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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Teaching Epicurus Today

John Penwill.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus taught that the necessary first step for human beings to achieve happiness was to acknowledge the fact that there is no divine force at work in the world and that there is no part of us that survives death; indeed, if looked at the right way, this becomes a liberating experience. Two hundred years later the Roman poet Lucretius reacted to the domination of his world by ambitious imperialist warlords by writing an impassioned plea to his fellow aristocrats to adopt Epicurean values. Epicureanism has much to offer the 21st century world in countering negative factors like greed and religious fundamentalism which are responsible for so much human misery; as teachers of classical philosophy we need to take on the role of a Lucretius rather than simply treat this philosophical movement as an interesting historical phenomenon.


John Penwill  (Australia)
Senior Lecturer in Humanities
Department of Arts
La Trobe University, Bendigo

Educated at University of Tasmania and Cambridge. Held academic posts in Classics at Monash University and University of Tasmania before appointment to present position in 1987.

  • Greek Philosophy
  • Teaching Greek Philosophy
Person as Subject
  • Epicurus Lucretius

(30 min Conference Paper, English)