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Epicurus of Samos (341-270 BCE) was the founder of the philosophical system to which he gave his name: Epicureanism. It is a label that is often misused and misunderstood today, with ‘a life of pleasure’ as the key aim misinterpreted as a life of indulgence. In fact, the philosophy of Epicurus demonstrated also by his life, was anything but! He established a school in Athens called The Garden, underpinned by his system of ethics.
He promoted, by his own example, a simple, ordered, calm and reflective life.
A life of true pleasure, he proposed, is only possible when unharnessed desire for wealth, position, luxury and power has been dissolved and instead steady living and friendship are the watchwords. It is against this background that the understanding and acceptance of the vicissitudes of life, and the inevitability of death, are the rules by which to live.
This was in contrast to Platonism on the one hand and the Cynics on the other. The second major facet of Epicurus’ philosophy was his physics, in which he adopted and furthered the theory of atomism introduced by Democritus (460-370 BCE): there was no ‘first mover’, no creation myth, no afterlife. Atoms underpinned all existence. Epicurus was a prodigious author, producing many books - yet very few survive.
Diogenes Laertius, the third-century Greek biographer, in his sizeable Lives of Eminent Philosophers, devotes Book X, the final book, to Epicurus. In it he gives an account of the life of the philosopher and including three letters from Epicurus to friends, to Herodotus, Pythocles and Menoeceus.
The biography concludes with the concise The Principal Doctrines of Epicurus. Then there are various fragments which have come down to us: The Vatican Sayings (a collection found in the Vatican Library, originally compiled in the 14th century and rediscovered in the 19th century); Epicurean Fragments collected in the 19th century from many classical authors; further fragments included in the collection The Villa of the Papyri; and Diogenes’ Wall Inscription.
There are also important works clearly influenced by Epicurus, notably the long important poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius (c99 BCE-c55 BCE). And finally, there is a chapter on The Legacy.
This represents comments by such figures as Cicero (who though principally a Stoic clearly retained an admiration for Epicurus) and later Epicureans, including Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the US. In Epicurus of Samos, His Life and Philosophy, Hiram Crespo, (founder of the Society of Epicurus) has compiled all the source texts and provided introductions to the topic and each chapter. The title is an original commission by Ukemi Audiobooks.
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- Jock Little
Not What It Seems And Full Of Hypocrisy
This book does not live up to its promise. One would think that the title and subtitle of this work would mean that this book is purely original sources excepting a brief introduction of explanation before each source. Similar to what Ukemi has done for Xenophon's Apology and Memorabilia and Plato's Socratic Dialogues, both of which were beautifully done. But no, nearly half the book is Crespo's pontification and praise of the superiority of Epicurean thought and philosophy. He bashes other philosophies, beliefs, and religions while all but declaring Epicureanism the one true religion. Crespo then has the ineptitude to criticize rhetoricians for their flowery words and disregard for truth and open-mindedness while he consistently presents his own opinions as fact and drives his own conclusions at the listener like a hammer.
The worst part is the summation, at length, of classical texts that are then not actually included in the book. Mr. Crespo must have a different definition of the word "all" than is usually meant. When the subtitle says, "All the Principal Source Texts" I expect that to actually mean what it says.
The whole thing comes across more like a fanboy thesis rather than an actual compilation of texts.
Overall, I was greatly disappointed. If you, like me, want to hear the original sources unadulterated by someone else's thoughts and opinions, do not waste your time and money on this book.
Personally, I will be much more cautious with my Ukemi purchases in the future.
P.S. I gave 4 stars for performance because James Gillies and Jonathan Booth both do a fantastic job reading. It's just that the material they read is not worth much.
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