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Lucretius

His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance

Timothy J. Madigan, David B. Suits

Publication Year: 2011

Lucretius (c. 99 BCE–c. 55 BCE) is the author of De Rerum Natura, a work which tries to explain and expound the doctrines of the earlier Greek philosopher Epicurus. The Epicurean view of the world is that it is composed entirely of atoms moving about in infinite space. The implications of this view are profound: the proper study of the world is the province of natural philosophy (science); there are no supernatural gods who created the world or who direct its course or who can reward or punish us; death is simply annihilation, and so there is no next life and no torment in an underworld. Epicurus, and then his disciple Lucretius, advocated a simple life, free from mental turmoil and anguish. The essays in this collection deal with Lucretius’s critique of religion, his critique of traditional attitudes about death, and his influences on later thinkers such as Isaac Newton and Alfred Tennyson. We see that Lucretius’s philosophy is connected to contemporary philosophy such as existentialism and that aspects of his thought work against trying to separate the sciences and the humanities. Lucretius: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance is the title of a 2009 conference on Lucretius held at St. John Fisher College, when many of the ideas in these essays were first presented.

Published by: RIT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. 5-6

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Introduction

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pp. 7-12

Lucretius (ca. 99BC – ca. 55BC) is the author of De Rerum Natura, a work which tries to explain and expound the doctrines of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341BC – 270BC). The Epicurean view of the world is that it is composed entirely of combinations of an infinity of sub-visible, indivisible particles ...

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Newton and Lucretius: Some Overlooked Parallels

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pp. 13-28

Though the manuscript of the epic poem, On the Nature of Things, by the Roman Epicurean, Titus Lucretius Carus (96–55 BC), was first printed in book form in 1473, and in many subsequent editions, it was not until the 17th century that it began to have a significant impact on scientific thought, ...

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Lucretius—His Ideas in the Language of Our Time

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pp. 29-32

I wish to thank Tim Madigan not only for organizing this interesting conference, but also for asking me to be on its program. When I was asked, I told him that while I am an academic philosopher, I am not an expert on Lucretius, with whose ideas I am essentially sympathetic, but whose work I have never really studied, ...

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Reflections on Paradox and Religio in the Evangel of Lucretius

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pp. 33-54

But though the tag is trite, and indeed is such a commonplace that its denial could fairly qualify as paradoxical, even so—perhaps on the principle that “naked is the best disguise”—it can be taken as a pointer to a notable feature of Lucretius’s poetic and philosophic endeavor, a feature whose very transparency ...

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“As Stupid as the Clinamen”? Existential Aspects of Lucretius’s Swerve

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pp. 55-72

In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir says that while human life may be spontaneous at its base, it “always projects itself toward something” and is not “an upsurging as stupid as the clinamen” (Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, 25). Clinamen is a Latin term that Lucretius coined to mean the unpredictable ...

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“Half buried…/Or fancy-bourne”: Unearthed Desires and the Failure of Transcendence in Tennyson’s ‘Lucretius’

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pp. 73-88

In December of 1865, Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892) had dinner with the politician William Gladstone, the Pre-Raphaelite artists William Holman Hunt and Thomas Woolner, and the senior John Addington Symonds. After dinner, Symonds’s son, also John Addington, joined them. Finding the company still seated ...

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How Epicurean Science Saves Humanity in Lucretius

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pp. 89-106

Ancient Greek philosophy teaches that knowledge provides humans both happiness and salvation. Ancient philosophy isn’t usually taught that way: philosophy saves! But before psychology, before psychotherapy, there was philosophy. Philosophy was therapy for human souls; “soul” meant our entire inner life; ...

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Lucretius and Death

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pp. 107-116

The topic of death is only one of several discussed by Lucretius in his De Rerum Natura. The infinity of the universe, the relation between mind and soul, and the development of human society are among them. But death is of central importance to Lucretius and to the teacher he followed, Epicurus. ...

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Lucretius on Death and Re-Existence

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pp. 117-132

Lucretius, like his master Epicurus, was an atomist. The entire universe was thought to be an infinity of atoms moving in an infinity of space in an infinity of time. Humans too—bodies and souls—are nothing but elaborate and peculiar collections of atoms. Death is the dispersal of these atoms. ...

Index

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pp. 133-138

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Contributors

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pp. 139-140

Vincent Bissonette (Ph.D., CUNY) has written on the passion of anger as it figures in philosophical and poetic texts from Hobbes to Coleridge, and has published on the poetry of Coleridge and Dryden. He teaches English at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, N.Y. ...


E-ISBN-13: 9781933360744
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933360492

Page Count: 142
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2011