Article on the "Letter to Marcella" by Porphyry

  • Well I am not sure that I should "Like" your last comment, Matt, but I do think that someone who thinks as you are currently thinking would find a lot to like in Lucian's Hermotimus  (which i think is ultimately pro-Epicurean):


    Hermotimus. Oh, why but that I could cry like a baby? It cuts me to the heart, it is all so true; it is too much for me, when I think of my wretched, wasted years—paying all that money for my own labor, too! I am sober again after a debauch, I see what the object of my maudlin affection is like, and what it has brought upon me. [84]


    Lycinus. No need for tears, dear fellow; that is a very sensible fable of Aesop’s. A man sat on the shore and counted the waves breaking; missing count, he was excessively annoyed. But the fox came up and said to him: ‘Why vex yourself, good sir, over the past ones? you should let them go, and begin counting afresh.’ So you, since this is your mind, had better reconcile yourself now to living like an ordinary man; you will give up your extravagant haughty hopes and put yourself on a level with the commonalty; if you are sensible, you will not be ashamed to unlearn in your old age, and change your course for a better. [85]


    Now I beg you not to fancy that I have said all this as an anti-Stoic, moved by any special dislike of your school; my arguments hold against all schools. I should have said just the same if you had chosen Plato or Aristotle, and condemned the others unheard. But, as Stoicism was your choice, the argument has seemed to be aimed at that, though it had no such special application. [86]


    Hermotimus. You are quite right. And now I will be off to metamorphose myself. When we next meet, there will be no long, shaggy beard, no artificial composure; I shall be natural, as a gentleman should. I may go as far as a fashionable coat, by way of publishing my renunciation of nonsense. I only wish there were an emetic that would purge out every doctrine they have instilled into me; I assure you, if I could reverse Chrysippus’s plan with the hellebore, and drink forgetfulness, not of the world but of Stoicism, I would not think twice about it. Well, Lycinus, I owe you a debt indeed; I was being swept along in a rough turbid torrent, unresisting, drifting with the stream; when lo, you stood there and fished me out, a true deus ex machina. I have good enough reason, I think, to shave my head like the people who get clear off from a wreck; for I am to make votive offerings to-day for the dispersion of that thick cloud which was over my eyes. Henceforth, if I meet a philosopher on my walks (and it will not be with my will), I shall turn aside and avoid him as I would a mad dog.

  • My philosophy is no philosophy these days. Life becomes much quieter when you don’t have other people’s speculations bouncing about in your consciousness.

    If you refer "philisophy these days" as the mainstream academic philosophy that reduces philosophy to Philology and historicism as though there is a market of philosophical thoughts to choose from, then, I am with you. I wouldn't philosophize in that sense.


    But Epicurus would think of philosophy in a different way. As I understand it, philosophy for him is a living philosophy and not a list of dead appearances of the living. Here I quote from VS 54: "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."


    In my case, my philosophy is the pleasure of learning from my experience while applying my lessons of past experiences and testing all sorts of wisdom through practice.:)

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

    Edited once, last by Mike Anyayahan ().