Many people today question the order in which Lucretius gives his presentation of Epicurean philosophy to his friend Memmius. It can be argued that he does not follow what we might think is the most logical order of presentation, for a variety of reasons, of which we can state at least two here:
Why didn’t he start with a statement of what knowledge is and how we get it? Why did he reserve most of that discussion for his fourth book?
Shouldn’t we give a complete explanation for the nature of the universe first, before we turn to supernatural gods, the nature of the human soul, and life after death?
If these questions seem to state your preferred way of going through Epicurean Basic Training, then here are two alternate orders of presentation you may choose to follow:
In Order Of Epistemology First:
Day 4: The Senses Are Your Ultimate Test Of Truth In Navigating Life
Day 5: Life On Earth - And Elsewhere - Proceeds Naturally In Ways We Can Understand
Day 6: In The End All Things Must Die - But That is Motivational, Not Depressing
Day 1: Epicurus Had Good Reason For Holding That Pleasure Is the Beginning And End of The Happy Life
Day 3: You Only Live Once So Seize The Day And Be Confident That Your Troubles Are Limited
Day 2: Prudence In Pursuit of Pleasure Is The Path To Happiness
In Order of ____________
Kalosyni’s further ideas for each Daily Focus (a very different list than Cassius’ list)
Day 1: Epistemology and the test of truth (and importance of the senses)
Day 2: Life on Earth and understanding the nature of things
Day 3: Understanding the nature of the gods (God) and the nature of the soul and death
Day 4: Pleasure and true health as the natural goal in life
Day 5: Understanding desire and pain, and making good choices
Day 6: Friendship and the study and practice of the Epicurean philosophy
Day 7: Justice - a contract for mutual benefit
Why Did Lucretius Choose the Order He Did?
Probably the most likely reason that Lucretius chose the order he presented his case to Memmius is that Lucretius considered the question of the existence of supernatural gods, their control (or lack thereof) over the universe, the nature of the soul, and the question of life after death to be so important that he wanted to get those out of the way first. Lucretius may have thought that these were so important that they had to be covered before his student exceeded his attention span. Lucretius may also have thought, consistent with the Epicurean criticism of Socrates, that it is simply good form to state clearly and at the beginning the most important points that he intended to cover, leaving the details for later expansion.