Twentieth Skype Call (10-20-2020)

  • For the last several months some of our most regular participants have tried to take the time to speak to each other via Skype to say hello on the twentieth. This month (October) we had Elayne, Susan Hill , Charles , Martin , JJElbert and myself, and we barely missed Godfrey and Don due to illness.

    Thanks very much to everyone who was able to join, and we hope you'll be able to participate next month as well. Anyone who is a regular in the forum who would like to participate, just let us know in this thread and we'll see about adding you to the call. It's great to be able to type to each other as we do here on the forum, but even better to be able to hear each others' voices. Let's do this as often as possible, Thanks again!

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Twentieth Skype Call” to “Twentieth Skype Call (10-20-2020)”.
  • Thank you for organizing this, as always, Cassius!

    Susan had a number of good probing questions particularly on the subject of the gods. It's easy for such questions to catch us flat-footed on the call, when we don't have all of the texts immediately to hand. It's great to have the forum to fall back on to continue the conversation in depth.

    I can recall a few of the questions that will be fruitful to consider going forward;

    -What can we expect to glean from our conception of the gods?

    -Is it fruitful to imagine what the gods would think contemplating us in return?

    -What is the purpose, or meaning, or value of rituals as they pertain to they gods? Or as they pertain to human communities?

    -What should we make of Epicurus' perceived status as a sage/guru/savior figure?

    And thank you again, Susan, for participating!

  • Yes Joshua and one variation I picked up on Susan's question would be:

    Would the gods themselves have anticipations? I think Susan asked whether they would have anticipations "of us" and that is a good question too, but both would be related.

    To date we have really not tried to organize the calls or implement the organization very strongly when we're on the line, and that's probably good for some purposes and not good for others.

    Since we've only had a couple of these so far, and only recently started putting together agendas, probably it makes sense for us to work to improve the structure so that people know what to expect.

    At the same time, we probably ought to have "free-for-all" sessions with our core people with next to no organization at all, and have those on a regular basis (more than once a month) just like we talk with friends locally.

  • I've spent a lot of time since last night considering the topic, and here's where I'm at in my thinking.

    I fundamentally agree with Elayne that our anticipation of the gods—or perhaps our instinct to reach for something ultimate or sublime—arises from a very old and winding evolutionary pathway. The tone of this line of argument might suggest to the reader that the arising desire is therefore invalidated.

    But when I think on it, most of our deepest yearnings stem from our biology: the desire for close friendship; the passion and craving of love; the draw of the bond of family and tribe. I won't believe that Epicurus could have found these desires to be less real for being evolved. Philosophy (if it has any value) must answer to human nature, and our nature is that of an evolved species.

    Now, what Philosophy might require of us is that we moderate our expectations. Friendship is an evolved experience, and also (to Epicurus), an "immortal good". Yet you could live a whole human life without forming a friendship so deep and fulfilling that it satisfies your total desire for friendship. Susan mentioned that she had reached the point where she could "talk to god", even while understanding that nobody was going to talk back—a moderation of her expectations. Epicurus' advice on sex might well have a corrolary in religion;


    You tell me that the stimulus of the flesh makes you too prone to the pleasures of love. Provided that you do not break the laws or good customs and do not distress any of your neighbors or do harm to your body or squander your pittance, you may indulge your inclination as you please.

    So by analogy, my tentative interpretation:

    Provided that we do not attribute to the gods anything foreign to their nature, or come to fear their reprisals or fear death, or bring ourselves further pain or harm in the seeking, or find in them a warrant to harm and harass our neighbors, we may indulge our inclination as we please.

  • Sorry that I missed the discussion on this last night. I'm beginning to think that there's a lot more to understanding Epicurean gods than the idealist v realist discussion.

    My introduction to Epicurus was through reading Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods, so as I began studying Epicurus I was a bit obsessed with the gods. Also with the prolepses as an intertwined idea. I've been going with the idealist interpretation for quite some time, but recent reading has me wanting to dig deeper.

    A particular point is that Epicurus began both the letter to Menoeceus and the PDs with the gods, which gives them a degree of importance. Why? Also, what does a person gain by believing in a god (especially one that you can't ask for stuff from), and how is that compatible with this philosophy? And there's always the problem of whether or not what was relevant in Epicurus' time is still relevant to us today.

    Susan that's a good point about the Stoic schism: that's actually what got me reading Cicero. To me, the modern Stoics were invalidating much of their system by their treatment of providence. So it seems like a relevant issue in EP, although we really don't seem to have a whole lot to go on. Given that, I look forward to continued reading and discussion!

  • I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop myself from wanting to have a coherent and cohesive Epicurean theology. Perhaps this could be my “pet project”, but I will have to count on you lot to reign me in if I start to deviate from doctrinal Epicureanism, or just get way too speculative.

    I think it is important to try and address these questions, however. There was a schism in modern Stoic circles into “Modern Stoicism” and “Traditional Stoicism” because the former was purely secular in its orientation. Many feel that their happiness/ pleasure depends in large part on feeling in some way connected to something larger than themselves. Personally, I can give up prayer and providence, salvation and satori, but I think it is Reverence, I cannot do without.

    I think this is probably clear already but bears repeating so there is no confusion. At least from my point of view, it is clear to me that different people are going to place different priorities on these "theological" issues, and we ought not consider that either position (A. it's extremely relevant, or B. it's not relevant at all) is invalid. if someone "feels" that concern about these issues is causing them pain, then that pain or anxiety has to be dealt with.

    it's possible to hear regular echos in our podcasts that all of us are in sort of different camps on how much this concerns them, with probably Elayne closest to what I now think is the "Frances Wright" position that such issues don't merit much concern, and that at all costs we should refrain from taking positions on them because we don't have enough information to do so.

    My general commentary when one of these issues has come up on the podcast is that I think it depends on one's individual circumstances, and a lot depends on the type of people you are surrounded with constantly. In my own circumstance I am surrounded by people who think it is as natural to think about god and life after death and hell and all that as it is to talk about what they are having for dinner. I've come to dismiss most of that, but mainly because I have thought through the issue and think that Epicurus' position makes good sense to me personally. In fact that is why I am still firmly in the camp that thinks that the "nothing comes from nothing, nothing goes to nothing" observation remains key, because that's where I draw the line on acceptable proof. I do not claim to know enough to be able to contradict the quantum physicists who seem to want to dispute the continuing validity of that in the quantum world, but I am convinced that regardless of the "truth" of their assertions as to the quantum world, we as humans live in the "everyday reality" world, and in the "everyday reality" world the standard of proof as to whether there are gods is whether gods create things from nothing, or destroy things to nothing, in OUR world.

    So personally I agree that the Epicurean "theology" is of very important continuing validity and usefulness. Almost certainly the great majority of people I know in real life will never change their views on life after death and those issues, but I am absolutely certain (no "almost") that the only way to get through to any of those people who in fact have an open mind, or who are disposed to talk about those things, is to provide them a coherent understandable argument about why it is not reasonable to believe in the supernatural. The Lawrence Krauss physicists are in my experience an obstacle to that goal, while the Epicurean "nothing from nothing" argument retains immediate verifiability for those who are willing to be practical and trust their own senses.

    So whether the term is "reverence" or something else, I personally see this as one of the branches of Epicurean philosophy that fully deserves attention from those who are interested in it. (In fact I am not really aware of any branch that doesn't deserve attention!).

    The way forward on that is as Susan indicates - not to try to convince people who aren't interested in Epicurean theology that they SHOULD be interested in it, but to specialize as our interests take us in particular direction. Where I have personally drawn the line in the past, and where I would continue to draw it, is with those who make a point of dismissing Epicurus's sincerity out of hand and saying that the ONLY reason he took the positions he did was to protect himself from the blasphemy laws and the hemlock of Socrates. I think that's a totally condescending argument that, if accepted by anyone studying Epicurus, would totally undercut his credibility as a sincere teacher. And in that respect "reverence" is clearly an issue, because I don't think you can have respect for someone's positions while simultaneously thinking that one of their most prominent positions was taken just so he could reside in Athens and have a good time with his friends, rather than go somewhere where he could say exactly what he wanted to say.

    I know a lot of people who I think would make decisions based on personal comfort like that, but I don't read Epicurus as having been one of them. Had he thought that being in Athens restricted him from saying what he really wanted to say, he would have continued his travels until he arrived somewhere he had the freedom to write and speak exactly as he wanted.

  • JJElbert Joshua, I think your argument is very lucid re evolved human nature. My hubris is not so great as to think that I have a direct line to a god, anthropomorphic or otherwise, but I suppose there were times when I believed one could commune in some fashion with the Logos or some such... ;)

  • Sorry to have missed you last night, Godfrey. I hope you can join in next time.

    Would you recommend I read Cicero “On the Gods”? Does he address the questions you raised?

    Yes, re Stoicism, it is amazing to read A.A.Long and Chris Fisher on how very central ideas about providence, the Logos, and Nature were to ancient Stoicism. The modern revival seemed to quickly sweep them under the rug like an embarrassing family secret. Stoicism had to be modernized... But then it no longer had a physics or metaphysics as a foundation for its ethics.

  • Susan Hill before I recommend Cicero I'll give it a quick review, for my benefit as well as yours. At the time I read it I wasn't even aware that there were ancient Greek atomists, and I've read quite a bit since then so my recollection is pretty vague. Cassius probably has a better sense of it in terms of giving an off-the-cuff recommendation, but I'll post again after I've had a look.

  • So I'm just starting to skim/read On the Nature of the Gods. It does seem to be worth reading in that Vellius clarifies the Epicurean position by comparing (belittling, more accurately) the various schools and their conceptions of gods and providence. I'll at least read Vellius' presentation; not sure how much time I'll give to the other arguments.

  • Yes I think the first third is the most worthwhile part, at least regarding our questions here. The second and third parts are devoted to divine providence, intelligent design and similar notions. I, for one, feel my time is better spent understanding Epicurus!

    There is a notable passage on the prolepses in Book 1 (paragraph 44) Oxford World Classics version, translated and annotated by P.G. Walsh, who is apparently a Latin scholar.

    "He [Epicurus] was the only person to realize first, that gods exist because nature herself has imprinted the conception of them in the minds of all—for what nation or category of men does not have some anticipation of gods, without being indoctrinated? Epicurus terms this prolepsis,* in other words the conception of an object previously grasped by the mind, without which nothing can be understood, investigated, or discussed. We have come to appreciate the force and usefulness of this reasoning as a result of the divine treatise of Epicurus entitled Rule and Judgement."

    Walsh footnotes prolepsis with: "in § 44 Cicero claimed to have coined the Latin word anticipatio to render this Greek concept. Thereby he distorts (whether intentionally or not is disputed) the true sense of prolepsis. Epicureans argue that following the repeated impact of images on the senses or the mind, we grasp a general conception of an object (as in this case of the gods); this is what prolepsis implies. Cicero’s rendering appears to interpret it as previous knowledge of objects before their images have impacted on the senses, in other words a knowledge which predates sense-experience."

    I find this quite interesting, having recently read Phaedo. The interpretation in this footnote is not one that I've taken too seriously based on DeWitt and I can't attest to it's validity. It does, however, completely discount any recollections from before our birth. How this would relate to instinct is unclear, but I think it does align with "pattern recognition." Sure wish we could read Epicurus' Rule and Judgement!

  • . Cicero’s rendering appears to interpret it as previous knowledge of objects before their images have impacted on the senses, in other words a knowledge which predates sense-experience."

    Godfrey if I am remembering DeWitt correctly, DeWitt agrees with this observation, and with Cicero, and concludes that anticipates are NOT just the result of images we receive after birth, but are instead a result of "encoding" in our human makeup. I am thinking that this corresponds mostly with DNA and/or instinct in animals, which no one seriously argues arises from them having pre-existing souls.

    So again trying to summarize what i understand the positions to be, the standard commentators (Bailey and all contemporary commentators) focus on the Laertius model, of anticipations arising solely from multiple observations. DeWitt and maybe a few others (Sedley?) focus on this Velleius passage as evidence that the true nature of anticipations is from this "etching" or "encoding" rather than from images after birth.

    Now my personal take on this is that Dewitt and Cicero are correct, but that the conclusion is not that "fully-formed ideas" are encoded into our brains, but rather "dispositions" that end up contributing to ideas once we come into contact with real-world experiences. I agree with those who rule out the view that "fully formed ideas" exist at birth, but that does not mean that the brain doesn't include coding that tends us in certain directions, like a computer operating system embodies certain capacities, but doesn't do much useful work until we program it after we put it to use.

    Now (and this is a less-well-formed view of mine) I also think there is an analogy here in ALL of the three legs of the canon that unites them -- that all of them (the senses, feelings, and anticipations) operate the way they do because they have "encoding" or "mechanisms" that govern their operation. They eyes see light of a certain wavelength, and the hears hear things in certain ranges, because of the nature of the way that they operate. I feel sure that we can extend that observation from the way eyes and ears work to the way that our sense of pleasure and pain works, and (whatever anticipations really are) they much have a pathway or mechanism of their own that governs their operation.

    That pathway/mechanism/disposition would be a large part of a "faculty of anticipations" while the individual anticipations themselves correspond to things which are produced by the faculty in operation. We see things because of the way our eyes work, we hear things because of the way the ears work, we feel pleasures or pains because of the way the feelings work, and we form "anticipations" because of the way our "faculty of antipations work.

    And you all the while have to keep in mind than a single "anticipation" might be no more true to the full fact than a single glimpse of a bird might be to it actually being a falcon, or a single hearing of a tone might be to realizing that we're hearing a Beethoven symphony. So it is wrong to think that "every anticipation is itself true" any more than we would expect one sensation of sight or sound or touch to reveal to us everything about the object being observed.

    Epicurus never said that anticipations are fully-formed correct impressions about anything, and in fact he specifically said that the anticipations of most people about the nature of the gods are incorrect.

    Thinking about the fact that anticipations can be false to the full facts is to me one evidence that the Diogenes Laertius formulation is incomplete at best, because he talks as if anticipations are gold standards (he implies that the concept of an ox we form after seeing them is in fact a good summary of an ox which is reliable for use forever after). When the better view is probably that "an anticipation" is no more or less trustworthy than "a sight" or "a touch" or "a sound" that our other faculties pick up during operation. The real trick in determining what is "true" is that we assemble enough multiple clear observations that we have confidence that we have a full grasp of the thing being observed.

  • I think this comment now may be slightly off topic, but when you talk about reading "Cicero" I want to strongly endorse reading the full "On Ends" which I think demolishes Stoicism far better than it succeeds in attacking Epicurus. I've read through the full set of four or five chapters of On Ends a couple of times now and I am very impressed with how well it summarizes and compares the leading schools of the time.

    Other than for the Velleius section I can't remember that I have read the full "On the Nature of the Gods."

    I'm convinced that there's a boatload of good material waiting to be found for anyone who reads through the works of Cicero, but there's so much of it, it would take us having a "Cicero specialist" to sort it all out. That's another assignment for someone when we have enough people to specialize and attack different areas.

  • Many feel that their happiness/ pleasure depends in large part on feeling in some way connected to something larger than themselves. Personally, I can give up prayer and providence, salvation and satori, but I think it is Reverence, I cannot do without.

    I'm disappointed I didn't feel up to joining the 20th call. It sounds like it was a lively discussion.

    Your last section caught my attention, Susan Hill , and I wanted to reply.

    The 20th itself can be a time for "reverence" or at least remembrance of Epicurus and the founders. I find it interesting that Vatican Saying 32 says


    Honoring a sage is itself a great good to the one who honors. τοῦ σοφοῦ σεβασμὸς ἀγαθὸν μέγα τῷ σεβομένῳ ἐστί.

    The Greek translated as "honoring, honor" (σεβασμὸς/σεβομένῳ) there is defined as "reverential awe; object of wonder" and the verb meaning "to feel awe or fear before God, especially when about to do something disgraceful; to feel shame, religious awe." So, there is a shade of Reverence right there in the Vatican Sayings. My take is that the reverence of a sage gives one a tangible exemplar to emulate, to know that eudaimonia is achievable as a human being because the sage has achieved it.

    There's also Seneca's Latin of Sic fac omnia tamquam spectet Epicurus: Do all as if Epicurus were watching. Sort of an Epicurean WWJD? What would Jesus do? SFOTSE? Epicurus is dead, but we can measure ourselves against his philosophy.

    There's also the reverence and awe one can feel when confronted by the vastness of the cosmos and our being alive and having the opportunity to experience pleasure in it.

    If you see prayer as a form of concentrated study or meditation on something, I see Epicurus as advocating that in his use of μελετᾶν "attend to, study, practice, concentrate upon, meditate upon," for example in the Letter to Menoikeus: "You must 'study and meditate upon' that which produces eudaimonia." I'm not advocating Buddhist forms of meditation but I'm convinced there were Epicurean practices that instilled the Principal Doctrines, for example, into students minds. There's no other way to memorize things than to go over them in your mind.

    I look forward to more discussion on these topics!

  • Cassius I agree with your interpretation of prolepses and, like the physics, I feel that they are largely confirmed by modern neuroscience.

    What I'm doing is trying to see if a reading of Plato sheds any more light of Epicurus' specific thoughts. My doing this is problematic, primarily because I've read very little Plato and even less Aristotle :|. So it's very much a learning experience and I very much appreciate your feedback!

    I've never really looked into Laertius' take on prolepses and I don't think it shows a complete understanding of the ideas. Calling it Laertius' take is probably a bad word choice, maybe "academic interpretation" is more accurate. Reading Phaedo, Plato's take on the soul and recollections (among other things) is so poorly reasoned and off base that I can imagine that Epicurus would be justified in negating every point that Plato makes. But as you mentioned elsewhere, Aristotle also had things to say; do you know roughly where Aristotle's thoughts on this can be found? I remember DeWitt mentioning Aristotle and I haven't reviewed him (DeWitt) yet, but will at some point.

    The theory of eidola is presented as a way of obtaining knowledge of the gods and is also consistent with the accumulation of knowledge after being born, without any supernatural soul to recollect from. This is another point that has piqued my curiosity in this regard.

    Bottom line, there's no question that any theory of prolepses consistent with EP must be materialist and occur after conception of life. No woo woo!

  • Aristotle also had things to say; do you know roughly where Aristotle's thoughts on this can be found?

    Unfortunately no, I don't have a good fix on that. I know that several times in the past I tried looking, primarily in "Prior Analytics," but I never got very far.

    I agree with the comment that ""Reading Aristotle is a bit like eating dried hay."

  • Godfrey, Thank you for the long quote! I have that translation coming in the mail now. (Book buying has got to be in the top three of my greatest pleasures list. Anywhere else, I would have called it my greatest “weakness”, but as an Epicurean, I get to call it my greatest strength! Lol.)

    Thank you also, Cassius, for the discussion on prolepsis. I really like the idea about our having something like an innate sensory apparatus for perception of the gods that can relay better info with repeated exposure to its object of perception. I suppose it begs the question - what sort of exposure can we have that would allow us to develop this sense? What would be the nature of “multiple clear observations” in this case?

    Thanks for recommending “On Ends”. I would definitely like to be able to better articulate the shortcomings of Stoicism, so that could be of great help!

    Don, I am so envious of your facility with the Greek! Did you take classics in college or have you managed to just pick it up on your own? I’m itching to learn more Latin and Greek now, but of course, that would be a huge time commitment.

    The Greek sevasmos is exactly what I was trying to describe! I also identify with what you mention about awe and reverence for the magnificence of the Cosmos itself. Can you tell me, does Epicurus or Lucretius ever make use of the word Logos, and if so, how would it be defined by them?

    On another note, has anyone read “The Secret History” by Donna Tart? Boy, that book got me so passionate about wanting to study Latin and Greek and to read the classics. It was one of those books that you grieve for a while after for having finished it. It is about a group of students studying Classics at university, and the author was a classics student herself. Very inspiring.

    Cassius, I also found Aristotle as dry as old bones when I first tried reading him as a teenager.. A more recent attempt revealed that I still do!

  • I suppose it begs the question - what sort of exposure can we have that would allow us to develop this sense? What would be the nature of “multiple clear observations” in this case?

    I wish I knew the answer to that! Best speculation needs to be grounded probably in the Velleius section I paste below. it seems clear that they DID talk about perceiving "images," so that can't be ruled out.

    But I personally would bootstrap into this argument the observations that are cited below about eternality and infinity, and the isonomia / no single thing of a kind premise. These don't tell us what gods look like, but they are part of the overall puzzle of what we "observe" that gives us confidence all along the way in the chain of reasoning.

    I can hear Frances Wright screaming against this sentence as too speculative: "But if the human figure surpasses the form of all other living beings, and god is a living being, god must possess the shape which is the most beautiful of all; and since it is agreed that the gods are supremely happy, and no one can be happy without virtue, and virtue cannot exist without reason, and reason is only found in the human shape, it follows that the gods possess the form of man. Yet their form is not corporeal, but only resembles bodily substance; it does not contain blood, but the semblance of blood."

    But clearly that's what they were doing -- chain reasoning as DeWitt calls it - and I suspect that they considered the things that we observe here, which we do observe correctly, as evidence of the deductions which we don't perceive directly. Some people are going to rule that kind of reasoning out of court and say it is meaningless, but that's something I think is one of the most potentially helpful aspects of the philosophy -- it challenges us to think about whether "seeing is believing" is required, or exactly what is required, in order to take a position on something like this.

    Obviously there is the advice to "wait" when we don't have enough information to be sure about something, but life doesn't allow us to "wait" about everything, and it seems to me to be pretty clear that Epicurus was saying that if the issue is important enough, then we have to go forward and take a position on those issues that *require* us to take a position.

    Lots of people (skeptics particularly) will say NO WAY! You're WAY over the line in drawing those conclusions!" So the issue of "where we draw the line" becomes the focus. If you take the position like Epicurus did that we should rigorously seek to live happily as the overriding goal, then I think you're going to draw that line differently than you would if you're a professor at Cambridge and surrounded by skeptics, or a farmer in Saudi Arabia surrounded by religious radicals ready to cut your head off at the slightest hint of blasphemy.

    Unfortunately, that means adding to your reading list another book - Philodemus' "On Methods of Inference" and especially the Delacy commentary at the back.

    Godfrey , that Delacy Commentary is probably the place I would go if I had time today to try to track down where Aristotle made his points, because Delacy treats that as the background leading up to Epicurus.

    I sometimes think that De Lacy intro to the epistemological issues to be one of the best summaries I have read anywhere. He doesn't treat "anticipations" in the same way Dewitt does, but he devotes a lot of attention to epistemological issues that I don't see presented that clearly anyway else.


    “If we sought to attain nothing else beside piety in worshiping the gods and freedom from superstition, what has been said had sufficed; since the exalted nature of the gods, being both eternal and supremely blessed, would receive man's pious worship (for what is highest commands the reverence that is its due); and furthermore all fear of the divine Power or divine anger would have been banished (since it is understood that anger and favor alike are excluded from the nature of a being at once blessed and immortal, and that these being eliminated we are menaced by no fears in regard to the powers above). But the mind strives to strengthen this belief by trying to discover the form of god, the mode of his activity, and the operation of his intelligence.

    “For the divine form we have the hints of nature supplemented by the teachings of reason. From nature all men of all races derive the notion of gods as having human shape and none other; for in what other shape do they ever appear to anyone, awake or asleep? But not to make primary concepts the sole test of all things, reason itself delivers the pronouncement. For it seems appropriate that a being who is the most exalted, whether by reason of his happiness or of his eternity, should also be the most beautiful; but what disposition of the limbs, what cast of features, what shape or outline can be more beautiful than the human form? You Stoics at least, Lucilius, (for my friend Cotta says one thing at one time and another at another) are wont to portray the skill of the divine creator by enlarging on beauty as well as the utility of design displayed in all parts of the human figure. But if the human figure surpasses the form of all other living beings, and god is a living being, god must possess the shape which is the most beautiful of all; and since it is agreed that the gods are supremely happy, and no one can be happy without virtue, and virtue cannot exist without reason, and reason is only found in the human shape, it follows that the gods possess the form of man. Yet their form is not corporeal, but only resembles bodily substance; it does not contain blood, but the semblance of blood.

    “These discoveries of Epicurus are so acute in themselves and so subtly expressed that not everyone would be capable of appreciating them. Still I may rely on your intelligence, and make my exposition briefer than the subject demands. Epicurus then, as he not merely discerns abstruse and recondite things with his mind's eye, but handles them as tangible realities, teaches that the substance and nature of the gods is such that, in the first place, it is perceived not by the senses but by the mind, and not materially or individually, like the solid objects which Epicurus in virtue of their substantiality entitles steremnia; but by our perceiving images owing to their similarity and succession, because an endless train of precisely similar images arises from the innumerable atoms and streams towards the gods, our mind with the keenest feelings of pleasure fixes its gaze on these images, and so attains an understanding of the nature of a being both blessed and eternal.

    Moreover there is the supremely potent principle of infinity, which claims the closest and most careful study; we must understand that it has in the sum of things everything has its exact match and counterpart. This property is termed by Epicurus isonomia, or the principle of uniform distribution. From this principle it follows that if the whole number of mortals be so many, there must exist no less a number of immortals, and if the causes of destruction are beyond count, the causes of conservation also are bound to be infinite.

  • Thanks for the warnings about the dryness of Aristotle! There was something nagging at me (a prolepsis??): Cassius and Susan you reminded me that I once started to read Nichomachean Ethics. After just a few pages I had to toss it and have a drink.:D I think I'll shelve reading him for the time being .;)

    Isonomia is a concept that I can't quite wrap my head around. Saying that the causes of destruction and conservation are both infinite makes sense to me as relating to modern science. I can't make sense of applying the idea to mortals and immortals. The idea that everything has it's exact match and counterpart seems to be a logical speculation based on infinity, but I'm not sure I'd call it a "principle."