"On Methods of Inference": Notes For Review And Discussion (Including David Sedley Article: "On Signs")

  • Page 261 and 262 are very dense where Sedley is asking why the Epicureans seemed to concede a part of the argument.


    We'll ask Don to comment particularly on that one! ;)


    What's going through my mind too is that these are the 70 BC Roman Epicureans like Torquatus who were willing to deviate from Epicurus, so I wouldn't concede that any concessions made by them were necessarily made by Epicurus himself.

  • Not gonna get off on this right now, but we ought to make note that if this assertion is correct it plays into "isonomia" and probably "nature never makes only a single thing of a kind." I haven't looked up this reference in Lucretius:


  • Lucretius V.526-33

    This only do I show, and follow on
    To assign unto the motions of the stars
    Even several causes which 'tis possible
    Exist throughout the universal All;
    Of which yet one must be the cause even here
    Which maketh motion for our constellations.
    Yet to decide which one of them it be
    Is not the least the business of a man
    Advancing step by cautious step, as I.

  • Ok having read to the end of Sedley's article I think he acquits himself well and his whole article is in my view supportive of Epicurus. It's also in my view largely consistent with De Lacey.


    I don't think this was the target of the article and so I don't criticize him for it, but it seems to me that Sedley dives deeper and deeper into detail without ever coming back at the end of the article to discuss why the whole issue is significant.


    That is OUR task, to clarify and articulate the important lessons to be learned from the fight between Stoic and Epicurean methods of "logic."


    And at the moment I am not inclined to think I need to change my assessment that DeLacey has the practical importance of the issue well summarized here:





    Thus the Epicureans were at war with those (Platonists, Aristotelians, Stoics) who held that inferences from signs ( i.e., true opinions) are not reliable unless they can be stated into formal logically valid syllogisms. In other words, the ability to play games with words to make up a logically consistent assertion is not what establishes truth for us. Rather, its always the ability to judge the contours of truth by our canonical faculties is what establishes truth for us.


    So the reverse of the Stoic position is actually the case and seems to be the position the Epicureans took: it is only when an opinion can be confirmed through repeated and reliable observations of the canonical faculties that something is established as true for us.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “"On Methods of Inference": notes for review and discussion” to “"On Methods of Inference": Notes For Review And Discussion”.
  • Well thanks for the kind words, but I think a large part of the issue is that Sedley and De Lacey and most of the rest probably have a different goal than I do. They seem to be writing for each other in the Academic world, in which the people writing their books are expected to be familiar with the state of academic writing and be familiar with the arguments. So they end up chasing each other further and further down rabbit holes which are indeed worth exploring, but they aren't writing to try to focus on and to "popularize" the main take-home points of the philosophy to everyday people. Once they describe the details the academics think (and maybe rightly so) that their job is done. They aren't paid and they aren't claiming to be social reformers.


    As a secondary factor I think there is a lot of pressure in Academia to toe the establishment line on the value of formal logic and to maintain respect for the core Greek authorities (of whom they don't number Epicurus, except to the extent they can force him into the Stoic mold with "absence of pain" analysis).


    In all fairness to them they've built up a lot of good information, but it's long past time for people outside of academia to realize what the issues are and run with them. This issue of the role of "logic" is explosively counter-trend to the majority viewpoint, and is equal if not more serious than the views of religion and pleasure. In many ways a form of "atheism" is standard now in academia, and the academics are very familiar with unconventional views of pleasure as well. But I actually think that this "logic" analysis challenges the what they see as the real keys of their kingdom, so it doesn't get nearly as much notice as it should.


    And of course as you're saying in your comments, it IS very dense and complex, so it takes some work to ferret out what's really going on here.


    OK back to the topic because I want to compare my views with what others are seeing.

  • Ok this is from the second article that Don linked, so there's definitely a revised edition of the De Lacey translation which we need to get our hands on:


  • I'm just a fountain of random points of interest tonight!


    THIS is interesting in asserting that the enemy was not the Stoics but the Academics. I don't know that I have a dog in that fight (Stoics vs Academics) because I think it's important to see that they were all generally allied against Epicurus (not just the Stoics).


  • Well THIS certainly has my "red alert" alarm jumping and on the lookout for deviations by later Epicureans. Maybe i haven't been radical enough in thinking that Epicurus was on the warpath against formal logic:


  • This formulation here sounds reasonable to me, and I begin to get the strong feeling that Epicurus would have disapproved a lot of these arguments, as per the Elizabeth Asmis note just above. I am getting the feeling that a lot of these arguments are unwise and similar to Torquatus thinking that he needed an elaborate and abstract argument about the nature and role of pleasure. All of this "necessity" and "essentialism" argument does not seem to me consistent with Epicurus' original position, so i suspect the comment highlighted below here is correct:



  • Additional Resource: Asmis - Epicurus' Scientific Method (Article on which her later book of the same name was based).


    Also: According to the second link Don posted, this is a very important article, and corrects mistakes made by Barnes in Barnes' own article. But I am not sure it is going to be something we can find. Anyway, this is one I'd love to have, since i am almost as much a fan of AA Long as I am of David Sedley.


  • I've now read the two articles posted by Don and they have been very helpful so thank you Don! Now it's time for me to drop back and get some comments from others in here!

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “"On Methods of Inference": Notes For Review And Discussion” to “"On Methods of Inference": Notes For Review And Discussion (Including David Sedley Article: "On Signs")”.