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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Lucretius’s didactic masterpiece De rerum natura advances propositions, drawn from Epicurus, which the Renaissance book-hunter Poggio Bracciolini and his contemporaries found difficult to absorb. Epicurus’s convictions included an insistence on the superiority of reason over faith, a steadfast refusal of pious fear, a concomitant refusal to believe in afterlife, a belief in the mortality of the soul, a rejection of religion, and an advocacy of the pursuit of pleasure. To many orthodox Christians such arguments were the very definition of atheism. This article examines three responses to De rerum natura: “The Renunciation of Youthful Indiscretion” by Marsilio Ficino, “The Divorce Settlement” by Poggio Bracciolini, and “Dialogical Disavowal” by Lorenzo Valla. It also considers how the link between humanism, wealth, and the exercise of power in England conditioned the most remarkable Renaissance English response to Lucretius and to everything he brought back into circulation. Finally, it analyzes Thomas More’s Utopia, its theory of the nature of pleasure, and its treatment of Epicureanism and the afterlife.

Keywords: Lucretius, De rerum natura, Epicurus, afterlife, pleasure, England, Renaissance, Thomas More, Utopia, Epicureanism

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