The Neglect of Metrodorus’ Economics

  • Ok so that essay is someone looking to draw parallels between Philodemus and Jesus, who also notes that Philodemus' Greek is "difficult." Many reasons for caution.


  • This is also out of context, but still probably reinforces the disposition that one would expect Epicurus to say different things about poverty depending on the context. We shouldn't expect Epicurus to say that poverty is always evil any more than he would say that it is always good:


  • Again totally out of context and unclear as to who "I" is, but this is what I would expect Epicurus to say:




  • Is it "poverty" that is a matter of indifference, or "wealth" -- we don't know as the word is in brackets!

  • Here is another example: "moderation / mean" is by no means the same as "managing wealth with anxiety nor fearing its loss! These are the words of a commentator trying to reach a preferred conclusion, not someone trying to be fair with the text and judge it from an unbiased eye.


  • Here is another example: "moderation / mean" is by no means the same as "managing wealth with anxiety nor fearing its loss! These are the words of a commentator trying to reach a preferred conclusion, not someone trying to be fair with the text and judge it from an unbiased eye.

    And that's fine, the translator or commentator is probably an academic and not necessarily Epicurean. If Epicureans write commentaries on this, those commentaries would be Epicurean commentaries. (I do remember both things being addressed separately, though: Metrodorus used the doctrine that you find controversial to argue against the Cynics, and we also see a discussion of anxiety over loss and profit, which presumably is a critique of the extremes of wealth)


    The only favor I ask of you moving forward is never again to accuse me of making up doctrines or putting words in the mouth of Epicurus or Metrodorus without first consulting the sources in good faith. That is a huge accusation, and I would never accuse other of that in that manner, particularly without checking the sources first.

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

  • Hmmm...how do you guys interpet VS 25? It says "Poverty, if measured by the natural purpose of life, is great wealth; but wealth, IF NOT LIMITED, is great poverty."


    Here, we believe it was Epicurus who said it. Did Metrodorus contradict Epucurus if wealth is preferable to poverty?

    "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."

  • The only favor I ask of you moving forward is never again to accuse me of making up doctrines or putting words in the mouth of Epicurus or Metrodorus without first consulting the sources in good faith. That is a huge accusation, and I would never accuse other of that in that manner, particularly without checking the sources first.

    Hiram -- Courtesy goes in many ways, and I can't fail to note that your title of this thread, "The Neglect of Metrodorus' Economics" was from the very beginning an accusation that those of us here were "neglecting" something that you find to be important. In fact as I reread your first sentence here, is the essence of your accusation that I or others are complaining that you put words in the mouth of Epicurean leaders without checking the sources first? Or that you are putting incorrect doctrines in their mouths?


    As far as the critical comments in this thread go, the essential point is that you are suggesting that "natural measure" constitutes an absolute test based on something other than pleasure, and that's a substantive disagreement that is separate from the issue of whether you are putting those words in their mouths. As far as "without checking the sources first" I am sure you have checked them to some extent, but as I see it you regularly fail to stress how speculative and reconstructed many of these quotes really are.


    Both are issues of substantive disagreement, not intended to be personal insults. But they are serious issues of substantive disagreement, and at some point if you don't see it necessary to closely document your sources, and if you are also committed to looking for absolute-based standards of conduct not based on pleasure and pain, then I think we'll all conclude that it would be better to be more careful in what you post here rather than risk disagreement on substance appearing to be personal.


    It's not personal - these are just very important issues.

  • Did Metrodorus contradict Epucurus if wealth is preferable to poverty?

    I would say that there is no contradiction because I do not believe that Epicurus did say, or would say, that wealth is always preferable to poverty, nor is poverty always preferable to wealth. And I would expect that if we had more of the writings of Metrodorus and Philodemus we would see that they held the same view, because it is so obviously related to the individual circumstances of the person involved. We see that kind of thing over and over, for example in the advice to the young man whose sexual appetites were apparently too strong, while at the same time Epicurus said that he would not know the good except for experiences such as the pleasure of sex.


    That's the clear meaning of VS63. "Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess." which appears to be well documented, and is consistent with the underlying physics and so much of the rest of the philosophy. VS 23 can easily be read to be consistent with this by focusing on the contextual and non-absolute nature of the issue.


    There are obviously times when more wealth is more conducive to happiness than poverty, and also some circumstances when less wealth is more conducive. Would anyone dispute that and suggest that there is a bright line that ALWAYS is the case? That's really the issue involved in much of the back and forth here. My position is that it is obvious that wealth and poverty are sliding scales that must be evaluated in context. That's the thrust as to every decision in life which is clearly established by the fundamentals of the philosophy.


    So I would say that anyone who would contend that Metrodorus or Philodemus or any other reputable Epicurean ever deviated from that analysis would face a very high burden of showing from reliable and well-documented texts, in reasonable context, that showed such deviation. And if such texts exist, I have never seen them, despite my continuing efforts to keep aware as to new excerpts from Herculaneum.


    Commentators to the contrary are generally observed, in my experience, to be using fragmentary texts, heavily reconstructed, and clearly are engaged in speculation, much as some people try to say the Lucretius' physics depart strongly from Epicurus, which arguments I have not found to be persuasive in any degree.

  • Cassius If wealth is not preferable to poverty nor poverty is preferable to wealth, does it mean that moderation remains significant?

    "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 in my view "moderation" is a false Aristotelian category that tells us nothing. What we want is the RIGHT AMOUNT THAT MAXIMIZES PLEASURE / MINIMIZES PAIN and I would expect that to vary by situation, and rarely if ever being right "in the middle" for the sake of being in the middle. There are all sorts of jokes about how standing in the middle of the road will get you run over from both sides, worse than being only in one lane, and I think the principle behind that joke is sound. Postulating "extremes" and "middle" would seem to be valid only if there were absolute rules from which those positions could be judged, which would not make sense in an Epicurean universe. Certainly generalities can often be made, and it is often possible to tell when we eat too much ice cream and too little, but those measurements are going to vary by individual circumstances so that there is no reason that "the middle" ( which is meant by moderation) would be the right answer.

  • I see. So instead of moderation, prudence must be the guiding measurement?

    "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."

  • That is my conclusion Mike. "Prudence" is specifically mentioned in Torquatus and I think other places, while as far as I know the word "moderation" rarely if ever appears in the core Epicurean texts. There may be exceptions, but I think the letter to Menoeceus is a good example. If "moderation" were a key Epicurean concept then it would likely appear there, but I do not think you will find it there. People like to INFER that term from the regular advice given that certain appetites should be reigned in, but I do not believe you find it in the core texts stated in terms of "moderation" as an end in itself. I am no authority on Aristotle, but my understanding is that "moderation" was sort of trademarked by him and perhaps other Greeks (as "moderation in all things") I and expect that would be the kind of "absolute rule" that would be typical for Epicurus to reject, as he would reject all "absolute rules" such as justice, etc.

  • From the letter to Menoecus, I think these are examples of the focus on PRUDENCE rather than "moderation": (I should have remembered these immediately! duh)



    Yet by a scale of comparison and by the consideration of advantages and disadvantages we must form our judgment on all these matters. For the good on certain occasions we treat as bad, and conversely the bad as good.


    For it is not continuous drinkings and revelings, nor the satisfaction of lusts, nor the enjoyment of fish and other luxuries of the wealthy table, which produce a pleasant life, but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance, and banishing mere opinions, to which are due the greatest disturbance of the spirit.


    Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is prudence.


    Wherefore prudence is a more precious thing even than philosophy: for from prudence are sprung all the other virtues, and it teaches us that it is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honourably and justly, (nor, again, to live a life of prudence, honour, and justice) without living pleasantly.

  • I got it. Prudence is what I think the core texts are suggesting when faced with the dichotomy of pleasure. It is because moderation is primarily the core philosophy of Taoism/Daoism. Key words such as Yin/Yang, balance, stillness, neutrality describe Taoism as a philosophy of moderation. I don't think Epicurus is a Taoist. But I think he is prudent.

    "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 ().

  • Key words such as Yin/Yang, balance, stillness, neutrality describe Taoism as a philosophy of moderation.

    That is interesting - I was not aware of that. That would explain why people who are attracted to the "ataraxia" model would similarly be interested in Taoism - I think Peter St Andre would be an example of that - https://stpeter.im/writings/ismbook/taoism.html



    I had not previously seen this page on St Andre's site. This view of Epicurus would explain why he wrote some about Epicurus and then moved on to something else, because IMHO this viewpoint is both incorrect and unsustainable over time for anyone who takes his or her life seriously enough and really understands the philosophy. So you have one life to live, you cease to exist for all eternity afterward, and you're going to spend the time you have in pursuing "moderation" and "absence of pain and mental disturbance," when you interpret those words in a "less activist" version of Aristotle or in an Eastern sense???? Absolutely No Way. But thus kind of box explains perfectly why a certain type of neo-stoic personality is drawn to the modern view of Epicurus.

  • What has to do the "mega fronountes" (the great thinkers) with the "metrious" (moderates) and what has to do the "fainesthai" (to look like) with the "eisai" (of what you really are OR the genuine of yourself)?


    Please read again the VS 45 and the words that are used by Epicurus as characteristics for all the genuine epicureans as "serious", "self-sufficient" and "mega fronountes" men. In english language, the words "mega fronountes" means "great thinkers" i.e. pride for their own personalities/themselves and their achievements/goods which are based on their own experiences that are measured prudently among pleasure and pain. In the greek language next to the word "metrious" that in english is given with the word "moderates" follows the greek word "tapeinos" (humble)...and good grief !


    That is to say that the persistence of some persons to transform the "mega fronountes" i.e. the free, highly self-esteem epicureans for living as "moderates" and "humbles" i.e. as stoic andrapoda (slaves) obedient to their leaders/masters, it is still in vain. 8o

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