I'm afraid it's just a coincidence; I had not seen the thread.
I don't know how many of you are familiar with Standard Ebooks, but it is a nonprofit which produces carefully edited, nicely produced editions of classic public domain texts. When I am looking for a public domain book, I generally look there first. Completely unrelated to my interest in Epicureanism, I love Sinclair Lewis, and the site has four of his classic novels.
Anyway, I am on the email list which announces new Standard Ebook titles each month and one of the new ones for August is
Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater, which as the title suggests is an historical novel about a man in the Roman Empire who is particularly interested in Epicureanism but also explores other philosophies; the Wikipedia article on the book may be useful for anyone trying to decide whether to read it.
Amazon's send to Kindle feature now supports ePub, one of Standard Ebooks' file formats, and there are nice ereaders for smartphones, such as ReadEra, which is my favorite.
Thanks, Cassius, I have saved the URL for backup epicureanfriends.com and I hope others will take the precaution to save the link.
I meant to post about this sooner, but the New York Times ran an interesting article on June 8, "Gratitude Really Is Good for You, Here's What the Science Shows," which shows how much Epicurus was ahead of his time in urging his followers to cultivate gratitude. Here is a link that will get you behind the paywall:Gratitude Really is Good for You. Here’s What the Science Shows. (Gift Article)Giving, receiving and even witnessing gratitude can improve your well-being, especially during difficult times.www.nytimes.com
Thank you for including me on the thread.
My technical knowledge is perhaps not high enough for me to really chip in, but I like Kalosyni's idea of compiling email addresses for everyone who would like to be included in the emergency network, simply because everyone could easily take part without having to learn another platform and would be something everyone would have access to. I do have Signal on my cell phone, as many people do, and I think that would be a relatively practical option, too.
Proton Mail offers free encrypted email accounts that I would think would be accessible to everyone, so that could be an option, too.
I just finished reading Ada Palmer’s book, “Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance.” I figured there might be some interest if I posted about it.
The preface and the first chapter discuss Epicureanism, Lucretius’ poem and how many of the poem’s concepts challenge Christian thinking. The first sentence of the preface is, “If you were told that reading this book could send you to Hell, would you keep reading?”
Palmer argues that there were essentially two “waves” of how Lucretius was read, from 1417, when an old manuscript was found by Poggio Brocciolini, to 1600, when her study concludes. The first phase was that scholars copied and edited manuscripts by hand. During this phase, most of the emphasis was on correcting the texts and preserving the poem, with little attention to Lucretius’ theories on atoms, or what Palmer calls “proto-atheist” views, such as the soul isn’t immortal, the gods don’t interfere in the affairs of men, etc. The assumption, Palmer says, was that fixing and circulating any prominent work of Latin literature was assumed to be a moral thing to do in reviving civilization.
A second wave of reading occurred when the text had largely been corrected and made much easier to read, and when printing of this corrected Latin text made the poem much easier to find and to read. Along with printing, there came translations of the poem into the local vernacular, which also expanded the readership of the book.
During this second phase, much more attention was paid to the heretical views in the poem, and as science began to arise as an important intellectual current, the science discussions in the poem took on more meaning. Printing of the book stopped in Italy by about 1515 when the Catholic church realized the poem had seriously heretical thoughts, and later editions were printed in France and other countries.
Palmer examined dozens of manuscript copies of “De rerum natura” in libraries in the U.S. and Europe, carefully recording comments and marks written in the margins so that she could track what scholars were interested in, and also studied early printed copies. There are tables that tabulate all of this. Particular attention is paid to the notes made in the margins by figures such as Machiavelli and Montaigne.
I took the time to read the whole book, but you can get most of what she has to say by reading the preface, Chapter One and the conclusion. In comparison to “The Swerve,” is is written much more for an academic audience.
Much of the discussion of the tenets of Epicureanism takes place in Chapter One. In general it seemed accurate, although I thought Palmer overcorrected for the prevailing impression that Epicureanism advocates gluttony, lust and other physical forms of hedonism, making Epicurus more of an ascetic than Emily Austin does.
I really know Ada Palmer more as a writer of science fiction and fantasy; I am a fan of her “Terra Ignota” series of four novels. She is appearing at a science fiction convention in Pittsburgh that I plan to attend the weekend of July 21-23. In her day job, Palmer is a history professor in Chicago. She has a blog and website at www.adapalmer.com.
Thanks for sharing this.
Joshua, I'm pretty sure Ada Palmer told me that as she worked on her own book, she and Greenblatt looked at each other's books.
I suspect that some of you have read Stephen Greenblatt's book, "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern." I read it years ago, although it failed to get me interested in Epucureanism. (It was reading the "Letter to Menoeceus" that did the trick).
Ada Palmer, a University of Chicago historian and also a science fiction novelist, has a book that covers some of the same territory,
I am attending a science fiction convention in Pittsburgh, ConFluence, the weekend of July 22-23, and Ada Palmer is the main guest of honor, so I plan to read her Lucretius book before I go to the convention.
Somewhat off topic, but I am a big fan of Palmer's "Terra Ignota" novel series. Tyler Cowen plans to interview Palmer soon for his podcast.
Here is my first question: Dr. Austin, I bought "The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia (Hackett Classics)" by Epicurus, Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson because you recommend it in your book. Can you say something about why you recommend this particular collection of primary sources?
I got interested in Epicureanism a few years ago after I ran across a comment from Bryan Caplan, a prolific blogger (and economics professor), recommending the Letter to Menoeceus as the best few pages of philosophy anywhere.
I liked Caplan’s posts on advice for living so well that (with his permission) I did a blog of some of my favorite pieces of his. Some of these have a distinctly Epicurean flavor, e.g. “Ten Principles for Making Friends.” and “How To Be Happy: A 10 Point Plan.”
I came across Caplan discussing Epicureanism again when he did a podcast with Richard Hanania, a Substack writer.
I often enjoy Hanania, but I found his recent article, “The Case Against (Most) Books” was in my opinion one of his weakest pieces and included the opinion that many classic books are overrated. After arguing that a philosopher among a primitive tribe living in the Amazon jungle would have little to tell the rest of the world, because he lacked basic knowledge, Hanania wrote, “ If you reject the possibility that the Amazon philosopher has great insights into the modern world, on what basis would you trust Ancient Greece?
“It’s not simply that the ancients had less information and access to empirical data, but ways of thinking have improved over time. Bertrand Russell once quipped that Aristotle believed that men had more teeth than women, but it never occurred to him to open his wife’s mouth and start counting.”
Obviously, while there have been huge advances in knowledge since Ancient Greece and perhaps also in thinking about thinking, I believe Epicurus has a lot to teach us. And when I listened to a podcast interview of Hanania interviewing Caplan, I was pleased to hear Caplan making the same point.
At about 1:05 at the link Hanania repeats his point, arguing that it’s “odd” to be influenced by philosophers from long ago, and Caplan, while conceding that much of Hanania says is correct, notes that there “are a few old thinkers” where “this guy figured this out.”
“Sometimes there’s argument that is non obvious until you hear it and then you can’t unthink it, is it so well crafted. You can just read the ten page Letter to Menoeceus of Epicurus. There’s a bunch of arguments in there, where people are still arguing about these questions. This ancient Greek with no internet or anything, he has just solved a bunch of problems.”
Hanania: “You can be amazed at the accomplishment.”
Caplan: “Especially if you’re young and you don’t yet know the answer. And then you read some guy from 2,500 years ago, yup, in a paragraph he solved the problem, moving on. There’s a sense of disbelief, it can’t really be that easy.” But you read more and you realize, “the problem is solved and people can move on with their lives.”
There’s more at the link, but I’ve tried to summarize Caplan’s main points.
One possible correspondence between the use of Linux/open source software and Epicureanism is that Linux illustrates you don't have to have a lot of money to live well. I have used various versions of Linux and in each case I just downloaded it for free.
Linux also make it possible to use cheap, old used computers; an old computer that uses Windows and which is considered so old as to be almost useless can be revived using a "light" version of Linux.
My father passed away last year and I inherited his laptop. I installed Kubuntu on it and turned it into a dual boot Kubuntu/Windows machine. In practice it is Kubuntu that I use almost all of the time. For some reason, I have run into a glitch trying to use Kubuntu for Zoom, so I have had to use the Windows side of things for the "Living for Pleasure" discussions on Zoom. I use Libre Office a bit, but to be honest my computer before this one was a Chromebook and I mostly just use the various Google programs.
In the past I have used other versions of Linux such as CrunchBang, Linux Mint and AntiX, the latter being an example of a light version of Linux I used on an old computer.
Everybody's comments have been great, but I want to make one more point: Although the book is put out by an academic press, the publisher made it affordable (I bought a Kindle for about $11). This is a contrast to the common university press practice of "Oh, you think this book sounds interesting? Screw you, it's $100."
I also plan to participate.
Belated thanks, Kalosyni, and I plan to join the discussion group. I finished the book (reading one chapter every day.)
I was very grateful to have logged on to this website after being away too long, because I found out about the Emily Austin book, "Living for Pleasure." I bought it and I'm reading it now, very interesting so far. After I finish it, I'll look for comments about it in this forum.
I have not posted lately, but I have not lost interest in Epicureanism. I wanted to post a bit of news: There is a major new effort to read the the Herculaneum Papyri, which of course would likely make more ancient writings on Epicureanism available. Please see https://scrollprize.org/.
the Herculaneum Papyri.
I have just finished "How to Be an Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well" by Catherine Wilson. Here is what I just posted on the Goodreads website (if anyone is interested, I am "Tomj"):
"The book has weaknesses, but I really enjoyed it. The chapters on applying Epicureanism to daily life, and how to think about interpersonal relations and death, are very good. I also liked the chapter comparing Epicureanism to Stoicism. Catherine Wilson is less convincing when she insists that Epicureanism dictates her preferences on contemporary political issues, and that's what keeps me from awarding five stars. But I read this as a library book, and I now plan to buy the Kindle so I will have this in my library."
I would add for the benefit of this website that as far as anachronistically claiming Epicurus as an ally for modern political stances, Norman DeWitt seems more convincing to me in linking Epicurus to classical liberalism. It seems to me that Epicurus' advice to avoid politics and "live unnoticed" seems closer to DeWitt's political stances that Wilson urging that we all become political activists.
Still, I have been looking for a book that applies Epicureanism to day to day living and life choices, and for the most part, Wilson seems sound to me.
If anyone wants to recommend what I should read next, I will listen! I am leaning toward "On the Nature of Things."
Thank you for the book recommendations, Don, and I'll also look up Epicurus at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Thank you, Josh, and thank you everyone! That was quite a lesson, as Cassius says, and I will keep the recommendation in mind for the book about Alexandria.