Philosophic Resignation: Living beyond Hope and Fear

Part of the Recovering Political Philosophy book series (REPOPH)


The two accounts of the eternal and infinite that conclude Lucretius’s exposition of his materialist physics point toward the insignificance and impermanence of our world. Lucretius next brings this cosmic teaching to bear on the human soul in the central portion of the poem. More specifically, these two books reveal the reaction of the soul to the question and nature of the eternal. In the syllabus, we were told that what is most needed to live well is a n account of the composition of the mind and soul and an explanation of the images of the souls of the dead that terrify our minds when “laboring under disease, or buried in sleep” (I, 127–135). What Book I unites will be taken up separately in Books III and IV. Through an account of the material composition of the mind and soul, Book III seeks to free us of our fear of death, and by way of an account of the operations of our senses both physical and mental, Book IV explains why it is we believe we perceive that which cannot be. Liberation from the terror of the mind would therefore appear to require more than a material account of the soul. Such liberation will have to contend with the unwillingness of the reader to trust the senses and not be swayed by what Lucretius will call “the hazy additives of the mind” produced by our cares, fears, and hopes.


Human Soul Material Account Philosophic Life Unreasonable Expectation Bodily Pleasure 
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  1. 2.
    See James Nichols, Epicurean Political Philosophy: The De Rerum Natura of Lucretius (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976), 75.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Leo Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1989), 85.Google Scholar
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    Compare Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Robert Bartlett (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 1177b 32–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    This is the rather infamous symmetry argument that has been the subject of any number of articles in classical and philosophic scholarship. See Rosenbaum, “The Symmetry Argument,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50, no. 2 (Dec. 1989): 353–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© John Colman 2012

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