Angie Hobbs, David Sedley and James Warren join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system based on the idea that everything in the Universe is constructed from two phenomena: atoms and void. At the centre of his philosophy is the idea that the goal of human life is pleasure, by which he meant not luxury but the avoidance of pain. His followers were suspicious of marriage and politics but placed great emphasis on friendship. Epicureanism became influential in the Roman world, particularly through Lucretius’s great poem De Rerum Natura, which was rediscovered and widely admired in the Renaissance.

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  • Angie Hobbs 24 episodes
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield
  • David Sedley 3 episodes
    Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge
  • James Warren 4 episodes
    Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Reading list

  • The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius
    S. Gillespie and P. Hardie (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began
    S. Greenblatt (Bodley Head, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Epicurus Reader
    B. Inwood, L. Gerson and D. Hutchinson (Hackett, 1994)
  • The Hellenistic Philosophers
    A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley (Cambridge University Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • Epicureanism
    T. O'Keefe (Acumen Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Library of the Villa Dei Papiri at Herculaneum
    D. Sider (Getty Publishing, 2005) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism
    J. Warren (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Epicurus and Democritean Ethics: An Archaeology of Ataraxia
    J. Warren (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics
    J. Warren (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity
    C. Wilson (Oxford University Press, 2008) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b01qf083

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qf083

Auto-category: 185 (Epicureanism)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1819, the retired American President Thomas Jefferson wrote to his former secretary, giving a revealing account of his personal philosophy.