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Frances Wright

Frances Wright [1] (1975-1852) was an Epicurean philosopher, author, and a close friend to Thomas Jefferson. She was also controversial for her feminist, abolitionist and anti-segregationist ideas.

Her great philosophical masterpiece, A Few Days in Athens [2], may have inspired Jefferson's conversion to Epicureanism. He is known to have walked around with copies of the text with him for many years. The work defends the Epicurean method of reasoning always based on empirical evidence, vehemently defends Epicurus' rational hedonism from the insults of Stoic opponents and pleasure as the end with virtues as means to pleasure, and concludes with a diatribe against religion and in defense of the right to entertain atheistic ideas. The climax of the didactic novel includes the following sermon by the Hegemon of the school, Epicurus of Samos:

I have found the first link in the chain of evil; I have found it–in all countries–among all tribes and tongues and nations; I have found it, Fellow-men, I have found it in RELIGION.

We have named the leading error of the human mind, the bane of human happiness, the perverter of human virtue! It is RELIGION, that dark coinage of trembling ignorance! That poisoner of human felicity! That blind guide of human reason! That dethroner of human virtue which lies at the root of all evil and all the misery that pervade the world!

A Few Days in Athens [3]

Although this is a fictional 19th-Century didactic novel, the work is generally believed to be true to the spirit of authentic Epicurean thought and has even been called "the Epicurean Atlas Shrugged". It is believed that her uncle and mentor, who taught philosophy in Scotland, may have played some part in the writing or editing of the novel and may have needed to keep his own atheism in the closet to protect his academic career, but this is impossible to confirm.

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