Getting Readers To Swallow Philosophy

Emma Woolerton reveals why Roman poet Lucretius presented his philosophy in the form of poetry:

Children hate the taste of medicine, even though it is, of course, good for them; so doctors often put it in a cup the rim of which is covered in honey. The child tastes the honey in the first instance, and by the time he is glugging down the medicine it’s too late. In the same way, we may find Epicureanism difficult to swallow at first, so Lucretius lures us in with some honeyed poetry, and before we know it, we’ve taken the philosophical medicine as well. It’s a picture that isn’t particularly flattering either to Epicureanism or to his readers, but it’s the rationale Lucretius states for his choice of verse.