843. Epicureans Stoics

Acts 17:18  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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1. Epicurus, the founder of the sect which bore his name, was born at Samoa about 340 B.C. He early adopted the atomic theory of Democritus, and taught philosophy in Athens for nearly forty years, his place of instruction being a beautiful garden in the heart of the city. According to the Epicureans the universe consists of matter and space. Matter is uncreated and indestructible. It is composed of minute atoms, infinite in number and imperceptible to the senses. These atoms may change in mutual relation and in combination, but they cannot be annihilated. They are perpetually moving in space, and are constantly undergoing transpositions of form, but are regulated by no law save that of blind chance. Epicurus believed in the existence of the gods, but this belief was practically no better than atheism, since he denied that the gods had any part in the operations of nature. There was in his system no room for conscience, no place for moral obligation. Pleasure was the chief object of life. Though it is claimed that the ideal of Epicurus was not pleasure of a degrading nature, and that he taught a strict morality, yet the system inevitably tended to sensuality, and had natural attractions for those who were fond of debasing pleasures. It made no provision for a future life, for it knew of no other life than this. Its creed may be briefly summed up in this: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
2. The Stoics were founded by Zeno of Citium in the fourth century before Christ. Their place of meeting was in the “Painted Porch,” or Siva, of Athens, whence they derived their name. They believed in two fundamental principles, the active and the passive. The passive was matter, the active was God. They were pantheists, denying the independent existence of the soul, and affirming that all souls were emanations of Deity. They also taught that God and man were both alike inexorably subject to Fate. In opposition to the Epicureans they held that men ought to have no regard to pleasure, but to act only for the right. They were not agreed in their views of a future life. Some believed that all souls were absorbed into Deity at death; others that they maintained their separate existence until a general conflagration of the universe took place; others still, that only the good thus maintained a separate existence.