“Epicureanism and the Health of the Soul,” in Ancient Thought, edited by N. J. Barnes, et al.
Epicurus maintains that attaining eudaimonia—freedom from bodily pain (aponia) and freedom from mental distress (ataraxia)—depends on the study of nature (phusiologia). Studying nature teaches us, most importantly, that the universe is nothing more than atoms and void, a lesson has powerful consequences for our understanding of nature, in particular human nature. Here I focus on the obstacles to freedom from mental distress. After a review of the principal diseases of the soul, I discuss the fear of death at length and outline the two main arguments marshaled by the Epicureans to treat it. Finally, I address the concern that the therapeutic dimension to Epicureanism results in philosophy’s being of merely instrumental value.
“Weight in Greek Atomism,” Φιλοσοφία 45 (2015): 76-99
The testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism appear to contradict one another. Some reports assert that the atoms do have weight, while others outright deny weight as a property of the atoms. A common solution to this apparent contradiction divides the testimonia into two groups. The first group describes the atoms within a kosmos, where they have weight; the second group describes the atoms outside of a kosmos, where they are weightless. A key testimonium for proponents of this solution is Aëtius 1.3.18. It apparently denies weight as a property of the atoms, and supposedly describes the atoms when they are outside of a kosmos. I argue against this interpretive solution by showing, first, that Aëtius 1.3.18 does not deny that weight is a property of the atoms. Second, I argue that the report does not describe the atoms when they are outside of a kosmos. Although these are largely negative conclusions, I contend that we are not left without a solution to the present interpretive difficulty. Once our testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism are examined thoroughly, it is clear that there is no conflict among them.