Dead Reddit / The "Isms" Thread

  • Personally I am somewhere in the middle on this myself. I see the point being made by Elli and Haris (I had forgotten that Haris joined in on this, and I am really glad Nate reminded me of that. It is helpful validation to have TWO Greeks who are proficient in English to make the same observation) . I tend to think that the Greeks sense something deeper going on, and that the English ear is being tuned by something in the background that needs to be identified and resisted. (Yes, I can feel my "all Brits are Stoic" antenna coming into play even though that is my own heritage.)

    But Joshua's point is correct too - In normal ordinary conversation I think that most English speakers (at least Americans) probably consider the terms "Epicurean Philosophy" and "Epicureanism" to be absolute equivalents. For that reason the effort to distinguish the two rings somewhat false and weird in American ears.

    But maybe this is an area that the English-speakers have by force of habit accepted a viewpoint on "isms" that ought not be accepted in the first place. Even though the"ism" suffix does have a negative connotation in English, it is used interchangeably as designating any system --- perhaps that is part of the problem? Why use a negative term as an equivalent to a term that ought to be positive or at least neutral? (Is it possible that we have absorbed some kind of British cynicism / eclecticism that we need to root out and trample underfoot?)

    Maybe any use of an "ism" ought to have an absolutely negative connotation, as it appears to have in Greek, and any use of that suffix ought to be clearly understood to be used as a denunciation.

    Now the fact of the matter is that most Americans won't understand that point immediately - but maybe that is something that we all profit if we point out to them.

    So while I agree with Joshua that the effort to distinguish sounds weird in English, I do think there is an issue here that can be helpful to address.

  • I am VERY sympathetic to the idea that our Greek friends should have 'naming rights'! It's just a difficult transition. Out of curiosity I thumbed through DeWitt while I wrote that post. He must use "Epicureanism" a hundred times in that book; since that's the academic text "of record" in our circle, the problem is unlikely to go away.

  • I don't use the ism version because it sounds very clunky to me-- the sound is unattractive, and the ism doesn't even sound like it belongs with the rest of the word but is instead weirdly tacked on.

    "Epicurean" has a pleasing and more elegant sound. "Epicurean Philosophy" has a smooth, rhythmic rise and fall. "I am Epicurean" instead of "I practice Epicureanism." That's just my subjective opinion. But Elli's explanation strengthens my dislike of the ism form.

    EP is just bc of typing with a finger on the phone-- I read it as Epicurean Philosophy the same as I read "because" for bc, "in my opinion" for IMO, and so on.

  • On "Epicureanism" and "Epicurean Philosophy"

    I've been researching ancient Greek etymology, and have thought a lot about this over the last few days (especially with the anticipation that I'll be collaborating with Charles and Hiram, and release the aforementioned meme on r/Epicurean_Philsophy, knowing that the 9,000+ members of the r/Epicureanism group on Reddit will have questions regarding the differences between our chosen vocabularies).

    Herein, I conclude that "Epicureanism" is NOT an appropriate expression of our natural philosophy, and – especially rendered through modern English – "Epicureanism" is NOT an appropriate expression of Epicurus' observations.

    Our Greek friends Harris Demitiadis and Elli have presented us with valuable insights into the origins of our terminology, thus, providing us with additional tools through which we can examine our discourse. Admittedly, I have NOT really grasped the key nuances of their points (which I now believe I have come to understand), so I took it upon myself to deconstruct our terminology with the intention of gaining a fresh perspective toward the natural world.

    I'd like to start with an etymological investigation. I hope that this investigation provides insight to my fellow English-only-speakers (I, myself, am monolingual), and – please – Elli, if I misinterpret the language, re-direct my mistakes!


    As Alex Rios once observed, our English suffix, "-ism" is – correctly, according to both common and academic usages in Modern English – employed to mean a distinctive "doctrine", "theory", "attitude", "belief", "practice", "process", "state", "condition", "religion", "system", or – as he has cited, with fair reason – "philosophy". According to this widespread definition, it is not unreasonable to suppose that adding a simple "-ism" at the end of "the philosophy of Epicurus" should, appropriately and accurately, render the word "Epicureanism", (or even "Epicurism").

    In more succinct terms, we can visualize "Epicurean-ism" as "Epicurean-philosophy".

    This works for practical purposes, and – as I'm sure you would agree – no one in this thread, or this forum, or this webpage will be mislead by my meaning if I replace "Epicurean-ism" as "Epicurean-philosophy", or vis a versa. HOWEVER, in doing so, I propose that we are missing out an an important teaching opportunity that has been lost in translation.


    Our tradition of adding "-ism" to the end of words – in which we express distinctive "philosophies" – begins in the post-Classical period, corresponding to the Renaissance, the cultural "rebirth" of systems and ideas from the ancient world, translated through the Latin language, using the Roman alphabet, sheathing ancient Greek observations.

    (I'm going to call this tradition – in which ALL English-speakers partake – the "Ism-ism", or, in other words, "the systemic practice of adding '-ism' to idea-expressing words". We are ALL, necessarily, Ismists in some respect.)

    From the perspective of the contemporary world, the suffix "-ismus" was borrowed from the Old Latin language of the Romans, and appropriated by post-Classical (and Modern) peoples when using New Latin and Contemporary Latin. For centuries, our adherence to Ismism has been helped European thinkers minimize the losses that occur in translation. We find an abundance of "-ism" and "-ismus" in both Romance and Germanic language families, and – as with Latin – they express the meaning of distinctive "doctrines", "theories", "attitudes", "beliefs", and "philosophies".

    Here, however, is where we note a difference that our Mediterranean friends have often observed: while the Greek language, like Celtic, and Indic languages, has evolved from a common Indo-European root, these languages have NOT adopted Latin conventions the same way that have Romance and Germanic languages. In the unique case of the Greeks, Latin was – as I'm sure is more than obvious to us all – heavily influenced by the parent of ancient Greek.

    -ῐ́ζω | -izō | -ize

    According to my research, we receive the Latin "-ismus" from the ancient Greek "-ισμός" ("-ismós"), which, itself, is a bracketing of two other ancient Greek words, those words being "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") and "-μός" ("-mós"). We'll start with the former word, first. The suffix "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") was added to nouns to form new verbs. Let's look at (x3) examples:

    1. κανονίζωkanṓnízō – canonize

    κανων (kanṓn) – literally referred to a “reed”, and connotatively implied a “measuring rod” or “standard”.

    + "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "κανονίζω" or "canonize", meaning "to make standard".

    2. ἑλληνίζω - Héllēnízō - Hellenize

    Ἕλλην (Héllēn) – literally referred to that which is “Greek”.

    + "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "ἑλληνίζω" or "Hellenize", meaning "to make Greek".

    3. συγχρονίζω - súnkhronosízō - synchronize

    σύγχρονος (súnkhronos) - literally referred to “synchronous

    + "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "συγχρονίζω" or "synchronize", meaning "to make synchronous".

    The key point with "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") – and our Modern English suffix "-ize" – is that we can turn any word into a verb, or, in more philosophically interesting terms, we can ACTIVATE it.

    -μός | -mós

    The second suffix from which the ancient Greek "-ισμός" ("-ismós") was bracketed is "-μός" ("-mós"). Contrary to the convention of ACTIVATING a word that represents a concept, adding ("-mós") ABSTRACTS an action. We can demonstrate this convention through (x3) more examples that translate well into Modern English:

    1.σαρκασμός - sarkasmós - sarcasm

    σαρκάζω (sarkázō) – literally, and figuratively meant "tearing apart" or "to tear off the flesh”.

    + "-μός" ("-mós") renders "σαρκασμός" or "sarcasm", meaning "(figuratively) tearing apart".

    2. συλλογισμός - sullogismós - syllogism

    συλλογίζομαι (sullogízomai) – literally meant "to compute" or "to infer”.

    + "-μός" ("-mós") renders "συλλογισμός" or "syllogism", meaning a "computation" or an "inference".

    3. κατακλυσμός - kataklusmós - cataclysm

    κατακλύζω (kataklúzō) – literally meant "to wash away”.

    + "-μός" ("-mós") renders "κατακλυσμός" or "cataclysm", meaning a "great flood".

    The key point with "-μός" ("-mós") is that the ancient Greeks could turn any active verb into a word that expressed an abstract concept, or, in other words, it could systematize phenomenal activity into an idea.

    -ισμός | -ismós | -ism

    As I have come to understand it, the re-bracketing of the suffix "-μός" ("-mós"), appended with "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") presents us with "-ισμός" ("-ismós") or "-ism", a convention which systematizes a verb that has been activated from a noun. I was only able to identify five instances of this in ancient Greek, only (x1) of which provides a suitable example:

    σάββατον - sábbaton - literally, the “Sabbath” (borrowed from the Hebrew "שַׁבָּת" or "šabbāṯ")

    σαββᾰτῐ́ζω - sabbatízō - meaning “to make, observe, or keep the Sabbath

    σαββατισμός - sabbatismós - meaning “the making, observing, or keeping of the Sabbath

    As I mentioned before, unlike the "-ismus" of Latin, and the "-ism" of Modern English, the ancient Greek "-ismos" is almost NEVER used. The ancient Greeks – whose tremendous influence on our own intellectual conventions cannot be overstated – do not seem to have shared our tradition of Ismism.

    Here, I'll employ a phrase I first read in a translation of Heidegger's Being and Time: that phrase is originary language. Based on my above research, it seems to me that the ancient Greeks – when faced with the need to express a NEW word with FRESH meaning – built the words that would fill their minds and guide their anticipations from either (1) the names of people and objects they observed, or (2) active forces they experienced, but NOT (3) abstract systems.

    Edited 2 times, last by Nate ().

  • So, why NOT "Epicureanism"?

    The path to wisdom demands that we experience nature directly and NOT indirectly as an abstract system. In other words – to connect the last few paragraphs – we should NEVER reduce the immediacy of our experiences to a mere "-ism"; were we to make the mistake of -isming our individual experiences, and the anticipations that develop from that FRESH experience, we will have stunted our own development on the path to wisdom.

    Furthermore, while we may all sincerely admire the person of Epicurus, and delight in the historical texts that resulted from the activity of his Garden, our path to wisdom – unlike every other -ismic school of thought – is neither dependent upon allegiance to a centralizing leader, nor upon a golden age of history, nor upon a doctrinal institution. Christianity could not have existed without Christ and his mythic Kingdom of Heaven. Platonism could not have existed without Plato and his mythic World of Forms. Stoicism could not have existed without the Stoics and their Cosmic Virtue. Were these figures never to have existed, no one would have ever truly experienced the fantasies of their mythic promises.

    Our EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – the natural, undeniable pursuit of pleasure – is not dependent upon Epicurus to have ever existed, because, Nature, itself, is so much larger, more important, and more fundamental than his historical personage. Without the man we call "Epicurus", we still would have sensed the energetic environment of particles around us, felt the churning of feelings of pleasure and pain within us, and anticipated the consequences of our choices. Even if the "Epicur-" part of our philosophy were missing from our language, the philosophy, itself, would be the same. Vocabulary aside, the wise person would still engage the natural world, and pursue pleasure to its fullest.

    "Epicureanism" (or, also, "Epicurism") carries a connotation – albeit very slightly – that our path to wisdom is just another -ism, comparable to other doctrinal institutions, that is useful ONLY as an abstract system, advertised to misguided masses who must accept unverifiable truths that have been promised by an unknowable super-person. It is not quite as purposeful to call ourselves "Epicureanists" who follow "Epicureanism" as it is to identify as "Epicureans" who pursue "Epicurean philosophy", the natural path to wisdom. The tools for our endeavor rest within our own, natural bodies; Nature, itself, is the greatest teacher, not "religion", or any other idealisms.

    Now, all this being said, for practical purposes, there most certainly isn't anything inherently wrong about employing the term "Epicureanism". The "Epicurean-" part is still the same, and an "-ism" could just mean a "philosophy" which, in Modern English, correctly indicates our loving of wisdom, apart from any oath to a mythic principle. Nonetheless, I will personally choose to write "Epicurean philosophy" whenever possible, to keep my anticipations FRESH, to indicate to other, natural beings that our interactions are bigger than disembodied souls paddling ideas back and forth in a court of Mind, and to remind myself that our path to wisdom is not a map that has been given to us from an eternal place of perfection, but that we each carry a well-calibrated compass within ourselves that knows the world, and guides us to happiness.

    (One more, quick, closing thought: no one on this planet deserves the title of "Epicurean" more than a happy dog, and – ironically – they will always be incapable of assigning that title, or receiving it).

    Edited once, last by Nate ().

  • Outstanding work Nate! Well reasoned and persuasive!

    Are you pasting that into Reddit or providing a link to here, perhaps setting up a new thread with one of these as the first post ? I probably should mention that the current default "style" here is light, and I bet you are using dark, as the use of the yellow fonts is fairly hard to see on the white background.

    But this is great work and I feel sure elli will approve!

  • Sorry, but you always forget to examine all the issues for jumping freely from Physics to Canon and to Ethics and vice versa. These three are firmly bonded and united and of course they are such, for the achievement of the goal of pleasure.

    We are not idealists that made all the ideas as a system/frame with steady idealistic/imagined pictures of their minds that are the root of all -ISMS. And may this of my insistence will be proved one day. And if Dewitt would be here to realize how things are going, would understand what I mean and maybe he will change his mind for being agreed on that issue. I beg you for so many times to not call Epicurean Philosophy as Epicurean-ism, Physics, Canon, and Ethics can't be systematized since no one is able to close the whole Nature in a box and in a frame with imagined pictures that exist in the minds of people - and are also steady and without motion.

    We epicureans do speak for atoms and fields that have energy, and are doing all the motions and swerves, as well as, the Nature of All Things are developing and evolving without end. We speak for constant measurement through the Canon and then we unite the Ethics with the Canon and Physics. For what is in our times our natural and necessary won't be the same in the era of Epicurus. Epicurus will be found many things that are useful today as his natural and necessary too i.e. the electricity power, the internet and so many discoveries.

    Thus, this is our philosophy and please give its place in the 21st century that follows that many other discoveries will be done and the right philosophy is needed to many persons that are like-minded with us. I do not know how else to convince you on this issue.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • I wrote the above my message before I've read this article-work by Nate. Nate, my friend, you astonished me ! Thanks a lot that you understood and proved through your words of what I insist to say so many times and for a long period of time.


    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Quote

    Furthermore, while we may all sincerely admire the person of Epicurus, and delight in the historical texts that resulted from the activity of his Garden, our path to wisdom – unlike every other -ismic school of thought – is neither dependent upon allegiance to a centralizing leader, nor upon a golden age of history, nor upon a doctrinal institution.

    We should ask those schools; they have a different opinion. There is not one of them that wouldn't plead the same or a similar case. Or the same case couched in different terms. I know for a certainty from personal experience that in Buddhism the argument is identical; that instead of Buddhism, many would prefer Buddhadharma (Sanskrit) or -dhamma (Pali).

    "Stop calling [my belief] an -ism!"








    Sometimes it goes the other way. Taking a word, and weaponizing the -ism.



    And, what is for me the most droll article of piffle to have made my acquaintance; I hate religion, but love Jesus

    Anti-ismism is a cottage industry! Ironically, the only school I searched but can't find an example in is Stoicism. This, despite the fact that Stoicism 1.) Also comes from Greek, and therefore enjoys the blessings of our own etymological arguments, and 2.) Is one of the only schools not to have been named after a person.

    I don't know about all of you, but I find this sort of thing tedious. I suspect that Lucian, for one—an equal opportunity lampooner of pretense—would have seen right through it.

    It pleases me inordinately to hear in DeWitt, as an example, of the "spread of Epicureanism". If it was the "spread of Epicurean philosophy", I wouldn't know what that meant; does that mean that the books are spread, like Gideon bibles, with no one reading them? But "Epicureanism" is unmistakable. It doesn't mean scrolls or sages; it means people. An Attic potter molding a krater. A Roman soldier marching in Gaul. A Corinthian fisherman taking in the morning catch from the Aegean; and all bound in brotherhood by devotion to the school of Epicurus.

    And in the same spirit...I'll leave it there! Candor has its place, but so does good humor and good nature. I once witnessed an exchange with a believer in Young-Earth Creationism. The interlocutor replied that "no, [he] believed in Old-Earth Accretionism". I laughed so hard I almost fell off the chair!

  • Lol, Joshua... my aesthetic distaste for the sound of ism, which sounds like a person is strangling when trying to swallow something, leads me to suggest DeWitt could have spoken of the spread of Epicureans or Epicurean groups, because that focuses on the people involved.

    I don't find this discussion tedious, but I definitely think it is best suited for a group which understands the philosophy already.

  • Oh, I don't mean to imply that I am finding this discussion tedious. I continue to think Nate and Elli are making fair points.

    But to say, for example, that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, is to fortress one's opinion with something like an inverse Kafka-trap; they want to control the terms so that definitionally they can't be argued against—and I find that tedious.

  • I want to look at some of Joshua's links and comment further. I am sure that I agree with the central point being made by Elli / Haris / Nate, but I also experience my own feelings that people I otherwise find to be reasonable might find the distinction to be overly fine. As I see it we have a "usage" issue which is very contextually dependent, and also a deeper philosophical issue about attitudes toward the nature and use of system-building which is extremely important and should not be dealt with strictly with terminology. I need to think about this further. Nate's article, with it's in-depth approach, is the way I am thinking - in other words explain in-depth what the issue is without necessarily saying that it is a bright line that must be followed by every person in every instance. In particular, I think that to make the distinction quickly, in a situation where you don't have time to explain what you are talking about, can come across as committing the "sins" that Joshua is concerned about.

  • Epicurean-ism is a school-ism of philosoph-ism that has for its main cores :

    Pleasure-ism that is based on virtues as Prundenc-ism, Justic- ism, Honor-ism, Benefit-ism with Friendship-ism, among friendists!

    And you want more ? If you say Epicurean-ism without the word as << philosophy>> it is right then, people to think : Ah, this is a mainstream with kitchens with good food and wine!

    As for stoicism they did well to make their system and name it from "stoa poikele" i.e. from wall and stones as its people are bricks and stones living in apathy i.e. without passions ! And this is their evolution :

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    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Quote

    And you want more ? If you say Epicurean-ism without the word as << philosophy>> it is right then, people to think : Ah, this is a mainstream with kitchens with good food and wine!

    Ok, this is an excellent point! Those people have almost completely ruined search engine utility re: "Epicurean"

  • I can swerve for changing all the terms: We are philosophers and friends of Epicuru's philosophy. We are not Neo-Epicureans and we have nothing to do with Epicurean-ism. :P

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Joshua identifies an important objection – I also anticipate that ANY and, most likely, ALL members of those -isms will refute my analysis. As Joshua succinctly expresses, they would no doubt say: "Stop calling [my belief] an -ism!"

    I'm taking on a sensitive issues with people, because, in an enormous way, "Anti-ismism is a cottage industry!" It REALLY is. In fact, as far as ideologies go, I suspect that this idea is rooted at the foundation of all traditions.

    Early Christians referred to their philosophy as ἡ ὁδός or "The Way"; it was a non-Christian, Greek community in Antioch that first coined the term Χριστιανός "Christianus". Within 70 years, the early Church Father Ignatius of Antioch employed the term of Χριστιανισμός or "Christianismos" to refer to the tradition revealed by Christ.

    The isming of the religion of post-Classical Arabs has been seen by both modern academics and practitioners as offensive for the exact same reason. Until the 19th or 20th centuries, "Islam" was almost universally referred to by non-Arabs as "Mohammedanism", mistakenly framing Muhammad as being divine, like Christ is to "Christianity"

    Our rendering of "Buddhism" is a Germanization of the original Pali बुद्ध धम्म or "Buddha Dhamma", meaning, approximately, "The Awakened One's Eternal Law". The first recorded use of "Buddhism" was sometime in the late 18th, or early 19th centuries, after Europeans romanized Indic vocabulary (Merriam-Webster suggest 1800).

    The same is also true of "Hinduism", the Germanization of the Sanskrit or सनातन धर्म "Sanātana Dharma" meaning "Eternal Order". In fact, the word "Hindu", itself was used by non-Indians to refer to people living around the Indus river. Indic populations would have referred to themselves as "Sanatan" or "Arya" (from which we get the term "Aryan".

    The term "Atheism" (rendered in its modern form in 1530 as "atheonism", from the ancient Greek ἄθεος "without god[s]") was, in fact, first used by "Atheists" to refer to themselves as a neutral, philosophical; however, as Joshua identified, the term is also used by their detractors to compare their philosophical position to a blind ideology.

    I also note that people have taken the philosophical position denoted by "atheism" for millennia, since, at least, pre-Greek (pre-employment of the term ἄθεος), heterodox traditions in ancient India. Along this line of thinking, we should remember that every other belief, tradition, attitude, or religion will apply the same sort of linguistic revision: for Christians, Adam and Eve were the first Christians; for Muslims, they were the first Muslims; and in the example listed above, modern atheists will happily identify members of the ancient Indian tradition of चार्वाक or "C(h)ārvāka" as "atheists", even though some of the contextual nuances of Cārvāka will be lost in translation. For that matter, many of our friends who have adopted the term "atheist" may misinterpret ancient Greek philosophers who were not using ἄθεος, which, at the time, would not have been explicitly used to refute the idea of "God" as we understand it (being framed in a Christian world).

    In out effort to identify FRESH expressions from – what I mentioned Heidegger called – originally language, all -isms will necessarily be removed from the context of the language in which they first arose. They will ALWAYS be rooted in the the Modern European tradition of Ismism, the tradition of categorizing other peoples' cultural traditions from the "enlightened" perspective of "objective" academics. Therefor, referring to any wisdom tradition around the globe (whether it be the offensive "Mohammedanism" or the much more neutral "Buddhism"), will usually be seen, in one way or another, as being derogatory to practitioners of that religion, adherents to that tradition, or philosophers of that position.

    So, like Josh mentions, my analysis can also – quite reasonably, and responsibly – be applied to the other -isms, especially if we're trying to analyze our misinterpretations using linguistic deconstruction. That being said, for the purposes of using Reddit as a forum to introduce others to our pleasure-based tradition, I still think it would be good practice to avoid using Epicureanism whenever possible, as a means of confronting the fact that the study of nature using our feelings, senses, and anticipations is far-removed from the idealism of every other tradition. In this case, I think we can argue without seeming derogatory to others, that our tradition is NOT an ideology, just like the enterprise of science is not an ideology; whereas Abrahamic, Dharmic, and Platonic traditions require a sense of faith that an eternal, identity exists that is separate from the world of physics, only accessible to us NOW as an idea contained within our minds.

    Hiram has used this critique before, but I'll re-iterate, that a succinct way to condense the lengthy points I've explored is simply to say that "we reject ideology" (defined as "systems of the ideal"). In this case, if you'll excuse my continued isming, "Idealism" can be seen as the prototypical -ism amongst all other -isms.

  • ...all THAT being said, I think I may need to think on this a little more deeply to digest the terms "Realism", "Naturalism", "Materialism", and "Hedonism", since – according to my own definition – those, too, should be "systems of the ideal" if they are "-isms" at all, which they most certainly are, but also, are not. I think all of my thinking should be tempered against the fact that we can still employ "Epicureanism" in an appropriate, and meaningful way, without succumbing to Idealism.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Dead Reddit” to “Dead Reddit / The "Isms" Thread”.
  • Just to add a totally non scholarly two cents worth: when I encounter an ism, I tend to ask "what are the fixed ideas that this contains". When I think of a philosophy, or when I'm operating from inside of an ism, I tend to think more in terms of a living and dynamic set of ideas with which to engage.