Posts by Hiram

    Toil being evil is An instance where this mustve been submitted by them in the service of hedonic calculus. If we toil we have to consider what pleasures justify it. But I don’t think reasonable people would say that toil is pleasant when carrying out hedonic calculus.

    It has precisely been my intention to bring the conversations on economics into the modern reality. That requires an evolution of the discourse, obviously, but I think understanding what the ancients said about economics (rather than call them wrong or silly) is a good starting point because they were the first to use Epicurean methods in this. I do not believe Metrodorus would’ve contradicted epicurus, but if you think that’s what is happening or that’s what I said, then that may explain you’re categorization if these writings as “unclear”.

    Concerning the use of “natural”, Epicurus specifically used this word in LMenoeceus in the context of hedonic calculus and choices and avoidances, and a few of the Doctrines mention “natural” as a category, so if we approach the text on property management in good will we will see the connection.

    I care about the Herculaneum texts because I spent weeks at the University of Loyola library reading and taking notes to make this content available to everyday people in the form of modern commentaries. But if this is a subject that does not interest others we do not have to carry on with a study of economics. There will be another time and another audience for this.

    Pending further detail from clear texts of Metrodorus and/or Philodemus that says otherwise, my position is that what Elayne is stating IS the "natural measure of weath" and her reaction to the term is more evidence that people think that it implies an absolute.

    Her reaction has many problems :) and reveals what I see as a lack of process of correction on this forum, when even Elayne (who is an admin) say that Metrodorus was "wrong" and what he said was "silly", and even that Philodemus was not an Epicurean, and you do not correct her, and none of the other admins corrects her. If an admin says this and the other admins care about the credibility of the forum, they should apply parrhesia.

    Metrodorus was called "almost another Epicurus" by Cicero, there are busts with both their heads, and he spent DECADES discussing these matters with Epicurus and all his associates and developing the teachings together … but I guess he was just wrong and silly …

    I'm sorry, Elayne, but I hope you see the problem that explains the title of the thread.

    Ok I don't understand you here at all. I AM addressing Epicurean doctrine, and taking the position that "natural measure of wealth" is no different that natural measure of courage or friendship or anything else.

    well, I guess my initial reaction was that it sounded a bit dismissive. Maybe it was not. It seems to me that an argument for a natural measure of courage or friendship would have to be related to the canon (empirical / scientific studies) or to the concepts in LMenoeceus on our natural desires.

    For instance, I argued that there's a natural measure of community, following the Philodeman and Metrodoran approach with wealth, and I based this on 1. studies on how isolation is bad for one's health (therefore friendship / relations seem to be natural and necessary for happiness and health), and 2. Dunbar's number (which shows that our brains are only able to process about 150 interpersonal relations).

    If Metrodorus thought there was such a thing as a "natural measure of wealth", I would say he was wrong. That's a silly idea, and it will get people obsessed with trying to assess and maximize some abstract quality called "natural", lol, instead of maximizing pleasure.

    well, and that would be your view, not his :)

    ... so if you take up this issue and make the fundamental point then I really applaud the effort.

    I will have to do it because I seem to be the only one who sees the lacuna in Epicurean doctrine concerning economics and wants to fix it.

    I think you should challenge yourself, though, on your unwillingness to address Epicurean doctrines. The points you mention can easily be mentioned along with the doctrine. The ancient Epicureans are never seen avoiding the discussion of any subject with the excuse that "this or that could be misinterpreted by XYZ". Instead, what we always see is that words are defined clearly according to nature (as we saw with Philodemus when he mentions the prolepsis of a good property manager), and the discussion moves on and the matters can be addressed.

    Concerning "natural measure of wealth", this is mentioned enough times that it clearly serves an important purpose in our evaluation of how to manage our estate using Epicurean principles. There is no reason whatsoever to confuse "absolute" for "natural", just as we don't confuse the terms when we speak of natural desires (we don't say "absolute desires"). I believe Metrodorus used this in his critique of cynics, but also that this is a fundamentally Epicurean understanding of oikonomia, and if you notice what is meant by natural (for health, happiness, and life / safety) measure of wealth, you will see that this relates to the BODY. It's a materialist philosophical concept that separates the endless whims of culture from nature. Which is, again, an Epicurean way of understanding things and calling things by their proper name according to nature.

    The danger of seeing "a danger" at every corner and avoiding delving into what EP says about economics or any other subject, is that it gives the impression that we are armchair philosophers and that our philosophy is an impractical retreat from reality and from pragmatic matters.

    The matter of economics and against limitless desires (which = anti-consumerism and related anxieties and false opinions) is a huge point where Epicurean teachings give moral guidance that is urgently needed in the modern world, as the Uruguayan ex-president has said before.

    I also find these sections in red borderline ridiculous, and this emphasizes to me that it is useless and counterproductive to keep talking about "measure of wealth" without defining what we mean. How is this "measure of wealth" any different from any other measure of any other tool for happiness in the Epicurean perspective? I don't think it is, so why imply that there is some magic here? (talking to the writer, not to you, Hiram).

    This is the importance of working with this material.

    The conclusion says that we believe ( meaning, METRODORUS taught) that wealth is preferable to poverty. We should elaborate in our writings and commentaries on why that is.

    Also we must never lose sight of the fact that Epicurean philosophy is a coherent system and all things refer to the first principles.

    This natural measure of wealth is not arbitrary, it cannot be, its based on nature and corresponds to the natural and necessary goods which, in LMenoeceus, is what’s needed for life, health and happiness. The doctrine of the natural measure of wealth was central to Metrodorus economics and his emphasis on self sufficiency. To love pleasantly we need to secure these things and have the confident expectation that we will be able to secure them in the future. I think this is the core of Metrodorus’ theories about household management and economics.

    Also the natural measure of wealth, by nature’s definition is not poverty, this is a mis interpretation by the commenter.

    Also according to Philodemus, Metrodorus was highly critical of the cynics, so if we try to imagine what this consisted of, we can clearly articulate an Epicurean position against poverty and destitution, which is what the cynics represented.

    (If we wanted to have fun with this, we COULD use the parody of foul-smelling Gryphon visiting the Garden in Few Days in athens, to illustrate what metrodorus would’ve been criticizing )

    Below is my latest updated version of my commentary on the scroll.

    Also notice that there are two essays on Horace and how he writes about the “natural measure of wealth”. Keep in mind Horace was at Piso’s villa studying philosophy. So he was deeply familiar with these discussions, and even created a character Ofellus who embodied Epicurean teachings on economics and this might be worth studying to help us evaluate what beliefs and values Ofellus embodied.


    In this scroll, Philodemus makes frequent appeals to the authority of Metrodorus, one of the founders of the School, who promoted the idea that hedonic calculus must be employed in the management of one’s household and economic affairs, making the point time and again that we must run certain risks and go through certain inconveniences in order to avoid greater ruin and gain greater advantages.

    He disagreed with the destitute life of the Cynics, and appears to have made this point while arguing against them and in favor of a doctrine of the natural measure of wealth. This corresponds to that which is needed to secure the natural and necessary pleasures, and to have the confident expectation that we will be able to secure them in the future.

    Metrodorus argued that some things cause pain when present, but cause even more pain when absent and, therefore, shouldn’t be avoided. This is the case with health, which requires some work and some inconvenience to secure, but without it we suffer greatly. It is also the case with family members and friends who oftentimes are difficult to understand and to get along with, but whom we miss when absent.


    Indeed, I think that the right management of wealth lies in this: in not feeling distressed about what one loses and in not trapping oneself on treadmills because of an obsessive zeal concerning the more and the less. – Metrodorus

    Philodemus also advances the idea of expressing value in terms of social capital. He compares our investment of time, money and effort in our dearest friends with “those who sow seeds in the earth. From these things … it becomes possible to reap many times more fruits”. For this reason, he says that the philosopher who manages property will secure his natural measure of wealth, and use some of the surplus generously with his friends. This way, he will be able to count on his friends when in need, and they will also add to his happiness and security in the present. By comparison, a property manager who is not informed by Epicurean philosophy, will likely avoid spending time with friends, and will deprive himself of the enjoyment of their company and of the many other benefits that come from having good friends.

    Philodemus was teaching philosophy to wealthy Romans, and in the scroll on the art of property management he helps his students to distinguish the good property manager from the good philosopher who happens to be a property manager. In other words, Philodemus concedes that a good property manager may be immoral or amoral, and may suffer from greed and other vices, and that the practice of philosophy among friends may lead to a shift in priorities that puts losses and gains aside to some extent. However, Philodemus maintains that a philosopher may still be a good property manager, and gives advice to help his students enjoy a life of pleasure while managing property.

    Since, he says, “the philosopher does not toil”, some of his advice involves the delegation of tasks to assistants. Philodemus says that earning a living from teaching philosophy is the noblest profession. He also praises having a diverse nest egg, rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket, and so investing seems like a legitimate contemporary outlet for a philosopher.

    Some of the professions available in antiquity–such as “equestrian”–as well as the practice of slavery, do not transfer into our modern reality, but Philodemus said that rental income is a dignified way to make a living, as is the gainful employment of others–so long as it’s not in a dangerous or demeaning activity, if we are to infer from Philodemus’ criticism of those who make their slaves work in mines.

    The key takeaway of the scroll is that Metrodorus sought to demonstrate that the Epicurean methodology of hedonic calculus is highly practical when applied to how we manage our money, our business, and our property.


    We believe that the tranquil administration of one’s property does not require great subtlety and that wealth is superior to poverty. At the same time we believe that it’s necessary to hand down a tradition of the most general principles and to outline many details in the treatises concerning the care and preservation of possessions.

    Towards the end of the scroll, we learn that ancient Epicureans were instructing their students to keep outlines of Metrodorus’ doctrines on economics, saying that it was considered “necessary to hand down a tradition” of the general principles they were discussing. One of the goals of the study of this scroll is to plant the Epicurean conversation on economics and self-sufficiency firmly in the modern world so that the people of our day can relate to the teaching and more easily apply its prudent calculations to their lives. I have distilled the contents of the scroll into Seven Principles of Epicurean Economics. They are as follows:

    1. There is a natural measure of wealth (as opposed to the corrupt, cultural measure of wealth), which is tied to natural and necessary desires. Understanding this will provide us with serenity and indifference to profit and loss.

    2. There is social wealth in addition to the wealth of things and possessions.

    3. Philodemus plainly stated it: the philosopher does not toil. However, we must always remember that toil is evil, not productivity.

    4. Association is important in labor. We must choose our company prudently.

    5. Our revenue must more than meet our immediate needs: it must facilitate a dignified life of leisure.

    6. It’s always prudent to cultivate multiple streams of income, among which deriving fees from the Garden’s teaching mission, rental property income and business ownership, which includes gainful employment of others, have special priority.

    7. It’s also prudent to have fruitful possessions. The various forms of ownership of means of production is another way to independence that can potentially relieve us of toil.

    Further Reading:

    Philodemus, On Property Management (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)ir?t=ataraxia0c-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1589836677

    Horace, Ofellus and Philodemus of Gadara in Sermones 2.2, by Sergio Yona

    An Epicurean measure of wealth in Horace

    Let us take things for what they seem to be. Let us look all around us: this circumspection is not devoid of pleasure and the sight is enchanting. Let us watch it admiringly, but without that useless itch to understand everything and without being tortured by curiosity, which is always superfluous when our senses do not share it with our minds.

    Principal Doctrines 10-13 do seem to indicate that philosophy can give a purpose to knowledge, or to science, or to scientific knowledge, which is the abolition of religious fears and superstitions, which serves the purpose of living pleasantly.

    I think knowledge outside of this is unnecessary, not necessarily rejected.

    For instance, the PDs say that if people didn't have those irrational fears, there wouldn't be a NEED to study nature.

    What La Mettrie is saying, however, is that knowing nature with our senses and with our direct experience of it is pleasant, and that this is not the same as knowing it rationally or academically. Because La Mettrie is adamant that happinenss must be felt, that we can't reason our way to happiness.

    Re: the fragmentary nature of it, this is one of the most complete scrolls, but also we should not shy away from developing A MODERN oikonomia tradition, translating those conversations into relevant discussions of today on how to best carry out hedonic calculus on these issues today, like they were doing.

    I think now that on this forum you have started podcasts and systematic studies of DeWitt and other sources, and are encouraging students to write outlines, it might be a good project to set aside some time to study this scroll and encouraging outlines of the economics, as well as having MODERN discussions of this content, since so much of it is relevant but we don't live in ancient Roman times and this needs updating.

    Philodemus even mentions that people should diversify their nest egg. I mean, we have a pretty developed doctrine of economics.

    Oh and I wanted to see if Vatican Saying uses the same word that Philodemus uses / oikonomia / so I checked the monadnock translation, which has the Greek next to the English. It does say "oikonomein". This means that the founders believed that the management of one's property and household is woven into how Epicureans should philosophize.

    41. One must laugh and seek wisdom and tend to one's home life and use one's other goods, and always recount the pronouncements of true philosophy. γελᾶν ἅμα δεῖ καὶ φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ οἰκονομεῖν καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς οἰκειώμασι χρῆσθαι καὶ μηδαμῇ λήγειν τὰς ἐκ τῆς ὀρθῆς φιλοσοφίας φωνὰς ἀφιέντας.…perty-management-part-ii/

    I’m currently working on the audiobook, will include Philodemus writings and am re-reading some of them. While reading the closing paragraph of “Art of property management”, this grabbed my attention:


    “We believe that the tranquil administration of one’s property does not require great subtlety and that wealth is superior to poverty. At the same time we believe that it’s necessary to hand down a tradition of the most general principles and to outline many details in the treatises concerning the care and preservation of possessions.

    I noticed here that the epicureans were being instructed to write Outlines of the Doctrines on Epicurean economics. This, like almost all else on this scroll, must have started with Metrodorus.

    Also noticed that throughout this scroll Philodemus is constantly mentioning “Metrodorus said this, Metrodorus said that”. And he cites many works that had been written by Metro on the subject of economics that did not survive to our time, as well as he mentions that Metrodorus was a great manager of property.

    This quote indicates that economics was an important and necessary part of the doctrine, but there seems to be very little interest in the subject among modern Epicureans except for myself. I’d like that to change.

    Have others read the translation of On the art of property management?…reco-Roman/dp/1589836677/

    I'm planning on discussing this actually in my Twentieth message. Lucretius wrote on the origins of compassion for the weak and for neighbors in the fifth book of De Rerum Natura, which is the most complete and fascinating discussion of Epicurean anthropology (it's generally assumed that he based his poem on Epicurus' books On Nature)

    And when they saw an offspring born

    From out themselves, then first the human race

    Began to soften. For ’twas now that fire

    Rendered their shivering frames less staunch to bear,

    Under the canopy of the sky, the cold;

    And Love reduced their shaggy hardiness;

    And children, with the prattle and the kiss,

    Soon broke the parents’ haughty temper down.

    Then, too, did neighbours ‘gin to league as friends,

    Eager to wrong no more or suffer wrong,

    And urged for children and the womankind

    Mercy, of fathers, whilst with cries and gestures

    They stammered hints how meet it was that all

    Should have compassion on the weak. And still,

    Though concord not in every wise could then

    Begotten be, a good, a goodly part

    Kept faith inviolate- or else mankind

    Long since had been unutterably cut off,

    And propagation never could have brought

    The species down the ages.

    Lucretius, in De Rerum Natura 5:1015-27

    (also, the book The Bonobo and the Atheist is an anthropological account of the origins of morality, for which I wrote a review…-the-atheist-book-review/)

    well, during the times of the Scholarchs there seems to have been a healthy degree of "central direction", but in these days with the internet, maybe we need to form horizontal networks.

    Either way, I would LOVE to have the exchanges with Catherine Wilson. I've reviewed her book, which generated some discussions here on the extent to which we may as Epicureans posit public policy based on PD's 31-38.

    Plus we have one degree of separation, because I was invited to write the Epicureanism chapter for "How to live a good life" (which has opened the door to an audiobook and upcoming podcast interview) by Massimo (mentioned above) who is Stoic, and who has invited her as a guest blogger on his own personal blog in order to have someone present Epicurean replies to his criticisms. This means that she probably read "How to live a good life", and will likely have feedback for me also.

    By the way, she's entered the fray by joining public discussions online between MODERN Epicureans and MODERN Stoics, so there is mutual advantage in us having her as we can all learn from each other to face contemporary objections, and I would argue there is even mutual advantage between us and the Stoics in having friendly, public debate to help students of philosophy to understand the differences between us and to learn the ways in which the two are not compatible, and the ways in which they are similar but not really the same.

    Jefferson also spent the time to re-write the gospels in accordance with materialism – by no means would we consider him to be a Christian. His interest and appreciation of Stoic works does not make him a Stoic anymore than his interest and appreciation of the Beatitudes makes him a Christian. He is an Epicurean, through-and-through.

    Right - the Christian theocrats are always trying to claim Jefferson and all the founding fathers also as Christian.

    La Mettrie speaks for himself, not for Epicurus. He never seems to have accessed the direct writings of Epicurus, only knows of him through Lucretius. De Rerum Natura, Gassendi, and other secondary sources would have been available to people like him.

    I don't think LM was insane. But I don't doubt that he was deemed so because he was VERY ahead of his time and, as far as I have read, he was a physician who focused on STD's, which very likely means that he was used to having very frank and shameless conversations with people about their sexual tendencies and activities in a day when this was judged very harshly. This is part of the reason why he sees himself as a devotee of Venus in a way, as he mentions in his writings. He also died very young at 42 I think, so like Lucretius the anti-Epicureans enjoyed destroying his reputation after he died, and linking his early death to excesses of food or other excesses.

    Also, in Anti Seneca, he was particularly reacting against Seneca's "On Happiness", which I've only found in Latin, not in English, and the Latin is so "flowery" that google translate makes no sense of it (which is part of La Mettrie's critique at the end of Anti-Seneca: he was more an intellectual than a philosopher and worried more about adornment of ideas than about ideas).