Epicureanism has reference to a philosophical movement of some popularity in ancient Greece and Rome. It based itself on the teachings of the Athenian philosopher Epicurus (341–271 B.C.) and propounded an atomistic cosmology, a hedonistic ethics, and a contractarian social theory. Epicurus was a prolific writer whose collected writings are said to have run to 300 volumes. However, nearly all of his writings are lost and must be reconstructed from reports of other classical authors such as Cicero and Lucretius.

With regard to the natural sciences, Epicureans defended an empiricist methodology in which all appeal to supernatural causation or divine intervention was decisively rejected in favor of explanations invoking the interactions of atomic particles. Despite this apparently materialist approach, Epicureans affirmed human autonomy, arguing that those ...

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