What are the reasons as to why many important ancient philosophers ascribed to stoicism whereas few ancient philosophers were epicurians?


It seems to me that there were relatively few prominent ancient (if not prominent at least with wikipedia entries with their names) philosophers that espoused Epicureanism while there were many prominent Stoic philosophers. On the other hand it seems that Epicureanism is considered preferable to Stoicism by some prominent modern day intellectuals. If this is the case why is it? (I can think some possible reasons that may be responsible such as Zeno having been able to indoctrinate more people initially so as to become mainstrean or stoic ideas being more attractive for the average person during the circumstances of life of that period or that Epicurianism became more attractive after it was updated with more modern arguments etc)


Posted 2020-04-18T20:12:03.873

Reputation: 556

1I think it comes from the popularity of Socrates and Plato. They believed virtue was all-important. The stoics followed in that tradition. Even Aristotle thought virtue was paramount, but he had a more open view with regards to pleasure. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-04-18T21:12:58.727

There is another possibility that of Epicureanism having important adherents in philosophy whose writings were supressed/destroyed by Church – GEP – 2020-04-18T21:39:02.790

2Judging numbers or prominence by Wikipedia entries is a bad idea. Stoicism and Epicureanism had an almost identical trajectory in antiquity, ascendancy during Hellenism, flourishing during early Empire, and decline with the rise of neo-Platonism and Christianity. "Prominence" depends on survival of the texts (Seneca, Mark Aurelius and Epictetus say little original), and that was affected by materialist texts being less likely to be copied, and more likely to be discarded during middle ages. – Conifold – 2020-04-18T21:42:46.807

Do we have any recorded instances of (single) indivituals discarding philosophical texts besides the burning of Libraries? – GEP – 2020-04-18T21:47:54.990


We have a record of a religious text being written over Archimedes's palimpsest (discovered by sheer luck), and of the Church fathers being highly partial to Seneca to a point of faking his correspondence with St. Paul. We also have a Herculanum library frozen in time since 79AD by the ash of Vesuvius, and consisting primarily of Epicurean texts.

– Conifold – 2020-04-19T01:54:46.047

1Writings are often preserved because of the reputation of the author, including his involvement in government and institutions. The inherent tendency toward modesty in the concept of dwelling in one's own garden may have led to fewer published works being identified with 'great men'. It is hard to imagine Epicurus or someone who took him as a role model pursuing a high public office. – hide_in_plain_sight – 2020-04-19T14:42:43.463

1@GEP: Ancient texts don't need to be discarded or destroyed to fall out of knowledge. Keep in mind that until the creation of the printing press (1440), texts had to be transcribed and preserved by hand, a laborious process reserved for 'special' or 'important' works. Works just l'eft on the shelf' deteriorate in fairly short order. – Ted Wrigley – 2020-04-19T14:59:36.153

What did the philosophers/writers whose works have mostly survived write about Epicurean philosophers and their works? – GEP – 2020-04-19T22:20:15.307

No answers