From this point of view, we are not so surprised when we come to Paul Ludwig’s lucid essay on why Lucretius, a materialist, did not advocate the conquest of nature. Lucretius’ “epicurean” response to death, Ludwig suggests, is actually more consistent with finding happiness in a purely materialistic world than the scientific struggle. Lucretius is not trying to co-opt religion, and hence can claim to overcome all its hopes and fears. But seeking to replace the religious quest for immortality with a science- and technology- based quest, our modern authors have no way of avoiding, and indeed must depend on, those same hopes and fears. Until the moment that immortality were to actually become a reality, then, we experience not stoic detachment and calm, but the same old unhappiness and disappointment that our limitations necessarily create in the face of imagined possibilities of perfection.
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