Where Is Epicurus In The "School of Athens"?

  • especially when we consider that Epicurean literature was just re-discovered

    Nate that takes us to the issue of Cicero's works and also Diogenes Laertius. I think '"on ends" in the torquatus narrative especially gives a pretty full view of Epicurean philosophy, and I am also thinking that diogenes Laertius was never fully lost, and that a lot of the church fathers continued to study and speak Greek (Elli will say that's obvious, and I am sure it is).


    So if we are trying to be rigorous i think we would want to verify the situation with DIogenes Laertius, and I am not understanding that there is an allegation that that was ever "lost" like Lucretius allegedly was.

    Does anyone have data on the history of Cicero's works and Laertius?


    And that doesn't include Lucian, who we probably ought also to correlate.


    My view (admittedly without hard evidence) is that what we're taking as "lost" and "rediscovered" needs to be examined closely too, because I would think that even historians acting in good faith (which not all of them I would grant that to) would not have a good way of canvasing all the available sources to determine who knew what and when. I would see that as almost as much guesswork as anything we're discussing ourselves in putting names to faces in the fresco.

  • Along the same lines, I am thinking that we really ought to be focusing on the history of the transmission of Diogenes Laertius much more than we focus on Lucretius. As much as I love Lucretius and find that story of his influence to be fascinating and fun, the great bulk of epicurean ideas are in Diogenes Laertius, and Lucretius just provides additional detail which really doesn't change much. If you consider that Cicero preserved reference to the swerve to add to what is in the letter to herodotus, you really have virtually all of the important physics, epistemology, and ethics without needing Lucretius.


    And although I would expect Latin was more widespread than Greek, it's my impression that the church scholars were almost as much fluent in Greek as in Latin, so the language barrier would have been little obstacle. And Laertius is such an amazing and fun book to read, i would expect (until corrected otherwise) that i would have been distributed about as widely as any other book on ancient philosophy.


    I could be wrong about some of those points but transmission through Laertius really seems to me to be the key to getting a better perspective on what was "lost" and whether much of it ever really was in need of "rediscovery."

  • Is there any reason to think at all that Laertius was ever out of circulation after it's date of writing in the 200's AD?


    We have a couple of recent translations, including a Cambridge version and the Mensch version. I am skimming through the preface material in both but I don't see anything in them to indicate that there would be any issue of gaps or rediscoveries in their transmission.

  • I am pretty firmly in the camp of multiple viable explanations on The School of Athens now. Personally, I think this is the only reasonable stance *at this time*. Just like Epicurus in the letter to Pythocles says: "The evidence we can observe does not contradict any of these different theories."

    Without specific notes from Raphael or a contemporary, we can propose, theorize, etc. until our fingers bleed on the keyboard and we won't come any closer to confirmation.

    For me, the fact that Raphael used living people as models for many if not most of his philosophers (e.g., Da Vinci = Plato, one of the two key figures we can specifically identify) or used the fanciful portraits in the Nuremberg Chronicle negates any *need* for him to have seen a bust, ring, sculpture, etc., of anyone. I'm not saying it's not possible because "The evidence we can observe does not contradict any of these different theories."

    Elli brings up interesting theories.

    Nate brings up interesting theories.

    Cassius brings up interesting theories.

    The authors I posted bring up interesting theories.

    "The evidence we can observe does not contradict any of these different theories."

  • "The evidence we can observe does not contradict any of these different theories."

    Just playing with words here to perhaps be more clear:


    These different theories are possible because they each have clear evidence to support them and they are not contradicted by any clear evidence. But because we do not have sufficient evidence to conclude that any of them are certainly the only explanation, it is not proper to say that only one is valid."


    Or more concisely: Several theories have supporting evidence and, since they are not clearly contradicted by other evidence, it is improper to say that only one theory among them is true.


    It would be good for us to really figure out the most accurate way of giving a general statement of this multiple possibility theorem. it needs to be clear that we realize that the theories can contradict each other or be mutually exclusive, so that means that the arguments that support them contradict each other. And that also means that we're separating out and distinguishing "evidence" from "arguments." Further, some evidence can be more clear than other evidence (the tower seen at a distance vs. up close).


    So arguments are not the same as evidence. We probably understand what "arguments" mean (maybe not). But what is "evidence?" Is the phrase "evidence we can observe" redundant? How can we define "clear evidence?"

  • The freedom to chose who is Epicurus and if he has to have a main position on this famous fresco has been left from the painter to the epicureans, and not only the school of Epicureans, since as they say, Raphael wanted to include on the fresco all the philosophers.


    For there is not that case (for the moment being) to be confirmed or not to be confirmed if Raphael had seen the figure of Epicurus somewhere, we will proceed with the hypothesis IF the epicureans of our days like to preserve that speculation that indicates that Epicurus is that boy with a silly smirk and wreath on his head; and it's up to them to preserve this same speculation for centuries and centuries.


    Dear friends, you've read the text with my thoughts with the usage of senses (I observed with my own eyes a figure that is identical to the bust of Epicurus) I measured through my positive feelings and in the basis of such anticipations that: on this fresco we see a company that is friendly embraced while one of them gestures to the central figures (Plato and Aristotle), as if is doubting on something.


    Finally, I would like to ask you this: if you were the responsible organizers of an epicurean Symposium… what would you do with these of my thoughts in the text? Would you make a censorship in all these throwing in the oblivion and silence, because my desire is to change a speculation with another speculation that holds that Epicurus has a main position in something, or you would prefer to maintain a speculation that insults Epicurus?


    Imo here lies the whole issue!

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

  • Finally, I would like to ask you this: if you were the responsible organizers of an epicurean Symposium… what would you do with these of my thoughts in the text?

    Sounds like a possible reference to actual events in a certain Mediterranean country! ;)


    I think the Rorschach test analogy is a good one. Another example i know of from distant past reading is Ayn Rand's "Night of January 16th," a courtroom drama where she wrote a play with evidence in a murder trial evenly balanced, and a live jury during the play. Her point was that how you judged the evidence said more about your values as a juror/reader than anything else, since there wasn't a clear "right" answer. We could do much the same thing here in terms of "What does your view of Epicurus' location in the School of Athens say about your views of Epicurus?"


    So I think this exercise and the presentation of this dispute in a Symposium / lecture / presentation is an outstanding idea. It would let the presenter discuss the many of the basics that are essential to understanding Epicurus:


    • How he relates to other philosophers philosophically
    • How he relates to them in history / time
    • What he looked like
    • How he has been treated and dealt with by his opponents
    • Etc....


    "Where Is Epicurus in the School of Athens?" would be a visual and dramatic and easily-understandable introduction to the whole philosophy!


    This is crying out to be done not just as a symposium for the academics but as a video to the world, Elli, and you are the perfect person to spearhead it!


    Like a lot of things we all have too little time and too few resources to do what needs to be done, but this issue and a possible project from it strikes me as being one of the best ideas that anyone could pursue. And given that the visual material is already prepared for us, technically it shouldn't be THAT hard to put together. Most of the video would be just panning from location to location on the fresco.

  • Does anyone have a single source which mentions any historical figure who would have been familiar with Epicurean philosophy in the Late Middle Ages?


    In the 13th century, Danté mentions contemporary "Epicureans" by reputation, but fails to name any Epicurean teachers or writers. Our next recorded mention of Epicurean philosophy is several hundred years later, at the beginning of the Renaissance.


    All publicly-identifiable busts of Epicurus in the 21st-century were buried in the 16th.


    If 25-year-old in Raphael DID put Epicurus in his fresco, then The School of Athens isn't simply commissioned, Vatican artwork, but a personal, Epicurean treasure. If this were the case, I would fully expect there to be other examples of Epicurean art to normalize Raphael's fresco as an example of a historical trend, rather than as a unique exception to the prevailing trend, that Epicurean philosophy was functionally neglected for 300 years.

  • Does anyone have a single source which mentions any historical figure who would have been familiar with Epicurean philosophy in the Late Middle Ages?

    I cannot name one. However, IF we presume that there were educated monks throughout Europe who had access to Latin and Greek texts that included Cicero's works and Diogenes Laertius, then we would deduce that MANY people, even if not "historical figures," were familiar with Epicurean principles in an unbroken stream throughout history. As for their being historical record of them, that analysis would have to include the oppressive intellectual atmosphere which would have given strong motivation for most fans of Epicurus to keep quiet.

    In the 13th century, Danté mentions contemporary "Epicureans" by reputation, but fails to name any Epicurean teachers or writers. Our next recorded mention of Epicurean philosophy is several hundred years later, at the beginning of the Renaissance.

    Again I would expect that from 500 AD for at least a thousand years, people who were fans of Epicurus through Cicero or DL would be highly motivated to keep their opinions to themselves. I can't quickly find a good reference to Pelagius being an overt Epicurean, but I do see this, so it would not be surprising if throughout church history anyone who failed to toe the line would be labeled an Epicurean, with the intelligent class fully understanding what that meant:

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    I have often wondered how Luther would assess our own age and the state of the church today. I suspect if he wrote for our time his book would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Church. I suspect this would be the case because Luther considered the most important book he ever wrote to be his classic magnum opus, The Bondage of the Will (De Servo Arbitrio). This work focused on the issue of the enslaved will of man as a result of original sin. It was a response to the Diatribe of Desiderius Erasmus, of Rotterdam. In the translator’s introduction to this work it is said that Luther “saw Erasmus as an enemy of God and the Christian religion, an Epicurean and a serpent, and he was not afraid to say so.”

    I think Luther would see the great threat to the church today in terms of Pelagianism because of what transpired after the Reformation. Historians have said that though Luther won the battle with Erasmus in the sixteenth century he lost it in the seventeenth century and was demolished in the eighteenth century by the conquest achieved by the Pelagianism of the Enlightenment. He would see the church today as being in the grasp of Pelagianism with this adversary of the faith having a stranglehold on us.

    All publicly-identifiable busts of Epicurus in the 21st-century were buried in the 16th.

    If you're referring to the standard view of those busts we trace today, yes. I have no evidence I can point to to dispute that, but I do continue to think that this modern consensus is highly unlikely to be accurate.


    , rather than as a unique exception to the prevailing trend, that Epicurean philosophy was functionally neglected for 300 years.

    And the key word there is "neglected." As referenced above I would think otherwise - I would think that it was continuously held up as a heresy for the entire time, and in order for that label to work people had to know what it meant, and the likely availability of a tremendous amount of material through Diogenes Laertius and through Cicero would have been a lot of information with which they would work.


    The more I think about it, the less I really think that Lucretius adds much more than extra detail to what would already have been known through DL and Cicero.


    This would be another good symposium topic like the fresco itself, but I think a strong argument can be made for the proposition (great for one of those formal public debates!):


    "A basic and accurate outline of the major points of Epicurean philosophy was never 'lost' to the west, and the contention that it was only the "rediscovery" of Lucretius that gave Epicurean philosophy a new lease on life is Academic (establishment) propaganda aimed at marginalizing the significance of Epicurus in history."

  • The Church Fathers wrote about Epicurus and their writings were definitely never lost. For example:

    https://www.cambridge.org/core…DE44199E76EB11DC0F3E0CB77

    Quote

    Clement's definition of philosophy and the tolerance that it implies: “By philosophy I do not mean the Stoic nor the Platonic, or the Epicurean and Aristotelian, but everything that has been well said by each of the schools and that teaches righteousness along with science marked by reverence; this eclectic whole I call philosophy” (Strom., i. 7. 732CD).

    So, Clement himself included Epicureanism within Philosophy.

    https://www.cambridge.org/core…1C0095724FD7ECDF96CA1A7AE

    Quote

    Origen ascribes to Epicurean influence the unorthodox views of his pagan opponent, Celsus. The opinions of Celsus in which Origen claims to detect latent Epicureanism concern a variety of topics.

    It's not like Epicurus was forgotten. I have no problem believing his busts or likeness were lost. We have the fanciful depiction in the Nuremberg Chronicle to attest to that. But the philosophy itself - love it or hate it - is enshrined in the works of the "Church Fathers" so it would never have been forgotten or misplaced, misinterpreted yes, lost no.

  • And OMG they're mentioned in the Bible, too! I forgot! So, the knowledge that there were Epicureans would NOT have gone away:

    Acts 17:18

    Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.

  • Collecting the church father references would be a great thing to do in itself. I don't know how much (if any) of the physics and epistemology they preserved, or whether they just stuck with discussing his alleged atheism and no life after death and preference for "pleasure." Even those three would give a pretty decent picture, but it would be interesting to know how much of the rest they also discussed.

  • This reminds me of The Peaceable Kingdom (1834), a painting by 19th-century American painter Edward Hicks. He painted over 60 versions of the same scene over a span of several decades. Without unpacking all of the symbolism, you'll notice the abundance of odd-looking, large felines. Despite the fact that it was painted less than 200 years ago by a modern artist, he had never seen a lion, so he painted large house cats.



    Despite living around Philadelphia in the early 19th-century with all of its intellectual resources, despite living on a continent filled with other large felines, despite a huge number of historical advantages afforded to this modern figure, it was STILL an EASY mistake for an American painter to simply not have known what a lion looked like.


    While it is the case that "we would deduce that MANY people, even if not 'historical figures,' were familiar with [lions] in an unbroken stream throughout history" it just so happened that right in the middle of a time period FULL of people who were familiar with lions, here's an famous painter in Philadelphia in the 19th-century who was so utterly unfamiliar with lions that he painted oversized house cats.


    Generalized deduction is not enough. It's just circumstantial.


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    Since this entire discussion is predicated on a physical piece of art, we are burdened with a necessity of finding more evidence in the form of other artifacts – rings, coins, stone inscriptions, busts, or portraits – to which Raphael would have had access.


    Given the bearded figure's similarity to Epicurus in the fresco (to the immediate left of Plato), it seems highly likely that Raphael was familiar with Epicurus' bust, and transferred the face of that bust to this figure ... so it seems, anyway.


    To which ring, coin, inscription, bust, portrait, or description did Raphael have access?


    Suppose the possibility that Raphael wasn't intentionally referencing Epicurus; he was just re-producing the unlabelled bust of a Greek he saw. Not all of the figures are named. Raphael was a 25-year-old artist who did NOT spend his youth studying comparative Hellenistic philosophy. He was being paid by the Vatican Church to glorify the Eternal Divinity of Christ. This was a commissioned, Vatican project in the Apostolic palace, not Raphael's version of the Beatles cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, full of his favorite philosophers. Epicurus could have been featured accidentally.


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    Even still, we're playing "Where's Waldo?" with a Renaissance fresco. This painting was not created so bishops could play "match-the-face-with-the-name" in the Apostolic Palace. It was created to glorify Jesus Christ and His Church.


    Epicurus doesn't need to be in the painting; it doesn't support the overall message of the commission. Placing him there would have been a subversive choice of the artist. That's a hell of a bold statement for 1508. It was a bold statement for Sinéad O'Connor to have ripped the Pope's picture on Saturday Night Live in 1992. Like I said, it's like Rivera painting Lenin in the Rockefeller building. It begs more questions.


    The Church has a history of destroying artwork (and artists) that didn't support their narrative, so why would Epicurus have been allowed on a wall in the Apostolic Palace?

  • Some of the Popes were humanists, too, weren't they? What was the pope who commissioned the work like?

    Do we know when the wreathed figure became associated with papal librarian Tommaso Inghirami?

    And when the figure became associated with Epicurus?

    What's the timeline for all that?

    And I agree with Nate insofar as Raphael could have used unidentified busts laying around the Vatican or Rome. It is possible that the *likeness* of Epicurus was used unbeknownst to him *AND* Tommaso Inghirami is supposed to represent Epicurus in an ironic way. Both are not mutually exclusive. Or neither could have been in Raphael's mind when he composed the work.

  • Nate's points are certainly well taken and I suspect we see more and more of that today.


    However (again with no particular evidence to point to) my impression is that the level of scholarship at the point Raphael was painting, and of the people for whom Raphael was painting, was far higher than it is today on these subjects. I have the impression that if you had any position of stature at all within the church you had to be extremely fluent in Latin and Greek, and so you would have been reading the church fathers, Cicero, and indeed probably Diogenes Laertius (if you were advanced enough) in the originals with a fluency we could hardly reproduce today. So my bet (again, just speculation) is that the level of scholarship invested in this painting was the highest that the church could produce, and I suspect it could produce some very high scholarship indeed.




  • Please read this link of a blog by a person named. E.J.Duckworth who is Yale Ph.D. graduated in History of Art, 1990.



    http://e-arthistory5.blogspot.…-of-athens-left-side.html


    He or she writes on this blog for Epicurus: <<EPICURUS (341-270 B.C.) wears grape vines in his hair and seems to be checking on a recipe for good food, the philosophy of pursuit of perfect pleasure being his IDEAL; his belief in an eternal universe places him among the IDEALISTS>>. ^^


    My question is : Do you want the academics with the PhDs spreading around such false ideas for Epicurus ?



    So, dear epicurean friends, why do we to not be able writing an essay all together as a team of e.g. 10 pages with bla bla bla, like the academicians are doing, while we are observing some details on this fresco that are connected with the sources for Epicurus ?



    Example: we could mention that Epicurus with his company (males and females) is in the left side since up there, in this side, it is the statue of Apollo. As far as we know from Diogenis Laertius source Epicurus mentions only two gods Apollo and Zeus.



    For Apollo I made a post here: https://www.facebook.com/group…ermalink/2550719684976976



    For Zeus it is in the VS33. "The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold. For if a man possess this safety and hope to possess it, he might rival even Zeus in happiness".



    Thus, we connect the source by DL (that maybe Raphael had read) in which he says that Epicurus mentions the god Apollo which is in the fresco as a huge statue above the side of Epicurus and his friends. 8)



    Nate said: "The Church has a history of destroying artwork (and artists) that didn't support their narrative, so why would Epicurus have been allowed on a wall in the Apostolic Palace?"



    Nate hi :) according to the above with the god Apollo on the left and goddess Athena on the right side we realize that specifically in this fresco on the wall in the Apostolic Palace christian popes had permitted to be painted and the statues of the foreign gods! :evil:

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

  • Elli: As for the next step, I think we are hoping / waiting to be inspired by a video of your voice narrating us through the School of Athens! ;)


    Mainly using the Ken Burns effect - just focusing on one character after another but always sweeping out to the big picture!

  • I think Nate is the artist and can do this job with Ken Burns effect!

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

  • Oh yes Elli, Nate could probably do great with the video, but would he have your golden Greek voice straight from Aphrodite?


    I am afraid not!


    Never underestimate the motivating power of Epicureans listening for wisdom and instruction from Aphrodite! :)