Epicurus Assignments


For 11/24. Readings: Reading response papers (Wooke):
  1. Sextus raises and tries to answer several "self-refutation" objections against the skeptic. Are these arguments and Sextus' responses to them cogent?
  2. How can one consistently live as a skeptic, according to Sextus, and why is a person better off as a skeptic? Do you agree with him? Why, or why not?
  3. How does the skeptic try to induce suspension of judgement? Do the argument they give seem effective for accomplishing this?

For 11/17 and 11/19. Re-read (from The Epicurus Reader text 2 sections 37-8, text 7, DRN 4 469-521. On eReserve read the selections from Long and Sedley on Epicurean epistemology and the paper "Epicurus on the truth of the senses."

Reading response paper (me for Monday, Miriam Patrick Wed.):

  1. Explain and evaluate one of the Epicurean anti-skeptical arguments discussed in the readings.
  2. Epicurus claims that 'all sensations are alethes (true or real). Discuss what he may mean by this claim and why he'd believe it's correct. Then give your thoughts regarding it.
  3. Explain and evaluate something esle from the readings (e.g., the claim that the senses cannot refute each other, the role of prolepses in Epicurean epsietnology, etc.)

Wed., 11/12. Read the selection from Facing Death on Epicurus and writing wills by Warren.

Paper (John Y). Give one of the reasons Warren thinks writing wills is problematic and evaluate whether it really is, or give one of the purported justifications within Epicureanism for writing wills and whether it holds water. Or anything else, really.


Change of plans for 11/5. Re-read the material on the Gods (from Long and Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers) on eReserve. Also, read (or re-read) Lucretius. DRN Book 1 1-145, Book II 600-660, Book V 1-234, 1194-1240. Book VI 1-95, 379-422.

Paper (Johnna Szegda). Either write on something on the gods, including:


Monday, 11/10.
Change of plans for 11/5. Read the Lucretius paper, plus the material on the Gods (from Long and Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers) on eReserve. Also, read (or re-read Lucretius. DRN Book 1 1-145, Book II 600-660, Book V 1-234, 1194-1240. Book VI 1-95, 379-422.

Paper (Manuel Diaz). Either write on the 'cycle of life' argument (or something else brought up in that paper), as distributed via e-mail. Or something on the gods, including:


For 11/3 and 11/5.

Read the selection from Facing Death on Epicurus and writing wills by Warren, and the article "Lucretius on the Cycle of Life and the Fear of Death" (both on eReserve). We'll discuss wills mainly on Monday and Lucretius on Wed.

Reading response papers (Monday Chris Capparell, Wed. Manuel Diaz). Pretty wide open. Briefly state and evaluate something from one of the readings. E.g., give one of the reasons Warren thinks writing wills is problematic and evaluate whether it really is, one of the purported justifications within Epicureanism for writing wills and whether it holds water, something Lucretius says (or I say about Lucretius) and whether you think it's plasuible within Epicureanism or correct generally speaking, etc.


For 10/27 and 10/29. Readings: from The Epicurus Reader text 4, sections 124-127; text 5 doctrine 2, text 6 sayings 14, 31, 38. Lucretius, DRN book III lines 830-end. Nagel, "Death" eReserve).

papers (Mon. Wooke, Wed. barnett; 6030 Shin on friendship):

  1. Explain and evaluate briedly one of the arguments against the fear of death given by Epicurus or Lucretius.
  2. Explain and evaluate one of the arguments given by Nagel.


For Monday 10/20 and Wed. 10/22. Read the rest of Cicero's summary of Epicurean ethics in On Moral Ends book I (sections 65 until the end) plus (on eReserve) "Would a Community of Wise Epicureans Be Just?" and "Is Epicurean Friendship Altruistic?"

Paper topics (Monday Johnna Szegda, Wed. John Yurchesyn, 6030 Ricky Greacen from last week's topics)

  1. Explain and evaluate one of the three Epicurean theories of friendship presented by Torquatus.
  2. Do any of the three theories give a reason for "loving your friend as much as yourself" that is both plausible and consistent with Epicureanism?
  3. Anything else from the readings you wish to write on.

For Wed. 10/15. Justice! Read (from the Epicurus Reader) text 5, #31-40, and texts 151 through 156, Lucretius DRN 5, 925-end (but esp. through 1027), from eReserve "the Epicureans on Justice and Animals."

Possible paper topics (Patrick, or write on a topic from Monday if you wish):

  1. What is justice, according to the Epicureans, and why does it arise? Do do you think this account is plausible? Why, or why not?
  2. What reason does the wise person have to be just? What about the foolish person? Are the reasons the Epicureans give for the wise person to be just compelling?
  3. Why is there no justice with regard to non-human animals? Explain and evaluate the Epicurean arguments in favoe of this thesis.
  4. Explain and evaluate something else from the readings.

For Monday, 10/13, and Wed, 10/15. Re-read Striker and Nussbaum (both on eReserve). For Wed. 10/15. No new readings (for now, depending on how things go Monday.) Paper (Monday Diaz, Wed. Patrick, 6030 Baird):
  1. Set out in your own words and briefly evaluate one the arguments the Epicurean spokesman Torqautus gives. This can be any of them, excluding the material we've already covered, but here are some of the topics that are especially central:
  2. Nussbaum sets out a number of reservations/objections to the Epicurean model of philosophy as therapy in the course of her article. Explain and evaluate one of them.
  3. Explain and evaluate one of the considerations in favor of (or arguments against) Epicurus' brand of hedonism, as dicussed by Striker.

10/8. Reading: The rest of Cicero "On Moral Ends." Also, the Nussbaum article on Therapeutic arguments in Aristotle and Epicurus in the course packet.

Paper topics (Chris Capparell):

  1. Set out in your own words and briefly evaluate one the arguments the Epicurean spokesman Torqautus gives. This can be any of them, excluding the material on friendship and the material already covered, but here are some of the topics that are especially central:
  2. Nussbaum expresses some objections to the Epicurean conception of philosophy as therapy. Explain and evaluate one of her objections.

For 10/6. No new reading: go over 10/1 material. 6030 paper: Tim Clewell, over last week's material.
For Wed. 10/1. Reading: Cicero, "On Moral Ends" (Exposition of Epicurean Ethics, on eReserve), through section 64, plus, from The Epicurus Reader text 4 (Letter to Menoeceus), text 5 (Principle Doctrines), sayings 3, 4, 8, 18, 20, 22, 25, text 6 (Vatican Sayings), sayings 33, 73, texts 20, 36, 37. Plus, on eReserve, Striker, "Epicurean Hedonism." Much of the Cicero stuff is in texts 21-23 in the Reader, but I'd prefer that you read the continuous selection on reserve.

We'll concentrate on the Cicero material.

Paper (Barnett): Set out in your own words and briefly evaluate one the arguments the Epicurean spokesman gives. These can be any of them, but here are some of the topics that are especially central:


For 9/29. Continue on the freedom stuff. However, two new things to consider/read.
  1. Read text 34 (damaged excerpt from On Nature 25), which is also discussed in one of the posted pieces in uLearn. It deals with how we can control our own development and thus be apt subjects of praise and blame, and also with how the determinist thesis is self-defeating.
  2. I've had put on electronic reserve many more of the selections from On Fate, so you can look over pieces that are not included in The Epicurus Reader. See uLearn for log-on info.
Paper. 6030, Strahm (on last week's material). 4030, Wooke (on Wed's topics, or something else from the additional readings for today: brief briefly explain and evaluate oine of the arguments.
For 9/22 and 9/24 Onto 'logical determinism' and the swerve.

Readings: From the Epicurus Reader, text 15.

Aristotle, De Intrerpretatione chapter 9. A free translation to available here, then click on 'chapter 9.'

The readings, from me, that are under the 'notes' section of WebCT. Papers (Monday Wade Smith, Wed. Johnna Szegda, 6030 Hyunwook Shin (on last week's questions):

  1. Explain why Aristotle and Epicurus think that 'logical determinism' has unacceptable determinist consequences. Do you agree? Why, or why not?
  2. Explain why Carneades (and Cicero) think that 'logicial determinism' is not threatening to our freedom, and evaluate their arguments.
  3. Are 'logical' and 'causal' determinism inter-entailing (as Epicurus and the Stoics think) or not (as Carneades thinks)?
  4. Explain why Chrysippus does not find causal determinism threatening to our freedom (as explained in the e-mailed reading about the 'lazy argument'). Do you find his arguments convincing? Why, or why not?


For 9/15 and 9/17. Reading. Epicurus Reader Text 2 (the Letter to Herodotus) sections 63-67, texts 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 104, 109. Lucretius Book III lines 1-829, Book IV lines 1-822.

Papers (Monday James Nichols, Wed. Miriam Patrick; 6030 Tim Clewell)

  1. Briefly explain and evaluate one of Lucretius' or Epicurus' arguments either for why the soul is something corporeal or why why its not something incorporeal.
  2. Briefly explain and evaluate one of Lucretius' arguments for why death is annihilation.
  3. Briefly explain and evaluate another one of Lucretius' arguments (e.g., why reincarnation is bunk, or there is no pre-birth existence for the soul, or why death is annihilation even if the soul survives the death of the body).


For 9/10.

Lucretius Book II lines 600-660, book IV lines 823-857, Book V lines 772-1010.

Paper topics (Diaz, Manuel J.):

  1. Lucretius gives an elaborate hymn to earth as our mother in DRN II 600-660. What feelings toward the earth do you think it expresses, adn do you think it is consistent with the overall Epicurean world-view?
  2. Why does Lucretius think that form precedes function when it comes to the limbs of animals? Explain and evaluate what he says.
  3. Explain some or all of Lucretius' account of the origin of species. Does it allow him to successfully give a non-teleological explanation for the organisms we presently see?
Note: Depending on how class goes Wed., we may continue on some of 9/8 material. If so, feel free to write on the topicsc below we didn't yet cover.
For 9/8. From The Epicurus Reader: text 2 (The Letter to Herodotus), sections 76 (start of 2nd paragraph)-82, 108, 109, 114, Lucretius book II lines 730-end, book V lines 1-508.

Paper topics (Manny Barnett, Tim Clewell for 6030 session [on last week's material]):

  1. Why do Epicurus and Lucretius think that what happens in the universe (i) is not due to the providential care or plan of any deities, and (ii) occurs because of mechanical, not teleological, processes? Evaluate their arguments for either of the above claims.
  2. Explain and evaluate one of the other arguments in the reeadings.

For 9/3. Re-read text 2: 68-73, text 29, up to 1112e, plus the posting readings on sensible qualities and reductionism. New reading: Lucretius, Book I lines 635-950, Book II lines 730-end.

Paper (John Y.):

  1. How does Democritus get into skeptical difficulties on account of his views on sensible qualities like heat, sweetness, etc.? Do you agree that his views on sensible qualities should present him with skeptical difficulties? (Optional extra: how (if at all) do you think these difficulties, if there are some, should be overcome, if at all?)
  2. Plutarch argues that Epicurus runs into exactly the same skeptical difficulties as does Democritus. Explain and evaluate his arguments.
  3. Plutarch argues (in Against Colotes 1111a ff.) that Democritus is right to think that (given his atomism) plants, men, and souls do not exist, and that Epicureans ought to admit this too. Do you agree? Why, or why not?
  4. Discuss some other topic in the reading for today.

For 8/25 and 8/27. Readings, from The Epicurus Reader: text 2: 68-73, text 29, up to 1112e, text 89. Look back over old material that covers topics we haven't yet covered.

Also, look over summaries of Epicurus and the swerve and Epicurus and Democritus on sensible qualities (will be posted to uLearn)

Possible reading response paper topics (note that we may not get to the material on sensible qualities, so papers below not on that topic would be better--but feel free to write on those if you wish). 6030, William Baird, Monday Dolly Pope, Wed. Chris Capparell. Everybody else, please make sure to read and respond to these papers prior to class.

  1. Why does Epicurus think that there must be an infinity of matter and space, and that the universe has no beginning or end? Do you accept his arguments?
  2. Leaving aside what he says about human freedom, why does Lucretius think atoms must sometimes swerve to the side? What do you think of his arguments and the doctrine of the swerve, and why?
  3. Give and evaluate one of the arguments for the existence of spatial minima.
  4. Why does Epicurus think that bodies and void are the only things that exist, although (in a sense) things like colors, time, extension and like also exist? What is the relationship between 'things' like color, time etc., and bodies and void, according to Epicurus? Evaluate his position.
  5. How does Democritus get into skeptical difficulties on account of his views on sensible qualities like heat, sweetness, etc.? Do you agree that his views on sensible qualities should present him with skeptical difficulties? (Optional extra: how (if at all) do you think these difficulties, if there are some, should be overcome, if at all?)
  6. Plutarch argues that Epicurus runs into exactly the same skeptical difficulties as does Democritus. Explain and evaluate his arguments.
Note that these suggested paper topics should give you some idea of the things we'll be discussing, an the sorts of papers I'd like you to write, but if something else in particular from the reading pops out at you that you'd like to discuss, please feel free to do so. And for 6030, feel free to revisit one of the things we already covered (however briefly) during the first week.
8/18. From The Epicurus Reader: text 1, text 2 (The Letter to Herodotus), sections 38-44, 55 (2nd paragraph)-62. Texts 77, 79, 80, 82, 83, 84 85, 86, 87, 90.

From Lucretius: Book I, lines 1-634 951-1117 Book 2, lines 62-729.

E-mailed summary of basic metaphysical issues.


Return to the course web site.
Return to the main page.

Send e-mail to tokeefe AT gsu DOT edu.