Posts by Godfrey

    Stenger, in God and the Atom, chapter 2 "Atoms Lost and Found", gives a very brief account of atomism through the Dark Ages.

    He mentions St. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century as being aware of and condemning atomism. Then: "While the Church did its best to suppress the writings of the Epicureans, medieval scholars of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam showed sufficient interest that knowledge of the philosophy and physics of atomism survived in their writings."

    He gives the names Adelard of Bath (1075–1150), Thierry of Chartres (ca. 1100–ca. 1150), and William of Conches (ca. 1090–1154) as thinkers interested in atomism. Also William of Ockham (ca. 1288–1348) and Nicholas of Autrecourt (ca. 1299–1369).

    The Karaites were a Jewish sect of atomists who were condemned by Maimonides (1135–1204). Maimonides also mentions Epicurus dismissively: "As for those who do not recognize the existence of God, but who believed that things are born and perish through aggregation and separation, according to chance, and that there is no being that rules and organizes the universe—I refer here to Epicurus, his sect and the likes of him, as told by Alexander—it serves no purpose for us to speak about those sects; since God's existence has been established, and it would be useless to mention the opinions of individuals whose consciousness constructed their system on a basis that has already been overthrown by proofs."

    Additionally, some Islamic scholars pursued atomism. For the most part any acceptance of atomism was accomplished by overlaying (or perverting) it with monotheism; it seems this was where things stood when Poggio came across DRN.

    This is a summary of a summary. Stenger summarizes other sources and provides footnotes which look like they'd be quite useful for anyone pursuing this topic in detail.


    It's not something like this philosopher said this, or this is said elsewhere in a particular passage of the text of this and that scholar or thinker with a particular quote of a context of this and that... That is not philosophy. That is Philology which is a study of what has been said of something.

    For better or for worse, there is a necessary philological component to this particular philosophy. In modern philosophy the complete original works of various philosophers can be read. Only a small fraction of Epicurus' original works survive. Much of what we have to work with are secondary sources and fragments, so it's important to understand the context of this and that in order to properly address the abstractions.

    Note: this may serve as an example of what can happen when fragments of the ancient scrolls are cited and the context isn't clear. What may be intended as humor instead becomes a redefinition or repudiation.


    But when we say that pleasure is good, that must depend upon the signification we give to the word good. If by good we mean only pleasant, then it is indisputable, but if by good we mean morally right, just, or reasonable, or in a physical sense, conducive to health, nothing can be more clearly false.

    I've not read the entire dialogue, so I'm speaking out of context. With that in mind, this quote does sound very Platonic, also maybe utilitarian. The response that comes to mind is to read PDs 5, 8, 10, 17, 20, 22, 25, 26, 29 and 30 regarding pleasure and 31-39 regarding justice/morality. The statement that pleasure is not conducive to physical health contradicts the very basis of pleasure! :/

    The ending does point in a different direction though :D

    Google Podcasts is a free Android app that is downloaded from the Google Play Store. It used to be part of Google Play Music, but some time ago it was split off on its own. That's what I use to listen to podcasts on my phone and I've been happy with it. In the Play Store it says it's been downloaded 5,000,000 times and is rated 4.6 out of 5, so it seems pretty popular.

    Looking forward to Episode 2!

    Loved it! Great discussion, and the amount of text covered was just right in that I was able to review the material in several translations afterwards.

    Lots of great insights. One comment I enjoyed was the idea that Lucretius had experience with people giving short shrift to the philosophy: a personal touch that I never would have picked up on.

    Kudos for all the hard work :thumbsup:

    Regarding Stenger: I've begun reading God and the Atom. He's a great source as he is coming from the Epicurean perspective. His book presents science as a 2500 year chain of theorizing, finding evidence, theorizing further, finding more evidence, etc. What this means to us laymen is that when we read a news story on the most current theory, we lack most of the building blocks leading up to it.

    Which points to the difficulty of simplifying Stenger: how can you simplify this 2500 year chain?

    Here's a companion piece to the article that Elayne linked to, this one dealing with the Big Bang:…-the-origin-of-all-things

    The author diagrams several types of "creation" scenarios, finally pointing out that knowledge of how things began is probably beyond our grasp. Although he says this shouldn't stop us from trying. Of course, I might add, only so long as it brings us pleasure!

    When you are sick Godfrey are you actually completely oblivious to how bad you feel when you read?

    Excellent question!

    I just tried an experiment: I went outside and stood in the sun and watched my perceptions. I experienced the sensation of the sun's heat and the sensation of my sore throat simultaneously. In terms of the feelings of pleasure or pain, I experienced pleasure from the sun's heat, but only the sensation of the sore throat.

    Another experiment: I've got a very stiff neck, which is more painful than my sore throat. I looked at a picture that brings me pleasure, then while continuing to look at the picture I turned my body into a very uncomfortable position for my neck. I still felt pleasure from looking at the picture, while I felt the sensation of a stiff neck. Continuing to move, I felt pain in my neck and just the sensation of the picture, without the pleasure.

    Regarding reading, when I'm totally focused on reading I don't notice any pain, but often I'm in kind of a spacey midway point where I'm experiencing neither pleasure or pain.

    What this suggests to me is that there's a subtle difference (which I can't put my finger on now in my spacey midway point) between sensations and feelings. Pleasure and pain are a response to sensations (and to anticipations and to thought) and it's possible to experience a sensation without experiencing noticeable pleasure or pain. If sensations are relatively mild, then feelings are only noticeable by the attention that we give to them. This can be misconstrued as a "neutral state".

    Unfortunately I'm in a NyQuil haze so I'm not sure if I'm making any sense ;)

    This brings to mind studies on multi-tasking. I've not read the studies, but summaries I've seen in articles from time to time generally state that we can only focus on one task at a time. Therefore "multi-tasking" is actually rapidly shifting attention back and forth from one task to another.

    Similarly, a perception would include only pleasure or pain but as one's perceptions shift, so does one's experience of pleasure or pain. For instance, right now I've got the flu and generally feel pain. If I get engrossed in a good book I feel pleasure even though the pain of sickness is still there, I'm just not perceiving it.

    Which brings also to mind the much more extreme example of Epicurus on his deathbed, where he was enjoying pleasurable memories even while dying a painful death.


    My intuition about indivisibility is that without it, it might be easier to propose a "god of the gaps"-- a supernatural force whose effects are hiding out in the unmapped territory.

    Elayne, I've never heard the phrase "god of the gaps", but that's exactly why I'm interested in this topic. Many of the terms thrown around from modern physics can lead the uninformed layman such as myself to consider such an idea. To address that I'm attempting to get more informed, and from what I gather Stenger's book takes that on pretty directly. We'll see!

    Jumping from the 20 tenets thread....

    Cassius, I was curious about Victor Stenger from reading the SofE post that I indirectly linked to in the tenets thread. From browsing on Amazon, his book God and the Atom looks to be exactly what I'm looking for: a discussion of particle theory from an Epicurean perspective. I think I'll start with that book and see where it leads me.