The major works on philosophy and religion by Thomas Cooper, M.D., personal friend of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and second president of the University of South Carolina.
Of all the Principal Doctrines which the ancient Epicureans held to be crucial for living life happily, two ranked above all the rest:
1. Any perfect being has no trouble of its own, nor does it cause trouble to anyone else; and such a being has no emotions of anger or gratitude, as those emotions exist only in beings that are weak;
2. Death is nothing to us, because that which is dead has no sensations, and that which cannot be sensed is nothing to us.
These Doctrines have far-reaching application, but their most immediate effect is to explode all common religious superstitions at their root: If these doctrines are true, the affairs of men are not controlled by supernatural gods, and men do not possess immortal souls whom the priests may threaten with the punishment of the gods – or reward after death – for their worldly actions.
For two thousand years these two Doctrines have been the special target of all who fought to suppress the ideas of Epicurus, and in the main those efforts have largely prevailed. Even though priests have offered no proof for their claims, few men have been willing to stand publicly against the false threat of eternal punishment in hell and the false promise of eternal reward in heaven. Even in our modern world, those who reject the superstitions of ages past cling to the hope of some kind of life after death or find the thought that their consciousness ends at death too horrible to contemplate. Not every man, however, has stood aside from challenging these false promises and threats. This volume contains the major works of one such man.
Thomas Cooper was born in Westminster, England, in 1759. Educated at (but not graduated from) Oxford, he pursued a multi-tracked career in law, medicine, and education, but his real interest was clearly philosophic and political reform. Cooper traveled to Europe to participate in the French Revolution, and then, in 1794, migrated to the United States with his friend Joseph Priestley, who is credited with the discovery of oxygen. Throughout his life, Cooper fought the forces of political and religious oppression, and in the process he befriended Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many other luminaries of the period.
Although he was well known in his day, memory of Cooper has largely faded from common view. One place, ironically, where his name evokes a glint of recognition is within the confines of the University of South Carolina, where he served as that institution’s second president (from 1821 to 1834) and where the school’s library is named for him today. It was during those years that the forces of religious oppression that had dogged Cooper throughout his adult life engaged his most direct attention. In the end, those forces obtained his removal as president of the university, but during his stay in Columbia Cooper found new fame in political affairs – as an eloquent opponent of the growing power of the federal government. This fame allowed him to remain active through the end of his life, and during that time he published (or in some cases republished) the works collected here. The writing collected here will endure to Cooper’s everlasting credit – and will be remembered far longer than his religious enemies, who Thomas Jefferson aptly described as “conjurers.”
Unlike Jefferson, Cooper never claimed – at least in any writing preserved today – to be an Epicurean himself, but most of his most memorable writing was devoted (or conformable) to the ideas first popularized by Epicurus almost two thousand years before – especially in his first two Doctrines.1 Cooper’s most significant articles on these subjects are preserved here in this volume.
Download these free ebooks by the same author:
The Tripod of Truth
Lion of Epicurus
On Three Legs We Stand