Epitomizing Philosophy and the Critique of Epicurean Popularizers

  • I have a feeling this is what happened when Zeno of Sidon taught (among his students was Philodemus) as a Scholarch, and it is said that he rejected the tradition of memorizing the teachings verbatim in favor of innovation and discussion with his contemporaries of other philosophies.


    There is mention of a series of controversies between the orthodox Epicureans and the "rhetor" Epicureans around this time.


    It is curious also that this happens around the time that both Philodemus and Lucretius are propagating the philosophy in Italy. The transmission from Greek to Latin language speakers required translations, explanations of things, and evaluations of meanings that required novel approaches in teaching. It would have been far easier for native Greek speakers to continue with the practice of repeating and memorizing the doctrines, but speakers of other languages had different learning tasks that were more complex and went beyond memorization.


    Also, we know that Zeno of Sidon opened the school and discussions to Cicero and to thinkers of non-Epicurean persuasion and had friendly relations with them. This indicates a willingness to be self-critical on the part of the leaders of the school, and it may have inspired much of Philodemus' work (which was written in response to critical voices).


    So it is here, at this junction, that the practice of repeating and memorizing saw itself naturally challenged, and the model of teaching was revisited broadly--when Zeno of Sidon was the Scholarch just before / during the times of Philodemus.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • "it is said that he rejected the tradition of memorizing the teachings verbatim in favor of innovation and discussion with his contemporaries of other philosophies."


    Do you recall your cite for that Hiram?

  • Excellent point regarding the transition to Latin, Hiram. DeWitt cites the example of Lucretius who identifies pleasure as the summum bonum or "highest good". He points out that this is a very poor translation of τέλος ("goal" or "end"), and that the actual summum bonum in Epicurean philosophy is not pleasure, but life itself.

  • Do you recall your cite for that Hiram?

    I think I remember this from when I was writing the commentaries on Philodemus works, it may have been either one of those books I worked from or Diogenes Laertius. Because that was the main source for this:


    https://theautarkist.wordpress…holarchs-and-the-empress/


    TENTH SCHOLARCH

    Zeno of Sidon

    The seventh Hegemon is believed to have been born in Sidon (modern Lebanon) c. 166 BCE and succeeded his teacher Apollodorus as the head of the school c. 100-75 BCE

    Some Epicureans call the Scholarchs that came after Apollodorus sophists, a term which carries negative connotations, perhaps because of the innovations they introduced. Many of these innovations were the result of interaction and debate with other schools. Some believe they were attempts to reconcile the writings of the founders with new insights.

    The school had relied on memorization of sayings for many generations. Zeno was a prolific writer of over 400 books who engaged in textual criticism of Epicurus and revitalized the intellectual life of the school by rebelling against what he perceived as an inability to adapt, which is probably part of what inspired the accusations of sophistry. Perhaps the discipline he endured under Apollodorus gave him a rebellious edge?

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words