Vatican Saying 58

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Epicurus advises us to free ourselves from the "prison" that is the curriculum of common, general education. Ancient Greeks valued this curriculum enormously; it formed the basic narrative of their lives, and was the underlying frame of reference for all their everyday choices and avoidances. Yet Epicurus was harshly critical of it, because he believed that it also imbued one's mind with all sorts of irrational superstition and fed the very status-anxieties that Epicureanism seeks to remedy.

Politics is yet another such "prison", as it drives one with ambition towards political eminence-- at the cost of any hope of ever attaining ataraxia, of course. Once again, whoever is enlightened by the apolitical message of Epicureanism ought to shun politics, lest one become imprisoned in its trappings and the relentless pursuit of political power that is its goal.

While the latter element of this admonition is Epicurean par excellence, the former one led to frequent accusations that Epicurus was "ignorant", or fundamentally opposed to any and all education. Such accusations are hardly true, considering the enormous volume of writings Epicurus authored; nor is there any reason to believe that he encouraged his students towards ignorance. His grievance of this "encyclical" of general education seems to have been the harmful message it often sends, one that steers the so called "learned" away from the path towards true happiness.

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