Discussion of the Society of Epicurus' 20 Tenets of 12/21/19

  • ADMIN NOTE BY CASSIUS 01/07/20:

    This is a thread for discussion of the Society of Epicurus' 20 Tenets posted on 12/21/19.


    As stated in the description of this forum, the Society of Epicurus is a project led by Hiram Crespo which is independent of and separate from Epicureanfriends.com. The positions taken by Hiram and/or the Society of Epicurus should not be presumed to be the same as those of the moderators of Epicureanfriends. As the thread will illustrate, there are instances of agreement and there are also instances of dramatic differences of opinion. Also, note that this set of 20 Tenets is labelled with 12/21/19 as a reference to the original list. As I understand it the list is subject to revision and is likely to be different as of the date you are reading this post. Finally, there are many excellent points made by many people in this thread - my own point by point commentary is here.


    (End of admin note by Cassius.)

    The 20 Tenets of Society of Friends of Epicurus 12/21/19

    Lea en español.

    In the initial years of forming groups of friends and intellectual peers with the goal of studying, applying, and teaching Epicurean philosophy, we have frequently considered that it might be a good idea to have a concise, summarized set of clear Tenets to facilitate the process of teaching, to connect theory with practice, and to more clearly explain what it is that we believe in.


    This has not been easy. We do not wish to risk over-simplifying ideas that, when summarized, lose either their potency or some aspect of them that requires further qualification in order to avoid grave errors. We also wish to keep a big tent that allows for opinions that are varied, yet orthodox enough to still be coherent with EP. Hence, for instance, the “three acceptable interpretations” of Epicurean theology in Tenet 12.


    Ancient and modern Epicureans have always been encouraged to write down Outlines of their personal philosophy. This actually has great benefits: it helps to cognitively organize and make sense of what we believe, to find the coherence between our values and ideas, and to articulate them clearly. The Tenets are roughly based on the Outline that I (Hiram) wrote some time ago, edited and expanded.


    The first five Tenets relate to the Canon (or, epistemology). The next five relate to the Physics (or, the nature of things). The final ten relate to the Ethics (or, the art of living). These are the three parts of Epicurean philosophy. In the notes section, you will find Epicurean sources and essays cross-referenced for each Tenet.


    1. “Objective” nature is knowable via the sensations.

    2. “Subjective” nature is knowable via the value-setting pleasure and aversion faculties, by which we know what is choice-worthy and avoidance-worthy.
    3. While sensations tell us that something IS or exists, it does not tell us WHAT it is. For THAT cognitive process, we must rely on a faculty tied to both language and memory. The faculty of anticipation helps us to recognize abstractions and things previously apprehended.
    4. We may infer the unseen / un-apprehended based on what has been previously seen / apprehended by any of our faculties; and we may re-adjust our views based on new evidence presented to our faculties.
    5. Our words and their meanings must be clear, and conform to the attestations that nature has presented to our faculties.
    6. All bodies are made of particles and void.
    7. Bodies have essential properties and incidental properties.
    8. Nothing comes from nothing.
    9. All things operate within the laws of nature, which apply everywhere.
    10. All that exists, exists within nature. There is no super-natural or un-natural “realm”; it would not have a way of existing outside of nature. Nature is reality.
    11. The end that our own nature seeks is pleasure. It is also in our nature to avoid pain.
    12. There are three acceptable interpretations of the Epicurean gods: the realist interpretation, the idealist interpretation, and the atheist interpretation.
    13. The goal of religion is the experience of pure, effortless pleasure.
    14. Death is nothing to us because when we are, death is not and when death is, we are not. Since there is no sentience in death, it is never experienced by us.
    15. Under normal circumstances, we are in control of our mental dispositions.
    16. Choices and avoidances are carried out successfully (that is, producing pleasure as the final product) if we measure advantages/pleasures versus disadvantages/pains over the long term. This means that we may sometimes defer pleasure in order to avoid greater pains, or choose temporary disadvantage, but only and always for the sake of a greater advantage or pleasure later.
    17. To live pleasantly, we must have confident expectation that we will be able to secure the chief goods: those things that are natural and necessary for life, happiness, and health. Therefore, whatever we do to secure safety, friendship, autarchy, provision of food and drink and clothing, and other basic needs, is naturally good.
    18. Autarchy furnishes greater possibilities of pleasure than slavery, dependence, or relying on luck; The unplanned life is not worth living, and we must make what is in our future better than what was in our past.
    19. Friendship is necessary for securing happiness. It is advantageous to promote Epicurean philosophy in order to widen our circle of Epicurean friends.
    20. Human relations should be based on mutual benefit.

    Notes:

    1. “The doctrine of the first leg of the canon: sensations”. PD 23. The Epicurean Canon.
    2. “The second leg of the canon: pleasure and aversion”. The Pleasure / Aversion Faculty: an Introduction.
    3. “The third leg of the canon: anticipations”. The canon is known as the “tripod” because it stands on three legs. Epicurus and His Philosophy – Chapter VIII – Sensations, Anticipations, and Feelings.
    4. “The doctrine of inference”. Review of Philodemus’ On Methods of Inference. Philodemus: On Methods of Inference – A Study in Ancient Empiricism.ir?t=ataraxia0c-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B002DQY68Q
    5. Epicurus: Against the use of empty words.
    6. “Fourth, Nothing exists in the universe except bodies and space. We conclude that bodies exist because it is the experience of all men, through our senses, that bodies exist. As I have already said, we must necessarily judge all things, even those things that the senses cannot perceive, by reasoning that is fully in accord with the evidence that the senses do perceive. And we conclude that space exists because, if it did not, bodies would have nowhere to exist and nothing through which to move, as we see that bodies do move. Besides these two, bodies and space, and properties that are incidental to combinations of bodies and space, nothing else whatsoever exists, nor is there any evidence on which to speculate that anything else exists that does not have a foundation in bodies and space”. – Letter to Herodotus, Section 2
    7. “We must distinguish particles, which have eternal and essential properties, from bodies, which are combinations of particles and void, and which have qualities that are merely transitory while they are so combined. These temporary qualities we call “incidental” to the bodies with which they are associated. As with the permanent properties of particles, transitory incidental qualities of bodies do not have material existences of their own, nor can they be classified as incorporeal. When we refer to some quality as “incidental,” we must make clear that this incidental quality is neither essential to the body, nor a permanent property of the body, nor something without which we could not conceive the body as existing. Instead, the incidental qualities of a body are the result of our apprehending that they accompany the body only for a time. Although those qualities which are incidental are not eternal, or even essential, we must not banish incidental matters from our minds. Incidental qualities do not have a material existence, nor do they exist independently in some reality that is beyond our comprehension. We must, instead, consider the incidental qualities of bodies as having exactly the character that our sensations reveal them to possess”. – Letter to Herodotus, Section 7
    8. First, nothing can be created out of that which does not exist. We conclude this to be true because if things could be created out of that which did not exist, we would see all things being created out of everything, with no need of seeds, and our experience shows us that this is not true. Second, nothing is ever completely destroyed to non-existence. We conclude this because if those things which dissolve from our sight completely ceased to exist, all things would have perished to nothing long ago. If all things had dissolved to non-existence, nothing would exist for the creation of new things, and we have already seen that nothing can come from that which does not exist. Third, the universe as a whole has always been as it is now, and always will be the same. We conclude this because the universe as a whole is everything that exists, and there is nothing outside the universe into which the universe can change, or which can come into the universe from outside it to bring about change”. – Letter to Herodotus, Section 2
    9. PD 10-13.
    10. “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise .. . without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and 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”. – Thomas Jefferson ; I conjure you, my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them! Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!” – Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra
    11. “The doctrine of the telos, or the end”. “I call you to constant pleasures!” – Epicurus.
    12. The third way to look at the Epicurean Gods. Philodemus On Piety: Critical Text with Commentaryir?t=ataraxia0c-20&l=am2&o=1&a=0198150083
    13. Epicureanism as a Religious Identity; “We all regard our views as the true cause of our tranquility. … In On Holiness, he (Epicurus) calls a life of perfection the most pleasant and most blessed, and instructs us to guide against all defilement, with our intellect comprehensively viewing the best psychosomatic dispositions for the sake of fitting all that happens to us to blessedness …” – Philodemus of Gadara, On Piety; Philodemus On Piety: Critical Text with Commentaryir?t=ataraxia0c-20&l=am2&o=1&a=0198150083
    14. Review of Philodemus’ On Death. Letter to Menoeceus, third paragraph. Philodemus: On Death (Writings from the Greco-Roman World 29)ir?t=ataraxia0c-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1589834461
    15. Diogenes’ Wall: on PD 20.
    16. “The doctrine of hedonic calculus”. Back to the Basics. On Choices and Avoidances.
    17. “The doctrine of confident expectation”. See the Metrodorus portion in the essay In Memory of the Men.
    18. “The doctrine of personal sovereignty”. See the Metrodorus portion in the essay In Memory of the Men; How Epicurean Principles Can Help You Transform Your Financial and Personal Life. Vatican Sayings 36, 47, 65, 67; PD 15, 16
    19. “The doctrine of friendship”. On Friendship. Organization and Procedure in Epicurean Groups (PDF file), by Norman DeWitt.
    20. “The doctrine of mutual advantage”. See PDs 31-40.


    ---------------------------


    The Remainder of this post was posted by Hiram on 12/22/19:


    When I read Hiram's recent writing about Buddhist forms of introspection being a way to learn about the self, for instance, I know clearly that our versions of Epicurean philosophy are different. Buddhists do have some variations, but a core feature is the assertion that by closely introspecting on oneself, a person will experience directly that there is no self and that our ordinary experience of self and reality is a delusion. There are neurologic events that cause this and are related to what the brain does when typical environmental stimuli are removed. A concerning number of people without prior psychiatric disturbances have suffered long lasting dysfunction from this, anything from dissociative symptoms to psychosis.


    I will be interested in seeing the Society of Epicurus' statement. I am expecting it to incorporate elements that I will find to be structurally unsound. If it does not, I will be thrilled!

    And those of us who adhere to the classical teachings of Epicurus will continue to clarify our position, sometimes by contrasting it with alternate views, just as Epicurus did.

    Hi Elayne. The English translation of our Tenets is live here:

    http://societyofepicurus.com/t…y-of-friends-of-epicurus/


    I don't expect you to agree with all of them, but maybe the admins from Epicurean Friends can create their own version for their own use based on their own outlines. Ours is meant to connect theory with practice, to facilitate teachings and cross-reference with key sources, and to potentially guide us in our future endeavors and teaching mission. It worked out to a total of twenty, but I also probably also chose to stick to twenty subconsciously in order to have another excuse to call ourselves "twentiers" :-)


    RE engaging Buddhist ideas, I am happy that you are doing so. Secular Buddhism is advocated by Sam Harris, who has a huge influence in many intellectual circles, particularly among atheists, and he is sold on the Buddhist doctrine of no-self. These ideas are gaining a lot of currency in the West these days.


    I believe that those of us in EP who are versed in Buddhist philosophy of no-self have a unique opportunity to articulate an alternative that is self affirming and that views the self as an emergent property of the body, but there's a lot of work to be done in articulating these views clearly. I have begun this work and am curious about what you make of this, particularly I cite from an essay by a feminist intellectual who wrote an amazing piece in defense of an inter-disciplinary theory of self for Aeon magazine, which I hope you will read. Hers is a very well written and well argued piece.


    Quote

    http://societyofepicurus.com/a-concrete-self/

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

  • Hi Hiram-- thank you, I got the link to the Tenets this morning. I am going to think through my responses, but for now I can say that I am not aware of Epicurus categorizing the senses as objective. We experience subjectively through our senses as well as our feelings. In fact, we have no option other than subjective experience. Scientists tend to call data objective when it has been repeatedly measured by different people using different equipment in different labs, etc, but our sensory experiences are still always subjective. Your references for 1 and 2 do not include any division into subjective and objective. Prolepses are also subjective. I think much of my response will be about what is _not_ included, but that will take me a while. For now, I am curious about why you say Epicurus said the senses were objective.

    Your book review I agree with, but I would just add that the Buddhist conclusion is not based on reason. They use reason to try and explain it-- to say the self is not legit because it is temporary, which I have always thought was silly. But that is just their explanatory overlay, which is based on what life feels like if you have altered your brain function through meditation. There is a fairly high rate of dissociative states in long term and/ or heavy meditators. Sometimes this sensation of depersonalization and/or derealization is permanent. They literally experience a sensation of having no self. I think there is some evidence meditation reduces activity of the default network, which is necessary for self-monitoring/ awareness, and there is a lot we don't know about how various practices alter brain function

    This is a desirable outcome for some. For me, it sounds like brain damage. I guess the most that can be said is that for these people, they feel like they have no self. For the rest of us, we mostly feel that we are selves. No way to really argue over that one, right? But what they propose is that all of us will find out we are no-self, if we introspect through meditation. All that means to me is that my brain would become damaged, but they see it as current delusion on my part--that I'm already no-self and just don't know it. When they go that far, I think I _can_ say they are incorrect about my current experience of self.

  • For 1 and 2, the footnotes are to articles by Hiram and not to primary source material. The second article, by Hiram, says at the end,

    "Our hedonism is not about us being subjective, or whimsical, it’s what we mean what we say that nature is our guide: if we ignore our faculties, it’s only to our detriment and to our harm. If we heed them, it’s to our advantage.

    Our natural goods are all pleasant, and pleasure is always good." But no quotes are given from Epicurean sources.

    The statement that hedonism is not about us being subjective is in contradiction to Tenet #2, which says pleasure and aversion are about subjective nature. There seems to be, as I suspected from the inaccurate division of our perceptions into subjective and objective, a disdain for subjective experience creeping in, perhaps unconsciously. Why would it be a problem if pleasure seeking was subjective? It IS subjective. It can't be experienced other than subjectively.

    I also thought I read in Tenet 2 a hint of a standard other than pleasure-- a suggestion that pleasure and pain are useful for a more important purpose, survival or health perhaps. This initial impression is strengthened by the quote above.

    While this is of course the way evolution works-- faculties that lead to survival and reproduction persist-- that is not the same thing as making survival and reproduction our primary goal. Any time you start bringing up evolutionary causes as conscious goals, then you ought to include reproduction, not just survival, to be internally consistent. This leads to saying pleasure is good because it leads to survival and offspring, and if there is a circumstance where pain leads to survival and more offspring, we ought to choose that instead.

    Pain and pleasure are not just value-setting faculties, which sounds abstract-- they are primarily _feelings_-- sensations. Pleasure is always good simply because pleasure is the only good-- it is the definition of good. Good is a meaningless word unless you are talking about the feeling of pleasure. And I don't think your article makes that clear-- it makes pleasure and pain sound primarily instrumental. This is an entirely different slant on things than what you get from reading Epicurus.

  • For 3, I think he is talking about something a little different but related to what you are saying. We don't have enough info to be sure, so it is hard for me to see making that a Tenet. When you say "what it is", this seems to be verging on calling the prolepses conceptual, and Epicurus was opposed to including reason/ concepts in how we know what is true. But since you didn't say that outright, it may not be what you meant.

    This is an example of a time when I am not afraid to put forth a proposal for what, in my personal philosophy, the prolepses are. Whether Epicurus thought the same, we will never know, but when I read what he said, it sounds like my understanding of prolepses are coherent with his.

    For me, prolepses are innate pattern recognitions, which perform functions as simple as organizing visual input so that different objects have boundaries and are seen as separate from each other and as complex as the innate tit for tat sense of justice. There are no concepts in my Canon-- a pattern recognition is different from a concept or even a "what it is". Pattern recognition could certainly help predict "what it does or will do", but that isn't a concept either. I wish I could ask Epicurus, but I think if we spoke the same language and he had access to current developmental research, he would agree with me. I just can't prove it or insist on it.

    Because this one is trickier, I would personally not pin it down in a list of things my fellow Epicureans needed to agree on.

  • I am afraid I am pulled in too many directions to systematically go through each one in one post, but having read Elayne's comments I would also add my own as to One and Two. I see that "objective" and "subjective" are enclosed in scare quotes to indicate presumably that the meaning is more than superficial, but I think if the issue of whether there is an "objective" reality is going to be discussed, then it's imperative to define what is meant by that. This is an issue that got Ayn Rand bogged down and I was never satisified with either. If a boundless and eternal universe where there is no center or supernatural god to dictate a single "correct" perspective, what does the word "objective" really mean?


    The word "subjective" is pretty clear, and seems to without real trouble indicate that our perceptions and observations are relative / subjective to us, which is probably accurate enough.


    But what does "objective" mean in Epicurean terms? I am not sure that a statement on objective reality can really be helpful unless the meaning of the word is made clear.

  • 12-- I know of no evidence that Epicurus promoted idealism in anything. How would an idealistic or imaginary version of his gods be coherent with his philosophy as a whole?

    Also, you tend to give your own writing as a source material, but sometimes you link to a book. The end notes would be stronger if you followed the traditional format and gave a full citation, including page numbers. It wouldn't be such a problem to use your own writing or YouTube videos as sources if those writings themselves contained the original source references, but generally they do not. However, this shouldn't be a big deal for you to tweak if you choose to.

  • 13-- I am not a religious person, so I would not be interested in endorsing this tenet. All I can say is that all activities should be chosen for how they produce more pleasure than pain. But I do not equate effort with pain. Effort can often be quite pleasurable. There is nothing about effortless pleasure that I prefer over effortful pleasure (such as, say, dancing), if the pleasure itself is equal. This Tenet seems like another endorsement of static over kinetic pleasure, and we've discussed that a lot here, so I won't rehash. I would just say that I don't think there is strong evidence that Epicurus made a big deal about this distinction, and I would not make it something members of a group had to agree to one way or another.

  • 14 is fine

    15-- I am not sure what you mean by this. It is unclear, and it seems to leave the door open for Stoicism. Again you link to your own writing, which does contain original quotes this time, and you end with this "Consistent with what’s been said before, in Fragment 112 Diogenes states that the “sum of happiness is our disposition, of which we are masters”, by which he argues against choosing a career in military service–which produces dangers to our lives and health–or public speaking–which produces nervousness and insecurity. The idea is that we can more easily be self-sufficient in our pleasure if we retain our ability to control our mental disposition."

    By arguing against military service, Diogenes is saying we control our disposition by taking action to control our circumstances. Similar to Epicurus advising not to commit crimes, because we will be anxious about getting caught. He doesn't say we can do what we want, because we can have control over our mental dispositions anyway.

    With all the "new thought" stuff going around and the revival of the Stoic belief that external circumstances are of no consequence-- that something in us is controlling our attitude and feelings, unaffected by the world around us-- I think this is not a Tenet I would endorse. I would say rather that we can act on the external world and thus create pleasure for ourselves.

  • Participants in this thread will now see that a new subforum has been set up dedicated to the Society of Epicurus. The main reason I opened this is that if people start commenting on particular items in the list of 20, it may be impossible to follow what is being discussed without opening a new thread on the particular tenet. Please feel free to do that if it will help. If this is not helpful, I can always move this single thread back into the "General Discussion" forum.


    I added this as the subforum description:

    "The Society of Epicurus is an initiative led by Hiram Crespo and headquartered at SocietyofEpicurus.com. There is no general or formal relationship between Epicureanfriends.com and the Society of Epicurus, or between participants in Epicureanfriends.com and members of the Society of Epicurus, except as individuals in either group choose to participate in the other. It should therefore not be presumed that participants in either group agree with or endorse any particular activity or statement of the other. However there is much obvious overlap in areas of interest, and this subforum is made available for use in discussion of particular aspects of the Society of Epicurus, such as its Twenty Tenets of December, 2019, or any other matters of particular relevance to the Society of Epicurus."

  • 16 is harmed by the inclusion of advantage and disadvantage, as if there can be any standard other than pleasure and pain


    17 introduces 3 goals-- life, happiness, and health. And since (according to our prior group PMs) you define happiness as being something different from pleasure, you have left pleasure entirely out of the picture of the chief goods. Although safety, friendship, autarky, etc, are conditions most typical humans will find pleasurable, they are not goods in themselves nor do they become absolute goods-- there will be exceptions, and there will be times when these conditions come into conflict with each other. So it is not true that anything you do to get one of these conditions will bring you pleasure. It will depend on the specifics of the situation, and pleasure is the deciding factor. This statement has made autarchy and the rest an absolute.

    18 is also too absolute. If an unplanned life is pleasurable, it is certainly worth living to the person living it. It is only that freedom and planning increase our chances of success at gaining pleasure, so it is _wise_ to plan.


    19/ 20-- you revert again to the term happiness here, and since I don't agree with your definition of it as something other than pleasure (or of anything but pleasure as a goal), I can't agree. I would say friendship is essential (for almost all of us) for pleasure. But you have quoted the justice PDs instead of the friendship PDs, and they are related but not the same. I would like to see you quote "All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help"-- and we know that if anything is desirable in itself, that means it is a _pleasure_-- friendship is a pleasure. I think you need to include the feelings here. It is not a cold calculation. It might help to have some kind of more clear introduction where you say something like "anytime I use the word advantage or benefit, I am talking about pleasure alone." Someone very familiar with Epicurus would know that, but I think it helps to make it clear to newcomers.

  • There are essential things I believe you have omitted from the Tenets that make your group susceptible to intrusion by stoics and various idealists, such as our Not NeoEpicurean but Epicurean list. Your choice, but as I mentioned earlier, those elements are not coherent with EP, nor are they internally consistent.

  • For 1 and 2, the footnotes are to articles by Hiram and not to primary source material. The second article, by Hiram, says at the end,

    "Our hedonism is not about us being subjective, or whimsical, it’s what we mean what we say that nature is our guide: if we ignore our faculties, it’s only to our detriment and to our harm. If we heed them, it’s to our advantage.

    Our natural goods are all pleasant, and pleasure is always good." But no quotes are given from Epicurean sources.

    The statement that hedonism is not about us being subjective is in contradiction to Tenet #2, which says pleasure and aversion are about subjective nature. There seems to be, as I suspected from the inaccurate division of our perceptions into subjective and objective, a disdain for subjective experience creeping in, perhaps unconsciously. Why would it be a problem if pleasure seeking was subjective? It IS subjective. It can't be experienced other than subjectively.

    Elayne (+ #Cassius ) Thank you in specific for your parrhesia re: objective / subjective. That's good feedback. I will bring up with others for editorial feedback.

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

  • Anticipations is one of the doctrines that took me the longest to grasp. When I wrote my book, I was trying to relate it to epigenetics. I agree that all canonic faculties must be pre-rational. The verbiage I used is from the best explanation of the anticipations that I have found from a Spanish-language source:


    Canónica: criterios para la interpretación de la instalación del individuo en la realidad

    http://holegon.net/wp-content/…4/09/04-Can%C3%B3nica.pdf

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

  • 12-- I know of no evidence that Epicurus promoted idealism in anything. How would an idealistic or imaginary version of his gods be coherent with his philosophy as a whole?

    Also, you tend to give your own writing as a source material, but sometimes you link to a book. The end notes would be stronger if you followed the traditional format and gave a full citation, including page numbers. It wouldn't be such a problem to use your own writing or YouTube videos as sources if those writings themselves contained the original source references, but generally they do not. However, this shouldn't be a big deal for you to tweak if you choose to.

    13-- I am not a religious person, so I would not be interested in endorsing this tenet. All I can say is that all activities should be chosen for how they produce more pleasure than pain. But I do not equate effort with pain. Effort can often be quite pleasurable. There is nothing about effortless pleasure that I prefer over effortful pleasure (such as, say, dancing), if the pleasure itself is equal. This Tenet seems like another endorsement of static over kinetic pleasure, and we've discussed that a lot here, so I won't rehash. I would just say that I don't think there is strong evidence that Epicurus made a big deal about this distinction, and I would not make it something members of a group had to agree to one way or another.

    12 - is an instance where post-Epicurus Epicureans posited their own ideas. The two interpretations accepted today by academics on the gods are realist (the gods are made of atoms) and idealist (the gods are not physical but have cultural / ethical utility as models). The third interpretation, which was originally advanced by Ilkka and then I supported, and is adamantly supported by people like Michel Onfray, is the atheistic one which calls for an atheology instead of a theology, which says that gods are neither justifiable by the canon nor useful in ethics. Here is the original post from he Menoeceus blog (it also mentions the first two interpretations):


    https://menoeceus.blogspot.com/2014/08/epicurean-gods.html


    13- this quote on "pure, effortless pleasure", if I remember correctly, is cited directly from Epicurus in Philodemus' scroll on Piety (cited in the notes). I believe it comes from Epicurus' scroll "On Holiness" (there are a few quotes there), which is lost to us. Some of the other quotes:


    “We all regard our views as the true cause of our tranquility. … In On Holiness, he (Epicurus) calls a life of perfection the most pleasant and most blessed, and instructs us to guide against all defilement, with our intellect comprehensively viewing the best psychosomatic dispositions for the sake of fitting all that happens to us to blessedness …”


    It seems like the original Epicureans believe that pious practices have pleasant psychosomatic (both bodily and mental) health effects. Dispositions (diatheses) are an important concept in Epicuran ethics, also often neglected. But it is clear in On Piety that religious practices are meant as a tool for cultivation of happy and healthy mental and emotional dispositions (mental clarity, reverence, friendliness, kindness) in one's character. This is a neglected aspect of the tradition today, and I have not seen any consensus in our groups as far as carrying out "experiments in piety" following Epicurus' guidelines in modern times, so this remains unexplored.


    However, I believe that in this we can furnish useful ethical guidance to any religious group that wishes to elevate their pious practices by applying Epicurean principles.

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

  • 14 is fine

    15-- I am not sure what you mean by this. It is unclear, and it seems to leave the door open for Stoicism. Again you link to your own writing, which does contain original quotes this time, and you end with this "Consistent with what’s been said before, in Fragment 112 Diogenes states that the “sum of happiness is our disposition, of which we are masters”, by which he argues against choosing a career in military service–which produces dangers to our lives and health–or public speaking–which produces nervousness and insecurity. The idea is that we can more easily be self-sufficient in our pleasure if we retain our ability to control our mental disposition."

    By arguing against military service, Diogenes is saying we control our disposition by taking action to control our circumstances. Similar to Epicurus advising not to commit crimes, because we will be anxious about getting caught. He doesn't say we can do what we want, because we can have control over our mental dispositions anyway.

    With all the "new thought" stuff going around and the revival of the Stoic belief that external circumstances are of no consequence-- that something in us is controlling our attitude and feelings, unaffected by the world around us-- I think this is not a Tenet I would endorse. I would say rather that we can act on the external world and thus create pleasure for ourselves.

    (This tenet also implies that we are free + responsible to develop our characters)


    So the source of that is Diogenes' "“sum of happiness is our disposition, of which we are masters", but Philodemus also discusses our disposition, so this is not a Stoic idea, it comes from more than one source and seems central to how Epicureans discussed the art of living. In On Piety, it's discussed in terms of the psychosomatic effects of pious practice. In On Anger, it's discussed in terms of how a furious disposition makes us ugly and disliked, how it's bad for our relationships and creates many other disadvantages. In On Arrogance, a similar treatment is given to the vice.


    Sentience is very important to us, the quality of the sentient experience, and disposition (unlike mere "states of mind or emotion" which come and go) is HABITUAL, steady, stable and crucial for moral development. So any science or art of happiness would have to concern itself with it.

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

  • Of the list, here are the ones that I can pretty much endorse without reservation:


    6. All bodies are made of particles and void.

    8. Nothing comes from nothing.

    10. All that exists, exists within nature. There is no super-natural or un-natural “realm”; it would not have a way of existing outside of nature. Nature is reality.

    14. Death is nothing to us because when we are, death is not and when death is, we are not. Since there is no sentience in death, it is never experienced by us

    19. Friendship is necessary for securing happiness. It is advantageous to promote Epicurean philosophy in order to widen our circle of Epicurean friends.


    The others I have varying degrees of concern about and I will address them separately, trying also to incorporate comments made by others too.

  • 16 is harmed by the inclusion of advantage and disadvantage, as if there can be any standard other than pleasure and pain


    17 introduces 3 goals-- life, happiness, and health. And since (according to our prior group PMs) you define happiness as being something different from pleasure, you have left pleasure entirely out of the picture of the chief goods.

    16. Epicurus used both pleasure / discomfort as well as this in the Letter to Menoeceus when he discussed hedonic calculus:


    "Yet by a scale of comparison and by the consideration of advantages and disadvantages we must form our judgment on all these matters."


    So hedonic calculus involves the calculation of feelings, and of advantages and disadvantages.


    17. Epicurus and the other founders established three criteria to determine what is necessary in the Letter to Menoeceus:


    "of the necessary some are necessary for happiness, others for the repose of the body, and others for very life"


    The doctrine of the "chief goods" (kyriotatai) is in Philodemus' "Choices and avoidances" scroll.

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

  • When reading the texts, I think it is critical to take everything in context of the whole. I have no sense that Epicurus meant that "advantages" could be anything other than related to pleasure, since there is no other definition of good. It does make it hard for someone to grasp, if they don't get a feel for the whole philosophy. So I strongly recommend that any brief list of Tenets should stick closely to language of pleasure and not create confusion. I don't think Epicurus' words are confusing when read in the context of his whole work, but there are definitely some problems with proof-texting out of context. If you decide to leave these in, I think a reminder that there is no other standard but pleasure as the good is very important-- that you are never replacing it with these alternative concepts. Otherwise you are unnecessarily complicating something that is ultimately very simple and straightforward.