Roman frieze

“How to Become an Epicurean Sage”
Walter Englert (Reed College, Portland)

The ancient Hellenistic philosophical schools introduced the figure of the sage as a model of perfection and happiness.  The most famous sage was the Stoic sage, a godlike figure who represented the Stoic ideal of human perfection.  He presented such a lofty paradigm that many Stoics doubted whether the Stoic sage had ever or could ever exist.  The Epicureans, in contrast, presented their sage as an ideal of godlike perfection that was also attainable by human beings.  Modern scholars have had a lot to say about the Stoic sage, but relatively little about his Epicurean counterpart.  This paper explores what kind of ideal the Epicurean sage represented, and why Epicureans believed both that sages had existed in the past, and could exist in the present and future.  The paper will attempt to explain why, although none of us can become Stoic sages, Epicureans thought that all of us could potentially become Epicurean sages.

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