pursue our own happiness in life. We can do so sure that we exist in a universe governed by knowable and impersonal laws that are not hostile to the pursuit of such happiness.

Popularity and the Response of the Intellectuals

          It is all this that made Epicurus and his philosophy so scandalous in the ancient world and beyond. Plato never did get to create his perfect society. But his followers did manage to establish variants of Platonism as the dominant philosophy of later antiquity. And all the other main schools of philosophy were agreed that the world should be ruled by intellectuals. These should tell the civil authorities how to govern. They should provide the moral and spiritual justification for the rule of absolute and unaccountable systems of government – systems of which the Roman imperial system was only the most developed. They should have positions of honour within these systems.

          Epicureanism was a standing challenge to these pretensions. We have no precise evidence for the spread of Epicureanism in the ancient world. But it does seem to have spread very widely. Why else should Cicero, Plutarch and many of the Christian Fathers have given so much effort to sustained attacks on it? Why else, in spite of his emphatic remarks on the nature of happiness, was Epicurus, even in his own lifetime, subjected to the most outrageous accusations?

          We have one statement from Cicero, that Epicureanism in his own day was one of the dominant schools of philosophy in Italy. So far, he says, Greek philosophy had been available only in the original language. But Romans such as Amafinius had translated several Epicurean works

          on the publishing of whose writings the people were moved, and enlisted themselves chiefly under this sect, either because the doctrine was more easily understood, or because they were invited thereto by the pleasing thoughts of amusement, or that, because there was nothing better, they laid hold of what was offered them.(30)

          There is no doubt that it influenced the classical literature of Rome. Of course, there is the great poem by Lucretius. But there is also Catullus and Horace and even Vergil. Without citing them, their works are imbued with an Epicurean outlook on life, either directly from Epicurus or indirectly from Lucretius.

          Another indication of popularity is that once converted to Epicureanism, people hardly ever switched to another philosophy. The philosopher Arcesilaus testifies to this fact even as he tries to explain it:

          You can turn a man into a eunuch, but you can't turn a eunuch into a man.(31)

          Then there is the curious testimony of the Jews. During the three centuries around the birth of Christ, the main everyday language of many Jewish communities was Greek. The Gospels and Letters of Saint Paul were all directed at mainly Jewish audiences and are in Greek. One of the most important philosophers of the age, Philo of Alexandria, was a Hellenised Jew. Many Jews took on Greek ways. Many, no doubt, stopped being Jews and made themselves into Greeks.

          The condemnation of these Hellenised Jews is Apikorsim, which may easily be taken as a Semitic version of Epicurean. The term survives in Jewish theological writing. According to one Internet source,

          Apikorsim are what Chasidim refer to as Jewish Goyim, or secular Jews. They seem to be the worst opposition for Hasidic Jewry.(32)

          A term of abuse so loaded with contempt is unlikely to have been taken from the doctrines of an insignificant philosophical tradition among ordinary people of the age. It is reasonable to suppose that many lapsed Jews became Epicureans. If so, Epicureanism must already have had large numbers of adherents among at least the semi-educated classes.

Decline and Apparent Death

          The philosophy seems to have continued strong into about the 3rd century AD. Thereafter, it went into decline. By the middle of the 6th century, when the Emperor Justinian closed all the philosophical schools in Athens and dispersed the teachers, Epicureanism appears to have been already dead.

          The main traditions of thought during the last few centuries of the ancient world were turned away from the everyday world. There were the neoplatonists, with their settled belief in a higher reality that could be approached through a combination of mathematics and magic. There were, of course, the Christians, for whom the world is simply a preparation for the better life that is to come.

          As said, relating what people think to what is happening around them is not easy. But the last few centuries of the ancient world were ages of great uncertainty. There were epidemic diseases that swept away multitudes without warning and without apparent cause. There were barbarian attacks and civil wars. There was catastrophically overextended government to grind the survivors into helplessness and poverty. In this sort of world, the teachings of Epicurus about seeking happiness in this life may have lost their attraction.

          In one of his more sensible comments on Epicurus, Plutarch writes:

          As to the vulgar sort... when they lose their children, wives, or friends, they would rather have them be somewhere and still remain, though in misery, than that they should be quite destroyed, dissolved, and reduced to nothing. And they are pleased when they hear it said of a dying person, that he goes away or departs, and such other words as intimate death to be the soul's remove and not destruction. ....

          .... And they are discomposed when they hear it said of any one, he is perished, or he is gone or he is no more....

          And therefore it is very plain that with the belief of immortality they [the Epicureans] take away the sweetest and greatest hopes the vulgar sort have.(33)


“In a world where life is uncertain and often unpleasant, there will tend to be an emphasis on some happier supernatural future.”

          In a world where life is uncertain and often unpleasant, there will tend to be an emphasis on some happier supernatural future.

          There may be nothing sinister in the loss of virtually the whole body of Epicurean writings. Perhaps they were destroyed by a triumphant Church that had room for Plato and Aristotle but none for a naturalist enemy of all that Christianity proclaimed. But there is no reason to suppose any deliberate act of destruction. Papyrus rolls were by their nature delicate things. They were also far more expensive and therefore scarce in number than modern books. In any European climate, a papyrus roll would last for about a century, and then the glue that held it together would perish. Without careful recopying, a work might easily be lost.

          The last centuries of the ancient world were mostly ages of depression. There was a shortage of all the means that had so far kept libraries together. Such means as remained were naturally given to recopying works for which there was an active demand. That means Christian theology, those parts of the pagan philosophies that could be reconciled to Christianity, and the greatest products of the pagan high culture. Since, with the exception of Lucretius – whose work largely survived – the works of Epicurus and his followers were in a style remarkable only for its plainness, it is unreasonable to suppose that librarians, forced to choose what to copy and what to leave to die, would take up the 37 volumes of On Nature and not the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius.

          So far as I can tell, whatever works of Epicurus survived were not studied in the Byzantine Empire. In the West, all but his name and whatever is said about him in Cicero vanished for a thousand years.

          And then something remarkable happened.

The Age of Reason

          For the 19th century liberal and historian of ideas William Lecky, the most striking fact about England and France in the 17th century was the decline of belief in the supernatural.(34) And the most striking instance of this fact was the collapse of belief in witchcraft.

          At the beginning of that century, belief in witchcraft had been universal and unchallenged. James VI of Scotland (1567-1625) was one of the most learned men of his day. He believed without question in witches, and was a notable persecutor. When he became King of England as well in 1603, he brought his policies with him. It was to gain favour with him that Shakespeare introduced the witchcraft theme into Macbeth.

          James procured a law that punished witchcraft with death on first conviction, even though no harm to others could be proven. This law was carried in a Parliament where Francis Bacon was a Member.

          The law was given effect throughout England, and was especially used during the interregnum years of the 1650s. In 1664, under the restored Monarchy, Sir Matthew Hale – one of the greatest jurists and legal philosophers of the age, presided over the trial of two alleged witches in Suffolk. He told the jury that there could be no doubt in the reality of witchcraft. He said:

          For first, the Scriptures had affirmed so much; and secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument for their confidence of such a crime.(35)

          One of the witnesses called for the prosecution was Sir Thomas Browne, one of the most eminent writers of the age. Appearing as a medical expert, he assured the jury "that he was clearly of opinion that the persons were bewitched."(36) They were convicted and hanged.

          It was the same in France. In the town of St Claude, 600 persons were burnt in the early years of the century for alleged witchcraft and lycanthropy. In 1643, Cardinal Mazarin wrote to a bishop to congratulate him on his zeal for hunting out witches.

          Yet, in 1667, Colbert, the chief minister of Louis XIV, directed all the magistrates in France to receive no more accusations of witchcraft. Those convictions still obtained he frequently commuted from death to banishment. By the end of the century, witchcraft trials had all but ceased.

          In England, belief collapsed later, but even faster than in France. The last trial for witchcraft was in 1712. Jane Wenham, an old woman, was accused of the usual offences. The judge mocked the prosecution witnesses from the bench. When the jury convicted her against his directions, he made sure to obtain a royal pardon for the old woman and a pension.

          Whatever the lowest reaches of the common people might still believe, belief in witchcraft had become a joke among the educated. And because of the tone they gave to the whole of society, disbelief spread rapidly beyond the educated. Anyone who tried to maintain its existence was simply laughed at. Laws that had condemned tens or hundreds of thousands to death, and usually to the most revolting tortures before death, were now sneered into abeyance.

          We should expect that a change of opinion so immense had been accompanied by a long debate – something similar to the debates of the 19th century over Darwinism, or to the debates of the day over the toleration of nonconformity. Yet Lecky maintains that there was almost no debate worth mentioning. There were sceptics, like Montaigne, who disbelieved all accounts of the supernatural, or Hobbes, who was a materialist and atheist. But, while, book after book appeared in England during the late 17th century to defend the existence of witches and the need for laws against them, almost no one bothered to argue that witches did not exist.

          Lecky says:

          Several... divines came forward...; and they made witchcraft, for a time, one of the chief subjects of controversy. On the other side, the discussion was extremely languid. No writer, comparable in ability to Glanvil, More, Cudworth, or even Casaubon, appeared to challenge the belief; nor did any of the writings on that side obtain any success at all equal to that of [Glanvil].(37)

          Belief in witchcraft perished with hardly a direct blow against it. What seems to have happened, Lecky argues, is a change of world view in which belief in witches ceased to have any explanatory value. We live in a world where, orthodox religion aside, belief in the supernatural is confined to the uneducated or the stupid or the insane. But if we step outside the consensus in which we live, we should see that there is nothing in itself irrational about belief in the supernatural, nor even in witches. The belief is perfectly rational granted certain assumptions.

          Let us assume that the world is filled with invisible and very powerful beings, that some of these are good and some evil, that some human beings are capable of establishing contact with these evil beings, and that some compact can be made in which the power of the evil beings is transferred to human control. Granting these assumptions, it becomes reasonable to ascribe great or unusual events to magical intervention, and to accept that it should be the purpose of the law to check such intervention.

          Now, the Platonic philosophies do accept the existence of such beings. That is how Plato reconciled his One Creator with the many gods of the Greek pantheon. This belief was taken over by the Church Fathers, who simply announced that the ancient gods were demons. It then continued into the 17th century. It seemed to explain the world. Doubtless, cases came to light of false accusations and of people convicted because they were ill rather than possessed by demons. But our own awareness of corrupt policemen and false convictions does not lead us to believe that there are no murderers and that murder should not be punished. So it was with witchcraft.

          During the 17th century, however, the educated classes came increasingly to believe that the world operated according to known, impersonal laws, and that God – assuming His Existence – seldom interfered with the working of these secondary laws. In such a view of the world, the supernatural had no place. Belief in witchcraft, therefore, did not need opposition. It perished as collateral damage to the system of which it was a part.

The Epicurean Revival

          Lecky ascribes this intellectual change to the growth of scepticism. This may have been part of the answer. But while sceptics doubt the existence of the supernatural, they do not necessarily affirm the existence of invariable laws of nature. A more powerful cause of the change may have been the revival of Epicureanism during the first half of the 17th century.

          In this revival, Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) is the most important philosopher. A French priest and professor of philosophy, he conceived a strong dislike both of Aristotelianism and of the new philosophy of Descartes. He turned instead to Epicurus. His work falls into two parts. First, there is the immense scholarship with which he went through every extant ancient source to try to reconstruct what Epicurus had said. Second, there is his attempted reconciliation of Epicureanism and orthodox Christianity.

          Briefly put, his reconciliation is to deny that the atoms have existed from eternity and to deny that motion is natural to them. The atoms were created by God, and they move in paths directed by God. This being so, he cleared the way for a view of the universe in which God exists, but operates by secondary causes. For all practical purposes, knowledge of the world is to be obtained by observing the world.(38)

          I say again that influences are very hard things to trace. But there is no doubt that Gassendi had made all that remained of the Epicurean writings available in one convenient place, and had made some attempt to remove any charge of impiety. These were important achievements. The Dialogues of Cicero were part of the standard education; and educated men would probably have read some Lucretius. But hardly anyone had bothered to hunt out all the references that set these into a greater whole. No one had yet collected these in a single place. And no one had yet laboured to overcome the religious prejudices that worked to prevent an impartial reception of what had survived.

          Nor is there any doubt that Epicureanism began suddenly to exert a decisive influence over at least English science from about the middle of the 17th century.

          Edwin N. Hooker writes:

          Scientists found [Epicurean physics] a highly useful working hypothesis in their investigations in physical nature. But by 1660 the working hypothesis had been blown up into a very different shape, and in its altered shape was being peddled as the final truth concerning nature, man, and human society. The new monster had a wide appeal. In 1662 Edward Stillingfleet wrote in Origines Sacrae that of all theories the Epicurean at that time was making the greatest noise in the world. A few years later John Wilkins, the remarkable Bishop of Chester who had been for years the leading spirit in that amazing group of scientists laboring at Oxford (a group which became the nucleus of the Royal Society), commented on the extravagant and irrational opinions then afloat, inspired by Epicurus and his atoms. A little later Ralph Cudworth, probably the most learned member of the Cambridge Platonists, remarked that of late there had been an extraordinary enthusiasm for Epicurus. From all sides came testimony to the effect that Epicurus had indeed risen from the dead and that the atomistic theory had burst its seams.(39)

          What had risen from the dead may sometimes have been the Epicureanism of the Master. But much was that of Gassendi. Both Locke and Newton appear to have read Gassendi. There are obvious similarities between them and this version of Epicurus. Newton, for example, constructs his physics in terms of matter and motion through a void. For him, light is a stream of atoms. He accepts the revised physics of Gassendi, denying any implicit motion to atoms, and then goes further with his hypothesis of action at a distance, or gravity.(40)

          For the growth of empiricism and utilitarianism, it would be necessary to write a book. These are both similar to the ideas of Epicurus. They emerged in an intellectual climate where Epicurus had been made available again and where he had been made respectable to Christian orthodoxy. There is no necessary reason to suppose that these facts are connected. It may be that interest in Epicurus had revived in a civilisation that was autonomously moving toward the same general approach. But it does seem reasonable to suppose a connection.

          If, however, there was a connection, it was not merely a revival of Epicurus and his philosophy. As in every other recovery of ancient thought, save perhaps the cultural, the moderns very quickly transcended the ancients. The moderns began by revering the giants on whose backs they had climbed. They soon grew into giants in their own right.

          I have already mentioned the differences between Epicurus and ourselves with regard to the natural sciences. Knowledge for us is valued not mainly because it liberates us from mental pain, but because it contributes to mental and physical happiness. We observe. We form hypotheses. We experiment. We make use of the mathematics that Epicurus derided. We use the knowledge thereby gained to change our conditions of life. We check suffering. We cure illness. We extend life. We fill our lives with the wealth that comes from our knowledge.

          With regard to his ethical theories, the modern utilitarians have also gone beyond Epicurus. They begin with the same premise, that the purpose of life is happiness, but pass then to the notion of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This leads them straight into the politics that Epicurus rejected – to an investigation of what social orders are most productive of the general happiness, and to a willingness to argue for the removal of impediments to that happiness.

          We can add to this the knowledge of economics that comes from the application of Newtonian physics to human affairs – that is, the investigation of the natural forces that lead spontaneously to the generation and maintenance of an order in which individuals pursue their own happiness and promote the happiness of others – we come inevitably to the doctrine of individual rights that is implicit in the philosophy of Epicurus and that is central to modern classical liberalism.

The Debt We Owe to Epicurus

          Thomas Jefferson understood the value of Epicurus. In 1819, he wrote to a friend:

          As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us... Their great crime [the stoics] was in their calumnies of Epicurus and misrepresentations of his doctrines; in which we lament to see the candid character of Cicero engaging as an accomplice. Diffuse, vapid, rhetorical, but enchanting. His prototype Plato, eloquent as himself, dealing out mysticisms incomprehensible to the human mind, has been deified by certain sects usurping the name of Christians; because, in his foggy conceptions, they found a basis of impenetrable darkness whereon to rear fabrications as delirious, of their own invention.(41)

So too did Ludwig von Mises. In Human Action, he says:

          The historical role of the theory of the division of labor as elaborated by British political economy from Hume to Ricardo consisted in the complete demolition of all metaphysical doctrines concerning the origin and the operation of social cooperation. It consummated the spiritual, moral and intellectual emancipation of mankind inaugurated by the philosophy of Epicureanism.(42)

          When classical liberals and libertarians discuss the intellectual roots of their ideas, they are quick to cite Aristotle and Aquinas. It would show justice if Epicurus could be given at least equal place of honour.

          Indeed, whether or not you call yourself a libertarian, if you are content to live in a world in which you can make the best for yourself and your loved ones, in which there are no supernatural terrors, but instead a body of natural science that assists us in the pursuit of happiness, you too are an Epicurean.

          We have virtually everything that Plato wrote and almost nothing that Epicurus wrote. But Plato has had no discernable impact on the social sciences beyond providing legitimation to various cliques of demented and often murderous intellectuals. For all we have so few of his writings, the ideas of Epicurus have survived. And they have made the world a better place.(43)


21. "Letter to Herodotus," op. cit.
22. Vatican Sayings, 2.
23. Lucretius, op. cit., I, 101 et supra.
24. Adapted from ibid., III, 74-93.
25. Vatican Sayings, 24.
26. Principal Doctrines, 31.
27. Diogenes Laertius, op. cit.
28. Vatican Sayings, 70.
29. Principal Doctrines, 17.
30. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), Tusculan Disputations, IV, iii.
31. Quoted in D. S. Hutchinson, The Epicurus Reader, translated and edited by Brad Inwood and L. P. Gerson, Hackett Publishing Company Inc, Indianapolis, 1984, "Introduction."
32. "Basic Jewish Terminology," in Hebrew for Christians – available at:  – checked August 2007.
33. Plutarch, That It is Not Possible to Live Pleasurably According to the Doctrine of Epicurus, complete though bad translation available at: – checked August 2007.
34. W. E. H. Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe (first published 1865), Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1893, volume 1, chapter 1, "On the Declining Sense of the Miraculous."
35. Quoted, ibid., p. 110.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid, p. 119.
38. His most important works are: De Uita et Moribus Epicuri Libri Octo, 1647; Syntagma Philosophiae Epicuri cum Refutationibus Dogmatum Quae contra Fidem Christianam ab eo Asserta Sunt. 1649. There is also the very influential summary and translation into French of his works, Franηois Bernier. Abrιgι de la Philosophie de Gassendi, 1678. Excerpts from this translation are given in English by Erik Anderson at – checked August 2007.
39. Edwin A. Hooker, "Dryden and the Atoms of Epicurus," English Literary History, Vol. 24, No. 3. (Sep., 1957), pp. 177-190.
40. For a short but useful discussion of these matters, see the article "Pierre Gassendi" in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – available at: – checked August 2007.
41. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Short, 31st October 1819 – available at: – checked August 2007.
42. Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (first published 1949), Contemporary Books Inc, Chicago, no date, Chapter VIII, p. 147. This passage is quoted in Martin Masse, "The Epicurean Roots of Some Classical Liberal and Misesian Concepts," available at – – checked August 2007.
43. All this being said, Karl Marx wrote his doctoral thesis on The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (1841), and it is rather a good read. It opens: "Greek philosophy seems to have met with something with which a good tragedy is not supposed to meet, namely, a dull ending. The objective history of philosophy in Greece seems to come to an end with Aristotle, Greek philosophy's Alexander of Macedon, and even the manly-strong Stoics did not succeed in what the Spartans did accomplish in their temples, the chaining of Athena to Heracles so that she could not flee." (available at: – checked August 2007.) None of the erudition and insight one finds here seems to have made Marx a better person – let alone the inspiration for a better world.