Date de naissance: 342 av. J.-C.
Date de décès: 270 av. J.-C.
Autres noms: Epikúros
Épicure est un philosophe grec, né à la fin de l'année 342 av. J.-C. ou au début de l'année 341 av. J.-C. et mort en 270 av. J.-C.. Il est le fondateur, en 306 av. J.-C., de l'épicurisme, l'une des plus importantes écoles philosophiques de l'Antiquité. En physique, il soutient comme Démocrite que tout ce qui existe est composé d'atomes indivisibles. Les atomes se meuvent aléatoirement dans le vide et peuvent se combiner pour former des agrégats de matière. L'âme en particulier serait un de ces agrégats d'atomes, et non une entité spirituelle, notamment d'après son disciple Lucrèce. En éthique, le philosophe grec défend l'idée que le souverain bien est le plaisir, défini essentiellement comme « absence de douleur ». En logique ou épistémologie, Épicure considère que la sensation est à l'origine de toute connaissance et annonce ainsi l'empirisme.
Ses écrits furent détruits lors de l'avènement du christianisme, instauré religion d'État de l'Empire romain, à partir du règne Constantin Ier , mais surtout sous le règne de Théodose Ier , car ses écrits n'étaient pas compatibles avec la conception chrétienne de l'Homme et du monde. Cet autodafé fut si fort, que de nos jours, il ne subsiste que des fragments de l'œuvre d'Épicure, souvent rapportés par Diogène Laërce, auteur du IIIe siècle.
La morale d'Épicure, tirée de ses propres écrits
„Where without any change in circumstances the things held to be just by law are seen not to correspond with the concept of justice in actual practice, such laws are not really just“
Context: Where without any change in circumstances the things held to be just by law are seen not to correspond with the concept of justice in actual practice, such laws are not really just; but wherever the laws have ceased to be advantageous because of a change in circumstances, in that case the laws were for that time just when they were advantageous for the mutual dealings of the citizens, and subsequently ceased to be just when they were no longer advantageous. (38)
„Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefulness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another.“
Context: Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefulness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another. (31) Variant: Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.
„A happy and eternal being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; hence he is exempt from movements of anger and partiality, for every such movement implies weakness.“
Context: A happy and eternal being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; hence he is exempt from movements of anger and partiality, for every such movement implies weakness. (1) Variant translations: What is blessed and indestructible has no troubles itself, nor does it give trouble to anyone else, so that it is not affected by feelings of anger or gratitude. For all such things are signs of weakness. (Hutchinson) The blessed and immortal is itself free from trouble nor does it cause trouble for anyone else; therefore it is not constrained either by anger of favour. For such sentiments exist only in the weak (O'Connor) A blessed and imperishable being neither has trouble itself nor does it cause trouble for anyone else; therefore, it does not experience anger nor gratitude, for such feelings signify weakness. (unsourced translation)
„No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.“
Context: No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves. (8) Variant translation: No pleasure is itself a bad thing, but the things that produce some kinds of pleasure, bring along with them unpleasantness that is much greater than the pleasure itself.
„Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.“
Context: Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it. "Letter to Menoeceus" http://www.epicurus.net/en/menoeceus.html, as translated in Stoic and Epicurean (1910) by Robert Drew Hicks, p. 167 Variant translation: Let no one delay to study philosophy while he is young, and when he is old let him not become weary of the study; for no man can ever find the time unsuitable or too late to study the health of his soul. And he who asserts either that it is not yet time to philosophize, or that the hour is passed, is like a man who should say that the time is not yet come to be happy, or that it is too late. So that both young and old should study philosophy, the one in order that, when he is old, he many be young in good things through the pleasing recollection of the past, and the other in order that he may be at the same time both young and old, in consequence of his absence of fear for the future.
„Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.“
Context: Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship. (28)
„It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly.“
Context: It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life. (5)
Context: The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance. (17)
„Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men's dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts. (37)“
The Essential Epicurus : Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican sayings, and fragments (1993) edited by Eugene Michael O'Connor, p. 99