If Epicurus is everywhere in Rome, it would be good if there were a list of "major places to see Epicurus" for people who travel to Italy. One day I will make it to Greece and Italy myself!
Great picture thanks!
Expands? Is it oval or like a glass on top. Side view maybe?
I think i will set up a special forum for working on Drafts, and move this thread there, so it won't indicate that there is a finished essay here.
That's interesting -- Perhaps it is some kind of old English then. It's probably not so common among younger people in the USA anymore, but it's certainly a word with which those of us who are middle aged or older had drummed into us when we were younger.
I was faster and obviously my speed caused me to read negligently! Your comments are all good Martin, with the possible exception of the "tithe" question because I believe that is spelled correctly, right Hiram?
How would you phrase or spell that "giving of a tenth of income to the church" in German, Martin?
Hiram I think that is excellent. Only two small notes:
In it, Epicurus invents chemistry.
Probably some people will react against this and think more of Democritus. Since I think the rest of the essay is so good I wouldn't want to see it downrated due to accusation that you are exaggerating Epicurus' role in atomism.
You presumably had a reason not to use "pleasure / pain faculty," but just in case it wasn't a strong reason some might be questioning why you used aversion rather than pain, and that might distract from your main point.
What I wonder is would Epicurus have regarded the sense of awe, wonder, mystery as a humbling experience that helps a person avoid the attraction to vanities and socially tantalizing addictions--undue wealth, power, influence?
I have to believe you are correct about that, and that something like that is hinted near the beginning of Lucretius book 6 with
"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:"
Good to hear from you again Florius - I hope you are doing well!
"Nothing Can Be Created From Nothing"
** Welcome to this month's edition of the EpicureanFriends.com newsletter!
** Our home base for discussion, where you can find links to major Epicurean news and websites across the internet, is www.EpicureanFriends.com. Our goal is to better understand and apply the wisdom of Epicurus, and in the words of Lucian, "strike a blow for Epicurus - that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!" For more background, check here and also here. For interim updates between editions of this newsletter, check out EpicurusToday.com for daily updates taken from the newsfeeds of major Epicurean websites.
FIRST - A GENERAL WORD ABOUT ABSOLUTISM VS EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY
There are an almost unlimited number of places in the real and on-line world where people can go to discuss general philosophy. There are also a number, but far fewer, of places where Epicurean philosophy is featured as a significant part of the discussion. But there are only a very few locations where people who are serious about applying Epicurean philosophy in its fundamental form can gather to discuss and work together toward that goal. The goal of EpicureanFriends.com is to be one of those places, and that's what makes it uniquely helpful to those who are pursuing Epicurean philosophy.
At the same time, however, that uniqueness means that EpicureanFriends.com - just as with Epicurean philosophy as a whole - is not going to be appreciated by everyone.
Much of the modern world considers Epicurus as nothing more than an atheistic self-help guru who preached escape from pain and dropping out of society. It makes no difference that every aspect of that description is fundamentally flawed - that is the understanding that the majority of people have. As a result, people who are serious about Epicurus frequently come into contact with people of a self-constructed worldview that is essentially theistic in nature. Such people (especially in a Stoic or Platonic or Aristotelian form) find Epicurus because they are looking to add some sprinkle of pleasure to escape the dreariness that is inherent in their own doctrines.
That's perfectly understandable, and any step in the right direction is a good one. Epicurean philosophy is friendly and benevolent by nature, as shown in the outreached hand extended by both Lucretius in his poem and Diogenes of Oinoanda in his wall inscription. Everyone who takes Epicurus seriously is happy to interact with such people and point them in the right direction.
But we need to be clear. Epicurean philosophy is not eclectic in nature. It was not built by Epicurus by throwing together a hodgepodge of conflicting ideas. Epicurus is recorded to have said that the wise man will "dogmatize." Stripped of its pejorative connotations, that means that the wise man is going to be confident in the things that he holds to be true. While the wise man is not going to take a position on obscure issues where evidence is conflicting or absent, the wise man is not going to hesitate to take positions where evidence is clear and consistent. What's the obvious implication? In Epicurean philosophy, some opinions are going to be labeled "true" and some are going to be labeled "false." Therein is found the unbridgeable divide between Epicureans and other major philosophies and positions - especially about theism, free will, and idealism.
Epicurean philosophy is based on its physics - the observations about the nature of the universe that it holds to be true. Epicurean philosophy rules out the existence of the kind of supernatural universe-creating omnipotent omniscient and omnipresent beings to which most people give the name "gods." Epicurus rejects out of hand the existence or even the possibility of such gods. Nor does Epicurean philosophy allow an "I don't know" position about supernatural beings. Read the letter to Herodotus or any of Epicurus' letters; read Lucretius; read Diogenes of Oinoanda. It is unmistakable that Epicurean philosophy is grounded on confidently taking the position that the universe as a whole is eternal, and was never created by any supernatural being. Those who insist on any form of supernatural theism are never going to be able to reconcile their views with Epicurean philosophy. As long as the Theists maintain their absolutist position on theism, they will always remain in irreconcilable tension with Epicurean philosophy and see it as their enemy.
Another aspect of Epicurean physics that cannot be ignored is the swerve of the atom. The swerve plays an essential role in another issue that many people find unacceptable: that humans have "free will" and "personal responsibility." Just as with theism, those who argue "determinism" will constantly assault the walls of the Epicurean garden with arguments as to why no degree of free will or personal responsibility is possible. They will ignore the clear surviving texts which show that Epicurus fully understood that "free will" is not unlimited, and that events beyond our control do on occasion disrupt or even terminate our lives. They will ignore those evidences because as long as they maintain their absolutist position on determinism, the Determinists will always remain in irreconcilable tension with Epicurean philosophy and see it as their enemy.
Of equal or even greater emotional implication is issue of "virtue" or "idealism." Epicurean physics eliminates "virtue" or "idealism" as having absolute independent existence outside of their nature, which is that of inventions of the human mind. In a universe in which nothing is eternal except elements moving through void, NOTHING is eternal except elements moving through void. No matter how beloved to us are our ideas of "virtue," "nobility," "dignity," "equality," "fairness," and the like, those views are constructed by the human mind. They they have no sanction in a supernatural dimension of realm of "forms" or "ideals." Were it not sad, it would be funny to observe how this type of person will ignore the last ten of Epicurus' principal doctrines, number ten in particular, or the many other recorded statements which establish the conclusion that there are no "absolutes" in any of these categories. Epicurean philosophy hold that there are only living human beings, doing the best they can to live their lives within the span nature has given to them, in much the same way that Jefferson said that "the Earth belongs to the living." The Earth does not belong to nonexistent gods or human-created idealism of any kind. There is no need to further inflame this type of person by listing the moral and political ideals that are so dear to them. These people know who they are, and they know that their view of what "should be" trumps - for them - anything that Epicurus might teach to the contrary. As long as they maintain their absolutist position on virtue and political idealism, those whose primary goal is political idealism in the form of "Justice" or "Virtue" will always remain in irreconcilable tension with Epicurean philosophy and see it as their enemy.
Is this all that needs to be said about the subject, to note these irreconcilable positions and wish each other well? I don't think so. Here's what else remains: It is in the nature of the atomistic world view - Epicurean philosophy - to respect divergent opinions, and to allow other people to live as they see fit, as long as we are allowed to live as we see fit.
But that is not the nature of the absolutist mindset in theism, in determinism, or in political idealism. Across the world today a wave of censorship is building. As we come into contact with others who are not confirmed Epicureans, we see the same thing in our own discussions. Many people are quick to call for the silencing of views that they find to be offensive to themselves. It makes no difference to such people that Epicurean philosophy requires the discussion of controversial ideas which are very different from those into which we have been indoctrinated by two thousand years of ascendant absolutism. Free expression of ideas has never been, and never will be, a value of the Absolutist mindset. As they see it, why should they allow difference of opinion? Their theology and their idealism transcends all other considerations for them, so why should anyone be allowed to question the ideals they already know to be true?
These issues are not going to go away. As long as there are those of us who are devoted to Epicurean philosophy, rather than popular opinion, we need to consider that "friendship" as an Epicurean value means standing up for each other when the expression of Epicurean viewpoints is under attack. The rest of the world outside is thoroughly under the sway of anti-Epicurean absolutism. We should not accept that kind of behavior within our own small gardens. "The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life."
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND LINKS FROM THE PAST MONTH:
** Happy Twentieth from the Society of Epicurus** The monthly update from the Society of Epicurus is here.
** More Thoughts on The "Idealist" vs "Realist" Interpretations of the Epicurean Theory of "Gods"** is here.
** Research on the Herculaneum Texts This past month we had several discussions about the current state of recovery of texts from Herculaneum. As part of that we came across a website that was new to some of us set up by the Werzburg Center For Epicurean Studies. Must of that discussion stemmed from Hiram's post on "Against the Use of Empty Words."
** Presentation on the Letter to Marcella By Porphyry ** This past month the Garden of Athens organized a presentation which included discussion of the Epicurean aspects of this text. Check it out here.
** Pleasure and Reality** Some of our best independent thinking on aspects of Epicurean philosophy is on display in this thread started by E.
** Latest Threads** For a list of the latest threads over the past month at EpicureanFriends, click here.
** In addition to the other links mentioned above, if you are an active Facebook user, please check out the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group. You will probably also want to follow the Epicurus Page on Facebook as well as the various pages of the Society of Friends of Epicurus.
** Thanks to all who have participated at EpicureanFriends.com over the past month. It can't be emphasized enough that proper application of Epicurean philosophy demands that we have Epicurean friends, so we urge you to join one of the many Epicurean venues and study Epicurus with like-minded people - and then you too will be well on your way to becoming a god among men!
As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please let us know at the forum.
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** Let's also review how to find links to active Epicurean websites. In addition to the links at EpicurusToday.com, an updated list is maintained here at EpicureanFriends. If you are someone who is studying Epicurus and trying to apply his lessons in your life, you're well aware of the emphasis on friendship and on communicating with like-minded people. Wherever you are, even if there is no local group yet, please stop in at one of the on-line websites and introduce yourself. The best way you can help yourself and the Epicurean websites is to ask questions, comment, criticize, praise, and otherwise give us your feedback so we can get to know you better. At EpicureanFriends you are welcome to subscribe anonymously, and as long as you follow the rules of the group your postings are welcome. Reading a book or even a website is no substitute for personal interactions with other Epicureans. If you meet someone who isn't friendly and interested in talking about Epicurus, then you aren't talking to an Epicurean!
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And I have another objection: maybe the worst aspect of excessive emphasis on "idealism" is that the very word smacks of an attempt to "Platonize" Epicurus.
There's a good reason that Epicurean philosophy is referred to as a branch of "atomism." That's because it is fundamental to Epicurus that nothing "eternal" exists in reality except the elements and the void through which the elements move. It's part of the essence of Platonism and Stoicism and Aristotelianism to postulate ideals and essences and divine fires emanating from some prime mover, and it is the essence of Epicurean philosophy to call "bull" on all of that.
The very idea that Epicurus would assert the existence of some kind of entitles that exist solely "idealistically" without a real essence grounded in atoms and void is offensive to the fundamentals of Epicurean philosophy.
Not saying it's offensive to me personally, of course, or that I take offense to the suggestion, but that if you're going to attempt to understand what Epicurean philosophy was about, you don't succeed by grafting onto it the type of Platonism to which Epicurus objected most strongly.
And I suggest that the abstraction of "pleasure" as something esoteric (under the name "ataraxia" or "absence of pain") unrelated to the every-day experience of normal mental and physical pleasures is also an attempt to Platonize Epicurus as a "hedonist" instead of what Epicurus really was - an observer of reality.
Of course I also think it is misleading to try to peg Epicurus as primarily an "atomist" or primarily a "hedonist." Epicurus was an Epicurean, and those other words have varying meaning according to whoever wants to assert the definition. But one thing seems certain:
Epicurean ethics derive from Epicurean physics and his observations of the nature of man. "Atomism" is in that sense more fundamental to Epicurus than is "hedonism." If Epicurus had decided that the study of nature leads to the conclusion that gods created the universe, and that those gods told us how to live, then Epicurus would have had nothing to do with "pleasure" unless the gods said so. The ethics of pleasure follow from the natural physics of atomism, not the other way around.
Poster: The question of whether Epicureanism is a realist or idealist remains unresolved. Apart from the problems of the exegesis and interpretation, there is the innately thorny nature of the questions themselves. Whether realist or idealist, both positions serve as a grounding for the prescriptive parts of Epicurean ethics and psychology. Idealism seems to provide the stronger case.
Poster, are you quoting someone or just stating your opinion? As to your conclusion, I disagree. If Epicurus had been saying one thing and meaning something entirely different, Epicurus would have been a hypocrite and had no credibility among the very intelligent circles of Greek and Roman philosophers. So it's my opinion that "idealism" as the sole basis for his position - a kind of Platonic "noble myth" would cut the legs out from anyone wishing to take Epicurus seriously - then or now. But we are all entitled to our own opinions, and to which Epicurean texts we choose to take seriously. I simply choose to take them *all* seriously, and not to reject any of them out of hand.
Also: Let me be clear on this aspect: I do think that the texts clearly indicate that the Epicurean theory of "the gods" has an aspect in which discussion of them serves as a motivating "ideal" to which to aspire. Just like Epicurus said that the veneration of wise men is good for those who do the veneration, the contemplation of how life might possibly be serves as a visual goal to which everyone can and should aspire. There's no necessary tension between the two positions - as they should not be, because what worth is an "ideal" that cannot be in any real fashion attained? As far as I can tell from the texts that are left, the "gods" are distinguished mainly from other living beings in that they (1) do not die, and (2) do not appear to have any pains (either they have totally eliminated them or they are insignificant).
In Epicurus' time, and still today, people die, so that aspect of being a god is to this point unattainable. But the goal of living happily as long as possible is still relevant to us. Also, the goal of living in as much pleasure as possible, and with as little pain as possible, is very relevant to us as well.
Thinking about "gods" as an actual embodiment of these goals no doubt served a useful purpose to the ancient Epicureans, and I submit that in some form it still serves a useful purpose. We are flying blind with very few authoritative texts available on what the Epicureans thought and did, but if someone today isn't visualizing life as they would like to see it exist for them, they are very possibly as lost as they can possibly be. And straightening out that confusion is what a *full* understanding of Epicurean philosophy can accomplish.
Yes that is my understanding. Even though Liantinis wrote against Stoicism (as I understand it) he was more of an Aristotelian/Platonist and he did not agree with a number of fundamental Epicurean presumptions. That's much the way I see Nietzsche, -- as having much insight into what Epicurus was doing, but allowing themselves to be "turned off" by the "absence of pain" issue. Now why didn't they analyze the "absence of pain" the same way we do, and look to all the many other statements in favor of the normal interpretation of "pleasure."?
That's a question that deserves a lot of thought. Were they?
(1) So turned off by the drumbeat of the majority interpretation that they didn't think it was worthwhile to fight it?
(2) Were they such original thinkers that they really saw themselves as such rebels personally that they didn't want to be considered to be part of anyone's "team" or "school?"
(3) Maybe they just disagreed with what DeWitt, Gosling & Taylor, Nikolsky, and others can see, along with us.
But I tend to think the reason is a mixture of (1) and (2) . The passages that support normal pleasure are clear and numerous, and they totally conflict with the superficial interpretation of the lines in the letter to Menoeceus. It's easy to see that something is missing from the surviving texts, and that there must be a key that harmonizes the apparent conflicts. Rather than looking for that key, I guess they (especially Nietzsche) just decided it was better to come up with his own brand of "will to power."
In regard to Liantinis' suicide I largely agree with Hiram on this, where Hiram wrote:
I wrote a piece for the Humanist on euthanasia, and the research I did for this proved that only one Epicurean in antiquity ever committed suicide and this was a frowned upon practice among the Epicureans except in cases of terminal disease or when a person is already lying on the battlefield near death. Committing suicide to prove a point politically is about as far from ataraxia / a life of pleasure as one gets.
I don't know that the examples Hiram listed are the only situations where sucide is appropriate, and I suppose that since the universe is not predetermined in any way, every situation has to be judged on its own merits. But clearly Epicurus said that a person who has many reasons to commit suicide is of little account. (or something like that - I don't have the quote)
Also, I think it is important to recognize that Liantinis did not consider himself to be primarily an Epicurean, any more that Nietzsche did. There are important strains and appreciation for Epicurus that run through Liantinis, but - Elli correct me if I am wrong - Liantinis did not consider himself or label himself as a primarily an Epicurean. And to the extent that he tried to be eclectic, rather than Epicurean, that was probably a large part of any poor thinking on suicide that he may have had.
In regard to the comments by Oscar, which I think are two posts above (post 60).
Oscar I note your objections but I do not accept them as accurate. It appears that you feel like any discussion of the ant-theism in general, or the well documented ancient Epicurean - Judaism conflict in particular, should be off limits. I strongly disagree. The core issues involved in theism go right to the root of the conflict between Epicurean philosophy and Stoicism, Platonism, Aristotelianism, and any other form of theism.
I have previously overlooked your use of words like "fool" "ethnic nationalists" "anti-semitic" "regurgitation" "immature" and "mindless" to describe someone who is a long-time supporter of Epicurus, a valued friend, and Moderator of the forum.
We cannot overlook that any longer. Repeated use of accusations of this type will result in your account being suspended.
Of course anonymous registrations are allowed, so there would be nothing to prevent you from setting up a new account and proceeding from there. Our intent here is to moderate the content of posts, not the people who set up accounts, so each account will be judged on the merit of its own track record of postings.
Epicurean philosophy is inherently anti-theistic. Those who are strong theists, or defenders of strong theism, are naturally not going to be at home in any form which makes an effort to be true to Epicurean philosophy. That's something that applies to Christianity, Islam, Mormonism - or Judaism or any other theistic religion. We will moderate to make sure that gratuitous slurs and unnecessarily personal commentary are kept to an absolute minimum, but free discussion of issues relevant to core principles such as theism and ant-theism are always going to be protected from efforts at censorship.
I remind everyone reading this of PD39:
The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life.
it's a big world, and there is plenty of room for people of all type - including Epicureans who truly want to follow Epicurean philosophy.
In response to the thank you from Matthaeus, I would also say that if we were to blur the lines between theism and anti-theism too much, we might be legitimately chargeable of being as tone-deaf to the facts of the ancient controversies as are the Modern Stoics. And that would be a fate worse than death!