Epicurus: A Case Study of Nietzsche’s Conception of a “Typical Decadent”

Hurrell, David (2021). Epicurus: A Case Study of Nietzsche’s Conception of a “Typical Decadent”. Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 52(1) pp. 78–104.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5325/jnietstud.52.1.0078


Nietzsche’s portrayal of Epicurus in his middle period of 1878–1882 is one of an inspiring figure and kindred spirit, which is then generally considered by commentators to change to a more ambivalent one in his later writings, particularly those from 1886 to 1888. In this article, I argue that this change in Nietzsche’s opinion of Epicurus can be explained by his gradual realization that Epicurus advocates a particular form of Greek decadence, that neither Nietzsche nor the secondary literature on him ever actually formally name. As a consequence of this promotion of a life-inhibiting value that potentially undermines the flourishing of humanity, Nietzsche thinks Epicurus should be construed not just as a “decadent” but, in fact, a “typical” one, which I will argue is a distinct opprobrium that the secondary literature to date often cites, but does not fully expound.

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