Reverence and Awe In Epicurean Philosophy

  • I am very late commenting in this thread because the topic does not interest me that much and religion can be very divisive. Here is my addition to some aspects of the discussion:

    Epicurus saw no sensory evidence of gods, attributed the knowledge humans claimed to have of them to inner perceptions and stated that the gods were not supernatural. 2300 years ago, this did not constitute a contradiction.

    Meanwhile, we have dramatically extended our senses with corroborated detailed scientific models and reliable instruments. As material beings, gods are not excluded from scientific examination.

    Todays science refutes Epicurus' internal imagery of gods because no such special image particles are detectable.

    Moreover, the spread of information through particles, waves or fields is essentially diluted by a law following the inverse of the square of the distance.

    With the huge distances to the neighboring galaxies, solar systems and even planets in our own solar system, large telescopes are needed to produce images as demonstrated by our astronomers.

    Our fairly detailed knowledge of anatomy leaves no space for such inner telescopes for internal perception.

    The religions which have arisen in different cultures may have some overlap but they are mutually exclusive.

    Taking the inner sensations of something god-like as relating to some actually existing being has produced thousands of cults contradicting about every other belief over the course of history and more cults keep springing up.

    This indicates that there are no actually existing gods to which the religions/cults refer, no matter whether the gods are considered to be natural or supernatural.

    Even within the same culture/religion, reasoning of different "priests" has typically lead to a further splitting into more and more mutually exclusive sects.

    The strength of the inner sensation of a god by people who have been or have themselves conditioned for this has probably been the driving factor of the waves of atrocities committed by religionists who misinterpret these inner sensations as factual evidence.

    The global occurrence of religions is indicative of a genetic disposition to look for awe-inspiring beings. This science-based explanation refutes the claim that the perceived gods actually exist.

    Modern science is a branched out further development of some parts of Epicurus' philosophy. Applying these principles of Epicurus' philosophy has lead to the refutation of Epicurus' imagery of gods into a supersensory brain as of today's science (with no claim on what future science may reveal in an unexpected twist).

    Pleasure is central to Epicurus' philosophy, not the divine. Therefore, abandoning the conclusion from inner perceptions to existence of gods is preferred over keeping a revealed major inconsistency in the philosophy. This is similar to the much less controversial abandoning of other refuted parts of Epicurus' physics.

    Other than postulating the existence of alien species (for which we might find tentative evidence at best but which would most likely be too far away to communicate with or travel to) and interpreting gods conceived by humans as symbolism, there is nothing credible left in Epicurus' gods.

    In conclusion, there is nothing important left in Epicurus' gods other than the historic aspect for complete understanding of ancient Epicurean philosophy.

    This does not need to prevent us from joyful participation in religious ceremonies and deriving pleasure from inner perceptions of imaginary gods.

  • This is just an interim comment while I am thinking about it. I'd like to comment on this key sentence:

    Epicurus saw no sensory evidence of gods, attributed the knowledge humans claimed to have of them to inner perceptions and stated that the gods were not supernatural.

    In being clear about what Epicurus' position was (rather than my own) I would like to address each clause there:

    (1) Epicurus saw no sensory evidence of gods,

    (2) (Epicurus) attributed the knowledge humans claimed to have of them to inner perceptions and

    (3) (Epicurus) stated that the gods were not supernatural.

    Of these, I think (3) is absolutely and emphatically correct and any assertion to the contrary would hardly be worth the time of discussing.

    Item (2) I think is quite likely incomplete. As written, it is likely a reference to "anticipations/preconceptions" despite the choice to use the term "inner perceptions." I am not sure that "inner perception" is an adequate way to refer to the full scope of anticipations, but more so than that, this presumes the answer to the debate and presumes that anticipations are the result of images. It seems to me the texts are pretty clear that there are two separate phenomena to consider (1) the receipt of images by the brain, and (2) a faculty which per the Velleius text is more of an "unfolding" or "etching" present at birth and prior to experience. I am thinking that these are distinct phenomena, and that "anticipations" are not simply something created by experiences after birth, so as written I would say item (2) is accurate so far as it goes, but incomplete.

    Item (1) involves for me the definition of the word "sensory." This is pretty much the same issue as just discussed. Did Epicurus consider what we refer to in the word "sensory" to be limited to taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell? Or would the other two legs (anticipations and feeling) constitute something that we should consider under our own contemporary use of the word "sensory"? Since I am not ready to take a position on what we should consider the full meaning of the word "sensory" I am not able to say that I fully agree with item (1).