Was Gassendi an Epicurean?

History of Philosophy Quarterly 20 (4):339 - 360 (2003)
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Abstract

Pierre Gassendi was a major factor in the revival of Epicureanism in early modern philosophy, not only through his contribution to the restoration and criticism of Epicurean texts, but also by his adaptation of Epicurean ideas in his own philosophy, which was itself influential on such important figures of early modern philosophy as Hobbes, Locke, Newton, and Boyle (to name just a few). Despite his vigorous defense of certain Epicurean ideas and ancient atomism, Gassendi goes to great lengths to differentiate his philosophy from Epicureanism on certain key points. In this paper I argue that those key points on which Gassendi rejects and and criticizes the Epicurean view, such as the immortality of the soul and divine creation of the cosmos, are central not only to Epicureanism, but also to Gassendi's own philosophy. In order to see Gassendi's philosophy for what it is, and understand its role in the history of natural theology, we need accept and understand better why he rejected the central theses of Epicureanism.

Author's Profile

Monte Johnson
University of California, San Diego

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