Epicurus taught that it is essential to our happiness to pursue the study of Nature. An understanding of basic principles of Nature leads us to conclude that the universe is eternal, that we have free will, that we are not predestined by “Fate,” that we have no need to fear punishment or reward from capricious gods either now or after death, that we can find all the truth that is necessary for us to find, that happiness is possible, and that the requirements of happy living are few and simple. And these truths are not matters of speculation or reserved for some future existence – these are the ground rules of the only life available to us – the one we live now.
Armed with confidence in these conclusions, we are freed from the unnecessary fears and anxieties peddled by false priests and false philosophers. Beguiled no longer by “virtue” or “abstract reason” or “the will of the gods,” we are free to follow the guide Nature provided to us, Divine Pleasure. And our confidence that these conclusions are correct is not a matter of faith – in Epicurus or anything or anyone else. Our confidence is grounded in the proper use of the faculties Nature herself gave to us, by use of the method of true reason taught by Epicurus.
These are the matters that this web site will explore. This exploration is directed to normal, everyday people who wish to live happily – it is not directed to academics or historians. Academics and historians are welcome as well, but the philosophy of Epicurus was developed for ordinary people, and for far too long it has been hidden away from those who need it most. Establishment figures can be expected to continue to reject Epicurus just as they have for thousands of years. Epicurus’ philosophy gives no quarter to imposition or manipulation, and gives no route to fame or riches or power over others. The path of Epicureanism will always be the one to which Nature calls, but only those who are willing to listen to her, rather than to the crowd, will follow.
For a summary of the tenets of Epicurean philosophy prepared by Epicurus himself, consult the three letters he wrote for that purpose: (1) To Herodotus on General Principles of Nature, (2) To Pythocles on Astronomy, and (3) To Menoeceus on Ethics.
The Letter to Herodotus
The Letter to Pythocles
The Letter to Menoeceus
Note: The above “Elemental Edition” audio versions are not literal translations, but have been compiled and simplified from a variety of sources. For the full original texts of these letters with critical commentary, consult the various resources included in the NewEpicurean library.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, wrote in his private correspondence “I too am an Epicurean.” Without an understanding of Epicurus, you will never truly follow the roots of Jefferson’s thinking, or know why he wrote statements such as these:
- 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. Epictetus indeed, has given us what was good of the stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace. Their great crime 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. – Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 1819
- “I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.” – Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1820
- …[T]o give rest to my mind, I was obliged to recur ultimately to my habitual anodyne: “I feel: therefore I exist.” I feel bodies which are not myself: there are other existencies then. I call them matter. I feel them changing place. This gives me motion. Where there is an absence of matter, I call it void, or nothing, or immaterial space. On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need. … To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise. – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820
- The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained. – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814