Epicurus has been alive in all ages and lives now, unknown to those who have called and call themselves Epicureans, and enjoying no reputation among philosophers. He has, moreover, himself forgotten his own name: it was the heaviest burden he ever cast off (Nietzsche)
In this talk I will explore why Epicurean teaching becomes an important resource for Nietzsche in his middle period writings, including texts such as Dawn (1881) and The Joyful Science (1882). In these texts Nietzsche is inviting humanity to make the effort to temper emotional and mental excess by relinquishing certain fears, superstitions, and illusions, and so as to establish new modes of living and a new kind of dwelling on the earth. I shall situate Nietzsche’s reception and adoption of aspects of Epicurean teaching in the wider context of an appreciation of his practice of ‘the philosophy of the morning’. In the second part of the talk I will turn to critically examining the concerns over Epicurus that Nietzsche articulates in his later writings, and that are centred on anxieties over contemplation as a way of life and the problem of decadence. In conclusion I shall show how it is possible to save Epicurus from Nietzsche’s critique.