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Extracts from Epicurus Letter To Hereodotus
Epicurus to Herodotus, Greetings!
For those who are unable to study carefully all my writings on physical matters or to go into longer works at all I have myself prepared a summary of the whole system. The aim, Hereodotus, is to enable them, as far as they take up the study of physics, to memorise enough of the principal doctrines to be able to assist themselves when necessary on the most important points. Also, those who have made some advance in the study of the entire system ought to fix in their minds under the principal headings an elementary outline of the whole treatment of the subject, because a comprehensive view is often required, the details rarely.
To them - the main heads - we must continually return, and must memorize them so as to get a conclusive comprehension of the facts, as well as to have the means to discover all the exact details when once the general outlines are properly understood and remembered. It is an advantage of the mature student to be able to make skillful use of conceptions by relating every one of them to elementary facts and simple terms. For it is impossible to collect the results of continuous diligent study of the nature of the whole universe unless we can cover in short formulas, and remember, everything that might have been accurately expressed even to the smallest detail.
Since such a course is of service to all who take up natural science I, who devote to the subject my continuous energy and reap the resulting calm enjoyment of life, have prepared for you just such a summary and manual of the doctrines as a whole.
In the first place, Herodotus, you must understand what it is that the words signify, then with this tool we are in a position to test opinions, inquiries, or problems, so that our proofs may not run on endlessly untested, nor the terms we use be empty of meaning. For the primary signification of every term employed must be clearly seen, and ought to need no proving. This is necessary, if we are to have something to which to refer the point at issue, or the problem, or the opinion.
Next, we must by every means adhere to our sensations. That is, simply to the impressions as confirmed by the mind or by any criterion whatever. And similarly to our actual feelings, in order that we may have the means of verifying what needs confirmation and what is obscure.
This document takes the form of a letter to Herodotus, who was a follower of Epicurus but became disenchanted; and began publishing scurrilous attacks on him and challenged his claim to Athenian citizenship. This letter comes down to us from the same source, and so survived in the same way, as his letter on 'Happiness' to Menoeceus.
The summary, to which Epicurus refers, has become known as the Greater Epitome. This letter itself is known as the Lesser Epitome.