Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity

Catherine Wilson

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

This landmark study examines the role played by the rediscovery of the writings of the ancient atomists, Epicurus and Lucretius, in the articulation of the major philosophical systems of the seventeenth century, and, more broadly, their influence on the evolution of natural science and moral and political philosophy. The target of sustained and trenchant philosophical criticism by Cicero, and of opprobrium by the Christian Fathers of the early Church, for its unflinching commitment to the absence of divine supervision and the finitude of life, the Epicurean philosophy surfaced again in the period of the Scientific Revolution, when it displaced scholastic Aristotelianism. Both modern social contract theory and utilitarianism in ethics were grounded in its tenets. Catherine Wilson shows how the distinctive Epicurean image of the natural and social worlds took hold in philosophy, and how it is an acknowledged, and often unacknowledged presence in the writings of Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbes, Boyle, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley. With chapters devoted to Epicurean physics and cosmology, the corpuscularian or "mechanical" philosophy, the question of the mortality of the soul, the grounds of political authority, the contested nature of the experimental philosophy, sensuality, curiosity, and the role of pleasure and utility in ethics, the author makes a persuasive case for the significance of materialism in seventeenth-century philosophy without underestimating the depth and significance of the opposition to it, and for its continued importance in the contemporary world. Lucretius's great poem, On the Nature of Things, supplies the frame of reference for this deeply-researched inquiry into the origins of modern philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford, United Kingdom
PublisherClarendon Press
Number of pages320
EditionReprint
ISBN (Print)0199595550, 978-0199595556
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2010

Fingerprint

Epicureanism
Modernity
Philosophy
Lucretius
Epicurus
Tenets
Early Church
Mortality
Modern philosophy
Cicero
Social Contract Theory
Scientific Revolution
Natural World
Articulation
Finitude
Sensuality
Mechanical philosophy
Utilitarianism
Political philosophy
Curiosity

Keywords

  • Epicureans (Greek philosophy)
  • philosophy, Renaissance

Cite this

Wilson, C. (2010). Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. (Reprint ed.) Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon Press.

Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. / Wilson, Catherine.

Reprint ed. Oxford, United Kingdom : Clarendon Press, 2010. 320 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Wilson, C 2010, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. Reprint edn, Clarendon Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Wilson C. Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. Reprint ed. Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon Press, 2010. 320 p.
Wilson, Catherine. / Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity. Reprint ed. Oxford, United Kingdom : Clarendon Press, 2010. 320 p.
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