Comment at the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group On Pleasure As The Highest Good

  • Upon rereading this it seems to me that this from DeWitt dramatizes best what I agree with him is the issue here "the quest of definitions is useless":

    In that I presume he is evoking something similar to the Quest for the Holy Grail, and illustrating that with the absurdities Plato comes up with in Timaeus.

    Obviously definitions do have some uses, and some definitions are highly useful.

    But that's the issue, unless the limitations of "reason" or "logic"- in this case the use of words, in other cases the use of math and geometry - are kept firmly in mind, your subject to the worst kind of error from failing to keep the canonical faculties supreme.

  • Sorry Don I see while I was posting you made your most recent point and I do think we are largely in agreement.

  • Hmm. I'm intrigued by DeWitt's take but I'm skeptical of his "ending up in sound without sense" translation of "τὰς δὲ περὶ ψιλὴν τὴν φωνήν." I see no negation ("without") in that phrase nor the sense of "ending up in" although DeWitt may just be idiosyncratically paraphrasing. My sense though is that he's maybe stretching his paraphrase too far.

    I'm also unclear on the "quest for definitions." I get that we shouldn't look for ultimate eternal Platonic meanings for Order, Essence, etc., but agreed upon definitions are essential for communication. If we don't agree on shared definitions, communication is impossible. In light of that, I would say laying out agreed upon definitions would have to be allowable.

    So, overall, I'm in agreement with DeWitt on p. 131, I just think he may be stretching his thesis a little to do more work than it has to.

  • In light of that, I would say laying out agreed upon definitions would have to be allowable.

    I would think DeWitt would say "yes of course" to that. I think he's saying that Epicurus was totally practical, accepting the good that comes through definition, while strenuously guarding against the bad that come can from it if not kept in check.

    So many times this rings in my ears:

    "And so it was that the lively force of his mind won its way, and he passed on far beyond the fiery walls of the world, and in mind and spirit traversed the boundless whole; whence in victory he brings us tidings what can come to be and what cannot, yea and in what way each thing has its power limited, and its deepset boundary-stone. And so religion in revenge is cast beneath men’s feet and trampled, and victory raises us to heaven."