Noted observation, Elayne! I appreciate that. I think I will re-work the conclusion a bit.
Cassius, Hiram actually created me a login with the Society page to publish the piece after he read it, so I'm just posting this for peer review.
Noted observation, Elayne! I appreciate that. I think I will re-work the conclusion a bit.
Cassius, Hiram actually created me a login with the Society page to publish the piece after he read it, so I'm just posting this for peer review.
On “-Isms” and Pleasure Wisdom
"Epicureanism" vs. "Epicurean Philosophy"
The Society of Friends of Epicurus has dedicated extensive dialogue to the suffix "-ism". In the Epicurean spirit of παρρησíα (or “parrhēsíā”) meaning “frank speech” or “speaking candidly”, it is important to recognize that the ancient Greek language does not employ the "-ism" when referring to the philosophy of Epicurus; thus, while the word can be functionally employed for practical purposes, "Epicureanism" may NOT be appropriate word to invoke when referring to the philosophy of Epicurus. "Epicureanism" does not quite capture the nuance of Epicurean Philosophy.
The English suffix, "-ism" — according to BOTH common and academic usages — is employed to designate a distinctive "doctrine", "theory", "attitude", "belief", "practice", "process", "state", "condition", "religion", "system", or "philosophy". According to this definition, it is NOTincorrect to add a simple "-ism" at the end of "the philosophy of Epicurus", as it should, appropriately and accurately, render the word "Epicureanism" (or even "Epicurism").
In more succinct terms, we can visualize "Epicurean-ism" simply as "Epicurean-philosophy".
While this works for practical purposes, it may lead to several misconceptions:
 Bracketing the suffix “-ism” to a name often indicates devotional worship of a historical figure (consider the differences between the old, misleading usage of “Mohammedanism” versus the preferred, contemporary usage of “Islam”). Epicureans do NOT worship Epicurus as a supernatural prophet, NOR as a manifestation of a transcendental ideal.
 In the modern era, “-ism” is frequently used to identify political typologies. Terms like “Monarchism”, “Liberalism”, “Conservatism”, “Communism”and “Fascism” express ideological systems that — contrary to Epicurean philosophy — presuppose the existence of an ideal state or utopia, organized according to the dimensions of a perfect, timeless principle.
 The suffix "-ισμός" (or "-ismós") was rarely employed in ancient Greek; few examples of “-ism” (or "-ismós") exist prior to the linguistic conventions of the modern period. In giving preference to the term “Epicurean philosophy”, we acknowledge the importance of privileging ancient Greek historical sources as opposed to relying upon Latin translations.
Our tradition of adding "-ism" to the end of words — in which we express distinctive "ideologies" — begins in the post-Classical period, corresponding to the Renaissance. Coming from the Latin “re-” (meaning “again”) and “nasci” (meaning “to be born”), the Renaissance, or cultural “rebirth” resurrected the innovations of Antiquity. This revival adapted translations through the Latin language, using the Romanalphabet, sheathing ancient Greek observations.Liberally, scholars began to apply the suffix “-ismus” — as we would recognize it today — during this period of New Latin.
(I'm going to call the tradition — in which modern English-speakers partake — the "Ism-ism", or, in other words, "the systemic practice of adding '-ism' to idea-expressing words". Due to the profound influence of Latin, and the linguistic conventions of the modern era, we ALL — in one way or another — have become dedicated Ismists.)
From the perspective of the contemporary world, the suffix -ISMVS or "-ismus" was first borrowed from the Old Latin language of the Romans, and later appropriated by post-Classical peoples as New Latin and Contemporary Latin. We find an abundance of "-ism" and "-ismus" in bothRomance and Germanic language families. As in Latin, the “-ism” indicates distinctive "doctrines", "theories", “attitudes”, "beliefs", “religions”, “systems”, and "philosophies".
Here, however, is where we note a difference that our Mediterranean friends have often observed: while the Greek language — like Celtic, Indic,and other Indo-European languages — has evolved from a common root, it did NOT adopt Latin conventions the same way that Romance andGermanic languages have. Ancient Greek philosophers, especially Epicurus, would not have thought of “philosophies” as “-isms”.
-ize | -ίζω | -ízō |
We receive the Latin -ISMVS or "-ismus" from the ancient Greek "-ισμός" ("-ismós"), which, itself, is a bracketing of two other ancient Greek words, those words being "-ίζω" ("-ízō") and "-μός" ("-mós"). We'll start with the former word. The suffix "-ίζω" ("-ízō") was added to nouns to form new verbs. Let's look at (x3) examples:
 canonize | κανονίζω | kanonízō
κανών or “kanṓn” literally referred to a “reed”, and carried the connotation of a “measuring rod” or “standard”
+ "-ίζω" ("-ízō or "-ize") rendered "κανονίζω", "kanonízō" or “canonize” meaning "to make standard".
 Hellenize | ἑλληνίζω | Hellēnízō
ἑλλην or “Héllēn” literally referred to that which is “Greek”.
+ "-ίζω" ("-ízō or "-ize") rendered "ἑλληνίζω", "Hellēnízō", or “Hellenize” meaning "to make Greek".
 synchronize | συγχρονίζω | súnkhronosízō
σύγχρονος or “súnkhronos” literally referred to “synchronous”
+ "-ίζω" ("-ízō or "-ize") rendered "συγχρονίζω", "súnkhronosízō", or “synchronize” meaning "to sync".
The key point with “-ίζω" ("-ízō") — and our Modern English suffix "-ize" — is that we can turn any concept into a verb, or, in more philosophically interesting terms, we can ACTIVATE it.
-μός | -mós
The second suffix from which the ancient Greek “-ισμός" ("-ismós") was bracketed is "-μός" ("-mós"). Contrary to the convention of ACTIVATING a word that represents a concept, adding "-μός" ("-mós") ABSTRACTS an action. We can demonstrate this convention through (x3) other examples that translate well into Modern English:
 cataclysm |κατακλυσμός | kataklusmós
κατακλύζω (kataklúzō) – literally meant "to wash away”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") rendered "κατακλυσμός", “kataklusmós” or "cataclysm", meaning a "great flood".
 sarcasm | σαρκασμός | sarkasmós
“σαρκάζω” or “sarkázō” literally, and figuratively meant "tearing apart" or "to tear off the flesh”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") rendered "σαρκασμός", “sarkasmós” or "sarcasm", meaning "(figuratively) tearing apart".
 syllogism | συλλογισμός | sullogismós
συλλογίζομαι (sullogízomai) literally meant "to compute" or "to infer”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") rendered "συλλογισμός", “sarkasmós”, or "syllogism", meaning an “inference".
The key point with "-μός" ("-mós") is that the ancient Greeks could turn any verb into a word that expressed an abstract concept, or, in more philosophically interesting terms, it could systematize activity into an idea.
-ism | -ισμός | -ismós
The re-bracketing of the suffix "-μός" ("-mós") appended with "-ίζω" ("-ízō") presents us with “-ισμός" ("-ismós") or the suffix "-ism", a convention which systematizes a verb that has been activated from a noun. Very few examples exist in ancient Greek. A suitable example for English mono-linguists can be demonstrated in the word “Sabbath”:
 σάββατον | sábbaton literally means “the Sabbath” (borrowed from the Hebrew שבת or "shabát”)
+ "-ίζω" ("-ízō or "-ize") σαββατίζω | sabbatízō means “to make, observe, or keep the Sabbath”
+ "-ισμός" ("-ismós") σαββατισμός | sabbatismós means “the state of making or keeping the Sabbath”
Unlike the ubiquitous "-ismus" of Latin, and the overused "-ism" of Modern English, the ancient Greek "-ismos" is almost NEVER used. The ancient Greeks did NOT shared our zeal for Ismism. When faced with the need to express a NEW word with FRESH meaning, the ancient Greeks built words from either  the names of people and objects they directly knew or observed, and  active forces they felt or experienced, but NOTas  abstract systems.
So, why NOT "Epicureanism"?
The Epicurean path to wisdom recognizes that we EXPERIENCE NATURE DIRECTLY and NOT indirectly as abstract systems. Epicurean philosophy and the phenomena it observes — the sensation of an atomic reality, the feelings of pleasure and pain, and the anticipation of natural patterns — neither depends upon allegiance to a single leader, nor initiation into a secret society, nor longing for a golden age, nor adhering to institutional precepts, nor devotion to a holy ideal.
Christ's resurrection would not be known to the contemporary era without the Gospels.
Muhammad's revelation would not be known to the contemporary era without the Qur'an.
Even without the historical personage of Epicurus, humanity would still have sensed an atomic reality, felt pleasure and pain, and anticipated the patterns of nature. Humanity would still have documented the social changes throughout history, would still have seen the rise and fall of Empires and their ideologies. Humans would still have made choices with the intention of benefitting their lives in avoiding sickness and pursuing pleasure.
Without Jesus of Nazareth, Christians would not recite the Lord's Prayer.
Without Muhammad, Muslims would perform Salah to Mecca five times a day.
Without Epicurus, however, humanity would still have pursued pleasure. NATURE, itself, is so much LARGER, more important, and more fundamental than any one historical personage, including Epicurus. Vocabulary aside, the wise person would still have engaged the natural world, and pursued pleasure to its fullest.
"Epicureanism" (or, also, "Epicurism") carries a connotation – albeit very slightly – that our path to wisdom is just another doctrinal institution that advertises immaterial truths from an untouchable dimension. It is not quite as accurate to categorize seekers of pleasure wisdom as "Epicureanists" who follow "Epicureanism" as it is to identify as "Epicureans" who study "Epicurean philosophy". Our endeavor rests within our own bodies; NATURE, itself, is the greatest teacher.
All that being said …
… for practical purposes, there most certainly isn't anything inherently wrong about employing the term "Epicureanism". The "Epicurean-" part is unchanged, and the "-ism", literally, and harmlessly, identifies a "philosophy". In Modern English, this does correctly indicate our love of natural wisdom, apart from any oath to a mythic principle.
Nonetheless, the employment of "Epicurean philosophy" over “Epicureanism” serves to keep our anticipations FRESH, to indicate to others that our interactions are bigger than disembodied souls paddling ideas back and forth in a court of Mind, and to act as a reminder that the path to wisdom is not a map that has been given to us from an eternal place of perfection, but that we each carry a well-calibrated compass within ourselves to know the world and guide us to happiness.
"DON'T call [my belief system] an -ism!"
While “Epicurean philosophy” may better reflect its own etymological origin (without the “-ism”), it should NOT indicate that the suffix “-ism” should be reserved as a derogation for non-Epicurean ideas, nor exclusively employed as a polemic toward idealism. Even Epicurean philosophy,itself, incorporates atomism, hedonism, naturalism, and materialism; most certainly, these “-isms” are NOT idealistic.
While Epicurean philosophy boasts a unique foundation upon materialism (and lambasts its opponents for idealism), it should also be noted that other ancient Greek schools — ALSO — did NOT employ the “-ism”. Members of Plato's Academy were “Academics”; members of Aristotle's Lyceum with “Peripatetics”; members of Zeno's Stoa were “Stoics”. It was only later that scholars began to employ the terms “Platonism”, “Aristotelianism”, and “Stoicism”.
Furthermore, this same acknowledgment applies to religious traditions:
The earliest rendering of the religion we refer to as Judaism was יהדות or “Yahadút”, from the Hebrew word יהודי “y'hudá” meaning “the Jewish people” and the suffix ־ות (“-ót ) meaning “the tradition of”. The ismed word that we employ — Judaism — is first found in Maccabees 2 in the Koine Greek language by Hellenistic Jews, written around 124 BCE (over a thousand years after the foundation of Hebrew monotheism), rendered as ιουδαϊσμός (“Ioudaismós”).
“Zoroastrianism” is first attested from 1854 as an anglicization of the ancient Greek Ζωροάστρης “Zōroástrēs” (or “Zoroaster”) borrowed from the original Avestan word 𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀 or “Zarathustra”. Ancient Iranians referred to their religion as 𐬨𐬀𐬰𐬛𐬀𐬌𐬌𐬀𐬯𐬥𐬀 or “Mazdayasna” translating to “worship of Mazda” (sometimes romanized as “Mazdaism”) in which 𐬀𐬯𐬥𐬀 or “Mazda” both expresses the name of the Iranian Creator deity, and also, a word for “wisdom”.
The isming of the religion of post-Classical Arabs has been identified in the contemporary era as being inadequate and largely offensive to the populations who practice it. Until the 20th century, the monotheistic religion of ٱلْإِسْلَام, or “al-Islām” was identified by Europeans as "Mohammedanism" (or “Muhammadanism”), inappropriately implying that the prophet Muhammad was divine himself, in the same way that Christians think of Jesus of Nazareth as divine.
People from the Punjab region of India refer to their religious tradition as ਸਿੱਖੀ or “Sikhī”, anglicized to the English-speaking world as “Sikhism”. The word comes from a Sanskrit root शिक्षा or “śikṣā” meaning “to learn” or “to study” (this recognition of the practitioner as a “student” is also found in the Confucian tradition).
The same is true of Hinduism, an anglicization of the Sanskrit सनातन धर्म or "Sanātana Dharma" meaning "Eternal Order". In fact, the word "Hindu" itself was used by non-Indians to refer to people living around the Indus river. Ancient Indo-Iranian populations would have referred to themselves as आर्य or "Arya" (from which we get the term "Aryan").
“Jainism” is first attested from 1858 as an anglicization of the Sanskrit adjective जैन “Jaina”, which comes from the Sanskrit name for the 6thcentury >em class="western"> tradition जिन or “Jina”. The word “Jina” is related to the verb जि meaning “to conquer” similar to जय “jaya” meaning “victory”. “Jain” literally means “an overcomer” or spiritual “conqueror”.
Our rendering of Buddhism is an anglicization of the original Pali बुद्ध धम्म or "Buddha Dhamma" meaning approximately "The Awakened One's Eternal Law". The first recorded use of “Buddhism” was sometime in the late 18th, or early 19th centuries, after Europeans romanized the spelling of Indic vocabulary.
There is NO direct Chinese equivalent to the word “Confucianism” since it has never been organized as a formal institution. The word was coined in 1836 by Sir Francis Davis, a British sinologist, and second Governor of Hong Kong who reduced the vast collection of ancient Chinese practices into a title named after the philosopher Kǒng Fūzǐ (“Master Kong”). While no single Chinese word or logogram represents the collection of beliefs and practices that developed from the teachings of Master Kong (anglicized as “Confucius”), the word 儒 or “Rú” roughly translates as “man receiving instruction from Heaven” or “scholar” and identifies a student of this collective body of works.
Like early Christians, the ancient Chinese Taoists identified their universal principle as 道 or “Dào”, meaning “road”, “path” or “Way”. In China, the religious tradition is written 道教 or “Dàojiào” pronounced /'daʊ.ʨaʊ/ (or, for English mono-linguists, roughly transliterated as “dow-chyow”). This tradition was anglicized as “Taoism”.
“Shintoism”, the anglicized name for the native religious ideology of Japan provides an interesting example of an ismized tradition. "Shinto” is of Chinese origin, constructed from the Kanji logogram for the words 神 “Shén” (meaning “God”) and 道 “Dào”, (meaning “Way”)rendering 神道 or “Shéndào”. However, native Japanese populations do not employ this as often as they do かむながらのみち or “kan'nagara no michi”, loosely translated as “way of the divine transmitted from time immemorial”). “Shintoism” therefor, is an anglicization of Eastern logograms, inherited from ancient China, used to express a Japanese philosophy.
Christianity is the dominant tradition of the English-speaking world; thus, it has avoided being popularly -ismed, since those who accused other traditions of being mere “-isms” (Renaissance scholars and speakers of Latin) were overwhelmingly Christian, themselves. The rare occasion the word “Christianism” is employed (like “Islamism”), it is typically employed as a derogation by ideological opponents of the tradition suggestion radical and dangerous ideology.
Nonetheless, even early Christians did NOT refer to their wisdom tradition using the same vocabulary as do modern Christians. They used the term της οδου or “tês hodoû”, meaning "The Way". A non-Christian, Greek community in Antioch that first coined the term Χριστιανός or"christianós". Within 70 years, the early Church Father Ignatius of Antioch employed the term of Χριστιανισμός or "Christianismós" to refer to the tradition.
Whether we employ the term “Epicureanism”, or the sometimes-preferred “Epicurean philosophy”, the distinguishing feature of Epicurus' wisdom is his insistence that pleasure is the supreme goal of life, that this is a tangible happiness, free from physical pain and emotional anguish, grounded in a knowable reality, formed from particles, sensible to living beings, who feel their way to pleasure, and anticipate the consequences of their choices. No cosmic principle precedes, or supersedes the universe, nor was the universe divined for any purpose greater than the satisfaction of the subjects who enjoy it. The wisdom of pleasure was NOT invented by any one prophet, nor divinely revealed to illuminate humanity; simply, Epicurus was one of many insightful friends who observed this reality, and shared in the wisdom of pleasure.
Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co., 1988.
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I'm looking for clarification on the following quotation by De Witt:
"...Epicureanism was primarily a cult of the founder..."
Screen Shot 2019-12-08 at 9.06.35 PM.png
In discussions with Hiram and Charles about Reddit, I was re-reading a familiar passage which contradicts my assertion that Epicurus needs not to have existed for the canon of Epicurean philosophy to have been understood. Is De Witt saying this with regards to the specific behavioral norms that were set within the Gardens? [http://societyofepicurus.com/w…DbT2jh-10rXR_-7-gLNK9bA9c]
...all THAT being said, I think I may need to think on this a little more deeply to digest the terms "Realism", "Naturalism", "Materialism", and "Hedonism", since – according to my own definition – those, too, should be "systems of the ideal" if they are "-isms" at all, which they most certainly are, but also, are not. I think all of my thinking should be tempered against the fact that we can still employ "Epicureanism" in an appropriate, and meaningful way, without succumbing to Idealism.
Joshua identifies an important objection – I also anticipate that ANY and, most likely, ALL members of those -isms will refute my analysis. As Joshua succinctly expresses, they would no doubt say: "Stop calling [my belief] an -ism!"
I'm taking on a sensitive issues with people, because, in an enormous way, "Anti-ismism is a cottage industry!" It REALLY is. In fact, as far as ideologies go, I suspect that this idea is rooted at the foundation of all traditions.
Early Christians referred to their philosophy as ἡ ὁδός or "The Way"; it was a non-Christian, Greek community in Antioch that first coined the term Χριστιανός "Christianus". Within 70 years, the early Church Father Ignatius of Antioch employed the term of Χριστιανισμός or "Christianismos" to refer to the tradition revealed by Christ.
The isming of the religion of post-Classical Arabs has been seen by both modern academics and practitioners as offensive for the exact same reason. Until the 19th or 20th centuries, "Islam" was almost universally referred to by non-Arabs as "Mohammedanism", mistakenly framing Muhammad as being divine, like Christ is to "Christianity"
Our rendering of "Buddhism" is a Germanization of the original Pali बुद्ध धम्म or "Buddha Dhamma", meaning, approximately, "The Awakened One's Eternal Law". The first recorded use of "Buddhism" was sometime in the late 18th, or early 19th centuries, after Europeans romanized Indic vocabulary (Merriam-Webster suggest 1800).
The same is also true of "Hinduism", the Germanization of the Sanskrit or सनातन धर्म "Sanātana Dharma" meaning "Eternal Order". In fact, the word "Hindu", itself was used by non-Indians to refer to people living around the Indus river. Indic populations would have referred to themselves as "Sanatan" or "Arya" (from which we get the term "Aryan".
The term "Atheism" (rendered in its modern form in 1530 as "atheonism", from the ancient Greek ἄθεος "without god[s]") was, in fact, first used by "Atheists" to refer to themselves as a neutral, philosophical; however, as Joshua identified, the term is also used by their detractors to compare their philosophical position to a blind ideology.
I also note that people have taken the philosophical position denoted by "atheism" for millennia, since, at least, pre-Greek (pre-employment of the term ἄθεος), heterodox traditions in ancient India. Along this line of thinking, we should remember that every other belief, tradition, attitude, or religion will apply the same sort of linguistic revision: for Christians, Adam and Eve were the first Christians; for Muslims, they were the first Muslims; and in the example listed above, modern atheists will happily identify members of the ancient Indian tradition of चार्वाक or "C(h)ārvāka" as "atheists", even though some of the contextual nuances of Cārvāka will be lost in translation. For that matter, many of our friends who have adopted the term "atheist" may misinterpret ancient Greek philosophers who were not using ἄθεος, which, at the time, would not have been explicitly used to refute the idea of "God" as we understand it (being framed in a Christian world).
In out effort to identify FRESH expressions from – what I mentioned Heidegger called – originally language, all -isms will necessarily be removed from the context of the language in which they first arose. They will ALWAYS be rooted in the the Modern European tradition of Ismism, the tradition of categorizing other peoples' cultural traditions from the "enlightened" perspective of "objective" academics. Therefor, referring to any wisdom tradition around the globe (whether it be the offensive "Mohammedanism" or the much more neutral "Buddhism"), will usually be seen, in one way or another, as being derogatory to practitioners of that religion, adherents to that tradition, or philosophers of that position.
So, like Josh mentions, my analysis can also – quite reasonably, and responsibly – be applied to the other -isms, especially if we're trying to analyze our misinterpretations using linguistic deconstruction. That being said, for the purposes of using Reddit as a forum to introduce others to our pleasure-based tradition, I still think it would be good practice to avoid using Epicureanism whenever possible, as a means of confronting the fact that the study of nature using our feelings, senses, and anticipations is far-removed from the idealism of every other tradition. In this case, I think we can argue without seeming derogatory to others, that our tradition is NOT an ideology, just like the enterprise of science is not an ideology; whereas Abrahamic, Dharmic, and Platonic traditions require a sense of faith that an eternal, identity exists that is separate from the world of physics, only accessible to us NOW as an idea contained within our minds.
Hiram has used this critique before, but I'll re-iterate, that a succinct way to condense the lengthy points I've explored is simply to say that "we reject ideology" (defined as "systems of the ideal"). In this case, if you'll excuse my continued isming, "Idealism" can be seen as the prototypical -ism amongst all other -isms.
So, why NOT "Epicureanism"?
The path to wisdom demands that we experience nature directly and NOT indirectly as an abstract system. In other words – to connect the last few paragraphs – we should NEVER reduce the immediacy of our experiences to a mere "-ism"; were we to make the mistake of -isming our individual experiences, and the anticipations that develop from that FRESH experience, we will have stunted our own development on the path to wisdom.
Furthermore, while we may all sincerely admire the person of Epicurus, and delight in the historical texts that resulted from the activity of his Garden, our path to wisdom – unlike every other -ismic school of thought – is neither dependent upon allegiance to a centralizing leader, nor upon a golden age of history, nor upon a doctrinal institution. Christianity could not have existed without Christ and his mythic Kingdom of Heaven. Platonism could not have existed without Plato and his mythic World of Forms. Stoicism could not have existed without the Stoics and their Cosmic Virtue. Were these figures never to have existed, no one would have ever truly experienced the fantasies of their mythic promises.
Our EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – the natural, undeniable pursuit of pleasure – is not dependent upon Epicurus to have ever existed, because, Nature, itself, is so much larger, more important, and more fundamental than his historical personage. Without the man we call "Epicurus", we still would have sensed the energetic environment of particles around us, felt the churning of feelings of pleasure and pain within us, and anticipated the consequences of our choices. Even if the "Epicur-" part of our philosophy were missing from our language, the philosophy, itself, would be the same. Vocabulary aside, the wise person would still engage the natural world, and pursue pleasure to its fullest.
"Epicureanism" (or, also, "Epicurism") carries a connotation – albeit very slightly – that our path to wisdom is just another -ism, comparable to other doctrinal institutions, that is useful ONLY as an abstract system, advertised to misguided masses who must accept unverifiable truths that have been promised by an unknowable super-person. It is not quite as purposeful to call ourselves "Epicureanists" who follow "Epicureanism" as it is to identify as "Epicureans" who pursue "Epicurean philosophy", the natural path to wisdom. The tools for our endeavor rest within our own, natural bodies; Nature, itself, is the greatest teacher, not "religion", or any other idealisms.
Now, all this being said, for practical purposes, there most certainly isn't anything inherently wrong about employing the term "Epicureanism". The "Epicurean-" part is still the same, and an "-ism" could just mean a "philosophy" which, in Modern English, correctly indicates our loving of wisdom, apart from any oath to a mythic principle. Nonetheless, I will personally choose to write "Epicurean philosophy" whenever possible, to keep my anticipations FRESH, to indicate to other, natural beings that our interactions are bigger than disembodied souls paddling ideas back and forth in a court of Mind, and to remind myself that our path to wisdom is not a map that has been given to us from an eternal place of perfection, but that we each carry a well-calibrated compass within ourselves that knows the world, and guides us to happiness.
(One more, quick, closing thought: no one on this planet deserves the title of "Epicurean" more than a happy dog, and – ironically – they will always be incapable of assigning that title, or receiving it).
On "Epicureanism" and "Epicurean Philosophy"
I've been researching ancient Greek etymology, and have thought a lot about this over the last few days (especially with the anticipation that I'll be collaborating with Charles and Hiram, and release the aforementioned meme on r/Epicurean_Philsophy, knowing that the 9,000+ members of the r/Epicureanism group on Reddit will have questions regarding the differences between our chosen vocabularies).
Herein, I conclude that "Epicureanism" is NOT an appropriate expression of our natural philosophy, and – especially rendered through modern English – "Epicureanism" is NOT an appropriate expression of Epicurus' observations.
Our Greek friends Harris Demitiadis and Elli have presented us with valuable insights into the origins of our terminology, thus, providing us with additional tools through which we can examine our discourse. Admittedly, I have NOT really grasped the key nuances of their points (which I now believe I have come to understand), so I took it upon myself to deconstruct our terminology with the intention of gaining a fresh perspective toward the natural world.
I'd like to start with an etymological investigation. I hope that this investigation provides insight to my fellow English-only-speakers (I, myself, am monolingual), and – please – Elli, if I misinterpret the language, re-direct my mistakes!
As Alex Rios once observed, our English suffix, "-ism" is – correctly, according to both common and academic usages in Modern English – employed to mean a distinctive "doctrine", "theory", "attitude", "belief", "practice", "process", "state", "condition", "religion", "system", or – as he has cited, with fair reason – "philosophy". According to this widespread definition, it is not unreasonable to suppose that adding a simple "-ism" at the end of "the philosophy of Epicurus" should, appropriately and accurately, render the word "Epicureanism", (or even "Epicurism").
In more succinct terms, we can visualize "Epicurean-ism" as "Epicurean-philosophy".
This works for practical purposes, and – as I'm sure you would agree – no one in this thread, or this forum, or this webpage will be mislead by my meaning if I replace "Epicurean-ism" as "Epicurean-philosophy", or vis a versa. HOWEVER, in doing so, I propose that we are missing out an an important teaching opportunity that has been lost in translation.
Our tradition of adding "-ism" to the end of words – in which we express distinctive "philosophies" – begins in the post-Classical period, corresponding to the Renaissance, the cultural "rebirth" of systems and ideas from the ancient world, translated through the Latin language, using the Roman alphabet, sheathing ancient Greek observations.
(I'm going to call this tradition – in which ALL English-speakers partake – the "Ism-ism", or, in other words, "the systemic practice of adding '-ism' to idea-expressing words". We are ALL, necessarily, Ismists in some respect.)
From the perspective of the contemporary world, the suffix "-ismus" was borrowed from the Old Latin language of the Romans, and appropriated by post-Classical (and Modern) peoples when using New Latin and Contemporary Latin. For centuries, our adherence to Ismism has been helped European thinkers minimize the losses that occur in translation. We find an abundance of "-ism" and "-ismus" in both Romance and Germanic language families, and – as with Latin – they express the meaning of distinctive "doctrines", "theories", "attitudes", "beliefs", and "philosophies".
Here, however, is where we note a difference that our Mediterranean friends have often observed: while the Greek language, like Celtic, and Indic languages, has evolved from a common Indo-European root, these languages have NOT adopted Latin conventions the same way that have Romance and Germanic languages. In the unique case of the Greeks, Latin was – as I'm sure is more than obvious to us all – heavily influenced by the parent of ancient Greek.
-ῐ́ζω | -izō | -ize
According to my research, we receive the Latin "-ismus" from the ancient Greek "-ισμός" ("-ismós"), which, itself, is a bracketing of two other ancient Greek words, those words being "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") and "-μός" ("-mós"). We'll start with the former word, first. The suffix "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") was added to nouns to form new verbs. Let's look at (x3) examples:
1. κανονίζω – kanṓnízō – canonize
κανων (kanṓn) – literally referred to a “reed”, and connotatively implied a “measuring rod” or “standard”.
+ "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "κανονίζω" or "canonize", meaning "to make standard".
2. ἑλληνίζω - Héllēnízō - Hellenize
Ἕλλην (Héllēn) – literally referred to that which is “Greek”.
+ "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "ἑλληνίζω" or "Hellenize", meaning "to make Greek".
3. συγχρονίζω - súnkhronosízō - synchronize
σύγχρονος (súnkhronos) - literally referred to “synchronous”
+ "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō" or "-ize") renders "συγχρονίζω" or "synchronize", meaning "to make synchronous".
The key point with "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") – and our Modern English suffix "-ize" – is that we can turn any word into a verb, or, in more philosophically interesting terms, we can ACTIVATE it.
-μός | -mós
The second suffix from which the ancient Greek "-ισμός" ("-ismós") was bracketed is "-μός" ("-mós"). Contrary to the convention of ACTIVATING a word that represents a concept, adding ("-mós") ABSTRACTS an action. We can demonstrate this convention through (x3) more examples that translate well into Modern English:
1.σαρκασμός - sarkasmós - sarcasm
σαρκάζω (sarkázō) – literally, and figuratively meant "tearing apart" or "to tear off the flesh”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") renders "σαρκασμός" or "sarcasm", meaning "(figuratively) tearing apart".
2. συλλογισμός - sullogismós - syllogism
συλλογίζομαι (sullogízomai) – literally meant "to compute" or "to infer”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") renders "συλλογισμός" or "syllogism", meaning a "computation" or an "inference".
3. κατακλυσμός - kataklusmós - cataclysm
κατακλύζω (kataklúzō) – literally meant "to wash away”.
+ "-μός" ("-mós") renders "κατακλυσμός" or "cataclysm", meaning a "great flood".
The key point with "-μός" ("-mós") is that the ancient Greeks could turn any active verb into a word that expressed an abstract concept, or, in other words, it could systematize phenomenal activity into an idea.
-ισμός | -ismós | -ism
As I have come to understand it, the re-bracketing of the suffix "-μός" ("-mós"), appended with "-ῐ́ζω" ("-ízō") presents us with "-ισμός" ("-ismós") or "-ism", a convention which systematizes a verb that has been activated from a noun. I was only able to identify five instances of this in ancient Greek, only (x1) of which provides a suitable example:
σαββᾰτῐ́ζω - sabbatízō - meaning “to make, observe, or keep the Sabbath”
σαββατισμός - sabbatismós - meaning “the making, observing, or keeping of the Sabbath”
As I mentioned before, unlike the "-ismus" of Latin, and the "-ism" of Modern English, the ancient Greek "-ismos" is almost NEVER used. The ancient Greeks – whose tremendous influence on our own intellectual conventions cannot be overstated – do not seem to have shared our tradition of Ismism.
Here, I'll employ a phrase I first read in a translation of Heidegger's Being and Time: that phrase is originary language. Based on my above research, it seems to me that the ancient Greeks – when faced with the need to express a NEW word with FRESH meaning – built the words that would fill their minds and guide their anticipations from either (1) the names of people and objects they observed, or (2) active forces they experienced, but NOT (3) abstract systems.
December 25, 2018, Elli Pensa: "...IMO it's not right to use for Epicurean Philosophy the term 'Epicurean-ism'. If we use this term that means also that we realize the Epicurean Philosophy as a closed system of an ideology that has a leader and followers. Since Epicurean Philosophy has for its first principles the uniqueness of the person, and not the masses...thus, there is the conclusion that there is no any need to proselytize the masses. Here Epicurus is clear: He says that he does not compromise with the common opinions, for reaping the frequent praise of the many."
Hiram elaborates upon the question posed to Elli: "...you should remember that ego-ism is, after all, an ISM and like all idealisms it's ineffective to understand Epicurean philosophy. 'Ethical Egoism' also implies that to be ethical must exclude all altruism, and vice versa. These 'isms' are not good at explaining the nature of things because my advantage may not be mutually exclusive from the advantage of others, and my faculties are very good at discerning this. Pleasure, you have to understand, is a FACULTY, not an abstraction, or an ism. If I have one beer I may experience it as pleasant, but if I have another one and a third one my FACULTY of pleasure may inform me that it's no longer pleasant. It's the same object of sensation: a beer. But it's experienced differently. And so you must train yourself to philosophize with your feet on the ground and using your faculties."
May 16, 2019, Cassius Amicus: "Epicurean philosophy is not just another 'ism' to read some ice-cold commentary and then put back on the shelf."
May 29, 2019, Elli Pensa: "...Democracy that is a constitution which declares: 'all we have one unique life and the right to live in happiness and pleasure in this world and not in somewhere else'. | Democracy can’t be blossomed in tyranny and oligarchy by the few that press the many. But the many i.e. the mob are responsible for being pressed by the few, because due to their spiritual and bodily lethargy, and anesthesia, and due to cowardice, and due to suspicion, and due to fears, and due to misery, and due to all these that provoke great pain in the ass they go behind as blind followers, and as a donkey for a carrot, for finding saviors or spiritual food of movements/ideologies like 'Global-ism','Human-ism', 'Existensia-lism', 'Capital-ism', 'Newliberal-ism', 'Commun-ism', 'Social-ism', 'Christian-ism', 'Islam-ism', 'Juda-ism', 'Buddh-ism', 'Stoic-ism' etc etc. And all of them what they need ? MONEY, FOLLOWERS, and POWER. Ideologies, false philosophies, and religions all have one common thing for being recognizable in a minute: the suffix -ism, and are eggs of the same snake. Beware of the snake that born its eggs all over the world, without end."
June 2, 2019, Alex Rios offers a counter-point: "The intolerance of 'Epicureanism' by Epicureans. | Some folks here insist that other folks say 'Epicurean Philosophy' instead of saying 'Epicureanism'. They say that '-isms' are closed systems, that '-isms' are ideologies. The dictionary does not seem to agree with them about the meaning of '-ism'. So why the intolerance? The whole world says Epicureanism, but the folks here should not? Meanwhile the dictionary has as a synonym for 'philosophy' the word 'ideology', so a philosophy is an ideology."
In response, Domagoj Vaci replies: "An -ism (ideology) implies something 'problematic', pernicious like a virus, a social disease, propaganda and so on, while not labeling something an ideology implies something benign, obviously beneficial and thus nothing to be concerned about. However the French structuralist Louis Althusser argued in 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses' that captives of ideology are never able to recognize their own ideological convictions as ideological. The dominant ideology is as invisible to believers as the air they breathe: 'what thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology ... ideology never says, 'I am ideological'".
October 11, 2016, Cassius Amicus: "...it is much less likely that we will fall prey to skepticism, stoicism, religion, and the other 'isms' which call us away from reality and how to live in it."
March 6, 2017, Elli Pensa: "But from what does the ideology qualifies? According to Theodosis Pelegrini’s dictionary of the philosophy in the corresponding entry with the word 'ideology' generally meant a set of ideas, concepts and positions, operating as a single system, which is displayed as the true picture of the reality. Those who adopt it are required to think and regulate their lives in accordance with it. All 'ISMS' are basically ideologies and are inherently dogmatic and metaphysical i.e, they are based on unproven mental schemata (patterns of thought) which perceive as a reality relegating the material reality at the level of a caricature of these mental schemata. | The ideologies are necessarily causal and teleological. This means that they admit a purpose which necessarily tends the universe, and by extension the society and the human . The purpose has been placed by a Creator or a dire necessity in the sequence of events. As owners of the absolute truth the ideologues do not tolerate and do not discuss the opinion of the others in the sense that if someone is not with us is against us . This is the logic of the black and white of good and evil that flows from the principle of the excluded third of Aristotle. So it is common that the ideologues are using in their confrontations the 'wooden' and negative language to sloganeering and give at their opponents characterizations and 'signs' that have nothing to do with reality, leading of the demonization of them. | So the frequent outcome of the ideologies and the religions which are also ideologies, is the obsession and the fanaticism, leading to the blind passion and hatred against any claims and opinions different from their own beliefs. | The ideologue simply believes in his chimeras without seeking evidence and documentation for the object of his faith. The result of this attitude of ideologues and their inability to submit events to the suffering of sober calculation and judgment, based on the reality data that are available. They are the same people who become easy victims of propaganda or interests that the ideologies exploit to gain social and political power promoting their selfish purposes. | At the level of politics, the ideologues discounted each real problem of society as an ideological resulting sterile and endless debates with their opponents, so eventually the real problem to drag on, to be forgotten and remain unresolved. (Eg the immigration issue) | Another principle by Aristotle which is also in the background of Modern politics and not just a perception, is the Golden mean or the middle way that someone should choose to resolve issues and avoid extreme judgments. This translated into politics issues, as the tendency to round the things and issues in order to gain common acceptance. Or taking vague positions on the key issues, and requiring groundbreaking solutions. The proposed solutions, usually foggy and long fruitless, to leave ostensibly at least, just to be all the people satisfied. Always follow the consensus and not to go into ruptures. Always take into account in decision making so-called political cost. Ultimately they're doing nothing! Other expressions deriving from the Golden Rule is the non-existent average person, the apolitical middle ground and so on. The decision by that politician Metaxas to dismiss the Italian ultimatum and put Greece in the throes of war was an extreme decision. But how many Greeks would argue that it was a correct decision? But it is true that it would be grossly unjust if Aristotle ascribed to him the apotheosis of mediocrity that characterizes Modern society! | And the Epicurean philosophy? This is not an ideology. There is not Epicurean-ISM. Because this philosophy is neither inspired the Modern politics but often defamed when was not ignored by the spiritual leadership. Never in the Constitution of Greece has provided as the purpose the Well-Being citizens, as it has provided in the US Constitution. It is true that the Epicurean philosophy has been characterized dogmatic because it rejects a priori divine intervention in Nature, divine providence and the immortality of the soul. But this conclusion leads after thorough research and observation of Nature. Certainly the Epicurean position is less dogmatic than the position of Plato and the idealists through the centuries of the purely mental constructs and have supported their whole philosophical edifice on unsubstantiated beliefs."
January 18, 2018, Elli Pensa: "...Firstly I would like to start from the usage of the words and their concepts. It is right to be called as 'Epicurean Philosophy', and not as 'Epicureanism'. Since, it is a philosophy that examines all the issues that have to do with the reality of our life in the basis of the Study of Nature, and not an ideological system with the suffix -ism that examines abstract things with abstract goals. As for the word 'meditation' the first word that comes to my mind is the epilogue in the Epicurus' letter to Menoeceus that says: 'Meditate therefore on these things and things akin to them night and day by yourself; and with a companion like to yourself, and never shall you be disturbed waking or asleep, but you shall live like a god among men. For a man who lives among immortal blessings is not like unto a mortal being'. So, you have to start your reading from the letter to Menoeceus, that is his Ethics, as in the same time you connect the Ethics, with his Physics and his Canon. Thanks :)"
Elli later elaborates, when challenged by a newer group member: "Epicurean-ISM ?? What is this ?? In my Greek language, I do not use this term for Epicurean Philosophy. Please, do not grasp this genuine Philosophy and making it as a closed system of an ideology. Epicurean philosophy is a cosmotheasis and a way of life in accordance to the whole Nature. It does not deserve to call as Epicurean-ism. Thanks."
October 14, 2018, Elli Pensa: "I warned you, with my epicurean honesty: Run fast away and keep out from any word that has the suffix -ism. Since, it's a system, it's an obsession, and it's a dark jail!"
November 2018, Elli Pensa: "Well, as we both use the same methodology of thinking and acting, i.e. the Canon, for examining any issue like the 'commercialism or consumerism' we do not condemn it or approving by saying that is good or not good, bad or not bad, right or not right. We examine the phenomena and the causes that caused them, in accordance with our experiences and their consequences. As we start our thoughts from the same beginning we say that the 'commercialism or consumerism' is a system that is already based on ideologies of -isms i.e. ideologies ready made for the MASSES. And any -ism, for us the epicureans, constrains our thoughts for making right conclusions in accordance with the reality. | So, if we want to examine the issues in accordance with Nature and our philosophy, we will realize that the consequences and the results of the commercialism/consumerism, as a choice in life, it becomes from such kind of persons that their thoughts and actions are already based on false philosophies and false religions that condemn the pleasure as the real goal, as they condemn the feelings / emotions of human beings. Since they want obedient and blind persons living in apathy, doing their duty, for buying any illusion without any second thought. And they buy any illusion preferring the fantastic, because they can't bear the reality, as it is."
Regarding "-isms", we're produced great dialogue through the Facebook forum about the preference for "Epicurean Philosophy" to "Epicureanism"; and while it's a smaller, linguistic note, I think the points that have been brought up serve as a useful teaching tool to highlight the importance of understanding Greek etymology. I went through the last five years of posts by searching our Facebook page, and picked out the most relevant observations (I'm also putting this here as a placeholder, because I just organized it, and would like to return to this at a later time):
July 20, 2014, Harris Demitiadis: "On the issue at hand I would prefer the term 'epicurean philosophy' to 'epicureanism' for the following reasons: The suffix -ism is of English origin and –'ισμος' is its translation into contemporary Greek. The suffix – ισμός – had no similar uses in ancient Greece, so when it is used today our mind - of the Greek speaking people - goes straight to a contemporary international idea translated into Greek. But here our purpose is to denote the opposite. Similarly, while the contemporary word, e.g. 'commun - ism', «κομμουν - ισμός», sounds familiar for both English and Greek speaking people, the word 'epicureanism', which refers to the ancient past, sounds meaningful to the English speaking people, but misleading and awkward to the Greek speaking ones. So, my opinion and my wish is to stay with the two word term 'epicurean philosophy'."
Elli Pensa replies to this post that "'The big difference at the spiritual attitude of the Greeks and the Romans'. This difference is indicating at the type of the linguistic fossils of the two cultures that survived in the modern world. The Global Greek words like music, philosophy, theater, geometry, mathematics, physics, astronomy, political, architecture, demos-democracy, words that they declare a youth's shininess and a weight of quality towards to the conditions that the Latin language has saved. Under the conventional shape of : “ismus” the rescue to the terms of the Latin language expresses: the team, the indiscriminate, the unexceptional. But the enviable uniqueness is missing. Eg rationalism (ratio), potentialism (potentia), Imperialism (imperium), socialism (socius), Pacifism (pax), militarism (miles), Realism (res), pessimism (malus), optimism (bonus) etc [...] According to the above excerpt of Dimitris Liantinis, when we say epicurean-ism we are missing this 'enviable uniqueness of the person'. And the epicurean philosophy, first of all, is referring to that uniqueness of the PERSON and not to the impersonal of the MASSES. Thus, for our proper thinking if we use epicureanism and not epicurean philosophy in our terminology and in our reference... our view for the Epicurean Philosophy collapses...and collapses (to use one of his own Liantini's words) συγκορμοδεντρόριζη “syngormodentrorizi”(=tree trunk with its roots). Thank you "
April 2, 2015, Elli Pensa: "Epicureanism or Epicurean Philosophy? | The Epicurean philosophy does not deal with political ideas or religions. First principle for the epicurean philosophy is the uniqueness of the person and not the masses. Because ALL these theories, as it has been proved for a million of times, are consisting of deterministic ideologies which are ending with the suffix '-ISM', are all addressed to the mob, and are in accordance to a dire necessity of a final purpose, which is opposite of the Nature of all things. | Thus, the Epicurean philosophy and an epicurean person - that studies the Nature of all things - does not deal with failed ideas of fake solutions to the problems of his life. | HIS ONE AND UNIQUE LIFE. | However, the Epicurean philosophy and an epicurean person has the ability to examine all the phenomena in Nature, in accordance with his philosophical background, whatever has to do with human’s life and his nature. As well as he has the power to do it through the CANON, just to separate and clarify the myth from reality. The Canon is his huge tool and his method to understand who is lying and who is saying the truth. The Epicurean philosophy provides solutions in human life, when trusted friends will be next to each another just to give help and solutions to any difficult situation in their life. | BECAUSE: | <<The wise man holds that friendship is first brought about due to practical need, just as we sow the earth for crops, but it is formed and maintained by means of a community of life among those who find mutual pleasure in it.>> | So simple, so human and so clear is this practical and wise solution of epicurean philosophy and it is not only a political abstract idea of a solution, BUT A REVOLUTION! | Unfortunately, an ideologically confused and non wise person cannot stand and accept this solution. Because an ideologically confused person cannot trust anyone, he cannot stand to take the responsibility of himself; he cannot stand the reality, because he lives a life full of fears. | And due to the fact of these fears, he is closed in his jail, like a corral of sheep. The ideologies are his grass to rehashing as a ruminant. In this way he acts, and he is a follower to any political ideological party to recognize a savior leader who this leader wants all the pleasure for himself. This leader, as it has been proved for a million of times, he would speak to him about a 'necessity', about a 'duty', about a 'virtue' and about a 'foggy dream' opposed of the reality. And finally, the end of the story would be that he’ll led him to a war to kill himself and the opposite enemies. | But...the wise man gather together a school, but never so as to become a leader of crowds (or to be led by other leaders). | Thus, and in conclusion, the epicurean person would never be a follower to any ideological political party because HE DOES NOT ACCEPT that the things and the matters in our life are DETERMINED or EXPLAINED from any absolute truth of a leader or a god. Since the epicurean person CAN examine, check and explain all the matters for himself and by himself. So, he would never be a follower to any political ideology or theories in general, because he doesn’t want to be closed in a jail and injure himself. | Because: <<injuries are done among men either because of hatred, envy, or contempt, all which the wise man overcomes by reason>>. | So simple are the things, I suppose."
One of my first posts on r/Epicurean_Philosophy may be the 'Disapproving Drake' meme I made that disapproves of the term 'Epicureanism', and approves of 'Epicurean Philosophy'. [
It would be an opportunity to discuss the etymological origin of '-isms' as elli has often elaborated, and explain why the '-isms' require a kind of cultish following that approves of a kind of faith-based dogma, whether that be supernatural religion or virtue ethics.
That's an excellent idea, @Charles! Thank you – I was thinking of doing the same thing, but I'm questioning how effective Reddit is, as a whole, in promoting genuine Epicurean discussion. I'm sure, however, that you can guide the forum in a proper direction, and I'd be happy to support you in doing so.
Yeah, they deleted my "Brace Yourself" meme to avoid stirring controversy among Christians.
Apparently ... r/Epicureanism gets a lot of traffic from argumentative Christians?
Hiram and I have discussed some of the inappropriate decisions moderators have made in the past, so this was the last straw for me. It's not a very engaged community, and it attracts a lot of attention from non-Epicureans who have no interest in studying Epicurean philosophy.
And like that, I'm done with Reddit.
I've otherwise enjoyed working with the community, but I found the moderation to be severely disenchanting.
Given reason for deleting my meme:
“Yes, sorry thought I’d left my reasoning. I’m generally okay with memes but this one seemed a little low effort and had the potential to spark some unfriendly arguments. Hope you understand and aren’t too put out. Hope all’s well.”
“This is highly disappointing.
Honestly, I do not understand, and this convinces me that I have no business with this group.
I’d encourage you to create an account and participate in [https://www.epicureanfriends.com]. There, you’ll find a safe community of friends who are not concerned with offending the delicate sensibilities of spiritualists who participate in supernatural religion; nor will you find any apologists for supernatural religion.
You can find a complete collection of my ‘low effort’ memes there, as well.”
That's really fascinating! The opinions of laity really differ from the opinions of learned clergy, like Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, and even Evangelic preachers. A lot of Christians have absolutely no interest in exploring the history of the tradition to which they claim obsessive allegiance, and it shows when they not only lack knowledge of other religious traditions, but utterly misinterpret their own theology. For example, recently, I learned that the idea of an "immortal soul" isn't compatible with classical Christian theology – that's a misinterpretation of contemporary Christians who view their tradition through the lens of pop culture, filtered further by Greek and Latin renderings of Hebrew and Aramaic literature.
To flesh out that statement, the word "soul", as used throughout the Bible (especially the Old Testament), is never connected with the concept of a life force disconnected from the human body. That idea seems to come from Plato's concept of the intellect, and perhaps, shaped by Gnostic literature from the first few centuries which utterly rejected the reality of material forms. Within the literature, the "soul" called Adam did not exist until God injected part of his Spirit into dust, and formed the first human. While "immortality" is used extensively with regards to the Christian afterlife, it indicates a resurrection of the human form, including the personality, and physical traits the individual developed throughout life, not just a glowing ball of spirit that floats out of the body for judgement after the body dies.
Another fun tidbit I came across has to do with the popular interpretation of the character called Lucifer. He doesn't exist – I mean, not just to people like us, but within the context of the Bible, itself. "Lucifer" was only ever employed to refer to planet Venus. Church Fathers who wrote several hundred years after the Biblical canon, began to poetically connect the concept of Satan (represented as an adversarial dragon, thrown from Heaven) with the unique movements of Venus during morning hours. Even so, the notion of Lucifer as an angel thrown from Heaven for disobeying God is simply not an idea theologians believed. It was a medieval metaphor that took on a life of its own in contemporary pop culture.
... but walk into any Church and ask any random person "who is Lucifer?" and "what is the soul?", and they'll provide explanations and definitions that are completely incompatible with the theology to which most Christian clergymen subscribe. Their conception of Lucifer is most likely informed by popular media they've seen; their conception of the Soul comes also categorically from Plato's conception of the Intellect, a conception that Catholic priests (specifically) reject, because of the Church's need to distance itself from the impurities of the "pagan" philosophies of ancient Greece.
We also see this in the "miracle" of the resurrection – what is significant about this event is that Jesus' physical form was supposed to have been literally raised from the dead, not just a disembodied soul that is separate from the body. Furthermore, one of the classical ideas of early theology supposed that Hell is not the negative to Heaven's positive, in which Satan rules as King, versus God's Kingship over Heaven. Rather, Hell is the historical default state of not-having-an-afterlife (like a kind of nothingness), not a place of torture and punishment as depicted in contemporary media; but if you ask most Christian laity, they believe Hell is like the unbearably hot inside of a volcano, full of meddlesome demons (where'd they even come from?), which would suggest a negative afterlife, and not simply no-afterlife.
All that being said, there are hundreds of Christian denominations, billions of Christians, and thousands of clergymen, so opinions differ. Nonetheless, the aforementioned descriptions are closer to classical Christian theology, whereas the opinions of most contemporary Christian laypeople is closer to something you'd see in The Exorcist, the Passion of the Christ, and the Supernatural series on TV (which my wife and I have been watching).
Since The Economist requires a subscription, you can't click on then link to access it. However, if you do a Google search for the title of the article in a private tab, the text will load long enough to copy/paste it all.
"In Catherine Wilson’s manual on 'the ancient art of living well', her guide is the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who advocated a calm life of modest pleasure. By explaining how the world was, he thought philosophy could show people how to live. Ms Wilson, an Epicurus specialist, agrees. Her intelligent and readable book lies, she says, somewhere between technical philosophy and “advice columns”.
To latter-day secularists, Epicurus’s formula for a happy life has obvious appeal. Step one was to see the world for what it was. Everything was made of matter, including mind and spirit. The only life was this one. The gods took no interest in humans and were neither vindictive nor demanding. Life’s aim was happiness, understood as tranquil pleasure and freedom from pain. The pain that most concerned Epicurus was 'mental terror': anxieties rooted in false beliefs about 'the nature of things' (the title of the grand philosophical poem by his Roman follower, Lucretius). Step two was applying such knowledge to human existence. That meant not expecting too much, finding simple satisfactions and not agonising about mortality.
Epicurus opened his school, the Garden, outside Athens early in the 3rd century bce. Followers, it was said, included women and slaves. None of his 300 or more works survive; his thoughts came down through Lucretius and, later, biographers.
Christian thinkers considered him an atheist and amoralist. In Jewish tradition, 'apikoiros' meant a heretic. Dante put Epicureans in hell for denying the soul’s immortality. In popular lore, Epicurus was patron to gluttons, publicans and brothelkeepers. The 'sensualist' slur stuck. Later 'epicure' came to mean an aesthete or foodie. Epicurus’s scientific speculations—on atomism and natural selection—sound uncannily modern but rested on brilliant inference, not experiment. Read today, the detail sounds barmy.
The life-advice, by contrast, sounds like common sense for people thrown onto their own ethical resources without traditional guidance, as is widespread now. Epicureanism spread as the Greek city-state fell into decline, empires emerged and social authority grew distant and impersonal. Although Ms Wilson does not stress it, the parallel with the current disoriented mood is striking.
In her book’s first part, she sketches Epicurus’s proto-democratic world-view. The senses, which are the source of knowledge, are common to all and reliable. Each knows what pleases or pains them. As people know their own minds, they cannot easily be bossed about by presumed betters.
'Living well and living justly', part two, builds on the Epicurean picture of morality as useful rules for reducing harm. Be canny about your pleasures. Don’t stress over worldly success. Be good to friends. Enjoy sex but beware its risks. Don’t expect too much of parenthood. Above all, stop worrying about death. As Dryden put it, when translating Lucretius:
'What has this bugbear death to frighten man,
If souls can die as well as bodies can?…
From sense of grief and pain we shall be free
We shall not feel because we shall not be.'
In her last two parts, Ms Wilson probes the philosophical underpinnings. A handy, schematic table contrasts Epicureans and Stoics. Ms Wilson notes Epicurean contempt for religious superstition, self-serving clergy and faith-based warfare, but sees common ground with believers in the shared conviction that 'morality matters'.
She notes and answers doubts that have dogged Epicureanism, but urges readers to make up their own mind. Is death truly no harm? After all, it cuts short plans, projects and responsibilities which give lives purpose. For his part, Stoic Cicero complained that Epicurus wanted happiness to be both virtuous and pleasant. Yet being fair, firm or a good friend—to take three common-or-garden virtues—need not be pleasant and may be taxing. Can everything today’s liberal-minded Epicureans tend to approve of—human rights, abortion, social justice—really be reconciled with the idea that pleasure is all?
Floating over Epicureanism, for all its appeal, is a sense of loneliness. Family life is inessential. Friends are merely instrumental. Everything comes back to “How is this for me?” Perhaps not philosophy but an over-defensive temperament is at work. Could it be that in arming themselves so well against life’s anxieties, Epicureans overlook its riches?"
This reminds me of the Romulus and Remus Hypothesis which suggests that recursive language was created by two or more children who carried a genetic mutation that gave them the opportunity to develop their prefrontal cortex about seventy-thousand years ago. They note that complex structures, symbolic paintings, ceremonial artifacts, and the beginning of religion only appear after this period. They conclude that the distinguishing feature of a modern human is an active imagination. [https://www.news-medical.net/n…of-human-imagination.aspx]
In general, it was much more faux pas for ancient Greeks to claim hedonism than atheism, which was a fairly acceptable theological position to take (and Epicureans were very comfortable claiming hedonism). It is not likely that they were trying to avoid charges of impiety, especially when Epicurus expressed that he "never yearned to please the masses since what pleased them was not understood by me, and what I knew was remote from their comprehension".
It's reasonable to suppose – in an infinite universe – that beings who enjoy perfect, constant pleasure (or, in other words, beings who enjoy atomic blessedness) can exist. If it were not the case, and such a being could not exist, then it might be foolish for us to pursue pleasure in the first place, because it would be fundamentally limited.
It's just weird for us to think about a "God" that (1) is not responsible for creation or creative acts, (2) does not set a moral standard for the cosmos, (3) does not care about humanity, (4) does not judge, reward, or punish us, and (5) a "God" that cannot perform supernatural acts. Monotheism has really ruined some rather interesting definitions and conceptions of "God" and "the gods", because we default to thinking about theology only within the context of monotheism.
Part of nature is knowing our limitations. Epicurus wasn't omnipotent, and such a concept is abominable to us. Recognition of humbleness, of curiosity, of our continued commitment to explore, to learn, to grow, and prosper is as natural as anything. We're not here to provide an answer to the ultimate questions of speculative metaphysics. We're here to learn, and that means challenging ourselves, revising our mistakes, and persisting in our search, even when the inevitable acknowledgment of our smallness and ignorance leads us to despair. As Merlin says in "The Once and Future King":
"'The best thing for being sad,' replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, 'is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.'"
Our pursuit is pleasure – raw, unadulterated, invaluable pleasure. I say: leave the exactitude of "infinity" to the mathematicians. While they juggle with abstractions, we tan in the sun, and sip a cool drink with a friend.
I'd say it's about the willingness they show to learn new things, and the enthusiasm they demonstrate through a conversation. If they've already decided what Epicurean philosophy is, and who we are, and they are unwilling to learn about the principle doctrines, then we'll have better luck communicating with our beloved pets.
If they are unwilling, I think an appropriate response is to share Principle Doctrine 39, which demonstrates that Epicureans have no desire to instigate a fight for the sake of winning a fight. Unlike many religious traditions, our understanding is independent of the faiths of idealists. Nature is the greatest teacher, and God is an absent teacher.
Another helpful point for detractors and antagonists to learn is that Epicurean physics functionally explains the world for all perspectives. You don't have to believe in Epicurean philosophy for physics to be universally applicable. Rejecting gravity doesn't nullify it; but God doesn't work unless you join his fan club. Atomism works, no matter who you are.
The same can be said of our ethics. God doesn't tell you to go to the bathroom, your bowels do. God doesn't tell you to eat, your stomach does. The Bible doesn't tell you when to sleep, your body does. No idealists out there claim to rely on Divine Reminders to satisfy their natural needs and cravings. Unilateral faith does not change one's needs.