Epicurus (4030) Final, due 4/24.

Please drop off your mid-term in my mailbox or (preferably) e-mail it to me by midnight, Monday April 24.

Type up three of the essays below. Use these essays as an opportunity to show me how well you understand the material. In order to do this, imagine that you are trying to explain the subject to your intelligent, but ignorant, roommate. That is, state things clearly enough, explain any technical terminology, offer examples where they are needed for illustration, and expand on any cryptic or compressed remarks, so that a person not already familiar with the material would understand what you mean. By doing this, you'll show me that you understand what you're talking about.

In each of the essays below, I give a number of points that I want you to touch upon. However, please do not simply answer them one-by-one, in a disconnected, "bullet-point," choppy manner. Incorporate your discussion of each of the points within a continuous, coherent, flowing essay on the topic. They do not necessarily need to be treated in order in which I mention them.

Many of the points listed in the paper writing guidelines are also relevant for writing these essays. Make sure that you offer reasons and arguments in support of your evaluations. Maximum length per essay: 3 pages. If your paper's main topic will be on one of the questions below, please don't write on that question.


  1. Freedom and determinism. Briefly explain the Epicurean argument for why both 'logical' and 'causal' determinism are threatening to our freedom. Then explain either (a) Cicero and Carneades' argument for why 'logical' determinism is not threatening to our freedom or (b) Chrysippus' argument for why causal determinism is not threatening to our freedom. Then explain which (if either) argument you agree why, and why.
  2. Skepticism. Briefly explain one or more of the Epicurean arguments against skepticism that we have studied, and how Sextus Empiricicus would respond to that argument (or arguments). Which do you find more convincing, and why?
  3. Ethics. Explain why the Epicureans believe that pleasure is the sole intrinsic good. Then explain how, despite their hedonism, they think they can justify one of the following: (a) living temperately, (b) courage, (c) studying philosophy, or (d) friendship. Finally, evaluate either their arguments in favor of hedonism or their justification for any of (a)-(d).
  4. Death. Briefly explain the two main arguments (the 'no subject of harm' and 'symmetry' arguments) that the Epicureans deploy against the fear of death. Then explain how Thomas Nagel objects to one of the two arguments. Then evaluate which (if either) argument you agree with, and why.

Return to the Epicurus page.