4th Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy – Report

February 15-16, 2014

Cultural Center of Pallini, Athens

Free entrance

For the fourth time since 2011, about 350 people from all over Greece gathered at the Cultural Center of Pallini in Athens in order to attend the two-day Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy. The Symposium is organized, with free entrance, every year in February by the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy, because Epicurus was born in that month, and always in Pallini, because that particular municipality of modern Athens metropolitan area includes the ancient Athenian demos of Gargettus, from which Epicurus originated.

There were two sessions on the first day and four sessions on the second day of the Symposium with 25 oral presentations, as well as two artistic intervals. The interval on Saturday included a small theatrical presentation of Epicurean sayings by Dora Stratou Theater Chorus. In the evening of the first day, the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy had an actual symposium with dining, drinking, and dancing in a local taverna. On Sunday, the famous composer and candidate mayor of Athens in coming elections Marios Strofalis played some selected piano pieces.

The first day on Saturday, February 15, 2014, started with cordial greetings from the representatives of the Gardens of Athens, Thessaloniki (Greece) and Sydney (Australia), the president of the Greek Philosophical Society Ioannis Pottakis and, last but not least, from the founder of the International Society of Friends of Epicurus Hiram Crespo. A strong sense of friendship and solidarity characterized those greeting messages which were received enthusiastically by the attendants. In his opening address to the Symposium, the mayor of Pallini Athanassios Zoutsos announced that he accepted a request made by the Garden of Athens to develop a green area of 5000 square meters, which will be named “Garden of Epicurus” and will include a statue of the philosopher, a wall with some of his Principal Doctrines, and an open amphitheater. The audience reacted with enthusiasm to the mayor’s announcement.

Session 1 “PRINCIPLES OF EPICURUS’ PHILOSOPHY” was designed for those attendants with limited knowledge of Epicurus and his philosophy. The Session included presentations “Life of Epicurus”, “The Epicurean Canon”, “Atomic principles of Physics” and “The core of Epicurean Ethics”. The last presentation in this Session under the title “Epicurean philosophy or Epicureanism as ideology?” by Dimitris Altas discussed the open-mindness of the Epicurean philosophy that creates free-thinking, prudent and happy people who do not try to impose an ideology on others but rather enjoy their lives with virtue and at the same time enlighten others.

Session 2 “EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY AND HUMANISM” included three presentations. “Humanistic values in the philosophy of Epicurus and his students” by Arhontia Liontaki illustrated the fact that humanistic values of Hellenic civilization reached their peak with Epicurus and ancient Epicureans. “The Epicurean Humanism of Gassendi and its influence in the Enlightment” by Olga Theodorou underlined the immense influence of Gassendi’s Epicurean and Humanistic views for a century and a half. “Epicurean influences in modern Humanism” by Christos Yapijakis illustrated the fact that the basic values of modern Humanism are all shared with Epicurean philosophy: philanthropy (friendship for all humans), naturalism and realism, social contract (justice as a human agreement), freedom of belief and religion (first established by Thomas Jefferson), and humans as the central value (in contrast to out-of-human abstract ideas). During this speech, Yapijakis proposed the “Declaration of the right of happiness in the European Union” (see at the end of this report), which was enthusiastically received and later signed by a great number of attendants.

The second day on Sunday, February 16, 2014, started with Session 3 “EPICUREANS IN ANTIQUITY”. The presentation of Takis Panagiotopoulos “Values found in Pericles’ ‘Epitaph speech’ and in the Epicurean philosophy” discussed the values of Athenian Democracy that were preserved in Epicurus’ philosophy. “Epicurean philosophy in ancient inscriptions” of Eleni Karabatzaki discussed mostly the great philosophical wall of Diogenes of Oenoanda. “The social value of religious observance according to Epicureans” by Giorgos Metaxas presented the attitudes of Epicureans against superstition but at the same time their enjoyment of religious festivals and considering them as social bonding practices.

Session 4 “EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY FROM MIDDLE AGES TO RENAISSANCE” included the presentation “Epicurus in Middle Ages” by Leonidas Alexandridis regarding the polemic and distortion that Epicurus’ teachings suffered for a millenium, and the presentation of Dimitris Dimitriadis “The metaphysical superstition and the Epicurean worldview” which explained why Epicurus was attacked in the Middle Ages. The Session ended with the original presentation of Aspasia Papadoperaki “Influence of Lucretius on ‘Erotokritos’ of Vincenzos Kornaros”, a famous Cretan poem of 10,000 verses of early 17th century.

Session 5 “EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY AND MODERN GREEK ENLIGHTMENT” included two original presentations of Epicurean philosophy in two great figures of Greek Enlightment of late 18th century, a few decades before the Greek Revolution against the Turkish occupation: “The influence of Epicurean Pierre Gassendi on Josepos Moesiodax” by Elias Tempelis and “Epicurean influences on Rigas Velestinlis” by Babis Patzoglou. Rigas, in particular, is considered an emblematic person in modern Greek history and two of his sayings are very well known: “the one who thinks freely, thinks right” and “better to have one hour of free life than forty years of slavery and imprisonment”.

Session 6 “THE ETERNAL VALUE OF THE EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY” included several presentations. The session started with “Message to Athens by an American Friend”, a five minute video sent by Cassius Amicus from Georgia, USA, in which the fact that Epicurean philosophy helps people to understand nature and themselves by using their senses and reason. Other presentations included “The importance of Epicurean philosophy today”, “Epicurean logic as a teaching method”, “The everlasting Greek Middle Ages and us” and “Difference of Democritan and Epicurean philosophy according to Karl Marx”. Modern issues in bioethics and psychology were discussed in presentations “Epicurean views on euthanasia” by Vangelis Protopapadakis and “Epicurean cognitive psychotherapy” by Manolis Kougioumtzoglou. Finally, two presentations discussed Epicurus’ notions of “Lathe biosas (Live unnoticed)” and “Autarchy and autonomy (Self-sufficiency and self-government)” in today’s world.

Epilogue

Below is the historic “Declaration of the right of happiness in the European Union” (Declaration of Pallini, Greece), which was written by Christos Yapijakis first in Greek and then in English. It was co-signed by a great number of Symposium participants and it is currently translated in other European languages, so that it may be signed in the future by scores of Europeans who are interested in a better, happier future aiming to be heard by the European parliament.

Also read:

Declaration of the right of happiness in the European Union

Message of Solidarity from SoFE to the participants of the 2014 Symposium

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Author: hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.