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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Epicurus was a voluminous writer


(4.)

But this abstractedness of the moral standpoint, this rigid opposition of reason and irrationality, of the highest good and the individual good, of virtue and pleasure, has no power to furnish a system of concrete moral duties. The universal moral principle of the Stoics fails in its applicability to the individual instance. The Stoic morals has no concrete principle of moral self-determination. How must we act in every individual instance, in every moral relation, so as to act according to nature? To this inquiry Stoicism can give no answer. Its system of particular duties is thus wholly without a scientific form, and is only held together by some universal conceptions which it contains. For the most part they satisfy themselves with describing in general terms the action according to nature, and with portraying their ideal of the wise man. The characteristics which they give this ideal are partly paradoxical. The wise man is free even in chains, for he acts from himself unmoved by fear or desire; the wise man alone is king, for he alone is not bound by laws and owes fealty to no one; he is the true rich man, the true priest, prophet, and poet. He is exalted above all law and every custom; even that which is most despicable and base--deception, suicide, murder--he may commit at a proper time and in a virtuous character. In a word the Stoics describe their wise man as a god, and yield it to him to be proud and to boast of his life like Zeus. But where shall we find such a sage?
Certainly not among the living. In the time long ago there may have been a perfect sage of such a pattern; but now, and for a long time back, are men at best only fools who strive after wisdom and virtue. The conception of the wise man represented, therefore, to the Stoics only an ideal, the actualization of which we should strive after, though without ever hoping to reach it; and yet their system of particular duties is almost wholly occupied in portraying this unreal and abstract ideal--a contradiction in which it is seen most clearly that their whole standpoint is one of abstract subjectivity.

SECTION XVIII.

EPICUREANISM.

The Epicurean school arose at Athens, almost contemporaneously with the Porch, though perhaps a little earlier than this. Epicurus, its founder, was born 342 B.C., six years after the death of Plato. Of his youth and education little is known. In his thirty-sixth year he opened a philosophical school at Athens, over which he presided till his death, 271 B.C. His disciples and adherents formed a social league, in which they were united by the closest band of friendship, illustrating the general condition of things in Greece after the time of Alexander, when the social took the place of the decaying poetical life. Epicurus himself compared his society to the Pythagorean fraternity, although the community of goods, which forms an element in the latter, Epicurus excludes, affirming that true friends can confide in one another. The moral conduct of Epicurus has been repeatedly assailed but, according to the testimony of the most reliable witnesses, his life was blameless in every respect, and his personal character was estimable and amiable. Moreover, it cannot be doubted that much of that, which is told by some, of the offensive voluptuousness of the Epicurean band, should be regarded as calumny. Epicurus was a voluminous writer, surpassing, in this respect, even Aristotle, and exceeded by Chrysippus alone. To the loss of his greater works he has himself contributed, by his practice of composing summaries of his system, which he recommended his disciples to commit to memory. These summaries have been for the most part preserved.


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