Volume 2, Issue 3, 2018
Ancient Greek Philosophy: Hellenistic Philosophy
Physical Theories of the Soul: Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius
The Epicurean philosophy is based upon the theory of Democritus, who believed that everything is composed of ‘atoms’, physically but not geometrically indivisible, and lie in a void. Democritus paid a great deal of attention to the structure of the human body, the noblest part of which is considered to be the soul. These all-pervading souls - atoms perform in different functions. In this case, Epicurus and his followers believed that the soul, just like the body, was somehow material, consisting of atoms as well. The body by keeping soul-atoms together without much dispersion allows them to vibrate with the motions that generate sensations. Lucretius also describes the atomic theory in his De rerum natura and observes the materiality of the soul. At last, Epicurean “pleasure” is the greatest good, but the one and only way to attain such pleasure is living modestly and be of the limits of one’s desires. This can lead everyone to attain a state of equanimity (ataraxia) and freedom from fear of death, as well as absence of body pain (aponoia). The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form.