Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

Living Edition
| Editors: David M. Kaplan

Epicureanism and Food

  • Mary McHugh
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6167-4_10-2



The briefest definition of Epicureanism is hedonistic materialism. However, this technical description is potentially misleading to those unfamiliar with philosophical terminology. Similarly, the terms “epicure” and “epicurean” are now commonly associated with luxurious or recherché appetites and even vulgar excesses, although the Hellenistic Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–271 BC) encouraged moderation and a simple diet. It is true that he advocated pleasure (hēdonē) as a criterion of ethical choice, but his ethics must be understood within the context of his physics. To understand what Epicurus taught about food and pleasure, or even what he meant by pleasure, one must turn to the ancient sources.

The first vulgar yet comedic caricatures of Epicureanism emerged in antiquity, deceptive but memorable distortions of the teachings of Epicurus. Philosophical opponents from his own day including his own...


Simple Life Physical Pleasure Pleasure Principle Natural Impulse High Pleasure 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Classics, Gustavus Adolphus CollegeSt. PeterUSA