I got interested in Epicureanism about a couple of years ago, when I read this statement from Bryan Caplan in one of his blog posts: "The best three pages in philosophy remain Epicurus’ 'Letter to Menoeceus'.”
When I hunted up the document and read it -- it's not very long -- I was impressed, and I started to read books about Epicureanism. So far I have read five. The first four were, in the order I read them, Epicurus and the Pleasant Life, Haris Dimitriadis; Epicurus and His Philosophy, Norman Wentworth DeWitt; Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction by Catherine Wilson and How to Be An Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well, also by Catherine Wilson. (If you read the Letter to Menoeceus you'll see that Epicureanism, contrary to popular impr ession, is not all about fancy meals and "wine, women and song"; Epicurus is clear that many desires are harmful. It's a remarkably modern and sensible philosophy, in contrast to Stoicism, which seems to be having a moment for reasons I can't make out).
I've just finished my fifth book on Epicureanism, and it's the one I like best of all: Living for Pleasure by Emily A. Austin.
It's a new book, it's only been out for a few months. Dr. Austin is a philosophy professor at Wake Forest University. I love the book both because Professor Austin does a great job of discussing Epicurus' philosophy, which I largely agree with, and explaining how to apply it to one's life, which I am trying to do. Professor Austin is, as one might expect, a specialist in ancient Greek philosophy. She knows Greek, Latin and German. Most of her academic papers concern with how ancient Greek philosophy deals with the fear of death, and there's a funny passage in the book about that; apparently professors when they meet ask what each other's specialty is, and when Austin answers the question, she often gets the response, "Maybe let's talk about my work instead of yours." I guess it's not a very flirtatious conversation topic.
In spite of the fact that it's a new book put out by an academic publisher, Oxford University Press, it's reasonably priced; my copy is a Kindle that cost about $11.
I mention the book not only because I have to assume that some of the blog's readers might be interested in a good book about philosophy, but also because I was struck by one of Professor Austin's statements in the last chapter of her book, where she begins by explaining why she wrote the book and how she chose her academic specialty:
"I have welcomed the recent resurgence of interest in philosophy as an approach to living, an idea that fell out of favor among Anglo-American philosophers in the early twentieth century for reasons no one can fully explain. I chose to study the Ancient Greek philosophers for two reasons -- they resisted the modern impulse to over-specialize and they thought philosophy could help us make sense of our lives."
Doesn't that last sentence describe Robert Anton Wilson a bit? He was a generalist interested in many different topics, ranging from quantum physics to Beethoven to James Joyce. And he tried to figure out what was the best way for him to live; see Cosmic Trigger 2, for example.
But I remain puzzled that Wilson did not write more himself about the ancient Greek philosophers. Yes, there are many mentions of Aristotle in his work. But where is the mention of Pyrrho, and the other Greek skeptics, whom I assume a skeptic such as RAW would have read about?
Pyrrho is said to have reached India, as he apparently traveled with Alexander the Great's army. There are at least two books which argue that he interacted with Buddhist philosophers and was influenced by them: Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia by Christopher Beckwith, and Pyrrho's Way: The Ancient Greek Version of Buddhism, by Douglas Bates. So I would think Wilson would be intrigued. Perhaps it is simply that modern culture is so vast, it's impossible to come across everything interesting.