Posts by Hiram

    In my opinion there is no room for Zeus or Jupiter in modern Epicurean iconography or thought as it would be the same as glorifying Indra or Ba'al of foreign pantheons. It would simply be hypocritical and a denial of PD.1.

    my understanding is that PD1 is meant to DENY the common beliefs about the gods, and replace them with wholesome ones, to correct them. Every religion has its superstitions and errors: EP is meant to reform religion so that it produces pure, effortless pleasure.

    "For instance, there is no slavery today, so living off the labor of others is not doable today." < Not doable as directly as slavery, but the way capitalism works (especially as to "interest") sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

    True. And so we can say that avoidance of (excessive, unnecessary) debt is then an important component of autarchy today.

    Yes, as to Hiram's article, I need to spend more time with those fragments. Hiram tends to give his presentations without as many footnotes as I like to use, especially when texts are fragmentary. When I check to see how fragmentary many of these are, I find it hazardous to put too much stock in what is left. It seems to me that in many cases we don't know if what is left is being characterized as the Epicurean position, or is in fact them citing the opposing view before refuting it. ...

    Just as important as the content of those scrolls--or perhaps MORE--is what would those conversations look like TODAY, and that should be the point of studying these scrolls.

    For instance, there is no slavery today, so living off the labor of others is not doable today. Also, many of the professions discussed in the scroll no longer exist or have relevance: equestrian? miner? Very few people make a living like they did in antiquity. The only two ones that translate today are making money from teaching philosophy (if you're extremely lucky) and living off rental property income.

    So the more important question today is what would be today's "natural measure of wealth" in OUR society, what are the noble professions or ways to earn a living today, etc. We don't have to study philosophy like an exercise in the study of a history of itself. We can do philosophy by making it relevant at every point … and (considering the recent economic crisis of 2008 and the upcoming automation of labor) the teachings on autarchy are probably one of the most gratifying and important aspects of EP and one of the most neglected!

    I'm personally gonna write a bit more on Epicurean economics this year, but I really think we should give up the fossilized approach to EP and get used to thinking for ourselves critically about the details of our economic doctrines, which are absolutely relevant and useful, and even necessary, today. They're not museum pieces.

    "We should at once philosophize, laugh, and take care of our economics" - Epicurus

    I'm interested in what this says of Jefferson's concept of the social contract.…y-american-democracy.html

    During a visit to the French countryside, Jefferson found himself scandalized by “the condition of the labouring poor.” In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote that the extremity of European inequality was not only morally suspect, but economically inefficient. Aristocrats had grown so wealthy, they were happy to leave their lands uncultivated, even as masses of idle workers were eager to improve it. Thus, these proto-billionaires undermined both the peasants’ ability to transcend mere subsistence, and their society’s capacity to develop economically:


    [T]he solitude of my walk led me into a train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I had observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe. The property of this country is absolutely concentered in a very few hands…I asked myself what could be the reason that so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are kept idle mostly for the aske of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be laboured.

    Here is how Jefferson proposes to address the obscene coexistence of concentrated wealth and underemployed workers:


    I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure, and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right…It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state. [Emphasis mine.]

    On Venus:…phy-in-wisdom-traditions/

    Also, while doing research for this month's 20th message, I came across the myth of Varaha, who is an avatar (a divine incarnation) of Vishnu in Hinduism in the form of a Cosmic Boar or Pig. In the myth, Varaha takes an incarnation in order to save the Earth from a demon who is tyrannizing her. In the end, Varaha heroically kills the demon and restores the Earth to safety. It is interesting to me that the pig in the West is seen as the embodiment of Epicurean philosophy, which is materialistic and a steadfast affirmation of the value and reality of matter, of bodies, and of this world, while in India this boar is the protector and savior of the Mother Earth, of matter, also. Varaha beautifully mythologizes the role of Epicurean philosophy in defending the value and dignity of, and giving meaning to, this world. The story is told here.


    3. Deep relationships and strong ambitions require altruistic sacrifices.


    Issue 2: Horrible acts are considered permissible under Epicurean thought

    Issue 1. I think I remember Philodemus saying that sometimes in order to keep or help a friend or loved one we suffer through many things (sacrifices, in your parlance) because the PAIN of not having the friend with us is much greater than the pain we go through assisting them.

    So the key here is that it needs to pass hedonic calculus, and it does but only for people whom we truly love or who are truly worthy of our pain. Bob Marley once said there will always be people who will make you cry, and you have to choose to love the ones who are worth crying for. So two things:

    1. You, if you are wise, will make the sacrifices for people who are worthy of your love.

    2. You will also set BOUNDARIES with those of lesser worth. And this is JUST as important for your ataraxia. See what Michel Onfray says about eumetry.

    Issue 2 - the problem is that this is not only the case for Epicureans. Think of the predator priests in the Catholic Church, THEY'RE not using hedonic calculus or Epicurean ethics but they end up engaging in these acts because they think they can get away with it. Philodemus, I believe, said in one of his scrolls that it is indeed an uneasy question whether people do awful things if they can get away with it. This is a clear and accurate description of the problem we have in front of us. Gods or karma won't fix this problem because they do not exist.

    "Justice" is that which produces mutual advantage, and an evil act that is not discovered is still unjust per Epicurean definitions. So if what we are saying is that injustices happen when no one is looking, then yes. That is accurate.

    Also I wish to address your worship of virtue separately. You will find this quote in “A Few Days in Athens”:

    “Of all the thousands who have yielded homage to virtue, hardly one has thought of inspecting the pedestal she stands upon.“

    This pedestal is pleasure.

    How you deal with anger and other emotions determines if you are really Epicurean or Stoic or something else. To us, anger can be virtuous if channeled and made productive in such a way that it leads to a long-term pleasant life. Anger can be (un)natural, it can also be (ir)rational. So virtues, to us, are circumstancial. All our choices and avoidances require context to be carried out successfully and lead to pleasure.…s-on-philodemus-on-anger/