Philodemus and Epicurean Philosophy: Changing Perceptions - Sonya Wurster

  • Thanks Hiram.

    Very typical of a stoic-lite / ascetic article in the model of Okeefe, who is referenced in the article. As I see it this is the conventional / Okeefe model:

    1. Start out by with branding Epicurus a "hedonist" (a loaded negative term) but say he was a "strange kind of hedonist."
    2. Argue that Epicurus's reputation should be rehabilitated because he defined pleasure as nothing more than "absence of pain."
    3. Pull out the tetrapharmakon, rather than citing the original text of PD1-4, and dumb down the list of core principles by dropping all their original depth.
    4. Argue that Epicurus prioritized "static/katastemetic" pleasure as the next step in deprecating "pleasure" as normally understood.
    5. Then, once you have set the groundwork to compel the conclusion that Epicurus was either a perverse word-game-player, and/or stupid, pull out the "natural and necessary" categories and argue that regardless of anything else, Epicurus preached a minimalist lifestyle.
    6. Follow up by arguing that even though Epicurus taught that we should shun pleasure as normally understood, Epicurus also emphasized "friendship," and allege that he was the original advocate of loving everyone in the world indiscriminately.
    7. Then finish up by arguing that later Epicureans like Philodemus were free-lancing and significantly changing Epicurean philosophy themselves, with the implication that Epicurean philosophy was an evolving set of ideas that we too can mold to suit our own viewpoints regardless of what Epicurus taught himself.

    With the result that Epicurean philosophy is transmuted into Stoicism-lite.

    By cherry-picking from among texts and downplaying or eliminating the contradictory texts, you conclude that Epicurus reached the same conclusions as the Stoics/Christians/Platonists/religionists, except that he wasn't direct like they were. Instead, Epicurus played word games with terms like "pleasure," "gods," "all sensations are true," etc.

    This is the model followed by virtually all modern academic writers on Epicurus. The ones I am aware of that are exceptions are:

    1. Norman DeWitt ("Epicurus and His Philosophy")
    2. Gosling & Taylor ("The Greeks On Pleasure")
    3. Boris Nikolsky ("Epicurus On Pleasure")
    4. Mathew Wenham ("On Cicero's Interpretation of Katastematic Pleasure In Epicurus")

    I would like to expand this list. If anyone knows of others who don't follow this model please let me know.



    Also typical of this model is that she goes straight from this "strange sort of hedonism" to citing the Tetrapharmakon, rather than citing the full text of PDs 1-4.

    Which is also typically followed by a reference to static/katastematic pleasure and the natural and necessary categories to imply asceticism: