Autarkia And Epicurean Living In The Modern World

  • And I also can see that it could be wonderful to re-create a modern Garden (or Gardens)...even a movement which would bring friendship and savoring life as the most important things, and work to overcome alienation, isolation, and consumerist over-consumption. And it would also be a place to examine and discuss the question of what makes a worthwhile enjoyable life.

    I often find myself thinking about that, and it makes me wonder if anyone here has ever heard or know of the existence of such places nowadays anywhere in the world? I believe it would work on some Ecovillage self-sustainable model. It would be indeed an amazing place to visit, volunteer or even live for a while. Where we could study and exercise the philosophy in a theoretical and practical way.


    By the way, welcome Philia! I am also new to the forum and found it a tremendously useful resource.

  • it would work on some Ecovillage self-sustainable model

    Hi Macario, Yes! And if we can't find it, we can create it!


    And is anyone else interested in this too? I would love to know, as networking could be the key to creating this.


    In Epicurus' teachings I remember reading something about self-sufficiency (I don't remember exactly what it was), but as I lay awake in the middle of the night, due to feelings of anxiety for the uncertainty of the future, it came to me that the only antidote to the anxiety is to actively work to become more self-sufficient -- to learn survival skills and to also live in a community that could survive the future fracturing of civilization due to climate change. (I live in Oregon which is having yet another summer of intense forest fires, hazardous air quality from wildfire smoke, and extreme drought).


    So what would be the ideal location for an Epicurean Eco-community? ...possibly Alaska? Or...?

    Can we agree on a set of Epicurean postulates?

    And a way to run the eco-community social structure?

  • My two cents comments:


    And is anyone else interested in this too? I would love to know, as networking could be the key to creating this.

    Networking is what we are all about so start a thread somewhere as you please: Perhaps here: Daily Life As An Epicurean We could expand into a separate section later.

    Can we agree on a set of Epicurean postulates?

    That is always hard and I wouldn't recommend you start with a full set or you'll never get started. It was very difficult to come up with the "Not-NeoEpicurean" list, even though such a list is needed for an elaborate project (like this forum). As an even more basic "litmus test" the set of four premises in the gold box is what I currently recommend as a distinguishing starting point for consensus in any level of complexity of project. Even there, while the first two are clear enough, the "all good and evil" quote is what I suggest to focus on the "negative" assertion that there is no absolute virtue, and the "pleasure is the beginning" is the focus on the positive assertion that feeling is the guide. If people can't agree that Epicurus was at least firm on those basics, my personal view is that they really aren't Epicurean at all.


  • In Epicurus' teachings I remember reading something about self-sufficiency

    I would be careful about ascribing the meaning of "economic" self-sufficiency to that word. From what I can find, autarkeia (the word in ancient Greek) had a self-sufficiency connotation of satisfied with yourself, content with yourself, etc. I see this as similar to the ideas of the Epicurean gods who are not affected by anger or gratitude, they are sufficient unto themselves.

    I'd also bring up that the Garden wasn't a commune. Epicurus specifically did not want the members of the Garden's assets to be held in common. People could come and go. I've often imagined the Garden as a retreat in the city of Athens or other cities that had Epicurean communities, not separate from the city but a place to rest, relax, and then re-engage.

  • Epicurus specifically did not want the members of the Garden's assets to be held in common

    That's very clear from the texts and a very important point since a lot of people incorporate "communism" with the lifestyle they think Epicurus was associated with. Epicurus would have had before him the example from Plato of the community of women and children and the like, and I would expect he reacted against Platonic statist/communist ideals as he did to other Platonic ideals.


    It seems like Epicurus was sufficiently well-off financially to afford multiple slaves and multiple pieces of real estate, so it sounds like they were getting contributions / making money from teaching and writing in addition to whatever they brought to the table from their own financial backgrounds, so that's definitely a consideration for modern-day efforts. Resources have to come from somewhere and that's very tricky to figure out.

  • It seems like Epicurus was sufficiently well-off financially

    Good point. It appears there is some economic self-sufficiency implied by autarkeia, but more to be satisfied with what you have as far as I can tell. Sort of like VS35

  • Not only is there "lack of resources" to get something started, but we also should be realistic and aware that every powerful institution that has evolved over the last 2000 years (primarily church and academia and governmental elite) are all aligned against the emergence of forms of organization that would challenge their authority. Not that we would want to necessarily bother them, of course, but that they assume to themselves the right to dictate the lifestyle choices of everyone, not just themselves.


    I am not making these comments to be negative as I think they can and eventually will be overcome. But to be successful it's importance to fairly assess the obstacles in our way so that we can then target a plan to overcome them.


    Which always bring to my mind this from the opening of Lucretius' Book Six:


    He therefore cleansed men’s breasts with truth-telling precepts and fixed a limit to lust and fear and explained what was the chief good which we all strive to reach, and pointed out the road along which by a short cross-track we might arrive at it in a straightforward course; he showed too what evils existed in mortal affairs throughout, rising up and manifoldly flying about by a natural –call it chance or force, because nature had so brought it about – and from what gates you must sally out duly to encounter each;

  • Thank you Cassius and Don for your feedback.


    I find this forum to be beneficial for learning due to your commitment (as well as the few other regular contributors) to strive to uncover the original ideas of Epicurus.


    As for a practical application...


    In my own life, I want to create pleasurable friendships with like minded people. And so I ask myself how will I do that in these current times? Where I live (Oregon) is currently having a continued covid surge, which makes it difficult to create new social connections. My few friends are all busy people --- people live insular lives with their life partner, raising children, working long hours. I do none of those things, and so simply want to create a way to interact with people, and preferably in a fun way. :)


    “Friendship goes dancing round the world, announcing to all of us to wake up to happiness” (Vatican Saying = VS 52)

  • In my own life, I want to create pleasurable friendships with like minded people. And so I ask myself how will I do that in these current times? Where I live (Oregon) is currently having a continued covid surge, which makes it difficult to create new social connections. My few friends are all busy people --- people live insular lives with their life partner, raising children, working long hours. I do none of those things, and so simply want to create a way to interact with people, and preferably in a fun way.


    That's the reason why I think that whatever can happen will start online. Even if you're focusing on real-life meetings, you need a way to coordinate those meetings. Telegram or text messaging or Facebook are all "part" of the answer - to get the word out - but for long-lasting collaborative effort I don't think there's a substitute for a "permanent" on-line presence like this one. You certainly don't need to point people to a subforum here at Epicureanfriends (though we can easily set that up as requested) but you do need your own permanent "home" -- OregonEpicureans.com or whatever -- so that people can actually "collaborate" and get things done.

  • Actually let me revise and extend those remarks. The first spark for the individuals involved won't necessarily "start" online - it will be the recognition among friends - as part of real life - that the world is screwed up beyond recognition. These like-minded friends will see that certain key issues such as bowing down to fictional gods and keeping people alive in nursing homes until they are little more than vegetables makes no sense, never has made sense, and must one day come to an end.


    And when those friends who share those basic values start looking for means of decoding what when wrong, and organizing to find a fix, they will look for precedent in their history (which for most of us is "Western Civilization") which also helps them explain how we got so screwed up.


    If they look long enough they will find Epicurus as the clear and articulate leader of a movement that could have prevented all this but for it being snuffed out far too early by the "bad guys."


    But they will find that the study of his work will give them a jump-start toward doing what they need to do themselves today - which they will need to work to understand in depth, and share that information, in a way that only the internet allows.

  • I would be careful about ascribing the meaning of "economic" self-sufficiency to that word. From what I can find, autarkeia (the word in ancient Greek) had a self-sufficiency connotation of satisfied with yourself, content with yourself, etc.

    It appears there is some economic self-sufficiency implied by autarkeia, but more to be satisfied with what you have as far as I can tell.

    It seems to me that the term 'self-sufficiency' in Epicurean Philosophy, is strongly related to an economic meaning. What I could understand from DeWitt's utilization of the word is that corresponds, not to be satisfied with what you have, but to the ability of fulfilling one's "natural and necessary desires" (food, water and shelter) with one's own resources. If this is the case, then I believe the self-sufficiency concept pursued in an eco-village/agro-forestry model would be in accordance with the Epicurean one, since the goal is to use the land (own resource) to provide food, water and shelter without depending on public/private services.


    I'd like to quote fragments of DeWitt's book that led me to that interpretation of self-sufficiency:


    It also seems to me that "self-sufficiency" is a requirement to reach the state of "ataraxia", since the possibility of not being able to fulfill your basic needs (like having shelter and something to eat) would put you in a state of disturbance.


    Quote

    “The wise man, when confronted by lack of the necessities, stands by to share with others rather than to have them share with him; so great a reserve of self-sufficiency he discovers."

    This sentence is very important to me in particular, since it makes me realize that that are basically two ways of increasing the "reserve of self-sufficiency": accumulating more resources or limiting your necessities; both will do it, but the last one seems much easier to achieve.


    At last, my overall knowledge of Epicurean philosophy is still very limited, so I appreciate you guys pointing out any signs of misinterpretation.

  • As for a practical application...


    In my own life, I want to create pleasurable friendships with like minded people. And so I ask myself how will I do that in these current times? Where I live (Oregon) is currently having a continued covid surge, which makes it difficult to create new social connections. My few friends are all busy people --- people live insular lives with their life partner, raising children, working long hours. I do none of those things, and so simply want to create a way to interact with people, and preferably in a fun way. :)

    I must say I find myself in a very similar situation. I also believe being able to interact and have pleasurable conversations with like-minded people is not only beneficial, but it's also a way of merging ideas and possibly starting something aiming a common goal.


    That's the reason why I think that whatever can happen will start online. Even if you're focusing on real-life meetings, you need a way to coordinate those meetings. Telegram or text messaging or Facebook are all "part" of the answer - to get the word out - but for long-lasting collaborative effort I don't think there's a substitute for a "permanent" on-line presence like this one.

    Indeed, I think the internet, especially in the times we're living in, is the best "place" to find like-minded people and to organize something that can lead to true collaboration.


    A question: is there any way to private message someone in the forum?

  • accumulating more resources or limiting your necessities; both will do it, but the last one seems much easier to achieve.

    That may in fact be true, but I do think that there are enticements to "living small as a rule" that have to be guarded against. I know I am a lazy person myself, and laziness is probably not the best way to make these decisions. I would always keep in mind the key rule of VS63 - Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess.


    A question: is there any way to private message someone in the forum?

    Yes absolutely, I am sorry that is not easier to see. Perhaps it is harder to see if you only use a mobile advice. On the desktop it's easy to see the "dialog bubble" icon near the top right -- when you click that you can message any other user or combination of users.

  • Thank you Cassius! I found it. It was my mistake, I was looking for a way to privately message someone, looking at the user's profile rather than a general button. But then, looking again, I realized it's also possible to start a private conversation at the user's profile page. Turns out I made a very bad search after all. ^^

  • No problem! Also if you're on a desktop, there is now a "Conversations" button at bottom right. You can click that and a list of users should pop up and you can either click on a user you see there, or hit the "plus" sign.

  • If we end up with a good discussion on autarkeia here, Cassius may want to move this part of the "Welcome Philia" thread to another spot. Just a suggestion.

    Sorry, Macario , for the delay in responding to your posts above!

    It seems to me that the term 'self-sufficiency' in Epicurean Philosophy, is strongly related to an economic meaning.

    My soapbox here on the forum is always go back to the original texts, and don't trust any one translation of any word that was originally in Greek or Latin. I saw that Saint-Andre has this note on Vatican Saying 44:

    Quote

    VS44: When the sage contends with necessity, he is skilled at giving rather than taking — such a treasury of self-reliance has he found.

    ὁ σοφὸς εἰς τὰ ἀναγκαῖα συγκριθεῖς μᾶλλον ἐπίσταται μεταδιδόναι ἢ μεταλαμβάνειν· τηλικοῦτον αὐταρκείας εὗρε θησαυρόν.
    [44] The word αὐτάρκεια is often translated as "self-sufficiency", but I think "self-reliance" is slightly better because the Epicurean sage needs friends and therefore is not entirely self-sufficient.

    So, right away, we have self-reliance and self-sufficiency as two options. I agree they may mean similar things, but it doesn't get us closer to whether it's economic, a sense of satisfaction, contentment with circumstances, or a combination or something else.

    Thank you for the quote from DeWitt. As Cassius will no doubt confirm, I have certain problems with DeWitt's interpretation and lack of citations sometimes. I took a look at the section you referenced, especially because I was curious about the beans! Sure enough, the footnote for that is from Plutarch, Demetrius, Chapt. 24: "At this time also, we are told, the philosopher Epicurus sustained the lives of his associates with beans, which he counted out and distributed among them." In Greek, "associates" is συνήθης which seems more friendly than that word would imply, I'd like something like "ones with whom he was well-acquainted or intimate with one."

    But, I realize, I digress. This doesn't get us closer to an understanding of what αὐτάρκεια conveyed to the ancient Greek mind. What I'm going to do is take a look at where that word shows up in Epicurus's extant work (to the best of my ablility)

    We've seen VS44 above.


    VS45. The study of what is natural produces not braggarts nor windbags nor those who show off the culture that most people fight about, but those who are fearless and self-reliant and who value their own good qualities rather than the good things that have come to them from external circumstances. οὐ κομποὺς οὐδὲ φωνῆς ἐργαστικοὺς οὐδὲ τὴν περιμάχητον παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς παιδείαν ἐνδεικνυμένους φυσιολογία παρασκευάζει, ἀλλὰ σοβαροὺς καὶ αὐτάρκεις καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀγαθοῖς, οὐκ ἐπὶ τοῖς τῶν πραγμάτων μέγα φρονοῦντες.


    VS77: The greatest fruit of self-reliance is freedom. τῆς αὐταρκείας καρπὸς μέγιστος ἐλευθερία.


    Fragment 202. He who follows nature and not groundless opinions is completely self-reliant. With regard to what is enough by nature, everything he owns is a source of wealth; whereas with regard to unlimited desires, even the greatest wealth is poverty. ὁ οὖν τῇ φύσει παρακολουθῶν καὶ μὴ ταῖς κεναῖς δόξαις ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτάρκης· πρὸς γὰρ τὸ τῇ φύσει ἀρκοῦν πᾶσα κτῆσίς ἐστι πλοῦτος, πρὸς δὲ τὰς ἀορίστους ὀρέξεις καὶ ὁ μέγιστος πλοῦτός ἐστι πενία.


    Fragment 476: 476. Self-reliance is the greatest wealth of all. πλουσιώτατον αὐτάρκεια πάντων.


    And, please let me add, I'm not copying these here to be pedantic! I just want all those in one spot to make it easier for us to refer to them. That's all for now that I can find on the fly.


    Fragment 202 especially, to me, gets at contentment with what one has and not necessarily being economically self-reliant/self-sufficient.


    The definition in LSJ for αὐταρκεία is here and the definition gives links to:

    Plato. Philebus, 67a.

    Socrates

    In this argument, then, both mind and pleasure were set aside; neither of them is the absolute good, since they are devoid of self-sufficiency, adequacy, and perfection?


    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1097b.

    The same conclusion also appears to follow from a consideration of the self-sufficiency of happiness—for it is felt that the final good must be a thing sufficient in itself. The term self-sufficient, however, we employ with reference not to oneself alone, living a life of isolation, but also to one's parents and children and wife, and one's friends and fellow citizens in general, since man is by nature a social being....

    Happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim.


    Aristotle, Rhetoric. 1.6.

    To enumerate them one by one, the following things must necessarily be good. Happiness, since it is desirable in itself and self-sufficient, and to obtain it we choose a number of things.


    Aristotle, Politics, 1.1256b.

    This then virtually completes the list of the various modes of life, those at least that have their industry sprung from themselves and do not procure their food by barter and trade—the lives of the herdsman, the brigand, the fisherman, the hunter, the husband-man. Others also live pleasantly by combining some of these pursuits, supplementing the more deficient life where it happens to fall short in regard to being self-sufficing: for instance, some combine a pastoral life and brigandage, others husbandry and hunting, and similarly with the others—they pass their time in such a combination of pursuits as their need compels. Property of this sort then seems to be bestowed by nature herself upon all, as immediately upon their first coming into existence, so also when they have reached maturity.


    The final selection from Aristotle definitely has an economic aspect; however, the excerpt from Plato has an aspect of contentment about it. So, it seems to have been a multi-purpose word. But I'll post this, and feel free to continue the discussion! I find this very pleasurable to engage in.