Epicureanism and Stoicism compared

. EPICUREANISM (Lucretius) STOICISM (Cicero)
material: atoms, a composite entity
spiritual: fiery, part of the Divine
mortal, joint existence with the body Unmoved Mover; deathless; can be separated from 'the material'
disassociation into constituent atoms; end of consciousness; 'sleep' = soul dies separation from body; ascent to uppermost sphere; continued consciousness
Gods exist, but now dwell apart from the world; they did not create the world, so should not be worshipped. Gods are self-sufficient and do not need men. Tendency toward atheism and materialism. Zeus = Nature. Tendency towards pantheism. All that happens is rational, in accordance with Nature's designs. Total involvement of 'Necessity' and human activity.
The Universe is the result of random combinations of atoms into four elements, and elements into existing matter. The Universe will end when one element (earth, air, fire, water) totally dominates. [This is one view] cyclical conflagrations and re-creations; no real beginning, no final end, only a continuous flux of elements.
cosmos: Mechanical movements, with rational explanations of accidental combinations of things. Religion is the ignorant expression of fears of humans, and thus is irrational. The planets are part of the 'Music of the Heavenly Spheres' There is a harmony in Nature. The divine plan for the universe is rational and can be known. Religion is rational.
CIVILIZATION: Evolutionary view, natural selection. From isolated individual to complex society for self-protection and mutual security (Social Contract). Law is the set of arrangements made from time to time in one place or another. Control by tyrants comes of fear and wealth. True happiness comes from a simple life and contented mind. Rational contemplation of Nature, and selfless service of fellow men, in whom the 'divine spark' burns. Happiness for one is happiness for all. Law is rational and universal, and part of every rational being's inheritance.

ATARAXIA ('freedom from disturbance'): disassociation from entanglements of society and the body. Suppression of sensual desire. Liberation from fear of death.

True religion is contemplation of all things with a peaceful mind.

Pleasures and pains, physical and mental.

DUTY toward fellow human beings.
Moderation in all things.
Justice regulates relationships between individuals. Justice is Nature, and each soul is part of nature. All can be just, through rational thought about divine justice.
Reward for virtuous living: becoming a 'god'


January 26, 2010 1:57 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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