Monday, June 29, 2009


I have recently been discussing and reading my favorite philosopher Epicurus. I have based a good portion of my personal philosophy on his work. The philosophy of Epicurus is what today would be described as a libertarian atheist. Particularly his view of justice which is that justice is a compact to not harm or be harmed. That is it, no metaphysical or transcendental nonsense tacked on, just a simple contractual agreement from which all laws should draw their authority. If something causes no harm then the law has no business with it, if something causes harm then justice has been violated and must be restored. To Epicurus the purpose of justice was the same as the purpose of everything else, to facilitate security and happiness. Happiness and freedom from pain were the natural goods of Epicurean philosophy, everything else is a means to those ends.

I would say our government and system of law is far removed from this idea of justice. The law does not serve the interests of security and happiness, it is more often than not the thing that restricts those goods. The government of the united states is used in the service of ideology and it's own power. The largest crimes in our country are not those that cause harm, but those that violate arbitrary government regulations. The buying and selling of certain goods and services notably sex and drugs but including everything that is not properly stamped and regulated by some office or official. It is contraband that drives our law enforcement not individual harm. The government spends billions preventing people from buying a joint or a blow job or even unpastuerized milk, but they claim they lack the manpower to investigate rapes and burglaries. Laws are passed to regulate drinking and smoking and sex, there are entire departments devoted to these things yet we still have unsafe streets, rapes, murders, and robberies. Perhaps even if the government will not accept limitations on what it is allowed to regulate at least they will accept some priorities. Before investigating drug sales or organic milk producers they first have to secure us from murder and robbery. When the citizenry is reasonably secure from actual harm then they can go about enforcing their arbitrary nonsense.


  1. Considering how few of his works survive, I recommend you reread them.

    He would certainly not be a Libertarian who believes in an "invisible hand." He was a realist who believed only what could be proven. He also knew people were out doing harm, and that it is the duty of the good to bring those who would harm others to justice.

    Why do we all have to have deregulated food (see also: unclean, diseased, and unfit for human consumption) until every murder has been solved? How does that make any sense, honestly? Quit carrying that cross for the corporations who want to poison you.

    Also, while I have no problem with drugs and blow jobs, Epicurus would have. He did not drink or have sex for recreation. He didn't even eat fine food. He taught temperance in all things.

    I think what you did here is try to attribute your ideology to a wise man who you can never be.

  2. You are mistaken I am very clear on what is recorded from Epicurus and I am also aware of his ascetic tendencies. I have written a bit about it on my blog. What I was referring to about atheism was his belief that the fear of death and gods were the biggest obstacles to happiness. Why I referred to him as libertarian was because of his description of Justice as a social contract.

    It was not my intention to infer more than those things from my statements.

    As to modern politics and economics it is difficult for me to infer what my favorite philosopher would think save to say it would be the one most conducive to happiness and security. Clearly I would not count communism as a likely candidate, nor would I count American style big government authoritarianism.

    I don't say you must drink contaminated milk, I think that people did a fine job of avoiding that before the federal government took a hand in it. I have no issue with consumer organizations taking a hand in monitoring product safety in fact I would encourage it. Something on the order of underwriters laboratory for consumer goods fits well in my philosophy. I would say the same for labor unions to protect workers, I am not anti unionist, I just oppose government meddling in worker negotiations. I am not even overtly against state or local governments setting certain standards, my issue is the overreaching by the federal government.


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