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

  • No worries, I've made the same mistake before...

    Oscar Yes. It's nice to learn from mistakes. I'm just a less than a month old Epicurean. I have been a Marxist for more than 20 years so adjustment in the language I use is quite a challenge for me so far. ;)

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • Well you've come to the right place, this is the premier online platform to learn the teachings of Epicurus! I don't think any other online Epicurean platform can, currently, say that.

    Oscar Yes. That's what I feel. Discussions are very healthy here, and I have already learned so much in just a few days of engagement. Cassius recommended me to read Norman DeWitt's book which I have just downloaded. I long to get deeply into it.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • Epicurus was not heard in his era as other philosophers were heard, nor after his era did the people hear him. However, he conquered many countries as much as those that were conquered by Αristotle and Alexander, and then only through hearing a few of his words. In all history no one wrote Epicurus' philosophy as a whole, with the only exception that stands out being the exceptional Lucretius.


    Half of the people who heard the name of Epicurus, being as naive as carpenters on the sea, took him for a loser.


    The other half, as wicked as executioners with their axes, correctly detected his vigorous message of rebellion. They saw and were terrified of the harvest that might come from it. And they took their measures: The "uneducated," they called him - the "shepherd of pigs and oxen."

    They quickly grabbed their axes and the other paraphernalia of gravediggers and covered the noble body of Epicurus's knowledge in mayflowers, and in the echoes of silence. The tangible moment for mankind was lost in front of their eyes.


    Thus, man had been deprived of the great opportunity to enter a universe of frankness, responsibility, honesty, and beauty.


    The Seljuks of the priesthood, the Academy, and the pen accused Epicurus with numerous suppositions:

    That he supposedly over-simplified life, because he called it joy, lightness, and well being for he denounced the evils, the sufferings, and the sadness of life.


    That he supposedly humiliated the decency of mankind because he proclaimed:

    "Let us eat and drink and enjoy our life, because tomorrow we will die."


    That he supposedly despised the wise and the teachers, for he praised innovative knowledge of the self, and the freshness of the deep calling of the present. That he supposedly mocked the divine and the sacred. Behind the eyelids of a man’s sleep, and as long as he lives, there are dreams, desires, beauties, truths, and delusions moving slowly, but when the man dies, it is spiders, scorpions, and lizards that creep out of man's skull.


    If Epicurus's voice had not been blocked by man's fears, ignorance, and misanthropy, history would have taken another path. But the line and the course of the world is engraved with our shame: a shivering heart, a sheep's and hyena's mind, and the prominent belly that maddens by its rumblings.

    The basement, the shaft, and the back door of our house conceal the façade, the studio and the roof. Once, we were of a noble generation - we the Gypsies.

    If Epicurus had passed from here - alas! only the Medes are passing by from here – what would have remained in the world would be a simple kind of anti-religion. The unified consciousness, that is, the knowledge of nature, the clarity, the strength, the courage, and the positiveness. All that Epicurus described then as bravery, and Nietzsche, in the more recent past, described as "gay science" and "human, all too human."

    With Epicurus, mankind had the opportunity to protect its future from an Atlantic of worthless things: miseries, lies, errors, frauds, sacred sessions, lives of saints, caps of priest and pope, crimes, and futile waste of the intellect.

    And the opportunity was lost.

    -An excerpt from the book entitled : “Polychronio-Stoa and Rome” by Dimitris Liantinis that was a professor of Greek Philosophy.




  • elli This is interesting! Thanks! :)

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • @Mike you're welcome ! :)

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

  • In O'Keefe, the author introduces the issue by stating that what the Epicurean god(s) are is unclear but discussed two theories about what Epicureanism proposed for the nature of the gods. The issue, Hiram, with SoFE tenets is that you declare there are three acceptable Epicurean positions when, for all we know, Epicureanism has only one position we just aren't certain which one it is.

    Well, "Epicurean-ism" is not a person with a single mind and a single opinion on the matter. WE are the people who hold the label "Epicurean", and we hold a diversity of views.


    What I AM saying is that members of SoFE are willing to accept as Epicureans people who hold these three positions, frankly, because there are good arguments for all three. All three are Epicurean, as far as I’m concerned, because they are part of our tradition.


    The view that Epicurus held was clearly the realist view, but if we required all Epicureans today to hold this view, there would only be a handful of people who understand, much less accept this view, and we would almost all of us have to excommunicate ourselves from what we're doing.


    The idealist and the atheist views are both not what Epicurus opined.


    In fact, Elayne in particular is making claims of orthodoxy and then says that she adheres to the atheist view. If she were to follow the “only one interpretation possible” approach, she would have to exclude herself from epicureanism. Epicurus WOULD NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO with atheists in his day! :-) In the scroll on piety, Philodemus mentions an account of three atheists who are mentioned by name. In my commentary of the scroll, I wrote:


    It’s ironic that so many atheists today consider Epicurus as one among their number. Epicurus mentions the need to despise atheists, reproaches them as mad, Bacchic revellers and admonishes them “not to trouble or disturb us”, mentioning Critias, Doagoras and Prodicus by name.



    The piety of Epicurus and his followers is mentioned frequently in the Philodeman scroll. It describes how celebrations of the 20th were, originally, in part religious and Epicurus’ “house was decorated piously” for the occasion. The oaths and invocations were, also, religious in nature and in his Epistle to Diotimus, Epicurus is said to have warned against “violating the covenant of the sacred festival table”.

    ...

    Therefore, even if they are now in the majority, Epicurean atheist thinkers are part of the contemporary branch of the tradition and could not have emerged at the roots of our history. Epicurus would not have had it.


    So we have to, at all times, humbly embrace the fact that what we are doing is a modern revival of Epicureanism.

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

  • And that's one reason we are talking about this in the context of a list of tenets of a "Society of Epicurus." It would certainly not be acceptable to me to be a member of a society that held that Epicurus was a liar or a coward and simply trying to avoid the fate of Socrates.


    Only Norman DeWitt seems to have been willing to treat Epicurus fairly and respectfully, ...

    Cassius at this point I’m not sure if it’s honest of you to characterize this as what I’m saying.


    It is possible to hold the view that:


    Epicurus sincerely believed in his gods,


    AND


    To hold the view that I do not agree with his view. (Atheist opinion)


    AND


    Maybe to even hold the view that religious practices still have some utility (idealist opinion)


    This is not disrespectful. And it does not imply he was a liar or coward. Each one of these is a sincere opinion and here it is you who are demeaning those who hold these views and accusing them of insulting Epicurus, when at no point that was said or implied in any of the tenets, or in the literature provided to justify their views by the epicureans who hold these views (Ilkka and myself, and others).

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

  • Hiram, I am not atheist in regards to the type of beings Epicurus referred to. I am atheist in terms of the supernatural, which Epicurus was also. If I have been unclear on that, I am surprised. Just like with the word atoms, the word atheist no longer means exactly the same thing as it did in Epicurus' time.

  • and Hiram, also, I am not opposed to people disagreeing with Epicurus on things that don't bring down the whole structure of the philosophy.

    That is completely different from adopting incompatible ideas and calling them Epicurean. Ideas that do not fit at all with the original teachings. You can have any ideas you want to-- but to call any idea you have Epicurean just because you self-identify as an Epicurean is really stretching things too far. And the same for Philodemus.

    Ideas that are inconsistent with an entirely material universe, lacking any absolute morality or supernatural agents; with the method of knowing what is true, through the Canon (more so than the particular facts asserted, the method itself is the critical part); and that the goal of our lives is the feeling of pleasure, felt purely subjectively and specific to each individual? Not Epicurean.

    I'm not saying there aren't other key elements, but if a person goes outside of those things, they have definitely made a new philosophy that is not Epicurean.

  • If it's true that Epicurus rejected atheists and atheism generally. How then can you, Hiram, claim Atheism as part of the Epicurean tradition...

    Because so many those who identify as Epicureans today call themselves atheists :) and because, as I've said before, I see Epicurean philosophy as an evolving, living tradition rather than an irrelevant study of a history of itself.


    We are the ones who are creating Gardens, communities, or circles of friends to study Epicureanism for our own pleasure and for our own sake. It is we who must carry the tradition forward. Epicurus isn't here. It is we who have to decide whether we will subject atheists to the treatment that Epicurus subjected atheists to--however they are defined... (or, for that matter, subject monotheistic Deists like Thomas Jefferson to excommunication).


    And concerning "Friends of Epicurus"--here I must cite Michel Onfray's "counter-history of philosophy from the perspective of the friends of Epicurus and the enemies of Plato" ... (he is also the author of a "Manual of Atheology"). We're not a dead intellectual tradition. There are Epicurean friends still having conversations in many languages.

    Hiram, I am not atheist in regards to the type of beings Epicurus referred to. I am atheist in terms of the supernatural, which Epicurus was also. If I have been unclear on that, I am surprised. Just like with the word atoms, the word atheist no longer means exactly the same thing as it did in Epicurus' time.

    So you subscribe to the realist interpretation? You believe with certainty that immortal, blissful gods with bodies made of particles, exist? It didn't seem to me that you held that view. It seemed like you were agnostic about the Epicurean gods (or withholding your opinion until evidence is presented) and atheistic about the monotheistic god.

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

  • and Hiram, also, I am not opposed to people disagreeing with Epicurus on things that don't bring down the whole structure of the philosophy.
    ....
    Ideas that are inconsistent with an entirely material universe, lacking any absolute morality or supernatural agents; with the method of knowing what is true, through the Canon (more so than the particular facts asserted, the method itself is the critical part); and that the goal of our lives is the feeling of pleasure, felt purely subjectively and specific to each individual? Not Epicurean.

    Cool. That's why I keep citing the Ilkka essay, because he goes back to the canon to argue the atheistic interpretation.

    (http://menoeceus.blogspot.com/2014/08/epicurean-gods.html)

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

  • Just catching up - first comment


    Cassius at this point I’m not sure if it’s honest of you to characterize this as what I’m saying.

    There's miscommunication going on here -- I can see why you thought I was including you personally in saying those things, but I am not characterizing you personally as taking that position. I understand that you're trying to be flexible on what you want in the society of Epicurus, and you are most likely opening the tent wider than I would do personally, but I do not think I have seen you make remarks accusing Epicurus of lying. There are people who are very vocal in saying that, but I don't consider you to be one of them.

  • That piece by Ilkka, I don't agree with, because he is actually saying the realist version is impossible and that asserting such is Epicurean. Nor do I agree with him that Epicurus' writing can be taken as idealism, especially in light of Epicurus' opposition to idealism. That doesn't make any sense at all.


    That's a different thing from me saying that I do not believe in supernatural gods. Ilkka believes there cannot be any material beings of the type Epicurus describes.


    I am open to the possibility of these beings but need evidence. I have not received any images of them myself, not have I had intuitions of them, so for me it is a viable theory that hasn't been proven. However I have not said that this position of mine was Epicurus, or that an Epicurean would share it. I am using his methods, his Canon, and I have not reached the same conclusion.

    You are trying (obviously) to show that we are as much neo as you are, but in cases where I diverge, I am saying so. But you're just calling it all Epicurean.

  • Things are beginning to make sense to me. I'm a less than a month old self-declared Epicurean, and I do not claim I have completely grasped all the teachings of Epicurus. In fact, I have high respect on all of you guys here for the profoundness of your understanding of Epicureanism.


    However, it seems that Epicureanism is not at all different from other isms I've been to especially on the area if fidelity to the original author.


    On one hand, it is reasonable to say that you are not an Epicurean if you hold some views that are likely to compromise the fidelity to Epicurus' basic thoughts.


    On the other hand, fidelity compromises its power of application to an ever changing world in which the diversity of language and culture continuously evolves. If we say that Epicureanism is not for everyone, what's the point of telling people about it?


    I do not say that fidelity is wrong nor express that revisionism is right, but fidelity requires that a system of thought is clear and complete.


    We know that most of Epicurus works did not survive. Only a few fragments from other authors of antiquity are available to us. Moreover, the distance of our time from Epicurus is quite long. Who would know what we are all saying here is what exactly what Epicurus was thinking since even the available original texts keep Epicureans divided in thoughts or views?


    Nevertheless, it is also reasonable to say that we are not Epicureans if we are too remote from the basic principles of Epicureanism.


    My only question is "To what extent should we stop calling someone Epicurean?

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

    Edited once, last by Mike Anyayahan ().

  • I imagine Epicurus as a wise grandpa comes here for saying to all of us :


    Hey, guys, it is not the synagonization (equally in terms) of gods' perceptions that trouble us but the antagonization (unequally in terms) of gods' perceptions that trouble us. Please, do not consider for yourselves either being superior to gods or lower to gods, but equally with gods, as well as please do the same for any being. Since, no one is superior or inferior on how he perceives/feels pleasure or pain accordingly since it is subjectivity of feelings, and no one has ever invented any pain/pleasure meter.


    Thus, according to my philosophy, I challenge everybody IF he/she has the gusts to bring those gods' perceptions in the reality of life for synagonizing them equally in terms of pleasure!

    However, this presupposes that stability of well-mood that comes from the inner-self and as I called it "eudaemonia" ! With this, I've started my letter to Menoeceus and with this, I've finished it. Since I wanted to be consistent, honest and responsible and with myself and with my like-minded friends. With this stability of well-mood, I started my whole life and I ended up with this, since I was grateful and only for the fact that I have been born (this was the first great opportunity of "happiness" to me that in the Greek language is given with the word "good luck"). And that is because living well/pleasantly and dying well/pleasantly was the same issue for me and an issue that was of my power and my own efforts. For this reason and not otherwise, I did not permit anyone and even a god to interrupt living my life - with its ups and downs - as a great festival and entertainment. :)


    ES 29 "The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold. For if I possess this safety and hope to possess it, I would compete even Zeus in bliss".


    I would compete even Zeus in bliss... And here Epicurus asserts that such a person, having reached such a level of blissfulness/eudaemonia, would gladly compete even with Zeus himself. The father of gods can hardly be more content than the common mortal who has successfully and effectively answered the call of nature, and has heeded the "cry of the flesh" with the fulfillment of his natural and necessary.


    There is a greek symbol that is called “Meander” or “greek key”, and that was probably the graphic representation with the divine competition, of brave men/heroes who are fighting with Gods !

    The "meander-handgrip", as rightly so we should call it, is repeatedly used by Hercules, as it is, as clearly emphasized in this masterful depiction of the struggle of Hercules with Triton in a 550 BC black figure kylix, where we see Triton struggling in vain to be released in front of his chest. The sea-god is depicted with a serpentine fish-tail in place of legs. Hercules stands with arms firmly locked, with the “meander handgrip” fingers around his chest, and legs astride his tail. The pair is surrounded by swimming fish. Seventeen Nereides dance in a circle around the pair.

  • If we say that Epicureanism is not for everyone, what's the point of telling people about it?

    I think Epicurus would say that the basic observations about the nature of the universe are in fact true for everyone, so everyone should profit from being aware of them. However not everyone is going to accept those fundamentals, and many are going to reject them.


    "A man cannot become wise with every kind of physical constitution, nor in every nation." (from the biography by Diogenes Laertius)


    Why tell other people about it? Because our goal of happiness does not require that everyone in the world think exactly like we do. Our goal requires only that we find like-minded friends and that we associate with them toward our mutual happiness.



    39. The man who has best ordered the element of disquiet arising from external circumstances has made those things that he could akin to himself, and the rest at least not alien; but with all to which he could not do even this, he has refrained from mixing, and has expelled from his life all which it was of advantage to treat thus.


    40. As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbours, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and, after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend, as though he were to be pitied.

  • Our goal requires only that we find like-minded friends and that we associate with them toward our mutual happiness.

    I guess this is the best answer I have come across so far. I also asked this to a group of Stoics and Taoists. I can't remember their answers. My only concern is to what extent we can say we are like-minded.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • Please, do not consider for yourselves either being superior to gods or lower to gods, but equally with gods, as well as please do the same for any being.

    But is it possible for atheists to be called Epicureans as well?

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • But is it possible for atheists to be called Epicureans as well?

    You asked Elli that question, but I want to give my answer too.

    Of course it is "possible" for atheists to be called Epicureans. The question that has to be asked is "Is it proper to call them Epicureans?" And "In what context is it proper or improper to call them Epicureans."


    If you are working on reconstructing a philosophy and creating a community of like-minded people to work together happily on that common project, it's necessary to come to some kind of understanding of where the limits are, how bright the line is, etc.


    That's really all I am talking about here. "Epicurean" is a concept - a word - just like any other. It has only the meaning we give to it, based on all the circumstances that play into the discussion. There is no "ideal Epicurean" living in Plato's world of forms, or breathed out of the mouth of a god, or existing as an Aristotelian "essence" inside of us, waiting to be uncovered. "The earth belongs to the living," in Jefferson's phrasing. There are only living breathing humans doing their best to communicate with each other in a precise enough way that we can have a meeting of the minds. Unless we take the time to define our words and sharpen our understanding of the issues, there can really never be a true meeting, or have that meeting exist happily for very long.

  • @Mike for speaking of myself and for saying positively that I am an Epicurean it took only some weeks of searching and studying Epicurus texts, as well as, at the same time I had and still I have interaction/communication with such persons that say for themselves that are epicureans too.. but for saying for myself that I'm positively an atheist I'm still searching and I do not how long it will take to search it, although I understand deeply what Epicurus meant that our knowledge of gods is obvious, and that is because maybe I had a similar feeling with Epicurus when I was climbing up to the hill of Acropolis/Parthenon. :)

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