I was reading about Epicureanism on Wikipedia, and there I saw that, apparently, Epicureanism was in conflict with Stoicism and Platonism. I then read up on those two philosophies, and well, they do not seem mutually exclusive at all! They are different, yes, but I don't see why would they be in conflict in any way.

Please explain the main differences and the cause of said conflict, thanks!

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    Generally: Epicureans are atomists, Stoics are not, although they are materialists. Epicureans lead the good life, are a kind of utilitarians avant la lettre, whereas Stoics have a virtue ethics, and thus would be closer in modern terms to Kant's ethics. Jun 3, 2012 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


The Stoics were continuum theorists, the Epicureans were atomists. These are conflicting positions. The Stoics upheld bivalence for propositions, the Epicureans seemed to be happy to give up bivalence for future contingents. These are likely to be conflicting positions. (I say likely, since the Epicureans did not subscribe to the Stoic theory of propositions or axiomata.) The Stoics were pantheists, the Epicureans were not. So they held conflicting positions. And so it goes on. (You find these distinctions in most introductions to Hellenistic philosophy, e.g. R.W. Sharples' "Stoics, Epicureans and sceptics: an introduction to Hellenistic philosophy".)

The Stoics and Epicureans were each other's main opponents during the Hellenistic period, since they were the strongest non-sceptical schools at the time. In late antiquity, both schools were badmouthed together, since both were materialists and thus their theories were incompatible with Platonist and Christian thought, which had by then become the dominant philosophical schools. For the same reason, most of their works were lost, since they were no longer copied and the existent papyri disintegrated.

  • Nice, but can you please explain their conflict about "bivalence"? I can't quite understand the Wikipedia's definition. It seems to be saying that any proposition has an element which can be either true or false, but that statement seems a bit redundant to me, but probably because I didn't understand it.
    – jcora
    Jun 11, 2012 at 10:35
  • @Bane: Bivalence is the thesis that there it is an invariant fact that for each proposition, either it is true or it is false. We have come to see this as different to the principle of the excluded middle, since they are claims about semantics and not inference. For example, I might claim about a future contingent about tomorrow that it is either true or false, even though I believe there is not yet any fact about which holds, because I believe that when tomorrow comes, we will see. Nov 8, 2012 at 8:42

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