Posts by Hiram

    We **could** argue with the sources--Philodemus, Polystratus, even Epicurus--, but I would prefer if people don't do it until they've made a good will attempt to get what was being said. I'm sure Philodemus understood what was wrong with idealism, and I'm sure he wasn't trying to teach idealism, because he was immersed in a society that was plagued by Platonism and understood the issues.

    There's another quote from On Piety where Philodemus talks about how piety helps us to cultivate pleasant "psycho-somatic dispositions". I think this passage is key and should be evaluated next to all the other passages, because it implies that the exercises in piety were meant to have effects on the health of the body AND the mind (psycho - somatic).

    So considering how scarce our sources are, rather than dismiss this discourse, it should fall to us to try to reconstruct these ideas, and here is a MATERIALIST theory of piety, one which constitutes a unique contribution that EP makes to ethics, and also one that can be verified against research on the healing effects of chanting and other pious practices. Here is also a chance to show how the Canon is used. We appeal to evidence and check he doctrine against studies available. In my book I cited studies by Marian Diamond which documented and quantified the health benefits of chanting, including lowering blood pressure and heart rate. THIS type of thing vindicates the assertion that piety is meant to have a psycho-somatic effect. And again, this is therefore NOT idealism, it's a way of looking at religious practices from a purely materialist perspective.

    Similarly with "imitating their blessedness" and "making oneself harmless", etc. Piety is meant to be an ethical exercise that helps to cultivate a certain kind of disposition (diathesis, a word we find in Philodemus and also in Diogenes of Oenoanda) and character, just like we exercise our body.

    Also, what's being said here is not "do not harm, ever". That is NOT the point. What's being said here is "these practices will make you of a certain, harmless disposition". The tacit idea is that this is a disposition that is advantageous or pleasant or desirable, particularly among friends or people who engage in pious acts together. Just like when we associate with certain kinds of people who help us develop a good character, similarly with these practices.

    Hiram, here is an example where I think Philodemus shows some idealism. What on earth is "noble" ...

    This is another word that was used by the founders (VS 78). The word was used by Polystratus in "On irrational contempt". He was the third Scholarch after Hermarchus died, and would have studied under Epicurus from a very early age, so he is an important source who was in the immediacy of the first Garden.

    I believe the word was "kalon", sometimes compared to the opposite word which was translated as "vile". Polystratus argued that qualities such as these ones REALLY existed and were observable / similarly ugly and beautiful, pleasure and pain, etc. His argument was that these were "relational properties of nature".

    However, as long as you think in an idealist way and are actively promoting this as a way to view reality, that is going to be unpleasant to me. ..

    If you changed your way of thinking such that you adopted a realist philosophy,..

    By that definition, which is described by Epicurus but which I developed by my own experience with beloved friends, you and I are not friends. But I will agree to leave that possibility open, depending on how you treat me and those whose pleasure is entangled in mine from here forward.

    I still can't wrap my head around your categorization of "idealist" after six years of work in positing what Onfray calls "a counter-history of philosophy from the perspective of the friends of Epicurus and the enemies of Plato". Maybe you have considered my willingness at some point or another to consider other people's views as my agreeing with them? I just don't see what you're even talking about.

    Also, for the record, I know that "Epicurus-only fundamentalist" is something that will sound derisive maybe to someone looking from the outside, but I honestly think that Cassius is happy to adopt this label for himself (and maybe others will too) because he is adamant that that is his view: for instance, when he says "Epicurus didn't use this or that word", this is what he means to say. So among us it is clear that your project and agenda is different from mine in this regard, and it's useful to name it so that we can clearly establish that our work differs from each other.

    Either way, it's true that we are clearly not friends, and I would also like to leave the door open to friendship in the future, with the understanding that we will be working on separate projects and that our disagreements are sincere and not merely an artifact of ill-will. First: we will disrupt our own pleasure while studying EP, but the founders said that with philosophy unlike other activities the pleasure and the learning come at the same time, so we'd be doing it the wrong way. And second: People who hate EP will use the abuse that they see among the Epicureans to turn around and say: "See how nasty they are? This is how the Epicureans treat each other"--which doesn't serve the teaching mission of the Gardens, and which makes us look as if we're incapable of living the principles of the philosophy.

    Re @Cassius' feedback :


    SOE19: Friendship is necessary for securing happiness. It is advantageous to promote Epicurean philosophy in order to widen our circle of Epicurean friends.

    Objection to SOE19: As just stated in relation to 18, it is perilous to imply that "friendship" as an abstraction is necessary for happiness. The Epicurean texts are clear that everything is contextual, even friendship, and this statement is not contextual - no individual example of "friendship" or any particular "friend" is stated in the Epicurean texts to be across-the-board necessary. The second sentence in this tenet seems to me to clearly be true, but it is a much more narrow statement than the first sentence.

    I changed "friendship is necessary" to "friends are necessary" - in fact I've observed before that using the plural tends to help take concepts from the abstract to the concrete. Tenet 11 establishes the telos clearly, this Tenet has nothing to do with the telos nor does it state that friendship is the telos.

    The LMenoeceus says that the natural and necessary goods are those that we need for health, happiness, or life itself. There is research that demonstrates the bodily health effects of isolation, which are compared to obesity and smoking. Then there is also the problems of MENTAL health, which are much worse, and affect the category of "happiness". Therefore, it's clear that friends are a natural and necessary pleasure.

    Further, concerning the natural and necessary pleasures and this feedback


    SOE17: To live pleasantly, we must have confident expectation that we will be able to secure the chief goods: those things that are natural and necessary for life, happiness, and health. Therefore, whatever we do to secure safety, friendship, autarchy, provision of food and drink and clothing, and other basic needs, is naturally good.

    Objection to SOE18: "Chief goods" is not a term that Epicurus employed and implies that there is an outside ranking of pleasure which does not exist. The natural and necessary observations are helpful for analysis because it helps us consider the result, but WE weigh the result and make our own determinations of how much pleasure and pain is worthwhile - nature does not do that for us and there is no uniform rule established by nature. All of the things you have listed (especially / even autarchy and friendship) are tools that are generally useful in the pursuit of pleasure, but for every single one of these there are going to be times when we forgo or avoid these in our own pursuit of pleasure. Even food and water are to be avoided when fasting is necessary for survival or better health; air to be avoided when holding one's breath to escape danger is necessary; etc. And so it is explicitly wrong to imply that such things are "naturally good" in each and every circumstance. The only thing that Epicurus said is **always** desirable is pleasure itself, which is the result of activities that are themselves always contextual and sometimes to be chosen and sometimes to be avoided.

    This, again, says nothing of the telos, nor does it replace it, nor does it state that the telos is replaced or abrogated by this. The doctrine on the telos is articulated clearly in Tenet 11. The natural and necessary pleasures are what Philodemus calls "kyriotatai" or chief goods in the Choices and Avoidances scroll--where he is adamant that not knowing how to separate these from vain desires. Here is his quote:


    Column V. For men suffer the worst evils for the sake of the most alien desires which they take to be most necessary–I mean desires for sovereignty and … reputation and great wealth and suchlike luxuries … they neglect the most necessary appetites as if they were the most alien to nature.

    Column IX. Many and great evils concerning many matters occur as a result of the worthless assumptions of mindless men and are avoided as a result of the right concepts.

    So here he is making the point that it is important to keep in mind these chief goods and to never neglect them while going in pursuit of vain desires.

    Concerning Cassius ' feedback:


    SOE13: The goal of religion is the experience of pure, effortless pleasure.

    Objection to SOE13: This statement seems to me to have no foundation in the Epicurean texts whatsoever. Are you saying "should be" rather than "is"? In that case the goal of a "proper" religion would be to promote pleasure and avoid pain, just as the purpose of every tool would ultimately be the same. But unless I am mistaken you are certainly not meaning to imply that this "is" the goal of every current world religion.

    The goal to religion (pleasure) is assigned by Epicurus as part of his moral reform.

    The source is from Philodemus' scroll On Piety; here are some of the direct quotes:


    But those who believe our oracles about the Gods will first wish to imitate their blessedness, insofar as mortals can, so that, since it was seen to come from doing no harm to anyone, they will endeavor most of all to make themselves harmless to everyone as far as it is within their power, and second, to make themselves noble

    The just person has noble expectations concerning the Gods, and at the same time exceedingly enjoys pleasures that are unalloyed and effortless.

    When describing the truly pious person (according to the Epicureans, as opposed to the vulgarly-pious), Philodemus describes this person as enjoying pleasures that are UNALLOYED and EFFORTLESS.

    I interpret unalloyed / pure to mean that, when subjected to hedonic calculus, they produce no disadvantages.

    I interpret effortless to mean just what it says. The pleasure here is easy, perhaps tied to singing a religious song or uttering a praise or to contemplation.

    Here are other quotes which further clarify what Epicurean piety feels like:


    (To others,) piety appears to include not harming both other people and especially one’s benefactors and homeland. To be sure, they honor something rather kindly and propitious, whereas we all regard our views as the true cause of our tranquility.

    … for every wise man holds pure and holy beliefs about the Divine. – Epicurus

    So here we see that "making oneself harmless to everyone", making oneself noble, and having views that are "a true cause of our tranquility" are also properties of true piety, according to the Epicurean sources.

    Many of the passages in the scroll were notes taken during class (under Zeno of Sidon), and many were quotes from Metrodorus and Epicurus, to whose authority Philodemus appealed frequently.

    My purpose in having a "purpose of religion" Tenet is to help us have concrete Epicurean moral guidance to offer to religious students of Epicurus, and also to dig up the few sources that we have regarding this for study.

    Here is On Piety:…Translation/dp/0198150083

    I suppose I should also address this here:


    SOE12: There are three acceptable interpretations of the Epicurean gods: the realist interpretation, the idealist interpretation, and the atheist interpretation.

    Objection to SOE12: What does "acceptable" mean? Acceptable so as to be a member of Society of Epicurus? Acceptable so as to not be considered an enemy of Epicurus? These categories listed here have no generally accepted definitions so would require explanation. I cannot imagine that any interpretation that implies that Epicurus was intentionally being less than honest with his statements on gods would be acceptable to a "Society of Epicurus." And Epicurus' statements were very specific -- he used the term "gods" to refer to naturally-occurring, non-supernatural, non-omnipotent beings which he held do exist somewhere in the universe, but not here on Earth, and having no concerns about us whatsoever, but about which we are able to either perceive or conceive aspects of pleasurable living that can serve as worthwhile things for us to contemplate and emulate. Obviously much has been lost and is unclear but no interpretation that does not accept that Epicurus meant what he said should be acceptable (in my opinion) to a society modeling itself after Epicurus.

    Yes, The accusation that Epicurus didn't say what he meant is dangerous. I think he was a realist, and was using the methodology we see in "against empty words" to redefine the word "gods" according to nature.

    The idealist and atheist interpretations are by those who came before him. So this is to say: Epicurus himself was a realist. Later Epicureans may agree with his views, or believe that the gods whose bodies are made out of particles:

    a. do not exist, but their contemplation has utility (the idealist interpretation)

    b. do not exist, and their contemplation is pointless or unnecessary (the atheist interpretation)

    Here is Ilkka's easy-to-read essay on this:

    In reply to Cassius ' feedback:


    SOE20: Human relations should be based on mutual benefit.

    Objection to SOE20: This one pretty well sums up what I see as the major problem with the analysis behind most of the objections above, because it has "humanism" written all over it. Epicurus did not write in terms of "human relations" but in terms of humans pursuing pleasure individually and in groups. The last ten PD10's make absolutely clear that while "justice" is an agreement not to harm or be harmed, it is also absolutely clear that there is no way to enumerate such agreements in absolute terms, and it is also clear that such agreements are to be broken immediately when they become disadvantageous to either party's pursuit of pleasurable living. The clear point of these final PD's is that there IS NO Epicurean "Golden rule" that we must always treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves because each decision is going to be based on the circumstances of the individuals involved: there are no ideal virtues, no supernatural morals, no across-the-board rules for which there is any authority to say that we should always follow them. In this formulation, "mutual benefit" is not only hopelessly vague, but the "mutual" part has absolutely no foundation whatsoever and in fact the clear thrust of many other doctrines is the opposite. PD10 emphasizes that depravity has no absolute definition; that everything must be judged by its result, and the only standard that nature has set is that we find pleasure desirable and pain undesirable. This is the same issue where Catherine Wilson is hopelessly off base when she injects her on social preferences into Epicurean philosophy. In referring to her I give her credit in the recent podcast interview that she admits that she is outside Epicurean orthodoxy in doing so, but the matter isn't just being "outside' orthodoxy -- it turns Epicurean philosophy on its head for ANYONE at ANY TIME to suggest that their own moral or ethical preferences are anything but personal to them.

    This is a VERY important issue because this helps us to connect theory with practice, which is one of the purposes of the Tenets.

    Mutual benefit is not "hopelessly vague". In fact, it made it to the last ten Principal Doctrines, and we know from Epicurus' sermon "against empty words" that the founders were adamant about avoiding vagueness.

    One of my main critiques in my review of Wilson's last book had to do with her lack of connecting policy that she calls for with mutual benefit. If she had discussed the advantages versus disadvantages for the people involved, then she would have been making a complete Epicurean case for her policy solutions. There's a whole secton on mutual advantage in the book review. Here is the most relevant portion:


    If Wilson had appealed to the sources while explaining the concepts of justice / morality, she would have encountered repeated references to “mutual advantage” and this would have added credibility and clarity to her arguments.

    If she had relied, again, on the first principles (in this case, the last ten of the Principal Doctrines), her explanation of how Epicurean philosophy provides moral guidance would have been much more cogent and complete. The fact that an area the size of Delaware has been declared unlivable in Louisiana has economic effects, and the building of new dams there and in other coastal regions would result in the spending of billions of dollars that would have to come from the pockets of tax payers. The problems generated by climate change are not abstract. If they are discussed in concrete, measurable, observable terms as they are directly experienced, then the issues of mutual advantage and disadvantage may be addressed. This is how Epicurean morality works, and Wilson wasted an opportunity to encourage her readers to philosophize like Epicureans about these issues.

    Also, in my piece for Partially Examined Life on "Applying the Epicurean Theory of Justice to Cannabis Legalization", I use mutual advantage to translate an issue that seems abstract into concrete terms: there's the disadvantage for the state of not being able to tax the revenue from illicit cannabis sales, there's the disadvantage for thousands of youth and their families when they're incarcerated at high rates for victimless crimes related to cannabis use and sale, there's the advantage of the potential small businesses that may emerge if legalized, there's the advantages for the medical use of it, etc.

    Now, if someone is an armchair philosopher, this does not apply. But SoFE is meant to promote the teaching mission of the Epicurean gardens, and particularly encourages Epicurean content creators to create vlogs, essays and other content where they figure out ways to demonstrate that EP can be applied and give moral guidance in the modern world. So learning how to argue cases based on concrete instances of mutual advantage is essential for content creators who wish to demonstrate the usefulness and relevance of EP.

    For this reason, I wanted a Tenet focusing on mutual advantage.

    In reply to Cassius ' feedback:


    SOE5: Our words and their meanings must be clear, and conform to the attestations that nature has presented to our faculties.

    Objection to SOE5: Of course we should be as clear as possible in using words. The issue is what is meant by clarity, and how we go about being clear. The issue that I detect in this tenet is that it carries the implication that nature has "testified" ("attested") some particular abstract truth that is the same for everyone. No, nature has not done that. Nature has simply provided us a set of faculties, including the ability to form abstractions (including words) and it is entirely up to us to convey meaning through the use of words or other methods that have been established in the past by agreement to be assignable to certain observations. Nature has not attested to anyone the meaning of "yellow." Nature has simply set up circumstances in a particular time and place that most humans visualize in a similar way under similar conditions, and to these conditions certain people have assigned the word "yellow" while certain others in other languages have assigned other totally different words. The point that Epicurus was making about clarity, and avoiding going on infinitely without reaching any conclusions, is tied totally to the fundamental that observations are contextual and that different people experience things differently. Clarity comes through examples, not by connection with some abstraction made by supernatural gods, ideal forms, etc.

    An attestation is not "an abstract truth that is the same for everyone", it's a particular instance of direct perception of something.

    This term, together with epíbole (most usually translated as "focusing") and a few others are mentioned.

    The source here for attestations is Epicurus' "Against Empty Words" (we also made a video about it)…t-the-use-of-empty-words/

    You don't know how you would interact with me if I don't follow Philodemus' rules?

    Like I said before, I am sorry if I was ever rude or condescending to you. You and I and everyone here are not perfect Epicureans or perfect people. We all have a right to have our flaws. It's also not clear that you accepted an offer of friendship from me, so we do not have to be friends if this is what you've decided. I would not want to participate here if there's going to be a Hiram-bashing and excommunication party every time I intervene. We all have to choose our battles.

    OK as to the points raised in the other posts by Elayne and Elli in the last 24 hours: there is a lot of background context to this discussion which may not be appropriate to explain further for this thread. On the other hand it "may" be appropriate, too, depending on whether one of the participants or someone reading it wants to discuss and learn from the details for more than just an unproductive desire to air unpleasantness. I can address any details as appropriate.

    Yes, considering Elli's characterization of me, I HONESTLY don't want to open that can of worms other than to say I've always disagreed with the suspicion and hostility that new students of Epicurus are often subjected to on the EP facebook group, and that Jason and I left the admin group in disagreement over this issue, ironically, while DEFENDING @Elayne's right to be in the group when she initially came in! So it's a huge irony that Elayne is engaging in similar gate-keeping behavior now, and subjecting me to it when I've been teaching EP for six years, and the only reason why she's here is because I angrily stood up to Elli defending Elayne's right to join the EP group.

    Then there's lack of clear speech, which may be the result of language barrier, but impede frank criticism. As I said, I've been made to feel time and again like others have their mind made up before I offer my words, and I do not feel that the issues I raise are addressed. I want people to come to EP to be made to feel welcome. There are more issues here, which are prudent to avoid discussing, so I'll refrain from addressing Elli's remarks further.

    I think I see this same tension in the work of Catherine Wilson ...

    These are the issues that I see dividing u....

    If you read my review of her book, you will see that these are NOT exactly the issues that are dividing us (only your perspective of them), and that I agree with much of your critique of her. I will discuss in more detail below, and later as time allows, if you let me.

    Concerning the 6th Tenet, that's the reason why I chose the word particle instead of atom, because atom means indivisible and this will avoid the confusion.

    I am being straightforward here. I know nothing about you personally, so I am not making a personal insult. But your direction in philosophy is _not_ consistent with science. It has a strong thread of idealism for which there is no basis in reality. I do think Epicurus' ethics was consistent with his physics. It does upset me that you are using your public platform to put Epicurus' name on a version that doesn't fit the physics.

    Not sure what you're even talking about ... idealism? Really? In the years I've been promoting EP this has always been clear. Can you elaborate?

    If by this you mean the "idealist interpretation of the gods" and "the atheist interpretation of the gods"--the first is one of the academically accepted interpretations and the last one is the interpretation that is most prominent perhaps among today's Epicureans, including Ilkka and myself (sources and arguments cited from both our blogs). If Society of Epicurus is to be a big-tent organization of Epicurean intellectuals, people who hold the three views will have to be willing to work with each other (obviously this is my project, not yours, but if you ever have to create an organization you will have to consider this issue).

    So Elayne I'm sorry if I ever disparaged you particularly. I have history with Cassius, six years, and I've come to expect that he already has made up his mind before I present any critique, which has produced distance between us. So I'm made to feel like he will not profit from my words, and like I'd rather talk to a wall or a mirror (a drag queen once told me that mirrors don't lie, and it's true!). I was very thankful to him for his influence in the initial years of my formation, but we have been for some time obviously in the process of parting ways and it would be nice to do so with friendly discussions and, as we clarify our points of disagreement, (and ONLY if there is room for parrhesia, and therefore for Friendship) to challenge each other from time to time. Can two factions of Epicureans work together, and to what extent? I don't know.

    Also thank you for admitting that you do not rely on Philodemus, and this is a highly important point of sincere divergence. It's also very problematic. I had a very strong suspicion that you hadn't read his Peri Parrhesias.

    I do not consider Epicurus infallible, and I suspect most modern Epicureans think the same, and I also think that Philodemus is extremely important because by the time he was writing, many generations had been connecting theory with practice for centuries. So it's an error on your part to dismiss his writings.

    Also, there is the problem of defining authority. And how is authority used. For you, it's Epicurus--for me, it's the canon, and all the intellectuals that have studied nature following this tradition will continue to use the canon, and perhaps some will even continue to perfect its use. This point of divergence will become more crucial if you ever decide to try to create an Epicurean organization, because it will define everything else.

    I don't just respect Lucretius, Philodemus, and even people like Lucian the comedian--which acknowledging that none is infallible. I also consider Michel Onfray to be the most important Epicurean intellectual of our generation, but I don't think you guys have anything approaching a clear idea of his work, and this--again--makes it difficult to connect theory with practice, with the current societal needs and issues that Epicurean philosophy has real moral guidance to give on.

    I see Epicurean philosophy as a growing and evolving, adaptable, school of thought, and I get the sense that you, Cassius (and probably a few others) do not, you are instead Epicurus-only fundamentalists.

    I am willing to concede that your approach is a FORM of Epicureanism, even if not one that I would agree with or find useful. I think Cassius is willing to concede the same to me, but so far you're not, for reasons that are not fully clear to me.

    I wish to address your gate-keeping behavior, and I think Philodemus is important for this. If you adopt a fundamentalist approach, and claim that you're the ONLY TRUE Epicurean and no one else is, that you're right and only you are right but no one else is (even _Philodemus!_, as you have just admitted--who was a recipient of centuries of tradition directly from a Scholarch of direct lineage), then in practice that becomes a mechanism to avoid frank criticism, which is a critical component of the mode of operation of EP. My challenge is for you to think about the repercussions of this.

    If a person does not accept our frank criticism there is no true friendship. If I am made to feel like I must be an object to your ideology or your agenda in order to be in your circle, and I can never be a subject (Hiram, with my own ideas, history, cultural baggage, likes and dislikes, my gayness and my hostility against the Catholicism I was brought up in, the FULL human being), then there is NO possibility of proper inter-subjective relations between us. AND of friendship. I can't be a subject, only an object. I would be forced to become a flatterer, rather than a Friend in the proper sense. Which is where Philodemus comes in, because Philodemus wrote about this, which means that he must have observed it in his Garden or other Epicurean spaces, and that this is a tendency in some Epicurean communities and he wanted to warn us about it.

    Philodemus said that flatterers were a category of false friends. The person who is always right and does not accept a critique (for instance, the fundamentalist) will attract flatterers instead of friends, and your gate-keeping behavior and Cassius' insistence that he will "only work with" others who agree on all his opinions creates the possibility for surrounding yourself with flatterers, who may feel like they must remain more-or-less silent when they have a sincere disagreement with you in order to avoid your excommunication.

    That's PHILODEMUS' critique of flatterers: that they are not real friends. My own critique is that you will not receive the proper "medication" of frank criticism, the moral and intellectual challenges that come with friendship, if you continue to push away potential friends and surround yourself with flatterers in the service of the fundamentalist stance.

    Surrounding oneself with flatterers is safe, it's comfortable, and I'm sure even enjoyable. Surrounding oneself with friends is enjoyable also, but CHALLENGING. Less comfortable.

    I was hesitating to offer parrhesia, as I said, because I was not confident you + Cassius would profit from my words, which is why I've so carefully presented them, but even if I leave the forum, at least I hope you profit from THESE words. There is no TRUE Friendship without parrhesia, there is no intersubjectivity if people are made to feel like objects in your circle and pushed into the role of a flatterer (as you and Cassius often seem to each other), which is what the "I am always right, you're always wrong" and the impervious-to-frankness attitude produces. You will continue to push away friends and the only people you'll attract who will remain here will be flatterers.

    I was thinking of leaving the EF forum, actually, for some of the reasons that I've shared before, and it's hard to figure out what to do with my six years of history with Cassius: you're always right, I'm always wrong, there is a closed bubble and I am now frequently not made to feel welcome in that closed bubble. But what if I stay?

    So I guess what I'm saying is that I would like to be your friend, but I will not be your flatterer, Cassius and Elayne . I will not be your object, only a subject. You do not have to _accept_ my offer of friendship, only the challenges that come with it (or you can reject it, to follow through your own agendas and projects to your liking and miss out on profiting from my words) ... but for me to stay, you would have to evaluate the problems related to the fundamentalist stance which nurtures the gate-keeping behavior. This means that you would have to accept that there ARE sincere Epicureans who will not be Epicurus-only fundamentalists.

    And if Elayne rejects Philodeman teachings, as she is free to do, then it's not clear what rules other than the ones he laid out would govern our interaction! I mean, Philodemus was on the receiving end of centuries of Epicurean community practices. We have ZERO of that.

    oh and thank you elli for defending "autarchy". It's a neglected subject, which is why I dedicated 2019 content in my blog to it and to epicurean economics.

    Here is the quote from Philodemus:

    Proper correction will come from one "actuated by good will, devoting himself intelligently and diligently to philosophy, steadfast in principle, careless of what people think of him, immune from any tendency to demagoguery, *** free from spitefulness***, saying only what fits the occasion, and not likely to be carried away so as to ***revile, jeer, belittle, injure feelings***, or resort to tricks of wanton acquiescence or flattery. - Philodemus of Gadara, On Frank Criticism I-b, 2-13

    I presume that is addressed to me and will say that of course I do not want you to hold back your "frank criticism." Obviously while we agree on a considerable number of things we disagree strongly on other things. The best way for everyone to move forward it to discuss things as clearly as possible to sharpen the differences. Yes those differences may lead us at some point to going totally (as opposed to partially) different ways, but if that were to happen then even that would still be for the best if it is due to legitimate differences rather than misunderstandings.

    I guess you’ve always made me feel like when I offer critique that you just use my words to build a bigger wall between us, so it feel so pointless and I don’t feel like you will profit from anything I say anymore, and Elayne also. Her “people like Hiram” comment felt full of ill-will and like a personal attack, which goes against philodemus’ instructions about parrhesia, which would require that people be committed to each other’s character and happiness and that they use suavity. So it’s probably no use to offer criticism considering there seem to be other issues, suspicion and hostility that impede the development of trust and friendship.

    Also I suspect that the internet doesn’t help because so many nuances of normal communication don’t come through.

    I was just translating DeWitt’s Procedures in Epicurean groups, and here it cites Philodemus’ Peri Parrhesias.

    Thanks for the feedback. I removed the objective / subjective portion, and not sure when I'll have time to review the rest. Since you're not exactly "amenable to frank criticism" :) as Philodemus would put it, I will excuse myself from giving you parrhesia unless requested, but I WILL review the feedback as time allows later.

    Shermer is not a "skeptic" in the classical philosophical sense. This is a case where the old definition of the word and the new one are probably at odds. Clearly, he is a firm defender of science and empiricism, so he's all about withholding judgement until evidence is presented. (Also, notice how he challenges the idea that moral standards are timeless, so it seems like Shermer is already a proto- Epicurean, and in some points he comes off more Epicurean than she is. I wonder to what extent these types of podcasts may help many people realize that they already agree with most of Epicureanism).

    Concerning your seventh point, she must be referring of the definition of justice as a covenant to "not harm or be harmed", which to be fair, is our version of the golden rule.

    It seems like Wilson's views are tied to the belief that humanity has become progressively more compassionate and enlightened about many issues, and that we KNOW BETTER than the ancients in many regards. In other words, societies (like individuals) have the power to learn and engage in processes of moral development. We know that Epicurus dedicated a sermon to moral development, and we also know that Philodemus in "On Parrhesia" said that frank criticism is of two kinds: to an individual and to the society at large--so that the idea of moral development at the level of community exists.

    This view has some merit, and deserves further consideration and discussion. It is one thing to say "ethics is eternal", which is not a clear statement, but it's another thing to say "we know better", with the implication being that some societies are more enlightened and therefore have conventions that generate more pleasure / less suffering to people than others, which is an undeniable fact. And if this is so, then what does this conception of moral development entail? I have a feeling that we may get closer to an answer to this by considering issues of mutual advantage in specific, concrete examples.

    As we talk about this I would be interested in more background about the purpose of the statement.


    There's been a flurry of activity in the Spanish group and page, and a new member from Venezuela. This has brought up, again, the questions of how to best organize a few people who are willing to work together to promote EP in a more or less decentralized manner, and also WHO to include. We had decided years ago on the writing of three essays as requirement for membership, in order to ensure that a new member has a good basic grasp of EP before they can start writing as "member of SoFE", so that continues.

    (Actually, Jesús' essay was extremely well written and reassuring, because it shows me that we now have enough content online in Spanish to produce a solid intellectual foundation in a sincere student).

    I presented the Tenets in the SoE group with other admins, and to Charles before he joined, and had Jesús translate into Spanish and give feedback (my own Outline of EP served as first draft). Society of Epicurus has as a goal to continue the teaching mission of the Epicurean gardens and to ensure the continuity of EP for the benefit of future generations, so I'm mainly interested in creating group of peers who will be friendly to each other and will provide each other feedback in the process of content creation and translation--which is now becoming a major component of what we do. (We are beginning to work on translating DeWitt's "Procedures of Epicurean groups"). Ideally, I want to join forces mainly with other Epicurean content creators and translators, but obviously not everyone who thinks of themselves as Epicurean will be interested in being part of a group of peers like SoFE, or will agree with how we articulate our views.

    The goals of the Tenets are also articulated in the opening statement (connect theory and practice, organize the teachings, which would help with a more focused study of specific aspects), and the closing tenets on friendship and mutual benefit deal with how we interact and "philos" (friendship) serves to justify the teaching mission.

    So that would be the "framework" for the Tenets. Actually I remember that when we were working more closely together, you frequently encouraged the establishment of some sort of Tenets, but when proposed, we never were able to agree (I think at one point we were working on a "Constitution of SoFE"). Either way, I believe clear that there should be many separate groups working separately based on separate guidelines in order to maximize efficiency (or, in the case of French-speaking people, to focus on Onfray, Vanaigem, and other continental intellectuals), and this is what my own "working group" is doing. The Tenets seems to me, mostly, common sense.

    (Also, I've frequently raised the question of continuity, and after the death of Erik Anderson and of Iaako and all the things that happened after and the Facebook groups that disappeared after it became obvious that my concerns were legitimate)

    As a non-SoFE-member, your feedback is obviously unnecessary, and I know that you will have disagreements w the Tenets, but I still welcome your feedback if you offer and I don't consider it disparaging of you to criticize them, just for the record.

    When reading the texts, I think it is critical to take everything in context of the whole. I have no sense that Epicurus meant that "advantages" could be anything other than related to pleasure, since there is no other definition of good. It does make it hard for someone to grasp, if they don't get a feel for the whole philosophy. So I strongly recommend that any brief list of Tenets should stick closely to language of pleasure and not create confusion. I don't think Epicurus' words are confusing when read in the context of his whole work, but there are definitely some problems with proof-texting out of context. If you decide to leave these in, I think a reminder that there is no other standard but pleasure as the good is very important-- that you are never replacing it with these alternative concepts. Otherwise you are unnecessarily complicating something that is ultimately very simple and straightforward.

    That pleasure is the end that our nature seeks is in Tenet 11. The other tenets are not meant to replace the Telos tenet, but to expound on other matters, in this case the wording (advantages) is lifted from LMenoeceus.

    16 is harmed by the inclusion of advantage and disadvantage, as if there can be any standard other than pleasure and pain

    17 introduces 3 goals-- life, happiness, and health. And since (according to our prior group PMs) you define happiness as being something different from pleasure, you have left pleasure entirely out of the picture of the chief goods.

    16. Epicurus used both pleasure / discomfort as well as this in the Letter to Menoeceus when he discussed hedonic calculus:

    "Yet by a scale of comparison and by the consideration of advantages and disadvantages we must form our judgment on all these matters."

    So hedonic calculus involves the calculation of feelings, and of advantages and disadvantages.

    17. Epicurus and the other founders established three criteria to determine what is necessary in the Letter to Menoeceus:

    "of the necessary some are necessary for happiness, others for the repose of the body, and others for very life"

    The doctrine of the "chief goods" (kyriotatai) is in Philodemus' "Choices and avoidances" scroll.