ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

65. The Epicurean School. -- EPICURUS (342-270), who had been brought up in the philosophies of Democritus and of Plato, opened a school on his own account at Athens in 306. Soon his popularity attracted growing crowds of admiring and faithful followers. Never, in fact, did disciples cling more scrupulously to the teachings of a master. Though Epicureanism held its place for a period of six centuries, it preserved unchanged the primitive form given it by its founder. Springing into favour in the second century B.C. its theories spread with equal popularity in both the Grecian and Roman worlds. The poet LUCRETIUS was a disciple of Epicurus. The third century A.D. saw it still flourishing, but during this century the popularity of the system began to wane, and finally in the following century it lapsed into obscurity. Some fragments, however, of its teaching survived the wreck and were brought to light again in the Middle Ages.

Epicurus emphasizes the exclusively practical side of philosophy: his essential aim is to assist us by means of language and thought in the realization of happiness. To this moral conception of philosophy he subordinates all the theoretical sciences, treating Grammar, History, and Mathematics with disdain. He attaches importance to the study of Nature merely because it frees the soul from the dejection arising from a superstitious belief in God and death.{1}

{1} Epicurus adopted the then commonly received division of philosophy into Logic (which he called Canonic), Physics, and Moral Philosophy. It was only incidentally he touched on questions of Formal Logic, to which, unlike the Stoics, he attached practically no importance.

<< ======= >>