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Posts by Cassius

    Well whenever I think about "evicting" someone I think about the Biblicists I'd like to evict from "our" homeland of Italy and Greece, so I guess that's why I associate the terms together ;)

    Well I think there are probably multiple things going on and they don't all resolve to the same point. I would say that clearly there are times when the End as a "boundary-mark" is definitely what is meant, especially in terms of things that can be, and things that can't be.

    At other times the End as a "goal" is definitely what is meant, in the same sense as Cicero's "on the ends of good and evil."

    We just have to be nimble-footed enough to go with the flow and see when one meaning is meant versus another, because both are important depending on the subject and perspective.

    If we can keep our understanding clear that we are all made of atoms and void while at the same time seeing that that's no reason to fall into the despair of nihilism (quite the contrary, in fact) then we can help people see the multiple meanings of words like "end."

    For some reason that calls to mind one of the areas I think DeWitt was strongest in, such as his article where he attacked and the confusion about "all sensations are true" and points to the multiple meanings of the word "true."

    I suspect that this is a similar issue, and that there are other similar situations as well.

    And of course you might even think of integrating this "purpose rather than limit" analogy with the opening of the letter to Menoeceus, when Epicurus talks about happiness (one of the appearances of eudaemonia?) rather than using the word pleasure again.

    If so, the implication might be taken that even though "pleasure" is all that is desirable in itself, it is helpful for us humans to realize that the purpose of pursuing any individual particular pleasure is the attainment of happy living / happiness. Happy living / happiness is itself a direct function of the experience of individual pleasures, but needs a conceptual name of its own so that we can indicate it in our minds as the ultimate purpose, especially considering that we sometimes choose a temporary pain or temporarily avoid a pleasure in order to gain "the net final result" of the happiest (most pleasant) life possible.

    As we analyze this it seems to me the key is to be sure that we avoid falling prey to the pitfall of articulating something that can be misrepresented as nihilism, which is what the "absence of pain" analysis falls prey to unless articulated properly.

    Ok let's add THIS to the pot: Isn't the name generally given to Cicero's work -- "DE FINIBUS"?

    And wouldn't it be fair to think that the connotation intended by Cicero (if in fact he used that title or term) was not primarily "boundary-mark" or "border" as much as it was "Ends in the sense of purposes or goals"?

    My layman's observation is that most scholars tend to translate the title as "On Ends" rather than "On Boundary-Marks" or "On Borders" ;)

    And I think they intend their readers to think that the book ("De Finibus") is about the proper goals of life, rather than the art of land-surveying or map-making. ;)

    Perhaps this is one of those situations where the Romans of 50 BC had a slightly better command of the subteties of ancient greek than do modern dictionaries ;)

    What about the Greek, Don? I know the first thing that comes to mind is PD3:

    If viewed in that way, this is pretty much mirror of what is stated in the letter to Meneoceus as:


    The right understanding of these facts enables us to refer all choice and avoidance to the health of the body and (the soul’s) freedom from disturbance, since this is the aim of the life of blessedness. For it is to obtain this end that we always act, namely, to avoid pain and fear. And when this is once secured for us, all the tempest of the soul is dispersed, since the living creature has not to wander as though in search of something that is missing, and to look for some other thing by which he can fulfill the good of the soul and the good of the body. For it is then that we have need of pleasure, when we feel pain owing to the absence of pleasure; (but when we do not feel pain), we no longer need pleasure.

    So if we focus on the "goal" or "purpose" aspect then PD3 is not to focus on what is the "highest" pleasure, or calling absence of pain the highest pleasure, but more like "The purpose of [the pursuit of ?] pleasure is the removal of pain...."

    Which of course reminds us of the constant issue of how to characterize "absence of pain" - but that's not a problem when one keeps in mind the full picture of the philosophy, which includes (1) the true positive meaning of the feeling of pleasure, and (2) the issue that Epicurus would have wanted to combat the claim that the pursuit of pleasure can never be satisfied, which is the "limits" argument raised by Plato in Philebus.

    I do think that the most damaging aspect of the modern interpretations of this is to equate absence of pain with the "highest" pleasure, and viewing this as a restatement of the purpose of pursuit of pleasure, rather than the "highest" pleasure, is probably an effective way of dismissing that argument. Especially when we continue to view all actions (including the pursuit of anything) as a tool to be evaluated in terms of whether it results in pleasure or not.

    In listening to this over today here's something I'd like to explore:

    In the sections where Lucretius is talking about people not realizing the "limits of possession" (I need to find the quote) I wonder if th4re is not another shade of meaning rather than the "limit" referring to "how much is possible."

    Don't some of the words for "limit" have the additional connotation of the "goal" or "target" of a thing?

    In the context of discussing the "limit of possessions" I would think it would be more natural for them to be saying that people don't keep in mind the REASON FOR WHICH they pursue possessions in the first place. To me, the issue is not that people forget or don't think about calculating the optimum amount of possessions, as if there is some magic quantity -- they forget the "target" or the "goal" or the reason for having possessions in the first place -- which is pleasure. To me that makes it easier to understand the point - that you calculate the optimum amount of possessions to pursue purely by reference to whether the amount of your possessions optimizes your pleasures.

    Which is closely parallel to how you judge the "virtues" or any other "tool" (which is what possessions are) - you calculate the optimum amount or even whether a thing is desirable or not by looking to the purpose for choosing in it or engaging in it. You're really not so much worried most of the time whether you are actually AT the "maximum extent" of a thing but whether it is helping you make progress toward that target.

    And of course all this reminds me that the word "limit" as it is used fairly regularly in Epicurean texts is not a word that we today may be construing in the same way as they would. It seems to me that your normal ordinary person ALWAYS thinks of "limit" as "cap" or a "maximum" or a "restraint" - all words that have negative connotations. We don't normally use it today to mean the second definition here of "the utmost extent"

    It would be interesting to look into the Greek and Latin words being used when our translators use "limit" to see if there are shades of meaning that might be helpful to explore.

    NOTE: OK I see that in the Latin that is translated limit of possession what we have is FINIS - which is easier to see as "the END" in the sense of "the end of the activity is to achieve ______"

    nimirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas....

    EricR has posted this on his wall, but in order to ensure that it is easily found I want to post a link here. Note that this is a composition by Eric himself and not just a good video with exterrnal music added in.

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    Welcome to Episode Eighty-One of Lucretius Today. In this Episode 81 we will start at approximately Latin line 1350 and we'll go through the end of Book Five. As always, please let us know if you have any comment in the thread below. Please remember also that you can subscribe to our podcast through any podcast player and download them directly to your phone at the link below.

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    Welcome to Episode Eighty-Two of Lucretius Today.

    I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the forum, we'll walk you through the six books of Lucretius' poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.

    For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please visit where you will find our goals and our ground rules. If you have any questions about those, please be sure to contact us at the forum for more information.

    In this Episode 82 we will read approximately Latin lines 1 through ____ as we open Book Six.

    Now let's join Don reading today's text.

    Latin Lines 1 - 95

    Munro Notes-

    1-42: Athens first gave mankind corn and laws; but better than all him who, when he saw that men had all the necessaries and refinements of life and yet were miserable, taught them true•wisdom and the way to true happiness and rid them of empty cares and fears.

    43-95: once more I mount my chariot, to tell what remains to be told of the things which go on above us, and to dispel the causeless fears of men who believe such things to be tokens of divine wrath : the gods will indeed plague you, if you so believe; not that they will themselves do you any hurt, but the images proceeding from their holy bodies will stir up these vain fears and poison existence. I have now therefore to sing of thunder, of tempests, of other things that take place in the sky.

    Browne 1743

    [01] Renowned Athens, first to wretched man gave the sweet fruits, and human life refreshed, and published laws; but comforts nobler far than these she gave, when to the world she showed great Epicurus, formed with such a soul; who from his mouth delivered sublime truths, as from an oracle, whose fame for so divine discoveries dispersed every way abroad and was raised after death above the skies.

    [09] For when he saw how little would suffice for necessary use, and by what small provisions life might be preserved; that Nature had prepared every thing ready to support mankind; that men abounded with wealth, and were loaded with honor and applause, and happy in their private concerns, in the good character of their children, and yet their minds were restless at home, complaining and lamenting the misery of their condition; he perceived the vessel itself (the mind) was the cause of the calamity, and by the corruption of that, every thing, though ever so good, that was poured into it was tainted: it was full of holes, and run out, and so could never by any means by filled; and whatever it received within, it infected with a stinking smell. And therefore he purged the mind by true philosophy, and set bounds to our desires and our fears. He laid open to us the chief good, that point of happiness we all aim at, in what it consists, and showed us the direct way that leads to it, and puts us into the straight road to obtain it. He taught what misfortunes commonly attend human life, whether they flow from the laws of nature or from chance, whether from necessity or by accident; and by what means we are to oppose those evils, and strive against them. And he has fully proved that men torment themselves in vain, and are tossed about in a tempestuous ocean of cares to no purpose. For as boys tremble and fear every thing in the dark night, so we in open day fear things as vain, and little to be dreaded, as those that children quake at in the dark. and fancy advancing towards them. This terror of the mind, this darkness then, not the Sun's beams nor the bright rays of day can scatter, but the light of nature and the rules of reason; and therefore I shall the more readily proceed to execute what I have begun.

    [43] And since I taught the fabric of the world was mortal, and that the heavens are formed of corruptible seeds, and whatever they do, or ever will contain, must necessarily be dissolved; attend now to what remains, especially since the hope of carrying the prize has encouraged me to ascend the chariot and engage in so noble a race; and since the difficulties that once attended the course are removed, and the roughness of the way is made favorable and easy. The various wonders men behold in the earth and in the heavens perplex their minds, trembling and in suspense, and make them humble with the fear of the gods, and press them groveling to the ground; and being ignorant of the cause of these events, they are forced to confess the sovereignty and give up everything to the command of these deities. And the effects they are unable to account for by reason they imagine were brought about by the influence of the gods; for such as well know that the gods lead a life of tranquility and ease, if they should still wonder by what power the world is carried on, especially in the the things they see over their heads in the heavens above, they relapse again into their old superstition; they raise over themselves a set of cruel tyrants who, the wretches fancy, can do all things, because they know nothing of what can or what cannot be, or by what means a finite power is fixed to every being, and a boundary immovable which it cannot pass. Such are more liable to mistakes and to be carried widely from the right way.

    [68] Unless you purge your mind of such conceits, and banish them your breast, and forebear to think unworthily of the gods, by charging them with things that break their peace, those sacred deities you will believe are always angry and offended with you; not that the supreme power of the gods can be so ruffled as to be eager to punish severely in their resentments, but because you fancy those beings, who enjoy a perfect peace in themselves, are subject to anger and the extravagances of revenge: and therefore you will no more approach their shrines with an easy mind, no more in tranquility and peace will you be able to receive the images, the representations of their divine forms, that form from their pure bodies and strike powerfully upon the minds of men: From hence you may collect what a wretched life you are to lead.

    [80] That the rules therefore of right reason may keep these evils at the greatest distance from us, though I have offered many things upon this subject before, yet much still remains to be observed, which I shall adorn with the smoothest verse. And first, the nature and phenomenons of the heavens must be explained. And now I sing of tempests, and the flaming blasts of lightning; how they fly and from what cause they dart through all the air, lest, when you view the several parts of heaven, you tremble and, mad with superstitions, ask whence comes this winged fire, and to what quarter of heaven does it direct its course; how does it pierce through walls of stone, and having spent its rage goes out again? The causes of which events, since men cannot assign by the laws of reason, they must, they suppose, be effected by the power of the gods.

    [92] And thou Calliope, my skillful muse, the joy of men and pleasure of the gods, lead on the course and guide me to the goal, that by thy conduct I may gain a crown and end the race with glory.

    Munro 1886

    [01] IN days of yore Athens of famous name first imparted corn-producing crops to suffering mankind, and modeled life anew and passed laws; and first too bestowed sweet solaces of existence, when she gave birth to a man who showed himself gifted with such a genius and poured forth all knowledge of old from his truth-telling mouth; whose glory, even now that he is dead, on account of his godlike discoveries confirmed by length of time is spread abroad among men and reaches high as heaven.

    [09] For when he saw that the things which their needs imperiously demand for subsistence had all without exception been already provided for men, and that life, so far as was possible, was placed on a sure footing, that men were great in affluence of riches and honors and glory and swelled with pride in the high reputation of their children, and yet that none of them at home for all that had a heart the less disquieted, and that this heart in despite of the understanding plagued life without any respite and was constrained to rave with distressful complainings, he then perceived that the vessel itself did cause the corruption and that by its corruption all the things that came into it and were gathered from abroad, however salutary were spoilt within it; partly because he saw it to be leaky and full of holes so that it could never by any means be filled full; partly because he perceived that it befouled so to say with a nauseous flavor everything within it which it had taken in.

    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; and he proved that mankind mostly without cause arouse in their breast the melancholy tumbling billows of cares. For even as children are flurried and dread all things in the thick darkness, thus we in the daylight fear at times things not a whit more to be dreaded than what children shudder at in the dark and fancy sure to be. This terror therefore and darkness of mind must be dispelled, not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the aspect and law of nature. Wherefore the more readily I will go on in my verses to complete the web of my design.

    [43] And since I have shown that the quarters of ether are mortal and that heaven is formed of a body that had a birth, and since of all the things which go on and must go on in it, I have unraveled most, hear further what remains to be told; since once for all \[I have willed\] to mount the illustrious chariot \[of the muses, and ascending to heaven to explain the true law of winds and storms, which men foolishly lay to the charge of the gods, telling how, when they are angry, they raise fierce tempests; and, when there is a lull in the fury\] of the winds, how that anger is appeased, how the omens which have been are again changed, when their fury has thus been appeased: \[I have willed at the same time\] to explain all the other things which mortals observe to go on upon earth and in heaven, when often they are in anxious suspense of mind, and which abase their souls with fear of the gods and weigh and press them down to earth, because ignorance of the causes constrains them to submit things to the empire of the gods and to make over to them the kingdom. For they who have been rightly taught that the gods lead a life without care, if nevertheless they wonder on what plan all things can be carried on, above all in regard to those things which are seen overhead in the ethereal borders, are borne back again into their old religious scruples and take unto themselves hard taskmasters, whom they poor wretches believe to be almighty, not knowing what can, what cannot be, in short on what principle each thing has its powers defined, its deep set boundary mark; and therefore they are led all the farther astray by blind reason.

    [68] Now unless you drive from your mind with loathing all these things, and banish far from you all belief in things degrading to the gods and inconsistent with their peace, then often will the holy deities of the gods, having their majesty lessened by you, do you hurt; not that the supreme power of the gods can be so outraged that in their wrath they shall resolve to exact sharp vengeance, but because you will fancy to yourself that they, though they enjoy quiet and calm peace, do roll great billows of wrath; nor will you approach the sanctuaries of the gods with a calm breast, nor will you be able with tranquil peace of mind to take in those idols which are carried from their holy body into the minds of men as heralds of their divine form. And what kind of life follows after this, may be conceived.

    [80] But in order that most veracious reason may drive it far away from us, though much has already gone forth from me, much however still remains and has to be embellished in smooth-polished verses; the law and aspect of heaven have to be grasped; storms and bright lightnings, what they do and from what cause they are borne along, all this has to be sung; that you may not mark out the heaven into quarters and be startled and distracted on seeing from which of them the volant fire has come or to which of the two halves it has betaken itself, in what way it has gained an entrance within walled places, and how after lording it with tyrant sway, it has gotten itself out from these.

    [92] Do thou, deft muse Calliope, solace of men and joy of gods, point out the course before me as I race to the white boundary-line of the final goal, that under thy guidance I may win the crown with signal applause.

    Bailey 1921

    [01] IN time gone by Athens, of glorious name, first spread among struggling mortals the fruits that bear corn, and fashioned life afresh, and enacted laws; she, too, first gave sweet solace for life, when she gave birth to the man gifted with the great mind, who once poured forth all wisdom from his truthful lips; yea, even when his light was quenched, thanks to his divine discoveries his glory, noised abroad of old, is now lifted to the sky.

    [09] For when he saw that mortals had by now attained well-nigh all things which their needs crave for subsistence, and that, as far as they could, their life was established in safety, that men abounded in power through wealth and honours and renown, and were haughty in the good name of their children, and yet not one of them for all that had at home a heart less anguished, but with torture of mind lived a fretful life without any respite, and was constrained to rage with savage complaining, he then did understand that it was the vessel itself which wrought the disease, and that by its disease all things were corrupted within, whatsoever came into it gathered from without, yea even blessings; in part because he saw that it was leaking and full of holes, so that by no means could it ever be filled; in part because he perceived that it tainted as with a foul savor all things within it, which it had taken in. And so with his discourse of truthful words he purged the heart and set a limit to its desire and fear, and set forth what is the highest good, towards which we all strive, and pointed out the path, whereby along a narrow track we may strain on towards it in a straight course; he showed what there is of ill in the affairs of mortals everywhere, coming to being and flying abroad in diverse forms, be it by the chance or the force of nature, because nature had so brought it to pass; he showed from what gates it is meet to sally out against each ill, and he proved that ’tis in vain for the most part that the race of men set tossing in their hearts the gloomy billows of care. For even as children tremble and fear everything in blinding darkness, so we sometimes dread in the light things that are no whit more to be feared than what children shudder at in the dark and imagine will come to pass. This terror then, this darkness of the mind, must needs be scattered not by the rays and the gleaming shafts of day, but by the outer view and the inner law of nature. Wherefore I will hasten the more to weave the thread of my task in my discourse.

    [43] And now that I have shown that the quarters of the firmament are mortal, and that the heaven is fashioned of a body that has birth, and have unraveled well-nigh all that happens therein, and must needs happen, listen still to what remains; forasmuch as once \[I have made bold\] to climb the glorious car . . . . . . . . \[I will tell how the tempests\] of the winds arise, and are appeased, and all that once was raging is changed again, when its fury is appeased; and all else which mortals see coming to pass on earth and in the sky, when often they are in suspense with panic-stricken mind—things which bring their hearts low through dread of the gods, and bow them down groveling to earth, because their ignorance of true causes constrains them to assign things to the ordinance of the gods, and to admit their domination. For those who have learnt aright that the gods lead a life free from care, yet if from time to time they wonder by what means all things can be carried on, above all among those things which are descried above our heads in the coasts of heaven, are borne back again into the old beliefs of religion, and adopt stern overlords, whom in their misery they believe have all power, knowing not what can be and what cannot, yea, and in what way each thing has its power limited, and its deepset boundary-stone: wherefore all the more they stray, borne on by a blind reasoning.

    [68] And unless you spew out all this from your mind and banish far away thoughts unworthy of the gods and alien to their peace, the holy powers of the gods, degraded by thy thought, will often do thee harm; not that the high majesty of the gods can be polluted by thee, so that in wrath they should yearn to seek sharp retribution, but because you yourself will imagine that those tranquil beings in their placid peace set tossing the great billows of wrath, nor with quiet breast will you approach the shrines of the gods, nor have strength to drink in with tranquil peace of mind the images which are borne from their holy body to herald their divine form to the minds of men. And therefore what manner of life will follow, you may perceive.

    [80] And in order that truest reasoning may drive this far from us, although much has already gone forth from me, yet much remains to be adorned with polished verse; we must grasp the outer view and inner law of the sky, we must sing of storms and flashing lightnings, of how they act and by what cause they are severally carried along; that you may not mark out the quarters of the sky, and ask in frenzied anxiety, whence came this winged flash, or to what quarter it departed hence, in what manner it won its way through walled places, and how after tyrant deeds it brought itself forth again: the causes of these workings they can by no means see, and think that a divine power brings them about.

    [92] Do thou, as I speed towards the white line of the final goal, mark out the track before me, Calliope, muse of knowledge, thou who art rest to men and pleasure to the gods, that with thee to guide I may win the wreath with praise conspicuous.

    At this point in this thread Camotero added the post that I have now split off into this thread, given its importance:


    according to Epicurus, our free will cannot be an emergent property and must belong to the atoms themselves. The physical and ethical consequences of the swerve are, according to these accounts, discrete. The will to depart slightly from downward fall through the void has no apparent ethical goal, and free will, although present at the atomic level, is not manifest in all compounds.


    Cannot be an emergent property????

    Free will is present at the atomic level?????


    Hmmmm I just read that full article and that last sentence which you quoted ("Summary: If a philosopher starts speaking about elementary particles, run.") seems almost a non sequitur to the rest of the article. Apparently she means the reader to understand that a philosopher would be talking about elemental particles only because they (the philosophers) were talking about the particles having thoughts? If so that surely does not apply to Epicurus and one begins to wonder just how much reading into Epicurus she has done - is it possible that the answer is "not much"?

    Oh my! Good catch Don, we need to look into this. You are certainly correct -- there is no hint or anything I have ever seen anyone refer to as to another text which indicates that the particles "decide" anything. and of course there are repeated references as to how living things com from non-living particles, and something that is not alive presumably by definition doesn't decide anything!

    Yes I am going on what Bailey wrote and not the Greek, so that's the problem. So you're saying is that the "faculties" he has likey refers to the "resources" which is a reference to our home/work environment?