Posts by Cassius

    Thomas Jefferson to John Adams: "Rejecting all organs of information therefore but my senses, I rid myself of the Pyrrhonisms with which an indulgence in speculations hyperphysical and antiphysical so uselessly occupy and disquiet the mind. A single sense may indeed be sometimes decieved, but rarely; and never all our senses together, with their faculty of reasoning. They evidence realities; and there are enough of these for all the purposes of life, without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams & phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence. I am sure that I really know many, many, things, and none more surely than that I love you with all my heart, and pray for the continuance of your life until you shall be tired of it yourself."

    August 15, 1820 at

    " I am sure that I really know many, many, things....." ... Probably not just a slam at Pyrrho, but at Socrates himself -->

    Knittymom thank you for letting us know more about your interest. Many many people come by here after reading up on Stoicism, and like you they often conclude that Epicurus suits them better. I hope you'll enjoy your time here and that you'll free to post any comments or questions you have. No question is too simple or obvious for us to handle! ;-)

    The Twentieth snuck up on me this month and my post is very short. I'll try to compensate for that by greeting everyone here with a reminder or why we celebrate the 20th - From the will of Epicurus in Diogenes Laertius:

    "The income of the property left by me to Amynomachus and Timocrates shall be divided by them as far as possible, with the advice of Hermarchus, for the offerings in honor of my father and mother and brothers, and for the customary celebration of my birthday every year on the tenth of Gamelion, and likewise for the assembly of my disciples which takes place on the twentieth of each month, having been established in recollection of myself and Metrodorus. Let them also keep the day of my brothers in Poseideon and the day of Polyaenus in Metageitmon, as I have done myself."…hens-us-pain-destroys-us/

    Thanks to Martin for this!…ex.php?t=objekt&oges=7488

    pasted-from-clipboard.png Google translate for that page:

    The statue of Apollo by François Sigisbert Adam (1710-1761) depicts the adolescent god turning to the statue of Venus Urania, which is the equivalent in the marble hall of the Sanssouci Palace. He is holding a tablet with the words "Te Sociam Studeo Scribundi's Versibus Esse, Quos Ego De Rerum Natura Pangere Conor." ("Help me if I try to put nature in verse"). The verse is taken from the Venus hymn of the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (between 99 and 94-55 or 53 BC), which marks the beginning of his writing "De rerum natura", which is dedicated to Epicurean natural philosophy. In the Venus hymn he sings of love as the motor of all being. The constellation of both sculptures in the Marble Hall links the process of knowledge with the concept of love and beauty. All in all, Lucretius's writing is committed to "the knowledge of the truth" and "the work of nature". Frederick II had this text in his library several times in Latin-French editions. Both statues in the Marble Hall were created in the first two years of the work of François Sigisbert Adam as director of the French Sculpture Studio in Berlin, which Friedrich II had founded in 1747. Adam worked until 1760 in Berlin and created with the studio above all sculptures for the park Sanssouci.With the work of the French artistic claim and methodical experience in the production of marble sculptures were drawn to Berlin and thus created an important condition for the development of the Berlin Bildgauerschule in the late 18th and in the 19th century.[Saskia Huneke]

    A friend asked me about something we have discussed here before, but I can't remember the resolution: Did we ever locate a picture of the statue which Frederick the Great had prepared of Phoebus Apollo holding a copy of Lucretius? Also, how do we translate the section that Frederick chose to inscribe on the book - "te socium studeo scribundis versibus esse, quos ego de rerum natura pangere conor" -- It is a part but not exactly what is translated here by Munro.

    If anyone has pictures please let me know. Martin, I can't remember if you were here for this discussion before. It might have been Uwe with whom I remember discussing this. (That exhausts my list of known German members of our group, but I bet there are others ;-) )




    Here is something relevant to the recent discussion of suicide which ought to be highlighted, and I think it is at the root of would likely be the Epicurean approach to "techniques" to deal with adversity, as distinguished from Stoic or other approaches. If we are suffering emotionally, HOW do we most effectively reduce the mental pain? Do we approach it from an "anesthesia" point of view and try to tell ourselves that the pain is not important, or that we can overcome it through willpower? Think back to the root of the Epicurean position that pleasure is the motivating force of life. If we are overwhelmed by emotional pain and suffering which crowds out pleasures, our very will to live is being suppressed. The answer is not anesthesia, but to replace emotional pain with the one antidote which makes like worth living: emotional pleasure. And we find that observation SPECIFICALLY RECORDED in Vatican Saying 37. "When confronted by evil nature is weak, but not when faced with good; for pleasures make it secure but pains ruin it."

    This is an example where "nature" has to be interpreted in context as "human nature" - our very life force itself. Pain ruins us and destroys us emotionally if we can see no way around or past it. Pain sickens us like a disease. And what brings health? One thing alone -- pleasure. Isn't the path forward in re-discovering Epicurean techniques likely to lead in exactly this direction? No doubt people who suffer clinical/chemical/biological depression need clinical/chemical/biological help, and that's not what we're talking about.

    But the majority of us who suffer situational depression need to know what direction to look in for help, and it seems to me that all of us have things that bring us emotional pleasure, even if it is only pleasing memories (which Epicurus also said to treasure). The experience of pleasure motivates life and brings health, and when times look the darkest the answer is not blinding our sight through anesthesia, but focusing on the restorative power of pleasure and working our way back as best we can back to the point where pleasurable experience regains control of our lives.

    And "Pleasure" doesn't just mean physical pleasure, it means ALL KINDS of pleasure, and we know that Epicurus said that mental pleasures can be more intense than physical pleasures. It's not appropriate to treat emotional pain with chocolate cake, but with mental pleasures. "Only love can break a heart - only love can mend it again."

    The answer to physical pain can sometimes be mental pleasure, as Epicurus illustrated at the end of his life. But the answer to mental pain is also mental pleasure, which is a truism given that pleasure and pain are the only two categories of feeling, but is something that needs to be highlighted. Whether it is music or knitting or talking with friends or whatever make up our own sources of pleasure, the answer to many types of emotional pain is going to be simply enough in replacing those emotional pains with emotional pleasures. Of course its hugely complicated to address the facts which can be the cause of the emotional pain, and sometimes those pains can't be fixed - and sometimes indeed temporary anesthesia might be appropriate. But anesthesia wears off, and the permanent fix to depression is emotional health, and emotional health comes from pursuing pleasures - which is NOT the prescription of those who tell you to try to conquer pain by telling yourself that pain isn't important.

    Note - from Torquatus in On Ends: "Yet we maintain that this does not preclude mental pleasures and pains from being much more intense than those of the body; since the body can feel only what is present to it at the moment, whereas the mind is also cognizant of the past and of the future. For granting that pain of body is equally painful, yet our sensation of pain can be enormously increased by the belief that some evil of unlimited magnitude and duration threatens to befall us hereafter. And the same consideration may be transferred to pleasure: a pleasure is greater if not accompanied by any apprehension of evil. This therefore clearly appears, that intense mental pleasure or distress contributes more to our happiness or misery than a bodily pleasure or pain of equal duration."

    Update 06/02/18: The following is the English translation from the 1743 Daniel Browne edition, and I believe this version gets this right. The correct word is simply "events." This word choice gives no hint of "fortuity" which as I comment above I believe to be improper. It appears to me that whoever translated this 1743 edition was sensitive to the issue I see in use of "accidents," as that word was considered as a choice but was not chosen for the final term.


    These are the English renderings of 2 VSs; I’m asking for the Greek word for the word nature in each context. DeWitt says “human nature” for nature, but I’m unsure and looking for clarity. I’d mainly like to know if the word for “nature” in Ancient Greek is different for each VS, for there’s certainly a HUGE difference between “human nature” and “Nature.”

    21. We must not violate nature, but obey her; and we shall obey her if we fulfil those desires that are necessary, and also those that are natural but bring no harm to us, but we must sternly reject those that are harmful.

    37. Nature is weak toward evil, not toward good: because it is saved by pleasures, but destroyed by pains.

    pasted-from-clipboard.png    pasted-from-clipboard.png


    the side-by-side Bailey translation is always available here:…d-1926#page/n107/mode/2up

    I'm not competent to comment on the Greek but you raise a question that I've had myself. I have been presuming this is an area where DeWitt is extrapolating that it **must** be "human nature" as it would be difficult or impossible to see it as "nature at large** To the extent VS37 embraces animals, it would have to be the nature of life or something like that.

    Also, I suppose it is possible (though maybe unlikely) that Epicurus could have used the word Nature to refer to "the living part of the universe" rather than to the universe as a whole, the majority of which is non-living. I've never heard anyone suggest that so I presume that would not be accurate, but it might be interesting to explore the references to see if there would be any basis for that. That might relate to the distinction I just raised in the thread by David Hazell on Lucretius that Venus is goddess of living things but not the creator of the universe as a whole.

    As I am working through transcribing the 1743 edition of Lucretius, I am also working on a table of topics under which to organize the references. I think most all of Lucretius can be summarized under one of the headings below, but there are innumerable ways to summarize. Here is my current highest-level list - I will constantly fine-tune so I would be interested in any comments:

    Physics: The universe is Natural. As a whole it has existed eternally in time, it is infinite in extent, it operates by natural and not supernatural forces, it is neither centrally ordered or chaotic, and nothing exists which is not part of the natural universe.

    Canonics: All that is relevant to us is perceived and judged through the evidence of our five senses, our feelings (pleasure and pain), and our anticipations. "Reason" has no relevance to us unless it is grounded in such evidence.

    Ethics: Morality/ethics has meaning only to a living mind/spirit, and our mind/spirit ceases to exist at death. Pleasure is the guide of the living, and there are no absolute ethical standards set by supernatural gods or by ideal forms of virtue.

    Just to continue the thought while I am able, here is part of where I am going: Unless I am the only one doing this (and I don't think I am) we today tend to see the word pleasure and equate it with things like "lounging in the hammock" (nearby photo) or the usual physical pleasures either simple or sex/drugs/rock'n'roll. I think we do that because we are attuned to the stoic/christian/majority framework that pleasures in general are disreputable and physical pleasures are especially ignoble. We think that's the only issue, so we think "a life of simple pleasures" is the ultimate issue, and that is the main thing Epicurus was trying to tell us.

    But when Epicurus was telling us that true gods don't show favor or anger, is that all he was saying?

    When Epicurus was saying that death is the end of consciousness, is that all he was saying?

    I don't think so.

    I think he's pointing the way to an entirely new way of thinking with those as the STARTING points, not the end points at all.

    And in regard to "pleasure" was he talking about bread and water or wine and cheese or even luxury items?

    I don't think so either. I think that the STARTING point of the analysis is simply that the "faculty of pleasure" is the superior parallel to the framework of gods and ideal virtue. We aren't supposed to focus on particular pleasures any more than we should spend our time whether Allah might not be god, but Yahweh might be, or absent those Zeus or Diana might be gods. Or whether the ideal of justice might not be true, but the ideal of equality or democracy or "everyone is precious in the sight of god" or "we're all brothers" might be true.

    We're supposed to break entirely out of the framework of giving ANY credibility to gods, or ANY credibility to ideal forms, and realize that it is the natural faculty of pleasure that takes the place of all of those, and which serves as the true "guide" without at any point having any interim or final destination in mind. The faculty of pleasure can serve as the guide in 2000 BC Africa just as well as it can serve as the guide in a 2100 Mars Colony or a 2500 colony in another galaxy.

    By focusing exclusively on particular pleasures we limit our scope and horizon to the lowest possible common denominator. We see the trees and the leaves and the bushes, but we never grasp the full forest. What we really should be doing is examining the full implications of the fact that Nature has not given a god to rule over us or ideal forms to which to conform. What nature has given instead is a faculty to look to as we rule ourselves, and by which we can decide how high or how low we ourselves choose to go. Pleasure isn't a set of concretes, it is better thought of, as Lucretius suggested in book one, in allegory as reality's own "divine goddess" that supercedes all lower and false concepts of gods and abstract ideal forms.

    Here are two other comments relevant to this topic:

    "Do you all agree with Epicurean philosophy has life should be filled with as much pleasurable and the least amount of suffering (including causing any harm to anyone else).? Do any of you have objections to that?" It's not clear to me whether there is one part or another in there on which you are focusing, but as you get to the end I think you are perhaps implying an overbroad conclusion. Staying with the question of what did Epicurus teach, as opposed to what we think is correct ourselves, Epicurus clearly taught that sometimes we will embrace pain when that leads to greater pleasure or lesser total pain, so it's necessary to point out that there's no single "best" way in real life to handle the competing motivations (pleasure and pain). I would say sure, as Blanton said, that causing pain to others is generally painful for ourselves, but that doesn't mean we are not going to do it when the occasion requires, just as we choose pain ourselves when the occasion requires.

    Having stated that pleasure should be maximized and pain minimized in the way you have stated it, have you really answered anything in terms of a preferred set of practical choices?

    I am not sure that you have, nor do I think that Epicurus saw his philosophy that way either.

    I think your question is excellent for illustrating something we all need to deal with - having observed that pleasure is desirable and pain is undesirable, can we stop at that point and think that we have a solution to anything?

    I think not.

    When Epicurus observed that (1) true gods would show no favor or anger, and (2) that death is the end of our consciousness, did he STOP and say - that's all you need to know?

    I started to post this privately but decided it might be of general interest - it is a suggestion to Eoghan for his new Epicurean blog: Eoghan since you are attacking some of the most fundamental issues from a fresh perspective, here is one that I would appreciate your keeping in mind - from On Ends:

    "(3) Yet we maintain that this does not preclude mental pleasures and pains from being much more intense than those of the body; since the body can feel only what is present to it at the moment, whereas the mind is also cognizant of the past and of the future. For granting that pain of body is equally painful, yet our sensation of pain can be enormously increased by the belief that some evil of unlimited magnitude and duration threatens to befall us hereafter. And the same consideration may be transferred to pleasure: a pleasure is greater if not accompanied by any apprehension of evil. This therefore clearly appears, that intense mental pleasure or distress contributes more to our happiness or misery than a bodily pleasure or pain of equal duration."

    Here's why: Aside from the terrible tendency to dismiss the physics and the canonics, which we've also been discussing lately, I think there is far too little attention given to the meaning of "pleasure." I would wager that 80% of the people even in this group, and 99% of people out of it, think of purely physical sensations when they think of pleasure. For example, they think about such things as Lucretius' Example of lounging in the grass with friends at the side of a river. But if the record from Torquatus is correct, as I think it is, then Epicurus himself stressed mental pleasure in his own life, such as when he valued the company of his fellow schoolmembers more than the pain of his physical problems on the last day of his life. And if mental pleasures are even more varied that physical pleasures (which I also think is clear) then far from focusing on "grazing in the grass" on the side of a river, our example is more like that of Epicurus himself, in which it is least as pleasurable, if not more pleasurable, to help lead or participate in a worldwide philosophical revolution.

    Which is not to say that we need to do the impossible of converting everyone into being a friend, but that as Epicurus said we live the life closest to being "gods among men" when we focus our attention on those things that are eternally true, and how we fit as individuals fit into them.