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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where are the Epicureans? Who is an Epicure?

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Epicurus 341 BCE – 270 BCE

Epicurus – Epicurus was  a Greek philosopher (341 –270 BCE),  and for the last two hundred years or so  his name has  been used to label people who enjoy good food and wine. Today, if you know about and enjoy good food and wine you are an epicure.  The only problem is, that when they handed out his name to foodies they had the wrong information.

Epicurus, never wrote about food and wine,

For Epicurus food and wine was no more than a basic need.  He had been, incorrectly. branded a hedonist by the early Church. Epicurious was a very gentle person who believed in the rights of man and a hedonist is a person who only lives for personal pleasure.
No damage has been done even if today's food-centric Epicures know little of Epicurus's philosophy.  If you like good food and wine then  today you are an epicure, and that is not bad at all.  If you also like the philosophy of Epicurus in addition to good food and wine  then you will be an epicure twice over.

Epicurus’s gentle philosophy did, however,
influence many of those who studied him.

The most well-known of his students, in the era of the enlightenment, was the British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704).  John Locke’s own works went on to influence the founding fathers of the USA, and the French men and women who drafted France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1798. 

The authors of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen influenced and were influenced by the authors of  the American Bill of Rights; that is the first ten amendments of the USA Constitution.  The two documents were first published some thirty days apart. That is quite revealing and tells much about common ideas in countries long before fax, email or telephones. The two future country's future leaders worked together for the freedom of their citizens.

The US Declaration of Independence.

The second paragraph of the declaration of independence was heavily edited by Thomas Jefferson together with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.  Their work shows the influence of John Locke, the most famous of Epicurus's disciples; their original drafts remain and they note the self-evident truths:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 John Locke (1632 – 1704).      

John Adams (1735 – 1826),                                Benjamin Franklin (January 1705-1790),            Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Epicurus the man.

Epicurus  was branded a hedonist by early Church philosophers, at the time when they were trying to make ancient Greek philosophy fit the teaching of the early Church. Far from being a hedonist Epicurus was a gentle, thoughtful man, a philosopher who believed that individuals can happily live this life on earth with kindness and friendship; he taught moderation and personal responsibility.
    Under the heading The Pursuit of Happiness
I include the enjoyment of good food and wine.

Bryan G Newman
Behind The French Menu
Copyright 2010,2013.

For information of the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman