Did Epicurus Advise Marriage or Not? Diogenes Laertius Text Difficulty

  • This topic has been discussed in several places and it might be best to link to those here, rather than start the thread anew. As we come across those discussions (primarily under ethics, I think) let's link them here.


    OK that was easy - the primary information is found HERE in the FAQ - https://www.epicureanfriends.c…ighlight=marriage#entry-8


    And HERE for the FAQ Discussion - What Did Epicurus Say About Marriage?

  • Right off the bat, I think I need some context into what "marriage" meant to ancient Greeks.


    Were they primarily economic arrangements? Was there a romantic tradition that encouraged the subjective pursuit of passion? Were they as bad at picking partners as our current divorce rates suggest we are? Were couples expected to produce children? Was marriage primarily an institution to promote reproduction? Did ancient Greek marriages suffocate women with domestic roles? Did they put excessive economic strain on men? How prevalent and severe were sexually-transmitted infections at the time? How universally-accepted was pederasty? How tolerant were Greeks on non-traditional sexual practices? For that matter, what were the Greeks traditional sexual practices? How old were men and women, on average, when they married? I'm curious because I have no idea.


    Depending on the definition of "marriage" to ancient Greeks, I may have more or less sympathy with Epicurus' position. Marriage as companionship between two best friends is utterly different that marriage as marrying-off your 13-year-old daughter for political gain. Historically, "marriage" tends to imply "duty" or "social responsibility", which is antithetical to Epicurean philosophy, so if that's the tree up which Epicurus was barking, I definitely agree.

  • I'll preface my answer with my knowledge of Greek attitudes towards marriage coming from my armchair studies and personal curiosity of Ancient and Hellenistic society.


    With that, it appears for the majority of Greek and Roman history, marriage was based more off of economic arrangements and entanglements rather than preference, pleasure, or passion. This is why both historically and mythologically you see multiple lovers, mistresses, and other forms of what Christians would label as extramarital affairs.


    This being the case, I can see an argument against marriage from the Epicurean perspective, as committing to a relationship due to economic/political reasons would prove itself quite a non-pleasure overall.


    I think in his saying on marriage, there's even the clause in there that may back this opinion up, as (and forgive any butchering as I'm recalling from memory) it states " The wise man will not marry UNLESS social convention demands it so."

  • These posts are good to point out the very large potential differences in what "marriage" means.". I wonder if we know anything about how the term related to the issue of having children. Do I detect that there are t2o clauses and that the "have children" is treated somewhat differently in both?

  • The wise man will not marry UNLESS social convention demands it so."

    The actual word used is διατραπήσεσθαί "to turn away from one's purpose." (infinitive future passive) but this brings more questions. The wise man will not marry unless he turns aside from his purpose. What's the wise man's purpose? Purpose isn't in the word itself but implied in the definition. That's the meaning in the passive sense: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/h…D60%3Aentry%3Ddiatre%2Fpw

  • At least in my mind, a wise man's conceptualized / generalized purpose is to live as happily as possible given his circumstances, with happiness also conceptually / generally understood to mean that individual's personal "calculation" of the mix of pleasures and pains that are open to him.


    As we have seen Lucretius refer to several times, Epicurus apparently observed / held that people differ in their makeup as to what makes them happy. Some people are more group-oriented, some more solitary, some hot-tempered, some mild, and huge numbers of other variations. Or as my wife might put it, some are "marriage material" and some are not. In a very general sense I would suspect that that kind of thing is what Epicurus is getting at, plus all the innumerable circumstances of life that can make marriage / children more or less possible to a particular individual. But always in the context of keeping the goal focused on living happily.

  • But what does it mean for the wise man "to turn aside from his purpose" and decide to marry? Is he turning away from seeking pleasure? I find that hard to believe. Or is he postponing his own pleasure to marry and raise a family? Or...? I'm genuinely confused about what this could mean. Cassius gives some good ideas on the purpose, but what does it mean to turn away from one's purpose in this characteristic of the wise one?

  • The wise man will not marry unless he turns aside from his purpose

    Ok that seems to be the issue. You are translating it that way ("unless he turns aside from his purpose"), but the others are not, correct? Maybe this is an instance where there is some subtlety they properly detect and you do not? Do you have any other authority following your view? Do we know why they chose not to follow what appears to you to be the normal construction? Were they "correcting" the text?


    I would agree with your view that the wise man would never turn aside from his purpose, other than perhaps in the sense of temporarily accepting some lesser pain for some greater pleasure later. But I do not consider that kind of decisionmaking to be really "turning aside from one's purpose" since the overall goal remains the same.


    I feel like the sense that Bailey is conveying is most consistent with the philosophy and therefore most likely to be correct:


    Quote

    "Sexual intercourse, they say, has never done a man good, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him. Moreover, the wise man will marry and have children, as Epicurus says in the Problems and in the work On Nature. But he will marry according to the circumstances of his life."


    In other words i would expect Epicurus to see some form of marriage and children to be most consistent in general with nature for most people (for the continuation of the species, as nature calls all species to survive). Therefore he would see it to be generally advisable, but would always allow the caveat that there may be individual circumstances personal to the person involved which would make marriage and children inadvisable or impossible.


    I see the "marry according to the circumstances of his life" to be the caveat that goes almost without saying in regard to any activity of life. And I see the awkward wording as the result of D.L. describing and condensing the principle, rather than quoting Epicurus directly.


    I would see Epicurus' general viewpoint best expressed by himself, in his will, when he provided for taking care that Metrodorus' daughter be married to a member of the school when she comes of age. To me that is the gold standard example of what he really thought, and the awkward wording is the fault of D.L. rather than Epicurus.


    This following sentence seems to me to be inconceivable otherwise, as both a daughter or Metrodorus, and a member of the school, both of whom I would presume to be highly valued by Epicurus, and whom he wanted to be wise people, were involved:

    Quote

    "Let them likewise provide for the maintenance of Metrodorus's daughter so long as she is well-ordered and obedient to Hermarchus; and, when she comes of age, give her in marriage to a husband selected by Hermarchus from among the members of the School; and out of the revenues accruing to me let Amynomachus and Timocrates in consultation with Hermarchus give to them as much as they think proper for their maintenance year by year."


    Now we could speculate that special circumstances were involved here, and that we have the unusual case that both spouses were presumably Epicurean and therefore knew how to handle "marriage" better than most people. Or perhaps the special circumstance was that they were part of the school and had a support structure around them, or money. But I doubt that Epicurus saw them to be an exception to the rule, since he generally seems to have thought that most people had the capacity to understand "right reason" and live according to his views. But I do think also that the point made by A_Gardner and others that we need to look carefully at what Epicurus considered to be the nature of marriage. Very possibly like justice itself he considered a marriage agreement to be like other agreements, that could change with circumstances, But that's speculation too - the only thing I think is beyond the reach of speculation is that Epicurus would not see a wise man turning aside from his purpose of seeking to live happily - I think it's inconceivable he would take that position about anyone who is wise.

  • This is another Google translation.


    In the Netherlands, Professor Van Buuren delved into this problem. He finds very little of the marriage of romantic love to the Greeks and Romans. He find a lot about the woman as mother and manager of the house. He argues that what we think as romantic love is not natural but socially learned behavior. This feels very strange to us because we experience the romantic love just like very naturally. Romantic love has begun with the minstrels in the 12th century in southern France. The great example is the novel Tristan and Isolde. This culture has spread over the west, later also in the Romantic periode, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina and later in Disney.

  • I suspect that there is a lot to that, but I also think that romantic love as a feeling is more than simply cultural, so surely it was a component of feelings even then. But as to what the "institution of marriage" was back then, then comments seem pretty on track to me.

  • He finds very little of the marriage of romantic love to the Greeks and Romans.

    I certainly think this is the case for Marriage as the institution, but I also think there is plenty of evidence for relationships based on what we would recognize as romantic love. Not the least of which is Pericles and Aspasia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspasia?wprov=sfla1

    Or Metrodorus and Leontion who conceivably could have been the mother of his son and daughter.

    I'm not convinced at all that romantic love was created in the Middle Ages. Too much evidence in ancient sources, to me, points to the contrary.

    Maybe that's why marriage isn't necessarily promoted? Love outside marriage - in their view - had the potential for more mutual pleasure??

  • I'm not convinced at all that romantic love was created in the Middle Ages.

    I completely agree with that. Sure there are lots of differences in many ways between people today and people 2000 years ago due to politics, culture, religion, education, etc ----but I am convinced that the basic feelings and attributes that make us up today are very similar to those from many thousands of years ago.

  • Thanks for finding that Nate - I have the book but if I read that I had forgotten it. Some of that seems pretty aggressively speculative but I don't know that any is far-fetched.


    This seems like a particularly interesting reference to track down in full - I have not heard of this either:


    Quote

    An ancient and non-Epicurean witness, Numenius, seems to be reporting Epicurus’ success in this with an observer’s disinterested eye when he says (apud Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 14.5.3) that ‘Epicureans in the Garden resemble people living in a well-organized state.’

  • I wonder if this is the full reference, because if so someone could argue that this is philosophical only and not dealing with lifestyle: (had to include the Stoic paragraph too for fun!)


    CHAPTER V


    [NUMENIUS] 'FOR the time then of Speusippus, sister's son to Plato, and Xenocrates the successor of Speusippus, and Polemon who succeeded Xenocrates in the School, the character of the doctrine always continued nearly the same, so far as concerned this much belauded suspension of judgement which was not yet introduced, and some other things perchance of this kind. For in other respects they did not abide by the original tradition, but partly weakened it in many ways, and partly distorted it: and beginning from his time, sooner or later they diverged purposely or unconsciously, and partly from some other cause perhaps other than rivalry.


    'And though for the sake of Xenocrates I do not wish to say anything disparaging, nevertheless I am more anxious to defend Plato. For in fact it grieves me that they did not do and suffer everything to maintain in "every way an entire agreement with Plato on all points. Yet Plato deserved this at their hands, for though not superior to Pythagoras the Great, yet neither perhaps was he inferior to him; and it was by closely following and reverencing him that the friends of Pythagoras became the chief causes of his great reputation.


    'And the Epicureans, having observed this, though they were wrong, were never seen on any point to have opposed the doctrines of Epicurus in any way; but by acknowledging that they held the same opinions with a learned sage they naturally for this reason gained the title themselves: and with the later Epicureans it was for the most part a fixed rule never to express any opposition either to one another or to Epicurus on any point worth mentioning: but innovation is with them a transgression or rather an impiety, and is condemned. And for this reason no one even dares to differ, but from their constant agreement among themselves their doctrines are quietly held in perfect peace. Thus the School of Epicurus is like some true republic, perfectly free from sedition, with one mind in common and one consent; from which cause they were, and are, and seemingly will be zealous disciples.


    'But the Stoic sect is torn by factions, which began with their founders, and have not ceased even yet. They delight in refuting one another with angry arguments, one party among them having still remained steadfast, and others having changed. So their founders are like extreme oligarchs, who by quarrelling among themselves have caused those who came after to censure freely both their predecessors and each other, as still being more Stoical one party than the other, and especially those who showed themselves more captious in technicalities; for these were the very men who, surpassing the others in meddlesomeness and petty quibbles, were the more quick to find fault.

  • Hmmm... After reading the ancient source text (Thanks, Cassius !!), Frischer seems to me to be going off on a DeWittean historical fiction flight of fancy. He wants to write a good story, but I don't see his conclusion supported by the ancient text itself.

    That said, I found the ancient text fascinating! Certainly sets up a contrast with the Stoics, and puts that "controversy" with the "4th leg of the Canon" into a different context, too.

  • How would you apply this to the "4th leg" Don?

    Oh, just that it may not be as big of a controversy as we are taking it. If the Epicureans were primarily in agreement, as this text seems to say, maybe we (and DL) are reading more into that than is necessary. Maybe there's some way to reconcile it without seeing it as a schism in the school.

  • Hmmm... After reading the ancient source text (Thanks, Cassius !!), Frischer seems to me to be going off on a DeWittean historical fiction flight of fancy. He wants to write a good story, but I don't see his conclusion supported by the ancient text itself.

    That said, I found the ancient text fascinating! Certainly sets up a contrast with the Stoics, and puts that "controversy" with the "4th leg of the Canon" into a different context, too.

    I've had a similar reaction to reading Frischer's literature. I'm finding a trend in modern scholarship of sympathetic authors and enthusiasts taking poetic licenses to adapt Epicurean philosophy to their social context. Many of their conclusions are based on tenuous links, and their descriptions take advantage of a historical gap due to a lack of source material. I don't necessarily think that their conclusions are incoherent with Epicurean philosophy, so I find them to be useful ways of engaging a contemporary audience; still, the authors seem to place low priority on acknowledging their personal fictions, and that can be problematic.

  • To try to steer this back to the original question in a roundabout way: I'm leaning toward accepting the Greek text which Bailey provides in his Epicurus: The Extant Remains: https://archive.org/details/Ba…Bailey/page/n160/mode/1up After looking at some commentary online on the most trustworthy Diogenes Laertius manuscripts as well as the prefatory commentary in Bailey regarding Usener's scholarship in comparing and "correcting" said manuscripts, it seems to me that Bailey is on solid ground. So, until Sedley gives a full translation of DL Book X, I'm going to use Bailey as my source text.

    I bring this up because the Greek section(s) in the Oxford Arundel manuscript of DL do not match the sections in the Perseus online edition. So, I felt I needed some authoritative edition. For now, I'm going with Bailey. When I was recently trying to puzzle out the meaning in the "pleasure at other's misfortune" thread, I can't across this discrepancy between Arundel and Usener/Bailey.

    So, what does Bailey say about the marriage question?

    One of the key relevant passages is at the start of "verse" 119 in Laertius:

    Perseus/Hicks: [119] Καὶ μηδὲ καὶ γαμήσειν καὶ τεκνοποιήσειν τὸν σοφόν, ὡς Ἐπίκουρος ἐν ταῖς Διαπορίαις καὶ ἐν τοῖς Περὶ φύσεως. κατὰ περίστασιν δέ ποτε βίου γαμήσειν

    Usener/Bailey: [119] Καὶ μην καὶ γαμήσειν καὶ τεκνοποιήσειν τὸν σοφόν, ὡς Ἐπίκουρος ἐν ταῖς Διαπορίαις καὶ ἐν τοῖς Περὶ φύσεως. κατὰ περίστασιν δέ ποτε βίου γαμήσειν


    The only difference is that Hicks' 2nd word is μηδέ and Usener's is μήν.

    Hicks' μηδέ "(connecting two clauses, used with the same constructions as μή (mḗ)) but not, and not, nor"

    which seems to me we would have to look at the preceding phrase and connect it to this one.


    Usener's μήν on the other hand is:

    "used to strengthen statements: verily, surely, truly, definitely (after other particles)

    (καὶ μήν) used to introduce something new or convey affirmation"


    Hicks' is negative, Usener's is positive, and this is born out on their translations:

    Hicks': "Nor, again, will the wise man marry and rear a family : so Epicurus says in the Problems and in the De Natura. Occasionally he may marry owing to special circumstances in his life."


    Usener/Bailey: "Moreover, the wise man will marry and raise children..."


    Whether or not Epicurus advocated marriage and childrearing depends on the presence or absence of -δε or -ν after μη-. I would dearly like to see images of the manuscripts, but without that we have to decide which scholar we're going to trust. I think I trust Usener/Bailey on the Greek.


    All that being said though, Bailey's English translation doesn't make any sense!...

    "Moreover, the wise man will marry and have children, as Epicurus says in the Problems and in the work on Nature. But he will marry according to the circumstances of his life."

    Saying "he will marry... But he will marry..." However, **maybe** he will marry but he will marry according to certain circumstances NOT due to compulsion or cultural convention??