Here is a brief summary of the Epicurean philosophical system (adapted from Long & Sedley, The Hellenistic philosophers).
Epicureanism is divided into physics, epistemology (ie, theory of knowledge) and ethics.
As far as physics are concerned, everything which has independent existence is composed of atoms and void. Our world (and the others out there) is the accidental product of atomic collisions – there is no purpose to it, no creator or controlling deity. The soul is also an atomic conglomerate and perishes with the body.
Cognitive certainty is attainable through a combination of the senses and a set of natural conceptions and intuitions, from which we can infer the hidden nature of things (with varying degree of certainty).
We are capable of structuring our lives autonomously in acordance with the one natural good, pleasure. The pleasantness of life is maximized by eliminating fears of the unknown, recognizing the utility of mutual benefits and non-aggression, as well as mapping out the natural limits of pleasure, any attempt to exceed which is counterproductive (note here the contrast to the meaning we tend to give to “epicurean” nowadays).
The tranquillity of Epicurean enlightenment, complemented by a few simple enjoyments and underpinned by friendship with others of the same persuasion, can emulate even the paradigmatic bliss of the divinities we worship.
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