Posts by Hiram

    From Epicurus LTM : We must then meditate on the things that make our eudaemonia, seeing that when that is with us we have all, but when it is absent we do all to win it...


    As I said above is already engraved/intuitive in the molecular basis of DNA/RNA in the body of human beings, because if we observe carefully the neonates of just a week we will realize that when they are clean and with a full stomach and during their sleep or awaken are smiling often.

    One of the things I noted from Metrodorus' Letter to Timocrates is that the founders frequently started their philosophical discussions and proofs by appealing to the authority of the body and its drives, and Metrodorus particularly appealed to the stomach, so this is very in line with how EP has always been taught. The stomach teaches us about pleasure and pain, also about fullness, and about the limits of our desires. These are all central ideas of Epicurean ethics.…us-epistle-to-timocrates/

    Also, I doubt it will make sense to try to record these in full video for a while, but it would be very easy and helpful, before posting it to youtube, to make some "slides" to add as a video component to each episode. At the very least the text we are reading from ought to be visible as the video component, even if the podcast is mostly audio.

    Would also help to add links to blogs and commentaries on the portions read, since there is a lot out there in our various blogs and, say, the Caute (Unitarian) blog, Partially Examined Life, and other places.

    So I finally had the time to listen to the podcast, and enjoyed it :) Thank you Cassius   Elayne   Martin   Charles for putting this together. Are you guys going to go through the WHOLE DRN book cover-to-cover, or only select passages?

    Oscar we've talked about this elsewhere, but so if you go back to Menoeceus, Epicurus says that pleasure is our FIRST INNATE GOOD. Babies are born and no one has to teach them to shun pain and seek pleasure. So based on the study of nature, Epicurus said, we can see that THIS is what we are naturally drawn to doing. The key is that we should not force nature, but to work with her (PD 20). Epicurus is a very gentle teacher. He doesn't think you should work against your nature, he thinks you should be authentic.

    Another way to think about this, if you don't like thinking of our ethics in terms of the goal, is to say that Pleasure is how we EXPERIENCE the good. Pain is how we EXPERIENCE evil. We are sentient beings, and a true and compassionate ethics concerns itself with the immediate, direct experience of sentient beings.

    Cassius you made an interesting point before that the modern usage and term for describing happiness wasn't in Epicurus' vocabulary. Eudaimonia, however, was around the time of Epicurus. Can you clarify the difference between happiness and pleasure.

    It seems a lot of people are seeking happiness, how would you convince them that happiness is not the goal of life, that pleasure is the ultimate goal/chief good in life?

    These discussions have one on for thousands of years among the Schools that follow pleasure ethics. In the review of Lampe's book on the Cyrenaics, while discussing Aristippus, I delved into his matter (under the heading "Ethics"):


    Lampe thinks that Cyrenaics are eudaimonics (believed in happiness as the end, not just pleasure), but most scholars disagree. It’s likely that a variety of views existed within the school regarding the end. One of the key arguments for pleasure as the end in its inception had to do with how pleasure is not the same thing as happiness. Pleasure is an instance, happiness is a collection of pleasures, and as such happiness is therefore an abstraction, a platonized alternative to the real experience of pleasure. This argument is interesting, and still generates debate and various opinions today.

    So to be clear, Hiram, you agree that "pleasure," and not "ataraxia," is the goal of life articulated by Epicurus?

    Correct, plesure is the end.

    That ataraxia is the end has never been stated by anyone in Epicurean philosophy :) "Pleasure is the end".

    But as someone who has embraced the idea of the teaching mission of the Epicurean Gardens, I don't think it's healthy to shun the word "ataraxia" without, later, re-visiting the word within its proper context and with its proper proportion and place in the doctrine. If we dismiss ataraxia without discussing what it is and what its role is, that does not serve the teaching mission.

    Yes pleasure is the end, but how do we go about living pleasantly in the real, contextual, complicated reality that we inhabit? To dismiss ataraxia is to impede our teaching from being contextualized and lived. Right now the world is being shaken by earthquakes and volcanoes (Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Philippines, New York, Delaware, and now Alaska) and there are priests everywhere inviting people to get on their knees and turn themselves over to a deity that is imagined as a cosmic Saddam Hussein. You can't live pleasantly if you don't study nature enough to understand that this is unnecessary. So ataraxia, the demeanor and disposition of someone who is without apprehensions about natural phenomena, someone who is confident to get the natural and necessary goods, is necessary to live pleasantly. THIS TOO is part of the doctrine, and without it you can't connect theory and practice as an Epicurean.

    So Hiram, do you contend that "ataraxia" was the goal of life for Epicurus rather than pleasure?

    No. But I do contend that in the sources, nowhere is this being said. To speak of ataraxia does not constitute its replacement instead of pleasure. I contend that ataraxia is an important part of the anatomy of pleasure, as understood by the Epicureans, and that it's hard to connect theory with practice without it.

    There is no doubt that the term ataraxia is used occasionally and in certain contexts; that is not the issue. The issue is whether we should draw the conclusion that "ataraxia" is correctly identified as equivalent to a specific type of pleasure, or as a unique "highest pleasure," which I contend is not the case, nor do those cites establish that point. The goal of life stated over and over again by Epicurus and others is pleasure, not "ataraxia." Pleasure is the overriding ultimate term, ataraxia is a subordinate concept.

    Correct, the end of the calculus of pleasure vs. pain is net pleasure. But we should not dismiss ataraxia itself for this reason.

    As for "higher pleasure", the closest thing to that is in Diogenes of Oenoanda, where we find the argument that pleasures and pains of the mind are more intense and of longer duration than those of the body - https://theautarkist.wordpress…on-principal-doctrine-20/

    Putting aside the telos, Ataraxia and aponia are themselves important criteria when it comes to carrying out choices and avoidances, says LMenoeceus. We must refer our choices and avoidances to them. This is in line with Metrodorus' teaching that we should acquire the confident expectation that we will be able to secure our natural and necessary desires (if we worry about where our next meal will come from, or where we are going to sleep, we can't live pleasantly). We study nature to avoid perturbations (the -tarax- portion of ataraxia) about natural phenomena, etc.

    Yes that (the focus on tranquility / ataraxia / peace of mind as some unique kind of highest pleasure) is a common assertion that I reject, Mike, and I think you will find that Dewitt states it considerably differently. In fact I do not believe that either ataraxia or aponia are "kinds of pleasure." I believe they are adverbs that describe ways / contexts in which pleasure (ordinary pleasures of all kind) are experienced. In other words, the best way to experience any pleasure is "without distraction" (ataraxia) and "without pain" (aponia).

    For the record, this is Cassius' view and is not shared by all. The sources that use ataraxia include Letter to Menoeceus:


    The steady contemplation of these facts enables you to understand everything that you accept or reject in terms of the health of the body and the serenity of the soul — since that is the goal of a completely happy life.

    τούτων γὰρ ἀπλανὴς θεωρία πᾶσαν αἵρεσιν καὶ φυγὴν ἐπανάγειν οἶδεν ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ὑγίειαν καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀταραξίαν, ἐπεὶ τοῦτο τοῦ μακαρίως ζῆν ἐστι τέλος

    (where ἀταραξίαν/ataraxian is translated as "serenity of the soul"). And so this term is used in LMenoeceus by Epicurus, where it is offered as a criterion for choices and avoidances.

    Also, in Diogenes' Wall, we find this, where we are able to contrast ataraxia versus the ills of the soul that it's meant to heal: the perturbances of the soul:



    Let us now [investigate] how life is to be made pleasant for us both in states and in actions.

    Let us first discuss states, keeping an eye on the point that, when the emotions which disturb the soul are removed, those which produce pleasure enter into it to take their place.

    Well, what are the disturbing emotions? [They are] fears —of the gods, of death, and of [pains]— and, besides [these], desires that [outrun] the limits fixed by nature. These are the roots of all evils, and, [unless] we cut them off, [a multitude] of evils will grow [upon] us.

    This letter was published anonymously some years back by a disenchanted objectivist who converted to Epicureanism:

    I share it here because St Andre says he is inspired by both Epicurus and Ayn Rand, which has a few problems. He's therefore a bit too conservative for my taste, and I find that people who credit Ayn Rand for being a great philosopher tend to see the world in black and white and to ignore all the other colors :) But in spite of all that, I think he's made unique and valuable contributions to the teaching of Epicureanism. I'm just not sure how he solves the animosity against feeling and pleasure in Rand, and the tension between our ethics and Rand's reliance on logic. I've had good exchanges with him, but never addressed this with him.

    I suspect Metrodorus would view this statement, as I do, as fairly ridiculous. No action or tool is "intrinsically" a pleasure, unless it is some form of pleasure itself. So Metrodorus would never call ANYTHING a "preferred indifferent" which is a peculiarly Stoic manner of talking in fairly ridiculous terms -- not terminology an Epicurean would use -- only someone who likes talking in pretzels, like the Stoics love to do.

    Yes, that seems like something that the author who was commenting on the Philodeman scroll may have been saying, not something Metrodorus would have said. However, it's not inaccurate to say that Metrodorus would have "preferred" wealth over poverty, particularly considering that he was VERY concerned with autarchy.

    It _would_ be inaccurate to classify wealth as an "indifferent" good from an Epicurean perspective. Philodemus classifies "the natural measure of wealth" as that which is needed to secure what is natural and necessary, and anything beyond that we can assume qualifies as natural and unnecessary wealth. Indifference is not a qualifier to us.

    How comprehensive are you wanting these entries to be? :-) because, as you know, not only are there more views on this among modern epicureans than what Epicurus thought about the gods, but the gods are also more complex and described in more detail.

    For instance the first PD says that they neither experience favor / gratitude nor hostility/violence against mortals because that would imply weakness. This is a huge statement.

    Favor and hostility go together. They are tied to the belief that the gods enjoy Autarchy, that they are completely self sufficient and so no one can harm or help them. And the scroll on Piety has much more to say about the gods and about religiosity.

    I have a theory about that (well, it's not MY theory because the author of "Red Mars" depicted a future where this was a huge controversy)

    IN the novel Red Mars, one of the first female scientists that goes to the planet during colonization is firmly opposed to terraformation because she wants to protect native Martian life and wants the planet to stay pristine. If the planet is BELIEVED to be completely sterile, then it will be easier to argue in favor of terraformation (which may destroy native life forms).

    So if NASA knows of life there and does not divulge it, it may be that it anticipates strong resistance to future terraformation (which will be very expensive and hard to sell to tax payers, if funded publicly)

    BY the way, NASA just announced the graduation of 13 new astronauts that may go to Mars.

    Ok. And what is the proper context to say that an atheist can become Epicurean? I'm an atheist and I don't know if it's proper that I am here. I'm curious.

    I can't speak for the adherents of Epicurus-only-fundamentalism. But as far as I'm concerned if you think that we should live pleasantly following the guidelines in L Menoeceus, and if you agree with the basic scientific understanding of the nature of things and reject all supernatural "reality", you can proudly call yourself Epicurean because Epicurean teachings are guiding how you live your life.

    So if the realist and idealist positions do not exist outside of this forum, I guess my question is what do you make of all the sources cited in the Epicureanism piece on Wikipedia, for instance?


    The manner in which the Epicurean gods exist is still disputed. Some scholars say that Epicureanism believes that the gods exist outside the mind as material objects (the realist position), while others assert that the gods only exist in our minds as ideals (the idealist position).[36][37][38] The realist position holds that Epicureans understand the gods as existing as physical and immortal beings made of atoms that reside somewhere in reality.[36][38] However, the gods are completely separate from the rest of reality; they are uninterested in it, play no role in it, and remain completely undisturbed by it.[39] Instead, the gods live in what is called the metakosmia, or the space between worlds.[40] Contrarily, the idealist position holds that Epicurus did not actually conceive of the gods as existing in reality. Rather, Epicurus is said to have viewed the gods as just idealized forms of the best human life,[37][41] and it is thought that the gods were emblematic of the life one should aspire towards.[37] The debate between these two positions was revived by A. A. Long and David Sedley in their 1987 book, The Hellenistic Philosophers, in which the two argued in favor of the idealist position.[37][38] While a scholarly consensus has yet to be reached, the realist position remains the prevailing viewpoint at this time.[37][38]

    (and here are sources for notes 36 through 41:)

    • ^ Jump up to: a b c O'Keefe, Tim (2010). Epicureanism. University of California Press. pp. 155–156.
    • ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Sedley, David (2011). "Epicurus' theological innatism". In Fish, Jeffrey; Sanders, Kirk R. (eds.). Epicurus and the Epicurean Tradition. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–30.
    • ^ Jump up to: a b c d Konstan, David (2011). "Epicurus on the gods". In Fish, Jeffrey; Sanders, Kirk R. (eds.). Epicurus and the Epicurean Tradition. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 53–54.
    • ^ Mansfeld, Jaap (1993). "Aspects of Epicurean Theology". Mnemosyne. 46 (2): 176–178.
    • ^ Buchheit, Vinzenz (2007). "Epicurus' Triumph of the Mind". In Gale, Monica R. (ed.). Oxford Readings in Classical Studies: Lucretius. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 110–111.
    • ^ O'Keefe, Tim (2010). Epicureanism. University of California Press. pp. 158–159.

    Now, do I think a personal God(s) exists? No. Do I think there's an afterlife judgment awaiting us all? No. My point of contention with the Atheists rests on my belief that nothing comes from nothing - one of the central and fundamental Epicurean doctrines about the nature of the universe. Another issue is that I derive happiness from thinking about the creator(s) of the universe; as Epicurus intended for us. Others may not and that's okay, I've no issue with that - to each their own.

    this is the idealist view, except that the Epicurean gods were not creators, they were created by nature.