A View from the Garden: Contemplative Isolation and Constructive Sociability in Lucretius and in the Epicurean Tradition

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Abstract

It is often assumed that Epicurean philosophy and its foremost Roman prophet, T. Lucretius Carus, adopted a deeply hostile attitude towards both politics and religion. Individualistic (or even solipsistic) interpretations of Epicureanism – as well as of the Epicurean catechism of De Rerum Natura – have long co-existed with, and provided support to, the claim that the Epicureans attached little value to religious experiences. In the present paper, I shall argue that, in this and many other respects, the modern reception of Epicureanism – with its brave aspirations after the liberation of science from social and religious restraints – has had undue influence on our understanding of De Rerum Natura and its culturally embedded discourse on the self. I shall build on the results of some relatively recent studies that have thrown a different light on Epicurus’ social theory and its historical realization, in an attempt to show that, far from being a morally isolationist system of thought, Epicureanism relied on a careful and, so to speak, osmotic connection between self-improvement and altruistic commitment – between scientific knowledge, contemplative awareness, and constructive sociability. In an age in which the inherited models of political participation, rational analysis, and religious sensibility were thoroughly reassessed by the members of the Roman intellectual elite, Lucretius elaborated a thought-provoking recipe for achieving individual and social peace that required a radical transformation of consciousness and the transition to a new form of worship.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteBeing Alone in Antiquity: Greco-Roman Ideas and Experiences of Misanthropy, Isolation and Solitude
Pagine201-227
Numero di pagine27
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2021

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