My thought for the day was prompted by a line from “St. Paul and Epicurus,” wherein Norman Dewitt stated that “[T]he philosophy of Epicurus was animated by a characteristic spirit, genial and reasonable and yet resolute, and to capture this spirit will demand a change of attitude, which is not to be accomplished overnight.”
I realize that in my own case I often find it very difficult to remain reasonable and genial, and that I certainly will not remain resolute without the constant study which Epicurus advised.
Today’s world often seems to be swept up by the same spirit of religious intolerance that overtook the ancients. Are we who honor the spirit of Epicurus bound to meet the same end as the ancient Epicureans? Yes, in the sense that we as individuals all meet a common death, but otherwise No, in that there is no Fate that dooms modern Epicureans to going into hiding as the only way to preserve the path that Epicurus pointed out to us.
Dewitt also wrote in the same book that “All the armament of Epicurean logic which had been developed to combat Greek paganism and Platonic idealism was available from the outset for the crusade against the nascent Christianity.”
When I started the NewEpicurean blog I adopted a logo of a Roman soldier for just this reason: Epicureanism is and never was a philosophy of resignation, withdrawal, and numbness. Epicureanism is Nature’s own armament with which we must equip ourselves if we are to live as Nature commands. Nature provides us with Divine Pleasure, Guide of Life as our beacon to lead us actively through the twists and turns of life, but Nature also provides us armament in the form of Faculties which we as individuals must use to lock on to the light of that beacon, defend our focus from distracting sidelights, and follow the light of the true beacon. The greatness of Epicurus is that with this armament he broke down the walls which religion and false philosophy had erected to separate men from these Faculties, and he left to us an armory of wisdom which, so long as we employ it, will prevent those walls from ever being fully rebuilt.
As we look around us today, religious intolerance and philosophical ignorance are hard at work rebuilding those walls. Thus there is no time like the present to gird ourselves with “all the armament of Epicurean logic which had been developed to combat Greek paganism and Platonic idealism.” The enemies of human happiness will always be with us. They may carry different names, but they are children of the same foes faced by the ancient Epicureans. Each day we must resolve anew to live genially, reasonably, yet resolutely — as happy warriors — employing the armament which Epicurus left to us. In doing so we will be secure in the knowledge that we are living as Nature calls us to live, we will live happy lives ourselves, and we will have good reason to hope for future generations that this time the outcome of the battle of ideas will be different.
As Seneca recorded: Sic fac omnia tamquam spectet Epicurus! So do all things as though watching were Epicurus!
And as Philodemus wrote: “I will be faithful to Epicurus, according to whom it has been my choice to live.“