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Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, depicted i...

Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Epicureanism is a school of philosophical thought founded by Epicurus in the 4th century BCE, continuing well into the 3rd century CE. Its central ethical doctrine places personal happiness as the supreme good, to include freedom from fear, worry and pain.

This is not the path of unbridled hedonism, as some of its medieval Christian opponents suspected (most likely due to developments among subsequent Epicurean followers combined with Epicurus’ disbelief in an afterlife).

Epicurean cosmology regarded the universe as an aggregate of atoms, indestructible and randomly patterning themselves throughout eternity in a void, not being directed by any kind of providence—i.e. without a “hand of God.” However, Epicurus believed in the existence of the gods, seeing them as composed of finer atoms than the stuff of the visible world. But he didn’t believe in the Platonic Forms nor, as mentioned, in an afterlife.

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