Against much historical evidence to the contrary, Wilson asserts that capitalism destroys personal autonomy and prevents people from developing their intellectual capacities. Lost in Wilson’s blunt assertions is how Epicurean thought could offer any insight into the modern complexities of labor markets, gun control, abortion, tax rates, medical research, nuclear energy, and affirmative action. She remains unfazed, sprinkling policy proposals on these issues throughout. By the book’s conclusion, this ancient philosophy’s values seem to coincide perfectly with those of today’s Democratic Party.
Epicurus established his Garden to avoid politics. “Do not get involved in political life,” he warned his followers. Wilson would have done well to heed his warning.
Indeed. I think the essence of Epicureanism, at least as I understand it, would be better expressed in poetry. The joy to be found in particular moments, the wistful heartache of knowing their transitory nature, the feeling of what it is to live a humble life, unconcerned by important people and important events — that’s poetry’s jurisdiction, not philosophy’s. I wonder if there are any poets who specifically think of themselves as Epicureans? I’ll have to make a mental note to ask Stephen Pentz.