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Epicureanism has been diluted into a byword for gourmet dining, but does the original ancient Greek 'philosophy of the Garden' contain insight that could save the world? Luke Slattery argues that reading Epicurus could help us rethink our materialist ways and challenge the inevitability of man-made climate change. Rather than appealing to altruism, or calling for revolution in the global economy, the Epicurean philosophy turns the developed world's credo of 'greed is good' on its head, counselling that genuine happiness comes from the quieting of desire; from less, not more. And that might just be the mindset we need to rein in unsustainable development.
In this thoughtful Penguin Special, Slattery traces the radicalism of classical Epicurean thought, and its popularity despite political suppression. Along the way, he tours the archaeological sites of the ancient village of Oinoanda in Turkey and the Villa of the Papyri, buried along with Pompeii, with its ancient library of petrified scrolls. Might some of this treasure's fragments, painstakingly restored, reveal answers to the big questions faced in the twenty-first century?