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Oscillate and Reflect: La Mettrie, Materialist Physiology, and the Revival of the Epicurean Canonic

James A. Steintrager

in Dynamic Reading

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199794959
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949694 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794959.003.0007

Series: Classical Presences

Oscillate and Reflect: La Mettrie, Materialist Physiology, and the Revival of the Epicurean Canonic

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In “Oscillate and Reflect: La Mettrie, Materialist Physiology, and the Revival of the Epicurean Canonic,” James Steintrager studies the radical wing of French Enlightenment philosophy, which tended towards implicit atheism and more open materialism, two positions often called (by proponents and scholars) “Epicurean.” Intellectual historians have understood this Epicureanism to entail a materialist physics—chiefly, atomism—and an ethics that eschews above all fear of the gods. In its more libertine guise, this “Epicurean” ethics also advocates sensual pleasure as the sovereign good. Steintrager argues that while associating radical philosophie with Epicurean physics and ethics makes good sense, limiting ourselves to these branches of philosophy overlooks the crucial revival of the Epicurean “canonic” (its explanation of the empirical bases of knowledge) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Keywords: Epicurus; La Mettrie; Canonic; imagination; philosophy of mind; Locke

Chapter.  15237 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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