Good clarifications, thanks both of you.
Michael Level 03
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I've seen some criticisms of what are taken to be the main Epicurean arguments for the view that death isn't harmful (though non-Epicureans use them now too). First there is the argument since that one is gone at death, they can't be harmed. The criticism here is that we can be harmed by things we're not aware of (an example is malicious things said behind your back which you don't learn about). Second is the view that, just as we did not exist prior to our birth, the state past death will be the same. Pre-existence held no harm, so this should be the same. However, it is objected that the anticipation death holds, with the concurrent loss of pleasure from life, is indeed harmful. The first criticism to me seems weak, but the second less so. Anyway, what do you think? Obviously, you may think neither are authentic Epicurean statements too-I know how there's contention about that.
Cassius, given what I've read here I'll probably just get it from the library (I've checked on that-it's available). That is a good idea often anyway, to see if you really like it enough to purchase later. I will read it at some point and comment about what she says. However, as you know far more about Epicureanism than I do any errors will be probably less obvious. We'll see.
Regarding the wellness of Primitive versus Civilized Man, the relevant passage in Lucretius is V:988-1010. He contrasts the two using three specific examples. To summarize:
1. Primitive humans were on balance more likely to die by predation or festering wounds. Civilized humans are seldom devoured by beasts, but often die in droves at sea or on the battlefield.
2. Primitive humans suffered from a lack of food. Civilized humans, from overabundance ("penuria" vs "copia"). What the disease is that results from rerum copia is not specified; gout has long been thought of as a 'rich man's disease'.
3. Primitive humans unwittingly poisoned themselves. Civilized humans kill themselves [and, it is implied, each other] with deliberate skill.
There's no question that civilized humans today are much healthier than their primitive ancestors. But for a 1st century Roman the arithmetic was quite different. There's an amusing story in Caesar's De Bello Gallico about a Gallic chief who forbade the import of goods, especially wine, from Rome. He didn't want his hardy frontier tribe to succumb to the ills of Roman culture and civilization.
Very astute observations by Lucretius. I'm no expert on this, but that seems largely accurate. Of course, the life expectancy now is still greater than in his time. "Rich men's diseases" are also probably more common as a result of our prosperity. Even in his time however others might have occurred due to obesity etc.
It seems from what I've read here that she has a distorted view of Epicureanism common now. The view that we're sicklier now than in prior eras also seems highly questionable. We have our problems, but life expectancy (a concept often misunderstood) was lower because of greater unchecked diseases and injuries which could lead to it. I also think viewing wealth as a zero-sum game is usually fallacious (not that there are no issues with the income gap). From what I can tell also many people want to advocate Epicureanism for their purposes, unconcerned with (or unaware of) what the philosophy really says.
That's a fair point on the gods' origins. I guess the inference was mine, thinking the Epicureans would have thought they had a mortal past or ancestors. However, what you say also makes sense in their philosophy.
As for worship, that makes sense as well.
I guess that there will never be one distinct definition of gods. While those of the Epicureans (and other Greeks) may not really qualify by modern standards touched with the Christian view, they did have some attributes of what we'd commonly call divine beings nonetheless, as I mentioned in my post.
To a modern person most familiar with Christianity and kindred religions, Epicurean gods can seem very odd. Defining characteristics given to a god by Christians and others are lacking in those of the Epicureans. They are not omnibenevolent, omniscient nor omnipotent. In fairness, this makes them far more defensible as being real. Yet it also raises the question as to just what distinguishes gods from mortals. An obvious attribute that is shared with the Abrahamaic God is their immortality. Their eternal blissfulness might be another, though the Abrahamaic God seems less than this in many depictions. Regardless, it seems that a human or other mortal being could in theory also achieve this state. After all, the gods in Epicureanism were formally mortal or at least descend from them. For my part, I think if beings like this exist, as seems quite possible elsewhere in the vast universe, there is little use in worshiping them. I don't know precisely what the Epicureans might be worship though. Was it merely holding them as an ideal to look up to? That at least could be sensible, though I don't know that it's what everyone would call "worship". There is also the issue of whether such beings should be called "gods" and not blissful, immortal space aliens. Perhaps that is a semantic issue, though I'd favor not labeling them gods because there is no clear dividing line between them and other beings, since they too are material, while coming from mortal origins. However, to those who aspire for that state they (or the idea) can serve as an ideal. I personally do not aspire to that, and in any case all of us here doubtless will not live to see such an achievement.
P.S. Please correct me if I've gotten any aspect of the Epicurean view on the gods incorrect here.
Ayn Rand and others might say it's whimsical or irrational.
Others who are chasing the "objective" morality ghost will argue that pleasure is subjective.
I believe what the Objectivists argue is that life must be the highest good, since you can't have pleasure without being alive. For them, happiness is the reason for living after this.
Are you saying Epicurean morality isn't objective? I thought the idea of pleasure as the highest good isn't either an opinion or convention, but something undeniable in the Epicurean view. So that sounds objective to me.