Working Papers by Author

Jacob L. Mackey - Classics Department, Princeton University


050601 Saving the Appearances: The Phenomenology of Epiphany in Atomist Theology
Jacob L. Mackey, Princeton University
Download PDF Abstract: In this paper I propose an approach to Epicurean theology that avoids the stalemate of "realist" and "idealist" interpretations. I argue that Epicurean theology is more phenomenological than metaphysical, its purpose less to ground and justify dogmatic commitment to whatever form of existence the gods may enjoy than to account for a prevalent aspect of ancient religious experience, epiphany, and to assimilate that experience to Epicurean philosophical therapeia. In the process I reconstruct and reassess the equally epiphanic theology of Democritus that forms a source for Epicurus' theological thought. His theology has also been unprofitably construed by modern scholars as a reductive dismissal of the gods as mere psychological effects or manifest fictions. Instead, Democritus was at least as accommodating of the phenomena of religious experience as Epicurus: his own theology is likewise founded on epiphany and he too attempts a therapeutic analysis of its attendant effects.