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 (In Press).


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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