, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 679-680
Date: 29 Jun 2011

Vignettes of early modern Epicureanism

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In this lucid and engagingly written book, Wilson argues that “an intellectually compelling and robust tradition” within the canon of seventeenth-century philosophy understood Epicureanism as “the only valid frame of reference, not only for scientific inquiry but for the deepest problems of ethics and politics” (v). I find the argument entirely compelling. So, I think, will readers not antecedently disposed to agree with it.

Chapters include ‘Atomism and Mechanism’, ‘Corpuscular Effluvia’, ‘Order and Disorder’, ‘Mortality and Metaphysics’, ‘Empiricism and Mortalism’, ‘Some Rival Systems’—those of Leibniz and Berkeley—‘The Social Contract’, ‘The Problem of Materialism in the New Essays’, ‘Robert Boyle and the Study of Nature’ and ‘The Sweetness of Living’. As this list suggests, the book is intended neither a comprehensive history of seventeenth-century Epicureanism (who would try to write such a thing in less than 300 pages?) nor a detailed study of one particular strand of early modern ...