The Neglect of Metrodorus’ Economics

  • On the above VS 45 there are also two greek words "περιμάχητον παιδείαν" [pron. perimachiton peadeian"] and is translated "the kind of education that is fought over by the many", although it literally means "the kind of education that is sought after by the many". That is to say, if you follow/study the marketable education that is based on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the like you will lose yourself/identity for becoming one of the mobs that follow blindly their leaders!

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

  • Νο, Cassius the word "moderation" does not exist in the epicurean texts. Epicurus speaks often for limits that the person is able to set them through his/her personal hedonic calculus.

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

  • Νο, Cassius the word "moderation" does not exist in the epicurean texts.

    Given how often this "moderation" issue comes up, at some point it would be interesting to do a search for any appearances of forms of that word in anything in Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes of Oinoanda, Lucretius, or the key Epicurean sections of Cicero, just to be able to hammer this point home as persuasively as possible. And of course we can and should do the same with the Herculaneum fragments, though that will be much harder to evaluate.


    But already Elli's comment is good confirmation that the concept of "moderation" is not consistent with how Epicurus thought or presented his philosophy. Given that he was so firm on rejecting "virtue for the sake of virtue" it would only make sense that he would reject "moderation" as a goal in itself. But we can count on this question coming up over and over in future discussions, since so many people think that "moderation in all things" makes sense. And in fact it makes sense that "moderation" like other bright line rules should run through so many of the Greek philosophers, given their theist / idealist / rationalist orientation - but not Epicurus.

  • 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?

    According to this, Epicurus articulated a "defense of poverty" while criticizing Empedocles (who in one poem personified Poverty as constantly in the company of a poor man when he ate, and even accompanying him to his funeral)


    https://www.academia.edu/31634…les_Menander_and_Epicurus


    In pages 116-117 (and I think this is mentioned afterwards) it says that Epicurus appeared before Leostratus and gives a teaching on wealth that Philodemus appears to be quoting, and here he attributes to Epicurus the teaching that there is a distinction between natural wealth that is easy to acquire and empty wealth which is not. It's possible that this is the context in which VS 25 may have been given. Either way it should be related to the PDs and VSs.

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

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

    I think the Epicurean position was to juxtapose nature and culture, and to say: follow nature. Your body needs warmth, safety, something to eat, something to drink, clothing, etc. Culture will plant all kinds of cravings and desires that are foreign to your nature. So This is the focus. If you have all the natural needs met, you are wealthy. But if you're trying to "keep up with the Joneses" and constantly working to impress strangers, you need to adjust your opinions to nature.

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

  • Your body needs warmth, safety, something to eat, something to drink, clothing, etc

    Well, if warmth, safety, something to eat, something to drink, and clothing are all that is needed to be "wealthy" then the inmates at San Quentin are wealthy indeed!


    If you have all the natural needs met, you are wealthy.

    The problem with these formulations is that they imply (rather clearly state, actually) that there is something wrong with wanting more than the bare necessities of life. Cue the disney song here, as others regularly do in this context.


    But it is foreign to Epicurus to say that any set of facts is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, without linking them to the pleasure of the person involved.


    So This is the focus. If you have all the natural needs met, you are wealthy. But if you're trying to "keep up with the Joneses" and constantly working to impress strangers, you need to adjust your opinions to nature.

    Nowhere in any of this Hiram are you linking any of this to the specific pleasure under the context being discussed? Why not? Are you looking for a formula that you can apply to everyone and say that Nature says that that person has enough? Why not look to the actual pleasure being experienced by the individual no matter what amount of money he has in the bank. You can be rich in pleasure with little money, or a billionaire full of pain and sorrow.


    is THAT not the message here?


    Are you suggesting that Epicurus is Phil Harris / Baloo singing to Mowgli to go only for the bare necessities of life? If not, how is what you are saying diffferent from Baloo?


    This is a cute song, but it's a DEROGATORY CARICATURE, not what Epicurus really taught.


  • "Nature" is what has caused the phenomena of keeping up with the Joneses and working to impress others. It's not an artifact of civilization. Social status in human groups is a serious issue for health-- it's even an issue for less advanced primates. So nature won't help a person make those decisions, which are quite natural, unless the person has fully absorbed the primary lesson that pleasure is the goal. By taking pleasure as the goal, a person would avoid getting caught in unpleasant social competition but could engage in it strategically if necessary to serve pleasure.


    When I go for a job interview, I make sure my clothes and typed CV are in condition to make a good impression on strangers-- for the pleasures I will use my income for. I'm aware of competing with others for the position. If it were necessary to do that "constantly" to gain pleasure and prevent pain, there are times that would be the wisest choice. It would only be unwise if there were more pleasurable alternative choices.

  • I think the real problem lies in our use of the word "wealth" as opposed to how Epicurus used it.


    The conventional meaning of wealth is significant amount of resources while Epicurus seems to have used the word figuratively by saying that poverty is wealth.


    If we define wealth literally, not figuratively, we will lose sight of the simplest message here by Epicurus.


    As far as I understood, Epicurus seems to be telling us that the equivalent value of pleasure that we can find in a significant amount of material resources can also be found in poverty.


    If that is the case, it is vain and unnecessary to desire a significant amount of material resources more than what poverty can equally offer.


    This is why he said that wealth, if not limited, is great 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."

  • As far as I understood, Epicurus seems to be telling us that the equivalent value of pleasure that we can find in a significant amount of material resources can also be found in poverty.


    If that is the case, it is vain and unnecessary to desire a significant amount of material resources more than what poverty can equally offer.


    I would say that the "can" in the first sentence would need to be "may under certain circumstances" and that the "if that is the case" is the controlling aspect of the second sentence. And also that wealth and poverty are figurative terms, which means that they are relative and not absolute (literal).


    Otherwise it is very easy to end up sounding like Epicurus is advising pursuit of only the "bare necessities" of life, which we know from many texts, not the least of which is the list of property which Epicurus left in his, is not the choice that Epicurus made for himself. In fact as far as I know there is not a single recorded instance of an ancient Epicurean being devoted to poverty and living as an ascetic.

  • Cassius Yes. That's the point. A happy person may either be someone who makes do with a living wage or someone who is a high-net-worth individual. But an anxious person may either be the one who is lacking or the one with excesses.


    If so, our mindset, which is the product of our relative experience and circumstances, contributes a lot in our prudence.


    For instance, a crippled man is happier to have a wheelchair to use than a car to drive, but we can't tell an Olympic runner that a wheelchair is what can truly make him happy.


    In other words, everyone has his own need and mindset unique from one another.

    "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."

  • Yes I think that's exactly it Mike. It makes no more sense to shoot for being a cave-dweller than it does to shoot for being a billionaire. Both can be "happy" and both can be miserable. And it's probably much more statistically sound from an Epicurean point of view to draw dividing lines on issues such as "What does the person think about "gods"? or "What does a person think about life after death?" rather than "How much money does the person have in their bank account?"

  • Definitely, it is not how much money that counts but how prudent a person is in recognizing how much is enough for him.

    "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."

  • Definitely, it is not how much money that counts but how prudent a person is in recognizing how much is enough for him.

    I think it is pretty clear that that is the case and I would think that most people familiar with Epicurus would agree with that if they think about it long enough.


    It's almost a separate subject that takes us back to "virtue" and all the other issues of relative v absolute, but there's a STRONG tendency among people to want to take analysis that is essentially contextual (based on feeling) and want to make out of that analysis a "rules based" bright line that they think that they can apply to everyone.


    It would seem to me almost beyond dispute that THAT problem - the tendency to want to idealize and rationalize into a universal rule - had to be the explicit reason why it was necessary to state what is stated in VS 63.


    I think it would be highly productive to think about ways to dramatize and try to inoculate against that problem, and maybe taking familiar examples of the wrong position "The Bare Necessities" song, would be a good way to do that. Does Baloo Speak for Epicurus In the Song "Bare Necessities" from "The Jungle Book" Movie?


    Mike are you familiar with that song / movie? It would be interesting for me to know who much an American song/movie like that has permeated world culture. Of course that movie is now 40+ years old so maybe it has faded from view or withdrawn from circulation for whatever reason.

  • I'm not familiar with the song/movie. But after listening to it from your link, it still sounds Taoist to me. Being one with nature means being as soft as water. This submission means literally relying on nature's bounty. Therefore, bare necessities are part of Yin virtue in Taoism.

    "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 very good for me to know Mike! As Elayne is commenting in the other thread, there are multiple things going on in that song and movie, all of which "bear" on what we are discussing. if we treat the song as being about "bear necessities" then we immediately see how the necessities and pleasures are contextual. If we treat the song as being about "bare necessities" then we have a totally different meaning. There's a lot to pull apart here, especially for those of a particular background and age group who are knowledgeable about the movie and have absorbed that song into their consciousness over a lifetime.

  • I remember when I was an existentialist, there was also a debate whether a certain song was existentialist or of Cynics. The song was "Let It Go" which is the soundtract of Disney's animation movie Frozen. Same here with "Bear Necessities." :)

    "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."

  • ES 77. The greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom.


    Because : «τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ' ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον κρίναντες». We are judging that bliss means freedom; and freedom means bravery and they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger ...


    ...And we have invented for ourselves many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the pleasure which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sorrow. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own. (Pericle's Epitaph, by Thucydides).


    And for this cause we call pleasure the beginning and end of the blessed life. For we recognize pleasure as the first good innate in us, and from pleasure we begin every act of choice and avoidance, and to pleasure we return again, using the feeling as the standard by which we judge every good.


    Sailings on the seas,

    Tilling of fields, walls, laws, and arms, and roads,

    Dress and the like, all prizes, all delights

    Of finer life, poems, pictures, chiseled shapes

    Of polished sculptures—all these arts were learned

    By practice and the mind's experience,

    As men walked forward step by eager step.

    Thus time draws forward each and everything

    Little by little into the midst of men,

    And reason uplifts it to the shores of light.

    For one thing after other did men see

    Grow clear by intellect, till with their arts

    They've now achieved the supreme pinnacle.


    (DRN- Lucretius book V)


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