Lucretius and the Philosophy of Epicureanism
The ideas of epicureanism became central to the philosophy promoted by the Roman poet Lucretius. This worldview originates from Ancient Greece, being inseparable from the name of its founder, Epicurus, who lived in 341-271 BC (Cottingham, 2021). Epicurus and his followers promoted a highly materialistic approach to life that revolved around the actual occurrence on Earth rather than higher, spiritual matters. Lucretius adopted such views and popularized them in his works of poetry published two centuries after Epicurus. His epic work titled De Rerum Natura emphasizes that the reality in all its form needs to be accepted by a person to make their life worthwhile (Cottingham, 2021). In other words, the key to happiness and the universe itself lies within the material plain. Any attempts of focusing on higher levels of existence at the expense of the material are counterproductive in this regard.
In a way, the postulates of epicureanism, further developed by Lucretius, are related to the conflict between the meaning of life and the meaning in life. The spiritual perspective focuses on the former, implying that each life has a higher meaning that is not always conceivable during its time. Lucretius prompts people to focus on the second aspect that suggests that it is an individual’s purpose to make their existence meaningful within their own lifetime. In this paradigm, death in the ultimate point, before which such a meaning should be obtained. Moreover, epicureanism does not see death as a transition to a higher level of existence where all the answers are finally provided. Instead, Lucretius insists that the end of life brings a complete absence of mental activity, the emptiness, in which a person is not awake nor aware. Hence, the fear of death is discouraged by this worldview, as this state is no other than the state before birth. Ultimately, Lucretius’ work prompts his readers to find the meaning in their lives instead of relying on God’s will and divine plans.
Cottingham, J. G. (2021). Western philosophy: An anthology (3rd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.