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The Philosophy of Epicurus: Humanism and Science Aiming for Happiness

What follows is the report on the 10th Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy, February 8-9, 2020, Cultural Center of Pallini, Athens, Greece by Dr. Christos Yapijakis.

From left to right: Panagiotopoulos (Garden of Athens), Prof. Liolios, Prof. Chrousos, Mayor Zoutsos, Prof. Krimigis, Dr. Simopoulos, Prof. Pelegrinis, Prof. Yapijakis (Garden of Athens)

A top-of-the-world cultural event, the 10th Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy took place on the weekend of 8 and 9 February 2020 with the participation of a record number of more than five hundred Greeks inspired by the enlightening and humanistic philosophy of Epicurus. This is a unique philosophical conference, as it is the only one organized worldwide dedicated exclusively to Epicurean philosophy. It is also the largest national philosophical conference and the only one in Greece that has been established since 2011 as an institution from the people rather than from the university philosophers. It is organized annually with free entrance for the public by the Municipality of Pallini and the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy Garden of Athens; and Garden of Salonica; at the Cultural Center of Gerakas, located within the ancient area of ​​Gargettus, from which the philosopher Epicurus originated from.

The commencement of the Symposium was held by the Mayor of Pallini, Athanasios Zoutsos, followed by greetings from friends of Epicurus from all over the world and Greece. In this year’s 10th anniversary Panhellenic Symposium, Epicurus’ timeless contribution to human thought was highlighted by distinguished scientists and philosophers in a roundtable discussion coordinated by Christos Yapijakis, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Athens and founding member of the “Garden of Athens”. Theodosis Pelegrinis, Professor of Philosophy and Former Rector of the University of Athens, referred to the humanistic philosophy of Epicurus; George Chrousos Professor of Medicine at the University of Athens, highlighted the Epicurean psychotherapeutic approach to stress management; Evangelos Protopapadakis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of the University of Athens, discussed Epicurean ethics as based on human biology (bioethics); Anastasios Liolios, Professor of Physics at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and CERN researcher, presented Epicurean atomic physics as the ancestor of modern particle physics and quantum physics; Dionysis Simopoulos, Director Emeritus of Eugenides Planetarium, discussed the Epicurean perception regarding the existence of many worlds in the universe as confirmed by modern astronomy; Stamatios Krimigis, Professor of Space Physics and renown NASA scientist, described modern exploration of the possible existence of life on other planets, as predicted by Epicurus.

The amphitheater was packed – People sitting on the side stairs

Distinguished members of the “Gardens” made important speeches, among which it is worth mentioning “a new fragment of Diogenes of Oenoanda” by Yannis Avramidis of the Garden of Thessaloniki, and “Epicurean philosophy and nutrition” by Klea Nomikou-Tsantsaridi of the Garden of Athens.

In the artistic part of the Symposium, the presentation of one scene from Christos Yapijakis’ new theatrical play A Happy Greek, regarding Epicurus’ life and work, stood out. Directed by Stavros Spyrakis, the four amateur actors thrilled the audience with their performance and were rewarded by a particularly warm applause.

The 10th Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy has allowed hundreds of Greeks who have a need for learning and a desire for a better world to experience the timeless utility of Epicurean philosophy, which offers a mental shield to putative individual and social deadlocks. The scientific, humanistic and psychotherapeutic message of Epicurus on one hand expresses the simplest and most profound way of approaching a happy life with friendship and solidarity, even in difficult times, and on the other hand it differs fundamentally from the fashionable superficial message of “prosperity” propagated in Greece and internationally.

Dr. Christos Yapijakis, DMD, MS, PhD.
Associate Professor of Genetics

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Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy, Greetings from Hiram Crespo, Founder of SoFE

Dear Friends from Hellas,

I am writing this message of solidarity today, unfortunately, as the ultra-nationalist and strongly theocratic forces are rising to power in America, reminding us about how crucial it is to understand the important distinction between Platonic (that is, imaginary) communities and real, natural communities of friends that we can take refuge in. We do not know every individual that shares our race, our ethnicity, or our nationality, but we know our friends and family with intimacy, and we recognize them, and we choose them time and again because we find pleasure, familiarity, and safety in their association. The difference between Platonic community and natural community is that between unnecessary and necessary goods.

Epicurus taught his philosophy at a time when politics was synonymous to intrigue and in-fighting and back-stabbing, and it was impossible to live a life of pleasure while being involved in politics. Because of the polarized environment, political discussions today can be very heated and easily break friendships. While it is important to understand the dangers and the threats that come from the political realm, the next four years for us will be a great opportunity to practice the art of being apolitical, at least to the degree required to preserve our peace of mind, and also an opportunity to educate people on issues like the importance of providing children with a robust scientific education, and to teach them to think for themselves based on empirical evidence. A democracy can only function if the citizens are educated.

Everything that is happening in the world around us demonstrates that the teachings of the Epicureans today are just as relevant and as useful as they were when they emerged in the cradle of philosophy. Although Greece is still going through some financial difficulties, you must never forget the noble heritage that Epicurus gave you! That is a different kind of wealth, one that you should market and teach to the peoples of the rest of the world.

In friendship,

Hiram Crespo
Society of Friends of Epicurus

Read the full report form the 2017 symposium here

Report on the 5th Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy

Dear Friends,

With great pleasure I am sending you the Report on the recent Pan-Hellenic Symposium … We are daydreaming to organize an International Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy in Athens (and invite you first of all) sometime in the next 2-3 years, when/if the circumstances allow us.

With Epicurean Friendship,
Christos Yapijakis

5th Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy – Report
February 7-8, 2015 – Cultural Center of Pallini, Athens
Free entrance

For the fifth consecutive year since 2011, about 400 people from all over Greece, the largest ever sum of participants, 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, by the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy “Garden of Athens” and “Garden of Thessaloniki” under the auspices of the Municipality of Pallini. The Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy takes place every year in February, 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.

The 5th Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy was a great success and took place in a warm friendly atmosphere, despite the cold weather. There were two sessions on the first day and two sessions on the second day of the Symposium with 19 oral presentations, two discussions, 10 poster presentations, as well as three artistic intervals.

During the opening session of the first day on Saturday, February 7, 2015, the speech of the Mayor of Pallini Athanassios Zoutsos was applauded enthusiastically by all participants. The Mayor announced that the development of a green area of 5000 square meters, named “Garden of Epicurus”, was completed and will include initially a bronze relief sculpture offered by the renowned sculptor Aspasia Papadoperaki, a member of The Garden of Athens, and in the future a statue of the philosopher, and a wall with some of his Principal Doctrines. In addition, he said that a website with the Declaration of the Right of Happiness in the European Union will be launched within a month initiating a campaign of collecting signatures in order to bring the issue to the EU parliament. The Mayor also announced the funding of a book of Proceedings in English which will include the 40-50 best presentations of the first five Pan-Hellenic Symposia of Epicurean Philosophy, edited by members of the Garden of Athens.

Following the initial greetings of representatives from the Greek Gardens, the audience experienced the formation of a world-wide bridge of friendship, with the moving salute from the Consul Sienra on behalf of President of Uruguay José Mujica, and cordial greetings from Hiram Crespo (Society of Friends of Epicurus), Geoff Petersson (Garden of Sydney, Australia), and Cassius (newepicurean.com, USA).

Session 1 “PRINCIPLES OF EPICURUS’ PHILOSOPHY” started with some parts of the Letter to Menoeceus written in verses by poet Thanassis Yapijakis and beautifully recited by actor Giorgos Klonis. Then, the presentations “Life of Epicurus” and “The philosophy of Epicurus” covered a broad introduction for those attendants with limited knowledge of Epicurus and his philosophy. The topics of “Multi-valued logic” of Kostas Karderinis and “Manifold way” of Dimitris Altas discussed extensively the free and multileveled Epicurean way of thinking.
As an example of how the Epicurean philosophy may affect political thinking and realistic policies in the modern world, the video of the inspired speech of President of Uruguay José Mujica in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) at the 2012 Earth Summit was presented and enthusiastically applauded by the Symposium attendants.

Session 2 “THE EXPERIENTIAL APPROACH TO EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY” started with presentation “Free will according to Epicurus” of Christos Yapijakis who discussed the philosophical orientation of Epicurus’ thoughts on the matter, as well as in brief the current scientific knowledge regarding chance in nature and regarding human conscience. Two more presentations covered the topics “The Value of Epicurean Reciprocity in our Modern Era” by Dimitris Dimitriadis and “The Epicurean Philosophy as the Peak of Hellenism” by Dimitris Iarmakopoulos, followed by “Presentation of Publications and Websites of Greek Gardens” by Takis Panagiotopoulos, who discussed the over one thousand pages worth of greek books published by the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy in the last four years, as well as the wealth of information in greek websites epicuros.gr and epicuros.net.

The Session was followed by scenes from a new movie “Orpheus: How Not to Speak” by the reknown director Theodoros Marangos, which features the misery and lack of philosophical knowledge of average modern Greeks. Finally, a live discussion on “The experiential today and tomorrow of Epicurean philosophy” kept the audience until 10 pm, when it was interrupted so that the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy could participate in an actual symposium with dining, drinking, and dancing in a nearby taverna named “Aristoteles”.

On Sunday, February 8, 2015, the Mayor of Pallini Athanassios Zoutsos and the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy visited the area “Garden of Epicurus” and discussed plans for its future development.

Session 3 “EPICUREANS IN ANTIQUITY” started with “The Epicurean Naturalistic Approach to the Gods” by Giorgos Bakogiannis that presented the atomic reality of gods according to Epicurus, Velleius, Philodemus, and Lucretius. The following presentations focused mainly on the Epicurean philosopher who became famous from the Herculaneum papyri: “Philodemus, the Epicurean Philosopher” by Pavlos Kopakas, “Philodemus’ On Signs” by Panagiotis Papavassiliou and “On Wealth” by Giorgos Kaplanis.

The session was followed by an artistic interval in which the famous actor Gerassimos Gennatas most vividly read the Letter to Menoeceus and Litsa Pitsikali (a member of The Garden of Athens) played some selected piano pieces.

The final session 4 “THE ETERNAL VALUE OF THE EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY” included presentations such as “Epicurean Philosophy and Philanthropy”, an inspired speech by professor of Applied Ethics Evangelos Protopapadakis; “Empiricism as a Continuation of Epicurean philosophy” by Litsa Pitsikali; “Time and Epicurean Worldview” a comprehensive presentation by Babis Patzoglou; “The Eternal Importance of Epicurean Philosophy” by Aspasia Papadoperaki; and finally “Epicurean Socialization: Family and Social Justice” by Themis Michos.
The following discussion “What We Learned in this Symposium” stirred the audience about several issues. Mostly the issue of the belief in Gods was lively discussed with everyone agreeing that Epicurus and most ancient Epicureans believed in the existence of Gods, and that all modern Epicureans tend to agree in lack of divine providence and in religious freedom of people, just like the Epicurean Thomas Jefferson first established in USA.

From the ten poster presentations, that were viewed during the intervals of the Symposium, the audience seemed to discuss more the following:

– “The president of Uruguay and philosopher politician Jose Mujica and his Epicurean influences” by Babis Patzoglou and Takis Panagiotopoulos

– “Francis Wright, the Epicurean pro-women’s rights and anti-slavery activist” by Eleni Michopoulou and Christos Yapijakis

– “The Cups with the Skeletons: A hymn to life and a suggestion for enjoying the present” by Takis Panagiotopoulos

– “Some thoughts on the Epicurean views and criticisms of mathematics” by Michael Aristidou

– “How we find the figure of our master philosopher Epicurus in Raphael’s The School of Athens” by Elli Pensa

The Symposium was a great success and was held in a friendly and delighful atmosphere. The only problem was that a friend from the Garden of Thessaloniki who usually video records the Symposia was gone unexpectedely ill so he did not attend, therefore only voice recording of the presentations and still pictures were taken.

Delighted with the amazing weekend, the Friends of Epicurean Philosophy in Greece renewed their appointment for the 6th Panhellenic Symposium, next year in February 2016.