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Posts by Cassius

    Lucretius Book Five:

    Brown 1743: "Indeed, when we are once born, we should strive (whoever he be) to preserve our life, so long as we find an engaging pleasure in our being...."

    Munro 1886: "Whoever has been born must want to continue in life, so long as fond pleasure shall keep him...."

    Bailey 1921: "For whosoever has been born must needs wish to abide in life, so long as enticing pleasure shall hold him."

    My comment:

    Once again I find the 1743 edition more in tune with what I think the meaning should be if viewed in accord with the sweep of the philosophy ("engaging" is a positive word).

    Munro's "keep" probably will strike some as odd language but it's probably accurate if we look back to older usages of keep (I remember the hymn phrase "The Lord bless you and keep you...." which does not seem to have a negative connotation).

    But Bailey's "hold" has almost a Buddhist sound to it and I would accordingly reject that implication as negative. I would probably add this to my personal list of examples from Bailey where his choice of words reflects poorly on his assessment of Epicurean philosophy.

    Does pleasure "hold" us, or does it provide the very goal and reason for living? If Bailey agreed personally with the latter option I don't think he would have used the word "hold" - if he didn't like "engage" and wanted to follow Munro's direction then "keep" or even "sustain" would have been a better choice.

    Yeah I thought about not using the "rabble" word but I couldn't remember the "hoi polloi"! Actually neither term fits my target, because I don't mean to say anything demeaning about those who innocently misconstrue. My focus is on the strictly philosophical debate i referenced earlier, in with "pleasure" is the more technical term and "living pleasurably" is the more colloquial description. (I was thinking there was a passage about "the crowd" but couldn't put my finger on it.)

    The affective circumplex

    OK we're going to need some definitions soon!

    may try to use the single word "pleasure" to mischaracterize the philosophy as Cyrenaic hedonism.

    What is this "may" stuff? Two thousand years of it and you can bet your life the misrepresentation / confusion will last another two thousand years too! I'm afraid this is something we just have to live with and do our best to avoid, but not by watering down the true philosophy. ;-)


    When, therefore, we maintain that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of profligates and those that consist in sensuality, as is supposed by some who are either ignorant or disagree with us or do not understand,

    More seriously you are of course right, but the issue that takes precedence (at least in my mind, and in many circumstances) is that clarity and the benefit of ourselves and our friends trumps everything else, regardless of what the "rabble" choose to believe! ;-)


    VS 29. For I would certainly prefer, as I study Nature, to announce frankly what is beneficial to all people, even if none agrees with me, rather than to compromise with common opinions, and thus reap the frequent praise of the many.

    nothing inherently inconsistent with Epicurus's philosophy to wanting to have a calm mind and a pain free body.

    Absolutely agreed that there is nothing inconsistent about that, the issue would be that of being strictly rigorous in identifying the goal - the "end of nature," rather than getting sidetracked on lesser issues that are only part of the goal, like some people tend to do when they focus on the means rather than the end.

    As for the distinction between "living pleasurably" and "pleasure" I think that the issue revolves around the context in which you're discussing the issue. If you're in a strictly philosophic debate you reduce things down to as essential and clear a concept as possible, so you end up expressing it like Torquatus did with his formulation:


    I will start then in the manner approved by the author of the system himself, by settling what are the essence and qualities of the thing that is the object of our inquiry; not that I suppose you to be ignorant of it, but because this is the logical method of procedure. We are inquiring, then, what is the final and ultimate Good, which as all philosophers are agreed must be of such a nature as to be the End to which all other things are means, while it is not itself a means to anything else. This Epicurus finds in pleasure; pleasure he holds to be the Chief Good, pain the Chief Evil.

    When we start talking about "living pleasurably" we're getting in the details of exactly what pleasures we're pursuing in a particular moment. When we talk about "pleasure" it sounds like we're at that higher level of identifying our ultimate goal (such as "virtue" vs "piety" vs "reason" vs "wisdom" vs "pleasure")

    Both perspectives are valid and should not be seen to be at war with each other, or that one needs to replace the other.

    This morning I was thinking about the passages excerpted below from Philebus, especially the last one I have underlined. In these passages, Plato has Socrates talking as if the battle of identifying the greatest good was between specific patron gods and goddesses. In these passages the patron god(dess) of pleasure is clearly Aprhrodite / Venus, and we can see that identification carried on by the Epicureans at least through Lucretius.

    However I am unclear as to who stands as the patron god for Socrates' position, especially if we conclude that Socrates' position comes down to "reason" or "rationality" or "wisdom" or "logic."

    Was there a particular Greek god who symbolized those characteristics distinctly more than any other? If not, does the absence of such a distinctive figure play into why Socrates talked about being influenced by his "daemon" rather than being talked to by a particular god?

    I ask this question in the context of triangulating on the Epicureans' use of the very broad term "Pleasure" as the goal of life without spending a lot of time identifying the particular pleasures being referenced. It seems to me that part of this terminology is that Epicurus was responding to the ongoing philosophic debates that distilled the ultimate goals down into high-level concepts such as "virtue" or "the good" or "reason" or "wisdom." Given a culture in which people were being asked to choose their allegiance among and between such high-level words, then "pleasure" seems to correspond nicely to that level of discussion. So therefore in that context, I am wondering if in identifying pleasure with Venus/Aphrodite that the Epicureans were facing one or more corresponding patron god(s) from the Academy / Pertipatetics / or later, the Stoics.

    So at this time the specific question is: Was there a patron god or goddess identifed with Socrates' position, from which we can infer the same as to Plato? If that answer is somewhere else in Philebus I seem to be overlooking it.

    Here are the excerpts from Philebus: