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date: 17 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter gives an account Epicurus’ natural philosophy and his attitude to the sciences. Epicurus’ mission was to liberate people from the fear of death and the gods, and science was subordinate to that project, practiced to show that nature acts without divine intervention. He was skeptical about mathematics, due to his commitment to atomism, and about astronomy, because knowledge should be based on clear foundations unavailable for deciding issues such as the planets’ sizes. Sensation dictates there are two constituents of reality: bodies, directly attested by sense perception; and the void, the space where bodies exist and move. Infinite atoms move through space, forming countless worlds (kosmoi), which at some point will again fall apart into their constituent atoms. Epicurus considers naturalistic explanations of phenomena to show they are not divine. But his philosophy of nature insists upon natural causes (as opposed to geometrical models), is consistently materialist and mechanistic, and is thus anti-teleological.

Keywords: ataraxia, atoms, Democritus, swerve, void, Diogenes Laertius

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