Epicurean substitute for prayer

  • As for that translation above from PD24, I would like to blame Bailey for it, but I have rarely if ever seen one by anyone else that makes for clear reading either.


    Like Joshua said, the point in the end is not really so difficult but the wording is labyrinthine:


    24. If you reject any single sensation, and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion, as to the appearance awaiting confirmation, and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations, as well, with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation, and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.


    We probably ought to work on a paraphrase!

  • This translation by Strodach seems clearer to me, although not any shorter:


    "24. If you summarily rule out any single sensation and do not make a distinction between the element of belief that is superimposed on a percept that awaits verification and what is actually present in sensation or in the feelings or some percept of the mind itself, you will cast doubt on all other sensations by your unfounded interpretation and consequently abandon all the criteria of truth. On the other hand, in cases of interpreted data, if you accept as true those that need verification as well as those that do not, you will still be in error, since the whole question at issue in every judgment of what is true or not true will be left intact."

  • I ran out of time earlier to play with this but I will do that now:


    Strodach: Bailey: Paraphrase: Simplification:
    "24. If you summarily rule out any single sensation
    24. If you reject any single sensation,
    24 If you reject any evidence provided by your senses
    If you fail to consider the evidence provided by your faculties [your senses, anticipations, and feelings]
    and do not make a distinction between the element of belief that is superimposed on a percept that awaits verification and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion, as to the appearance awaiting confirmation, and if you fail to distinguish between those opinions of yours which require additional evidence before considering them to be confirmed,
    and if you fail to keep separate in your mind those things about which you have enough evidence to be confident, from those things about which you don't have enough evidence to be sure
    and what is actually present in sensation or in the feelings or some percept of the mind itself, and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, and those opinions which are already confirmed through the evidence of the senses, anticipations, and feelings
    you will cast doubt on all other sensations by your unfounded interpretation and consequently abandon all the criteria of truth. you will confound all other sensations, as well, with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. then you will confuse together that which is false and that which is true, and you will lose confidence in your faculties which are your only standard of truth
    then by doing so you are giving up your confidence in your faculties, which provide your only ability to judge between that which is true and that which is not.
    On the other hand, in cases of interpreted data,
    if you accept as true those that need verification as well as those that do not,
    And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation, and that which does not, And if among the opinions you have reached you affirm as true both that which needs further confirmation and that which is already confirmed,
    And if you consider to be equally true not only those things for which you have ample evidence, but also those things for which you need more evidence,
    you will still be in error, since the whole question at issue in every judgment of what is true or not true will be left intact." you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong. Then you will inevitably fall into error, since you will have decided that you are not able to judge between what is true and that which is not true.
    Then you will make mistakes at every turn, because you will have given up on the faculties given you by Nature, which are your only guide to truth.
  • In evaluating that PD24 I think it's critical that we consider the DeLacy categories we've been discussing recently, because it seems likely that what we are discussing is not just an issue of "true vs false." We have to consider the "multivalent" aspect that several possibilities can be considered "true" at one time, even if they are not the same, and that leads us to a deeper definition of what 'true' should be considered to mean. We need to start out with the understanding that there are many things that we will never be able to judge directly, but which we need to form conclusions about based on analogy, so we need a complete understanding of what "truth" means in that circumstance. I think that Epicurus is probably considering that aspect in this wording and that is why it seems needlessly complicated. The reason its not easy to reduce it to simpler form is that we have to be careful not to oversimplify into our own more superficial definitions of "true" and "false."

  • Hicks translation

    24 If you reject absolutely any single sensation without stopping to discriminate between that which is matter of opinion and awaits further confirmation and that which is already present, whether in sensation or in feeling or in any mental apprehension, you will throw into confusion even the rest of your sensations by your groundless belief, so as to reject the truth altogether. If you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation in ideas based on opinion, as well as that which does not, you will not escape error, as you will be taking sides in every question involving truth and error.


    Saint-Andre translation

    24 If you reject a perception outright and do not distinguish between your opinion about what will happen after, what came before, your feelings, and all the layers of imagination involved in your thoughts, you will throw your other perceptions into confusion because of your trifling opinions; as a result, you will reject the very criterion of truth. And if when forming concepts from your opinions you treat as confirmed everything that will happen and what you do not witness thereafter, then you will not avoid what is false, so that you will remove all argument and all judgment about what is and is not correct.

  • i think its always one of the best approaches to compare different translations so thanks for those variations. I tend to think Saint Andre is going off the beam in this one but even when we think a version is less accurate it helps to discuss where and why we disagree.

  • I'm actually in the process of working through the original Greek. I'll try and post something over the next few days. One discovery I did make already is that that convoluted multi-embedded phrasing in the translations actually just works out to a listing - word for word - of the three parts of the Canon in the original Greek. That was unexpected. Consider that a teaser.


    Also, I've found on this one at least that Saint-Andre seems to be mostly sticking close to the original text although I think he's being overly complicated as well.

  • This one from Mensch in the 2018 edition of DL's Lives seems pretty accurate as well (although I have differences of opinion about her last few phrases). She does bring out those three parts of the Canon from the original Greek nicely though:

    Quote

    If you reject any sensation absolutely, and you do not distinguish between an opinion that awaits confirmation and a present reality (whether of sensation, feeling, or perception), you will also throw your other sensations into confusion with your groundless belief, and in doing so will be rejecting altogether the criterion. But if, when assessing opinions, you affirm as true everything that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not escape error; for you will be preserving complete uncertainty in every judgement between right and wrong opinion.

  • I do like the phrase "present reality" - I think it's a premise that's what real to us is what comes to us from the senses, so calling that 'reality' is a good reminder.


    As far as "throwing other sensations into confusion" that seems less than optimum, because I doubt Epicurus would say that the senses can ever be confused - it's our opinion about them and what they say that can be confused.


    "rejecting altogether the criterion" may be less than optimum too as the reference to what "criterion" is supposed to mean seems lacking.


    I'm looking forward to what you think about the last phrases.


    Quote

    If you reject any sensation absolutely, and you do not distinguish between an opinion that awaits confirmation and a present reality (whether of sensation, feeling, or perception), you will also throw your other sensations into confusion with your groundless belief, and in doing so will be rejecting altogether the criterion. But if, when assessing opinions, you affirm as true everything that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not escape error; for you will be preserving complete uncertainty in every judgement between right and wrong opinion.

  • You have to look at that whole phrase:

    Quote

    ...throw your other sensations into confusion with your groundless belief...

    It's not the senses themselves that are confused but ourselves being confused about what our sensations are telling us due to our groundless beliefs.


    The "criterion" is simply pointing back to the Canon if you look at the original text. Criterion is basically a transliteration of the Greek here. That's why she uses it. A better translation to get at the connection would be "the standard of truth." (I also just realized that Epicurus's work on the Canon is literally Περί κριτηρίου η Κανών Peri kritēriou ē Kanōn. So, Epicurus himself refers to the Canon as the criterion.)

  • It's not the senses themselves that are confused but ourselves being confused about what our sensations are telling us due to our groundless beliefs.

    Yes i agree with your conclusion, but I'll pick nits and smile and say that "throw your other sensations into confusion...." could be improved because the "senses" are never confused, are they? ;-)

  • camotero : I know we strayed from your original question/request. Did you get anything helpful for your toddler? Anything you'd like to revisit?

  • Thanks a lot for following up Don - I enjoyed the straying so thanks to all of you guys for what you shared. Please don’t think the simplicity of this answer implies a lack of appreciation for all the very valuable replies you guys posted; it’s just that I’ve been lacking time to read thoroughly all of them, but I will try and reply if I can.


    Regarding my original post, the winner was this:


    “We are very thankful

    We are very glad

    For friends we meet

    And food we eat

    For home and mom and dad.”


    Winner because my wife and kid loved it, and we prayed it together and no supernatural beings took part 8o.


    I made my own translation to Spanish:


    “Nos sentimos muy agradecidos

    Y con razones para contentos estar

    Por los amigos que conocimos

    Y las comidas que compartimos

    Por mamá, papá y nuestro hogar.”


    Ojalá les guste.


    See you around.

  • There's an awful lot to be said for rhyme and - what's the term? - "meter" or "pacing"? Shows how little I know about poetry, but the bottom line is that reads very well and sticks in the memory!

  • I was looking over this thread again and I keep coming back to Thomas Jefferson here:


    ‘I feel: therefore I exist.’ I feel bodies which are not myself: there are other existencies then. I call them matter. I feel them changing place. This gives me motion. Where there is an absence of matter, I call it void, or nothing, or immaterial space. On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need.


    Seems to me that he must have given a lot of thought to exactly the question Camotero is asking - that of coming up with a pithy summary to serve in his words as his habitual anodyne - ("I was obliged to recur ultimately to my habitual anodyne...")


    Seems to me that he did a pretty good job of summing up the essentials of Epicurean physics, or maybe we should think of if as a perspective on physics, a combination of physics and epistemology, which he's correct to observe is the basis on which everything else rests.


    Over time others can and will do better, and do it in more modern and elegant phrasing, but I do think this general direction is the right one. When you're questioning everything about your life, or when you're just trying to dig back to "what should my starting point be?" it seems to me this is pretty darn close.


  • camotero I don't have a suggestion for your kids, however, a few lines from the opening chorus of Handel's Acis & Galatea come to mind as possible options for dinner prayers, or "grace".

    For us the zephyr blows,

    For us distills the dew,

    For us unfolds the rose,

    And flow'rs display their hue.

    Or/And


    For us the winters rain,

    For us the summers shine,

    Spring swells for us the grain,

    And autumn bleeds the wine.

    The context of this chorus is that the shepherds & nymphs live in harmony together, living a life of pleasure with lots of callbacks to Lucretius. To them, they take from each thing its most pleasant gift & are happy and grateful for it.

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • Great approach, Charles - and that reminds me of something else, and I cannot believe that a search here does not pull it up....

  • Wagner struggles with the issues of pleasure and pain in his Tannhauseur, and he makes the hero waiver back and forth, but some of the excerpts when he is praising pleasure and great poetry, especially when combined with his music. In this 30 minute clip I capture some of the most important of the pleasure/pain discussion. I've cued this to a short song outburst that is one of the best:


    After the post I have cued, the second scene in this clip is also excellent. In the song contest, the hero sings in praise of what is at least a loosely Epicurean view of love/pleasure against what is very specifically a stoic/platonic view of love/pleasure. That begins at the point where two platonic lover sings a short statement, rebuked strongly by the hero, who is at this point pretty much channeling Epicurus, at 14:38. In both cases you'll hear a little bit of crosstalk that is less than inspiring, but if you give it just a few minutes in both scenes you will see exactly what I am talking about. In these excerpts, especially the singing contest, it appears to me that Wagner is showing that he knows **exactly** what the issues are between Epicurean and non-Epicurean views of pleasure. He seemingly takes the side of the Platonic/religionists in the end, but I think I have read, and I think myself, that his argument in favor of the Epicurean side is much more convincing. And if you wade through the whole of the play, the religionists don't come off so great either, and "god" seems to bless the hero despite his supposedly unpardonable flirtations with Venus.