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The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia [Paperback]

Epicurus , Brad Inwood , L. P. Gerson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 1994 0872202410 978-0872202412
A total philosophy of life, death, religion, science, ethics, and culture promising liberation from the obstacles that stand in the way of our happiness, the teachings of Epicurus claimed many thousand committed followers all over the ancient Mediterranean world and deeply influenced later European thought. From the first years of its development, however, Epicureanism faced hostile opposition, and, as a result, much of our evidence for the content of this teaching is unhelpful and even misleading. "The Epicurus Reader" fills the need for a reliable selection and translation of the main surviving evidence, some of it never previously translated into English. Included here, with the exception of Lucretius De Rerum Natura, are the most important surviving ancient texts of a system of thought that even today remains a powerful living philosophy. "The Epicurus Reader" will be greatly welcomed by anybody who teaches Hellenistic Philosophy, or Epicureanism in particular, at any level. It offers a judicious and ample selection of texts, including the only extant writings by Epicurus. More importantly it provides a reliable, often admirably accurate translation of these sometimes difficult texts. Finally, there is an introduction the general reader or the undergraduate will find very helpful." - Michael Frede, Keble College, Oxford

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Product Description

About the Author

Brad Inwood is Professor of Philosophy and Classics, University of Toronto. Lloyd P. Gerson is Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
1. Epicurus, son of Neocles and Chairestrate, was an Athenian citizen of the deme Gargettus and of the clan Philaidae, according to Metrodorus in his On Noble Birth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener about Living with Eyes Open Feb. 26 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Let me say at the outset that Epicurus is hard to understand because we have only fragments of his work.
Epicurus is important to people living in the third millenium because he realized, as most of us do, that traditional religion is not very believable.
In his time the Hellenistic and Roman world was about to fall into a morass of Eastern religions, spiritualism, and superstition familiar to third millenium people living amid Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Wicca, and New Age.
Epicurus has two huge virtues that make him worth reading even now.
He is ferociously smart for one. Some of his insights about physical phenomena millenia before the invention of real scientific instruments are astonishing.
The other is that he is unrelentingly honest and rigorous. His premise is that we only know what we can find out from our senses and our reason. This is immensely liberating from all the causistry, tradition, authority, and sentiment of both culture and counter-culture.
To the ultimate rationalization for religion, "Well, it is a comfort for the simple." he responds, "Truth and honesty are better than comfort." He dismissed death as nothing, and proved his point by showing legendary courage in facing his own.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener about living with Eyes Open Feb. 26 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Let me say at the outset that Epicurus is hard to understand because we have only fragments of his work.
Epicurus is important to people living in the third millenium because he realized, as most of us do, that traditional religion is not very believable.
In his time the Hellenistic and Roman world was about to fall into a morass of Eastern religions, spiritualism, and superstition familiar to third millenium people living amid Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Wicca, and New Age.
Epicurus has two huge virtues that make him worth reading even now.
He is ferociously smart for one. Some of his insights about physical phenomena millenia before the invention of real scientific instruments are astonishing.
The other is that he is unrelentingly honest and rigorous. His premise is that we only know what we can find out from our senses and our reason. This is immensely liberating from all the causistry, tradition, authority, and sentiment of both culture and counter-culture.
To the ultimate rationalization for religion, "Well, it is a comfort for the simple." he responds, "Truth and honesty are better than comfort." He dismissed death as nothing, and proved his point by showing legendary courage in facing his own.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener about Living with Eyes Open Feb. 26 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Let me say at the outset that Epicurus is hard to understand because we have only fragments of his work.
Epicurus is important to people living in the third millenium because he realized, as most of us do, that traditional religion is not very believable.
In his time the Hellenistic and Roman world was about to fall into a morass of Eastern religions, spiritualism, and superstition familiar to third millenium people living amid Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Wicca, and New Age.
Epicurus has two huge virtues that make him worth reading even now.
He is ferociously smart for one. Some of his insights about physical phenomena millenia before the invention of real scientific instruments are astonishing.
The other is that he is unrelentingly honest and rigorous. His premise is that we only know what we can find out from our senses and our reason. This is immensely liberating from all the causistry, tradition, authority, and sentiment of both culture and counter-culture.
To the ultimate rationalization for religion, "Well, it is a comfort for the simple." he responds, "Truth and honesty are better than comfort." He dismissed death as nothing, and proved his point by showing legendary courage in facing his own.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, well presented translation Aug. 14 2008
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are many people who believe that Epicurus is the author of the dominant school of philosophy in 21st Century Western Civilization. That might be true. Even though it's unlikely that the average American or Western European knows much about Epicurus, this ancient sage certainly expresses ideas that are held to a certain degree by many people today.

Certainly, Epicurus' thoughts were heard again in the writings of many thinkers of the Enlightenment Era, and any student of the late 17th and the 18th Centuries will take great interest in Epicurus' words. This little work could have, in fact, offered readers some passages from more modern philosophers to better help readers connect with Epicurus. I don't regard this as a flaw or fault however. The citations and excerpts from more ancient sources that are in this book are considerable for such a short book. This book delivers what it intends to, the works of Epicurus.

This translation is very readable. We don't have a lot of his writings, and this little work conveys what is extant in a language that is approachable. The addition of material excerpted from other sources is also well done, if not presented extensively enough.

An informative but much too enthusiastic introduction, one that turns into something of an endorsement, by D. S. Hutchinson should be read with respectful reservation. Do read carefully the many detractors of Epicureanism. Cicero's Nature of the Gods is a forceful response of great power not conveyed in this little volume's excerpts of that great work. The Stoics and Christians both fiercely rejected Epicurus' philosophy while generally agreeing that he was himself a man of great virtue and character. Plutarch, as the introduction also mentions, was also a harsh critic. So why did Epicurus' ideas receive so much bad press? Please do find out why.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor translation. Jan. 14 2013
By What's in a name? - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This may be the worst translation you will ever find for Epicurus. The best is the translation by Cyril Bailey, which was printed on its own by Oxford, and also as part of "The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers" edited by W.J. Oates, issued by various publishing houses over the years. Unfortunately, as of the writing of this review, that is out of print. Your best bet is finding an old copy of that, but for a new book, probably your only decent option is Essential Epicurus (Great Books in Philosophy). Normally, I would never recommend a Prometheus edition, as they tend to have plenty of problems. This one is no exception, and so you should read my review there of it for seeing some errata. But even so, it is far better than this edition.

Of course, by the time you read this, I cannot be sure that no one will have reissued Bailey's translation, or that someone else might not have come out with a new and even better translation, but as of the writing of this, the O'Connor translation printed by Prometheus is the best version in print. But if you can find it, go with Bailey.

As for Epicurus himself, his writings are of great importance, and his ideas are surprisingly modern considering when he lived. You should definitely read his works, but get a different edition than this.
21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener about living with Eyes Open Feb. 26 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let me say at the outset that Epicurus is hard to understand because we have only fragments of his work.
Epicurus is important to people living in the third millenium because he realized, as most of us do, that traditional religion is not very believable.
In his time the Hellenistic and Roman world was about to fall into a morass of Eastern religions, spiritualism, and superstition familiar to third millenium people living amid Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Wicca, and New Age.
Epicurus has two huge virtues that make him worth reading even now.
He is ferociously smart for one. Some of his insights about physical phenomena millenia before the invention of real scientific instruments are astonishing.
The other is that he is unrelentingly honest and rigorous. His premise is that we only know what we can find out from our senses and our reason. This is immensely liberating from all the causistry, tradition, authority, and sentiment of both culture and counter-culture.
To the ultimate rationalization for religion, "Well, it is a comfort for the simple." he responds, "Truth and honesty are better than comfort." He dismissed death as nothing, and proved his point by showing legendary courage in facing his own.
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting March 24 2013
By Bill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
the selections in this book are interesting, but the organization and commentary leaves a lot to be desired. I would look for a better edition.
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