Episode Sixty - Dreams and the Mind's Use of Images

  • Welcome to Episode Sixty of Lucretius Today.


    I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we'll walk you through the six books of Lucretius' poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.


    For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any question about that, please be sure to contact us at Epicureanfriends.com for more information.


    In this episode 60 - we will discuss dreams, and the mind's use of images.


    Our text comes from Latin Lines 907-1036 of Book Four.


    Now let's join the discussion with Charles reading today's text.


    Munro Notes


    907-928: sleep takes place, when the soul is scattered in the body, and part of it has gone out, part withdrawn into the depths of the body: only part however can go forth; else death would ensue; enough must stay behind to let sense be rekindled, as fire is rekindled when buried under the ashes.


    929-961: sleep is thus produced: the body is constantly beaten upon by the outer air as well as by that which is inhaled by breathing; thus assailed within and without the body gives way, and the soul is disordered, part of it as has been said leaving the body, part withdraw- ing into its recesses, while the rest cannot perform its functions: thus the body too becomes languid and powerless: again sleep follows eating, because the food in passing into the system acts on it as the air does; and the disorder of the soul is then greater than ever.


    962-1036: the dreams of men generally turn on what has chiefly occupied their waking thoughts, whether business or pleasure: it is the same with brutes too: again the passions which are strongest in men often display themselves in dreams, as well as other mental states.


    Browne 1743


    Next, how soft sleep dissolves the limbs in rest, and frees the mind from anxious care, I choose in few but sweetest numbers to explain; as the swan's short song is more melodious than the harsh noise of cranes scattered by winds through all the air. Hear me, my Memmius, with attentive ears and a discerning mind, lest what I shall prove, you think impossible to be; and so your mind refusing to admit the truth I shall relate, you make no progress in philosophy, when the fault is in yourself, that you will not see. And first, sleep comes on when the power of the soul, diffused through the limbs, part of it is thrown out and fled abroad, and part being squeezed more close retires further within; then are the limbs dissolved and grow weak. For without doubt the business of the soul is to stir up sense in us, which since sleep removes, we must conclude that the soul then is disturbed and driven abroad: Not the whole soul, for then the body would lie in the cold arms of eternal death; then no part of the soul would lie retired within the limbs, as a fire remains covered under a heap of ashes; from whence the senses might be kindled again through the body, as a flame is soon raised from hidden fire. But by what means this wonderful change is brought about, how the soul is thus disordered and the body languishes, I shall now explain. Do you see that I do not scatter my words unto the wind.


    And first, the outward surface of bodies which are always touched by the adjacent air, must of necessity be struck by it and beaten with frequent blows; and for this reason all things almost are covered either with skin, or bristles, or shells, or buff, or bark. This air then, as it is drawn in and breathed out by respiration, strikes upon the inward parts of the body. Since therefore the body is beat upon from within and without, and since the strokes pierce through the little pores into the seeds and first principles of it, this cause a kind of ruin and destruction through all the limbs; the situation of the seeds, both of the body and mind, are disordered, so that part of the soul is forced out, and part retires and lurks close within, and the part that is diffused through the limbs is so broken and divided, that the seeds cannot unite to perform their mutual operations, for nature stops up all the passages of communication between them, and therefore the regular motions being exceedingly changed, the sense is entirely gone. Since therefore there is not power sufficient to support the limbs, the body becomes weak; all the members languish; the arms, the eyelids fall, and the knees sink under the weight of the body. Thus sleep follows when the belly is full, because food, when it is distributed through all the veins, has the same effect upon the soul as the air had; and that sleep is by much the soundest which you take when you are weary or full, because then more of the seeds being agitated and put into motion by the hard labour, mutually disturb and disorder one another. And for this reason the soul retires further within, and a greater part of it is thrown out, and the parts that remain within are the more separated and the further disjoined.


    And then the business we more particularly follow, the affairs we are chiefly employed in, and what our mind is principally delighted with when we are awake, the same we are commonly conversant about when we are asleep. The lawyer is pleading of causes and making of statutes, the soldier is fighting and engaging in battles, the sailor is warring against the winds; for myself, I am always searching into the nature of things, and writing my discoveries in Latin verse; and so, many other arts and employments are commonly the empty entertainments of the minds of men when they are asleep. And they who spend their time in seeing plays for many days together, when those representations are no longer present to the waking senses, there still remain some open traces left in the mind, through which the images of those things find a passage, so that for many days after the whole performance is acting over again before their eyes; and even while they are awake they fancy they see the dancers leaping, and moving their active limbs, and hear the speaking strings; they see the same audience, the same variety of the scenes and decorations of the stage. So strong impressions do use and custom make upon us; such effects do the common business of life produce in the minds of men, and beasts likewise.


    For you shall see the gallant Courser, when his limbs are at rest, to sweat in his sleep, to breath short, and, the barriers down, to lay himself out as it were on the full stretch for the prize. And hounds frequently in their soft sleep throw out their legs, and of a sudden yelp and snuff the air quick with their nose, as if they were full cry upon the foot of the deer; and when awake they still pursue the empty image of the game, as if they saw it run swiftly before them, till undeceived they quit the chase, and the fancied image vanishes away. And the fawning breed of house-dogs, that live at home, often rouse and shake the drowsy fit from their eyes, and start up of a sudden with their bodies, as if they saw a stranger or a face they had not been used to. The sharper the seeds are of which the images are formed, they strike in the sleep with the greater violence; so, many birds will fly about, and hide themselves in the inmost recesses of sacred groves by night, if in their soft sleep they see the hawk pursuing them upon the wing, or pouncing or engaging with his prey.


    Munro 1886


    Now by what means yon sleep lets a stream of repose over the limbs and dispels from the breast the cares of the mind, I will tell in sweetly worded rather than in many verses; as the short song of the swan is better than the loud noise of cranes scattered abroad amid the ethereal clouds of the south. Do you lend me a nice ear and a keen mind, that you may not deny what I say to be possible and secede with breast disdainfully rejecting the words of truth, you yourself being in fault the while and unable to discern. Sleep mainly takes place when the force of the soul has been scattered about through the frame, and in part has been forced abroad and taken its departure, and in part has been thrust back and has withdrawn into the depths of the body: after that the limbs are relaxed and droop. For there is no doubt that this sense exists in us by the agency of the soul; and when sleep obstructs the action of this sense, then we must assume that our soul has been disordered and forced abroad; not indeed all; for then the body would lie steeped in the everlasting chill of death. Where no part of the soul remained behind concealed in the limbs, as fire remains concealed when buried under much ash, whence could sense be suddenly rekindled through the limbs, as flame can spring up from hidden fire? But by what means this change of condition is accomplished and from what the soul can be disordered and the body grow faint, I will explain: do you mind that I waste not my words on the wind.


    In the first place the body in its outer side, since it is next to and is touched by the air, must be thumped and beaten by its repeated blows; and for this reason all things as a rule are covered either by a hide or else by shells or by a callous skin or by bark. When creatures breathe, this air at the same time buffets the inner side also, as it is inhaled and exhaled. Therefore since the body is beaten on both sides alike and blows arrive by means of the small apertures at the primal parts and primal elements of our body, there gradually ensues a sort of breaking up throughout our limbs, the arrangements of the first-beginnings of body and mind getting disordered. Then next a part of the soul is forced out and apart withdraws into the inner recesses; a part too scattered about through the frame cannot get united together and so act and be acted upon by motion; for nature intercepts all communication and blocks up all the passages; and therefore sense retires deep into the frame as the motions are all altered. And since there is nothing as it were to lend support to the frame, the body becomes weak and all the limbs are faint, the arms and eyelids droop and the hams even in bed often give way under you and relax their powers. Then sleep follows on food, because food produces just the same effects as air, while it is distributed into all the veins; and that sleep is much the heaviest which you take when full or tired, because then the greatest number of bodies fall into disorder, bruised by much exertion. On the same principle the soul comes in part to be forced more deeply into the frame, and there is also a more copious emission of it abroad, and at the same time it is more divided and scattered in itself within you.


    And generally to whatever pursuit a man is closely tied down and strongly attached, on whatever subject we have previously much dwelt, the mind having been put to a more than usual strain in it, during sleep we for the most part fancy that we are engaged in the same; lawyers think they plead causes and draw up covenants of sale, generals that they fight and engage in battle, sailors that they wage and carry on war with the winds, we think we pursue our task and investigate the nature of things constantly and consign it when discovered to writings in our native tongue. So all other pursuits and arts are seen for the most part during sleep to occupy and mock the minds of men. And whenever men have given during many days in succession undivided attention to games, we generally see that after they have ceased to perceive these with their senses, there yet remain passages open in the mind through which the same idols of things may enter. Thus for many days those same objects present themselves to the eyes, so that even when awake they see dancers as they think moving their pliant limbs, and receive into the ears the clear music of the harp and speaking strings, and behold the same spectators and at the same time the varied decorations of the stage in all their brilliancy. So great is the influence of zeal and inclination, so great is the influence of the things in which men have been habitually engaged, and not men only but all living creatures.


    Thus you will see stout horses, even when their bodies are lying down, yet in their sleep sweat and pant without ceasing and strain their powers to the utmost as if for the prize, or as if the barriers were thrown open. And often during soft repose the dogs of hunters do yet all at once throw about their legs and suddenly utter cries and repeatedly snuff the air with their nostrils, as though they had found and were on the tracks of wild beasts; and after they are awake often chase the shadowy idols of stags, as though they saw them in full flight, until they have shaken off their delusions and come to themselves again. And the fawning brood of dogs brought up tame in the house haste to shake their body and raise it up from the ground, as if they beheld unknown faces and features. And the fiercer the different breeds are, the greater rage they must display in sleep. But the various kinds of birds flee and suddenly in the night time trouble with their wings the groves of the gods, when in gentle sleep hawks and pursuing birds have appeared to show fight and offer battle.


    Bailey 1921


    Now in what ways this sleep floods repose over the limbs, and lets loose the cares of the mind from the breast, I will proclaim in verses of sweet discourse, rather than in many; even as the brief song of the swan is better than the clamour of cranes, which spreads abroad among the clouds of the south high in heaven. Do you lend me a fine ear and an eager mind, lest you should deny that what I say can be, and with a breast that utterly rejects the words of truth part company with me, when you are yourself in error and cannot discern. First of all sleep comes to pass when the strength of the soul is scattered about among the limbs, and in part has been cast out abroad and gone its way, and in part has been pushed back and passed inward deeper within the body. For then indeed the limbs are loosened and droop. For there is no doubt that this sense exists in us, thanks to the soul; and when sleep hinders it from being, then we must suppose that the soul is disturbed and cast out abroad: yet not all of it; for then the body would lie bathed in the eternal chill of death. For indeed, when no part of the soul stayed behind hidden in the limbs, as fire is hidden when choked beneath much ashes, whence could sense on a sudden be kindled again throughout the limbs, as flame can rise again from a secret fire?


    But by what means this new state of things is brought about, and whence the soul can be disturbed and the body grow slack, I will unfold: be it your care that I do not scatter my words to the winds. First of all it must needs be that the body on the outer side, since it is touched close at hand by the breezes of air, is thumped and buffeted by its oft-repeated blows, and for this cause it is that well-nigh all things are covered either by a hide, or else by shells, or by a hard skin, or by bark. Further, as creatures breathe, the air at the same time smites on the inner side, when it is drawn in and breathed out again. Wherefore, since the body is buffeted on both sides alike, and since the blows pass on through the tiny pores to the first parts and first particles of our body, little by little there comes to be, as it were, a falling asunder throughout our limbs. For the positions of the first-beginnings of body and mind are disordered. Then it comes to pass that a portion of the soul is cast out abroad, and part retreats and hides within; part too, torn asunder through the limbs, cannot be united in itself, nor by motion act and react; for nature bars its meetings and chokes the ways; and so, when the motions are changed, sense withdraws deep within. And since there is nothing which can, as it were, support the limbs, the body grows feeble, and all the limbs are slackened; arms and eyelids droop, and the hams, even as you lie down, often give way, and relax their strength. Again, sleep follows after food, because food brings about just what air does, while it is being spread into all the veins, and the slumber which you take when full or weary, is much heavier because then more bodies than ever are disordered, bruised with the great effort. In the same manner the soul comes to be in part thrust deeper within; it is also more abundantly driven out abroad, and is more divided and torn asunder in itself within.


    And for the most part to whatever pursuit each man clings and cleaves, or on whatever things we have before spent much time, so that the mind was more strained in the task than is its wont, in our sleep we seem mostly to traffic in the same things; lawyers think that they plead their cases and confront law with law, generals that they fight and engage in battles, sailors that they pass a life of conflict waged with winds, and we that we pursue our task and seek for the nature of things for ever, and set it forth, when it is found, in writings in our country’s tongue. Thus for the most part all other pursuits and arts seem to hold the minds of men in delusion during their sleep. And if ever men have for many days in succession given interest unflagging to the games, we see for the most part, that even when they have ceased to apprehend them with their senses, yet there remain open passages in their minds, whereby the same images of things may enter in. And so for many days the same sights pass before their eyes, so that even wide awake they think they see men dancing and moving their supple limbs, and drink in with their ears the clear-toned chant of the lyre, and its speaking strings, and behold the same assembly and at the same time the diverse glories of the stage all bright before them. So exceeding great is the import of zeal and pleasure, and the tasks wherein not only men are wont to spend their efforts, but even every living animal.


    In truth you will see strong horses, when their limbs are lain to rest, yet sweat in their sleep, and pant for ever, and strain every nerve as though for victory, or else as though the barriers were opened [struggle to start]. And hunters’ dogs often in their soft sleep yet suddenly toss their legs, and all at once give tongue, and again and again snuff the air with their nostrils, as if they had found and were following the tracks of wild beasts; yea, roused from slumber they often pursue empty images of stags, as though they saw them in eager flight, until they shake off the delusion and return to themselves. But the fawning brood of pups brought up in the house, in a moment shake their body and lift it from the ground, just as if they beheld unknown forms and faces. And the wilder any breed may be, the more must it needs rage in its sleep. But the diverse tribes of birds fly off, and on a sudden in the night time trouble the peace of the groves of the gods, if in their gentle sleep they have seen hawks, flying in pursuit, offer fight and battle.

  • We just finished recording this one and I will try to get it posted as soon as possible. When you hear the episode, you'll see that one of our topics is to what extent this section describes a theory that may go so far as to be Epicurus' entire explanation of what we might think of as "memory." In the episode you will hear me resist that conclusion, but Elayne in particular makes good arguments that that might be the case, so please consider and if possible make comments in particular about that when you hear the episode.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Episode 060 [Preproduction]” to “Episode Sixty - Dreams and the Minds Use of Images”.
  • Episode Sixty of the Lucretius Today Podcast is now available. In this episode, we discuss dreams and the mind's use of images. There is some challenging material in this episode, especially as it relates to Epicurus' view of the use of images and how that may or may not relate to memory. We encourage you to listen and post any comments or questions in the thread below.

    External Content www.spreaker.com
    Content embedded from external sources will not be displayed without your consent.
    Through the activation of external content, you agree that personal data may be transferred to third party platforms. We have provided more information on this in our privacy policy.

  • I think it would be helpful to post here some of the passages from DeWitt where these issues are discussed:









    After reading all this, considering what is said in the podcast, and combining it all together, I am thinking that among many other implications it is much easier to see the role of images of the divine playing an important part in Epicurus' thinking:



  • Corrspondence between Cicero and Cassius Longinus, highly relevant here and perhaps even directly on point. The exchange seems to be joking, but Cassius seems to be denying Cicero's extremely expansive interpretation (intentionally derogatory) reference to the role of images:



  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Episode Sixty - Dreams and the Minds Use of Images” to “Episode Sixty - Dreams and the Mind's Use of Images”.
  • Another comment about this section that comes to mind: People are always asking about Epicurean "therapies." Based on this section it would seem pretty clear that the idea of tuning your thought processes by the images on which you choose to focus over time would be an obvious path to pursue.


    Epicurus: "Meditate therefore on these things and things akin to them night and day by yourself; and with a companion like to yourself, and never shall you be disturbed waking or asleep, but you shall live like a god among men."

  • There is a also a significant amount of discussion of images in the letter to Herodotus which needs to be correlated with Lucretius, including:


  • From the Melville translation of Lucretius, line 907:

    "Next, in what way sleep* floods the limbs with peace..."


    The asterisk links to this footnote:

    "sleep: sleep is a puzzling phenomenon, much discussed by ancient (and modern) scientists and philosophers: see especially the treatise On Sleep and Waking included in the so-called ‘Parva Naturalia’ of Aristotle (453b ff.). For the Epicurean view, compare the comment preserved in Letter to Herodotus66 (fr. 311), and fr. 325, with Diogenes of Oenoanda fr. 9."


    From the Inwood and Gerson translation of the letter to Herodotus there is this footnote to paragraph 66:

    "Scholion: 'Elsewhere he says that it is also composed of very smooth and very round atoms, differing quite a bit from those of fire. And that part of it is irrational, and is distributed throughout the rest of the body, while the rational part is in the chest, as is evident from [feelings of] fear and joy. And that sleep occurs when the parts of the soul which are distributed through the whole compound are fixed in place or spread apart and then collide because of the impacts. And semen comes from the entire body.' ”


    Unfortunately I can't tell if/where Herodotus66 falls in the exerpt above in post #7. Also, I'm guessing that Diogenes of Oenoanda fr. 9 is what Charles read in the podcast.

  • Here is a description of research on aphantasia-- where people can't generate internal imagery, including for memories https://theconversation.com/bl…n-their-imagination-86849 -- I bring this up because we were wondering what the process would be whereby people would decide which images they wanted to see, in Epicurus' model. The folks with aphantasia do have memories but the images don't show up for them.

    And they mention how internally generated images are thought to occur-- by a network which attempts to recreate pattern from prior activation of the pattern, for memory (different for imagination of things never seen). Rather than a specific area of the brain where a sort of pixel-like photograph is stored. The visual cortex is involved but it is stimulated by other parts of the brain-- it isn't the first area to be involved the way it is in receipt of images through the eyes.

    Visual memory is being described as computational https://www.sciencedirect.com/…abs/pii/S1364661320303053 -- the point being that it seems to be a re-creation of an image, not a direct storing of the image itself.

  • Thanks for both comments, and as Elayne stated in the podcast, it would be very good to compare this to what was said in other schools, so Godfrey's hint is a great place to start! I definitely was not aware of Aristotle having a view of it, and as Elayne was saying I bet that would shed some important light on this. It seems so often that what Epicurus was saying was in response to other schools.

  • I agree with the contention that the images enhanced the mind's ability to perceive similar images and that is what constitutes memory. There is no storage from what I can see.

    This makes sense to me. Epicurus was arguing against any inborn memories like Plato so he needed the mind to perceive existing images. Even the prolepses appear to have been based on repeated exposure to concepts and things. This grooves those mind passages to be able to recognize justice, a cow, Plato ( :) my phone autocorrected there as "potato"!). Now, this ability could take place as infants even... I don't know if a text says this, but that would allow infants to acquire prolepses and memory without their being born with those things from a previous life or from some supernatural soul corral. Epicurus needed a fully physical procedure for memory with NO supernatural input and this seems to be what her hit on.

  • Quote
    {Norman Dewitt)

    In dreamful sleep, according to Epicurus, the erring, automatic mind alone is active. Bodily sensation, memory and volition are all quiescent. Under these circumstances the stage is cleared for the entrance of all the random, floating idols that survive from the swift, coherent streams that under waking conditions press upon the organs of sense and register themselves as sensations. Of these errant, subsensory idols the passive mind, partly because of its relief from interference and control, and partly because of the supermobility and supersensitivity of its component atoms, alone is capable of taking cognizance. Thus it functions as a supersense.




    Well at this point it appears that only Cassius the First, Cassius the Second, and Norman DeWitt seem to see a role for "memory" separate and distinct from what is being described here in the function of the mind receiving images directly. I am still at the moment of the opinion that the extension of this function from (A) a description of what I see as primarily significant for a relatively narrow set of examples of the mind receiving images directly in dreams and/or of the gods (which apparently I am also in a minority in thinking plausible) to (B) constituting Epicurus' complete description of the operation of all of human memory, is something that is so dramatic that - if true - would have been documented extensively by every ancient and subsequent critic of Epicurus who ever lived, not just in the private joking of Cicero and Cassius! :-)


    So for the time being I'm not sure whether DeWitt is correct in referring to a distinction in automatic/volitional operations of the mind, or whether there is some other logical division, but I can't see this being a description of something as crucial as all of human memory. But that's why we talk together and compare notes, becomes it's all to easy to make mistakes and the best way forward is comparing observations with others who are on the same path!



    Note: This was also in Episode 58: "Nor from any other reason is the mind awake when the body is asleep, but because those very images affect the mind which were used to move the sense when we were awake, so that we fully believe we see a person who has been long since dead and buried in the grave; and it cannot well be otherwise, because all the senses of the body are obstructed and bound up by sleep, and therefore have no power to convince us of the contrary. Besides, the memory is feeble and languishes by rest, and makes no objection to satisfy us, that the man has been long in the arms of death, whom the mind really believes it sees alive."



    I do agree that there is probably more to this than just the issue of the gods, but I don't think we have a good grasp on the role of memory, or on how the mind is using past images to store up something that it uses in the present. In other words, I am not convinced that he is not saying that these images I(such as the image of walking) are not stored and then summoned from within, rather than having to be picked out of an apparently infinite number of images floating in the air currently. Perhaps there is some combination involved, but I am thinking that there's got to be an image storage system involved as well.


    And I think a significant part of the difference in where we are at the moment may be in the question of what it is that the mind is storing, because I think it is more likely that Epicurus considered most of what is stored in the mind to be some kind of "pictures" or "images" and I don't think we're all on the same page on that.

    Much more for me to think about (and to think about the process of thinking and memory)!

  • something that is so dramatic that - if true - would have been documented extensively by every ancient and subsequent critic of Epicurus who ever lived, not just in the private joking of Cicero and Cassius!

    Well, those quotes you have are intriguing! Plus there is the fact that there is SO many lost Epicurean texts, I'm not willing to say that an alternative memory mechanism isn't out of the question.

    There's also the Sedley idea of one sending images *to* the gods which sounds like we can create images in our minds. I don't think he'd say this without substantiation.

    Cassius , I'm willing to entertain that there may be more here than I originally thought.

  • Cassius that's a bad headline on the laser article, lol. It is not talking about extrasensory transmission of ideas but about a way to cause sound waves to occur at a specific distant place, using lasers. Ears would be necessary for the message to be heard! 😉


    There's nothing in those references to memory that says internal images are involved-- and that's partly why I linked to the article on aphantasia. Memory and remembered images are not inseparable-- a person can remember events even if unable to reconstruct an image. So I don't think that's an argument for special memory images so much as that an awake person remembers the person they dreamed about is dead!


    It also doesn't really make sense for Lucretius to say the memory is asleep, though. Bc how would the dreamer recognize the image as someone they knew, without the pattern recognition of memory? It would just look like a random person-- we would not recognize anyone in dreams without memory. It's a gap in his model. It would make more sense to say memory is not functioning the same in sleep as awake, but it's obviously not totally offline-- we can observe that ourselves with our own dreams.

  • I'm confused as to why you would want Epicurus to have included image storage in his model when he hasn't said it _and_ it wouldn't square with our observations of the brain? Considering he thought of images as these physical film structures, they would have to get crammed into the brain like a filing cabinet, and nothing of that sort happens-- no sheets of photons are being stored in the brain. He said they were very fine so there was room for them in the air... but the images of a lifetime all stuck into the skull would be an even odder idea.


    Both the external images floating through the pores and your idea of a stored image film are not happening, but I wouldn't propose adding an extra incorrect idea to his model without strong proof that he believed it!

  • Well in the same way that Epicurus held the swerve to exist without suggesting a mechanism for it, I would think that he would presume that there is a method of storing pictures in the mind, even if he dd not suggest a mechanism. I believe in my own introspection that I can picture in my mind a picture of the Mona Lisa, for example, and I can call from memory what seems to be a "picture" of it, which I see no reason not to consider as related to storing "images."


    Maybe we are thinking of images differently, in that I see them as simply variation of the particles that are also seen and heard, not as something fundamentally different that would require a different storage mechanism, although certainly that's a possible reading of what it going on here.


    My main issue is that I think that there is clearly a mechanism of memory for things we see, we hear, and touch, and taste, and I don't see any reason to conclude that memory of those sensations should be presumed to be consumed by this mechanism of the effect of images on the mind, which seems to me to be a separate category of phenomena on its own. Having some kind of general memory function is so basic to human operation that it would be impossible either to write the poem or read it and get any understanding of it unless we had a fundamental capacity to remember things that happen to us, so it seems to me to be highly unlikely that such a fundamental capacity would escape mention until the latter part of book four in these passages.


    If that were what was meant by this aspect of Epicurus theory I would think the mechanism would be much more prominent in other parts of the texts


    (Oops I missed seeing Don's comments, let me address those too)


    There's also the Sedley idea of one sending images *to* the gods which sounds like we can create images in our minds.

    I had not thought of this but yes I can see that being a possible explanation of the "to" issue. In that context I was presuming that we were referring the particles that make up the images that float through the air as something that the gods were accessing directly to replenish their own particles, kind of like sucking static electricity out of the air, so it wouldn't make any difference to them what images they used to replenish themselves. But you are right that that "to" indicates something else.


    And to add to this mix of confusion in my mind I can't help but this this could be related to the process of forming anticipations, but on the other hand I remember from the first time I read DeWitt's book (i would have to now look for the reference) that DeWitt didn't think that Lucretius addressed anticipations anywhere at all in the poem, so apparently DeWitt himself didn't relate this section to anticipations.


    Of course all of us are capable of being wrong so any or all of my current thinking on this could be incorrect.


    Most of this and probably all of it don't strike me as particularly urgent to resolve quickly, but I would like to make some progress on the issue of determining how likely it is that the operations being discussed here constitute a complete description of human memory and/or the operation of the mind in general. I think whether we are just trying to reconstruct Epicurus or whether we are stating our own views based on all sources of information up through today, we ought to be able to articulate a description of what memory seems to us to be, and I think this discussion is showing that we have some basic gaps in that description as to what memory appears to be. Are we remembering pictures, or not? And what is the relation to "images" in this part of the discussion to "pictures"? Is there any at all? - perhaps "pictures" is applicable only to what the eyes process, and "images" in this context is a deceptive word for this use in English.


    So at this point I am not satisfied either with our articulation of what memory is, or of what Epicurus is saying, much less how the two come together.

  • And to add to this mix of confusion in my mind I can't help but this this could be related to the process of forming anticipations, but on the other hand I remember from the first time I read DeWitt's book (i would have to now look for the reference) that DeWitt didn't think that Lucretius addressed anticipations anywhere at all in the poem, so apparently DeWitt himself didn't relate this section to anticipations.

    I think you're onto something here, Cassius . The anticipations seem to clearly reside in the individual somehow.