by Daniel Gurpide
Ipreviously posted that
–“Plato’s philosophy was for ‘the intellectuals’; the ethics of Plato are tied to his whole system of knowledge, including politics. The doctrines of Epicurus appealed chiefly to the middle classes, the bourgeoisie; the ethics of Epicurus are separated from politics and joined only with physics (and Aristotle). The teachings of Jesus were for the very poor, the lost sheep. The ethics of Jesus are isolated from both physics and politics and fitted into a development scheme of salvation.”—
Curt and I were trying to figure out why Epicurean philosophy was wiped out so easily after the fall of the Roman Empire. There were never strong Epicurean communities. Epicureans prioritized their small groups and chose not to engage in politics (a consequence of the civil wars that used to plague the ancient world).
I was recently reading “Liberalism: Ancient & Modern” by Leo Strauss. The central chapter and the longest chapter is his “Notes on Lucretius”. He identifies one of the main tenets of Epicurean teaching–that the world that we love is not eternal, because every world is mortal within the eternal universe of atoms in motion–as “the most terrible truth”.
Philosophers can live with this truth with a tranquil mind. But most human beings cannot. And consequently most human beings can find peace of mind only through the “pleasing delusion” of a religious belief that the world of human concern is supported by a loving intelligent designer.
I guess that the temptation for the Platonist “intellectuals” to lead the “lost sheep” and at the same time sandwich the middle classes has always been there.