Posts by JJElbert

    That's EXCELLENT, Elayne! You've handled the subtleties of free verse where I've always struggled.

    Calls to mind the second ending that Tolkien gave to the tragic story of Beren and Luthien, because he could—and he wanted to.

    Not sure if this really belongs here or not, but it's one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems;

    (It very often comes to mind when I'm in discussion with a young-/flat-earth Christian in the family)

    I share your reservations, Elayne. Mostly, in my case, because academia is the favored bogeyman among a large group of people for whom the factual age, shape, and making of the world is "just a theory".

    I spent four years in a University (undergoing "indoctrination", I have no doubt ;) ), and knew nearly every one of the professors in my acquaintance to have been intelligent, serious, curious, decent and well-meaning.

    That being said, I agree with Cassius on the main point. If we can't make headway among the common man, we will have failed of our purpose.

    "Known for telling tall tales"...

    Also known for multiple fraud convictions in Ohio and upstate New York 😁.

    There's a good article on 19th century astronomy and the "extra-terrestrial" problem.

    And one of my favorite Thoreau quotes is relevant;


    We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions.

    PD 1 employs "aphtharton", as mentioned above. Perhaps this is Epicurus' preferred word when describing gods?

    Vatican saying 78 uses "athanaton", speaking of immortal good.

    The Letter to Menoeceus uses "athanatois", a slight variation of the same word. This change reflects the agreement of the word with the plural "agathois" (goods). "Agathon", singular, is used in the previous formulation.

    Both relevant words, aphtharton and athanaton, are formed by prefixing the word stem with the negation "a-". Same here as in English; atheist, amoral, abiogenesis.

    Phtharton is defined in the "Middle Liddell" (a scholarly lexicon of Ancient Greek) as "corrupted; decaying". Aphtharton, then, is uncorrupted, and undecaying.

    Thanaton (-os), as Hiram mentions above, is death. Athanaton is immortal, or deathless. So there are evident shades of meaning between the two.

    Back when I had an apartment I kept it very tidy and well-appointed. Now that I live exclusively in a truck, I find the minimalism forced and constraining. I miss my book collection, my kitchen, my desk and chair; and my hammock most of all.

    She did an interview on Stephen Colbert's show recently that I watched. I was especially impressed with the translator!

    Well as for Joseph Smith, he was living (and composing, to select a term advisedly) in the period during which it was generally suspected that the other immediate planets of the solar system might harbor life. Astronomy was sufficiently advanced by then to know what a planet was, but not advanced enough to know about what Mars and Venus were really like on their surfaces. This is the century that gave birth to science fiction (Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley)—unless we count Lucian and his True Story, which was 16 centuries ahead of its time.

    In the main I don't think I find fault with those objections, Hiram; and at any rate, the value in such beings is not in their being, per se, but in the human frame of mind that allows for their being.

    I, like Godfrey, am an atheist as I understand the term. I deny the existence of the God of theism, since by definition that God is creative and supernatural (an impossibility), intercessory (a contradiction with lived experience), and revelatory (a gross offense against the intellect of the common man).

    And what is the desirable frame of mind I mention above? Simply this;

    1. An alert and healthy sense of perspective.

    While it is mean and petty and narcissistic to suppose oneself the exclusive beneficiary of divine revelation, and to announce oneself thereby as the inheritor and disposer of creation, it is cautious and magnanimous to imagine a rung of natural intelligence still higher up the ladder. Compare the Hymn to Venus in Lucretius with the following verse in Psalms; "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men." And behold whither this leads, in the following contemptible utterance of Anne Coulter; "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours." Well, the earth is not ours. It was here for billions of years before our ancestors, and others will inhabit it for aeons after the last of our kind has died. We should not be nihilists, forever moaning the smallness of man in the dead emptiness of space. Neither should we be megalomaniacs.

    2. A becoming and genuine intellectual modesty.

    This is a related problem, and finds its distinction in the difference between Pyrrho and all Prophets. One claimed to know nothing; the other, to know everything. They were both playing false.

    3. A reverence for life and its contingencies.

    This goes a long way toward explaining why Epicurus attended the sacred rites. To express gratitude to Demeter is not to grant any meaning to the silly and fatuous myths that surround her; it is merely to recognize that our own common social existence depends upon the fecundity of Nature. As for the attendant virtue of civility, it is expressed best by Christopher Hitchens; "When I go into a Mosque, I take off my shoes. When I go into a Synagogue, I cover my head."

    And why is this frame of mind desirable? Because it encapsulates the spirit of inquiry that is best able to delve into the nature of physics and ethics, as typified by the figure of Epicurus. That spirit of inquiry is essential to probing the nature of the good (pleasure), and the foundation of human happiness.

    This subject is always pleasant to contemplate, for its power to suggest something of grandeur and perspective, apart from anything else. I proposed a few months back in another thread that an advanced artificial intelligence might fit the description of an undying and untroubled divinity figure.

    And other figures present themselves for consideration. There is in Utah, for instance, a clonal colony of a single quaking aspen tree, called Pando (I spread out, in Latin) all sharing one individual's DNA, whose branching grove spans 106 acres. An extremely venerable tree, the root system of this trembling giant is said to be 80,000 years old. To call Pando a god would require us to expand our conception of pleasure and happiness, and there are other problems besides. But this patriarch among trees does serve to illustrate the point; there are natural marvels even in this world. Surely in the infinite reaches of space greater wonders await discovery.

    In supersaline lagoons in Australia there are ancient colonies of cyanobacteria quietly bubbling away on the same pillared altars of sediment that they began to wrought when the earth was young. These stromatolites are sustained by the finest viands, drinking a little sunlight in each single photo-synthesizing cell, and splitting off an O² molecule here and there as if in compensation. Without their kind, the atmosphere of this planet would have remained oxygen-poor and unable to sustain higher life. These structures were ancient beyond memory even when Pando was a sapling; the two elders have been trading oxygen and carbon dioxide with each other for over a thousand lifetimes of men.…us/de_Poetis/Vergil*.html

    I've found the relevant passage in Seutonius.


    Vergil spent his early life at Cremona until he assumed the gown of manhood, upon his fifteenth birthday, in the consulship of the same two men who had been consuls the year he was born; and it chanced that the poet Lucretius died that very same day.

    Most of Seutonius' De Poetis is lost, or else we might have quite a lot more to go on with Lucretius.

    I'll add for those curious, just as I was, that this is not the same Donatus who St. Augustine polemicizes in Ad Donatum. This Aelius Donatus was a teacher of Rhetoric, although he happens to have been the tutor of St. Jerome.

    And strange coincidences with birth and death dates do happen all the time, of course. There are only 365 days in the calendar. It's well known that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died in their beds on Independence Day, July 4th, 1826, a few hours and several hundred miles apart. And Mark Twain was born just after Halley's comet, and wryly predicted that he would die when it came back around. He was right!

    Alright, upon review I see that the Loeb edition mentions the possibility that Lucretius died on October 15th, on Virgil's 17th birthday (the very day he assumed the toga virilis). The editor cites "4th century grammarian Donatus, probably following Seutonius", while remaining himself skeptical of the connection. There's no mention of the birth date.

    There's certainly no harm in picking a date to honor him, and we don't have any other candidates! The rediscovery of the manuscript by Poggio was in January of 1417, but no day is known.


    Around the 25 minute mark where she talks about the rise of civilization, and how according to Lucretius the primitive period was the happiest period in the human race: is that just his opinion; does she agree with it? Did Epicurus have the same view?

    It also sounds quite Marxist to point out the power dynamics, oppression and slavery as the evils of civilization. She does mention the good products of culture also, but it doesn't seem to outweigh the bad?

    And I have to disagree with this negative assessment of civilization. The primitive prehistory of mankind was not a paradise, but filled with violence and suffering in the struggle to survive. Civilization has progressively made things better for humankind.

    There are several things going on here;

    Lucretius did not accept the view, common though it was in his day, that there was an original paradisal state or a primitive golden age. This view is logical (although not reasonable) if we adopt a creation model of origins, since presumably a creator doesn't begin by creating a fallen world.

    Lucretius did not adopt such a model; he was a materialist, and concluded rightly that man emerged from a nighttime of shivering ignorance little better than a beast. He slept in caves. He ate flesh raw. At length he tamed fire, wore skins, and built dwellings. Lucretius believed, like Thomas Hobbes, that primitive life was "nasty, brutish and short".

    Nor did Lucretius believe that civilization was a Grand March of History tending always toward greater wisdom and glory. After all, he repeatedly bemoans the poverty of the Latin language when compared with the 4th century BC literature of the Greeks. But in the century before that, Athens was beset by war and plague. In the centuries afterward, by the Macedonian conquest. And look where the Athenians were now; sacked by Sulla in the poet's own lifetime. This is again a materialist position—things come together, and things fall apart.

    Indeed, if he seems to think little of civilization it is only because civilization hadn't got very far in his day. It seems probable that the majority in Italy couldn't read. Medicine hadn't advanced much beyond herbalism and bone-msetting. Mankind lay, as he puts it, "foully grovelling, crushed beneath the weight of grim religion".

    Lucretius sums up the contrast between primitive and civilized man with delicious and wry irony;


    In those days men often unwittingly poured poison for themselves; now they make away with themselves more skillfully.

    My 2 cents;

    The Latin eventum is indeed the root of English 'event', and is itself derived from the Latin verb venio, "to come". (Compare venir in Spanish). Incidentally, this is the same verb from Caesar's notable formulation, veni, vidi, vici.

    Eventum merely adds the Latin prefix ex-, shortened to e-; (out)-come. Contrasted with the word adventum (or "coming [to]")--which Lucretius uses in the Musae Invocatio in book 1--eventum doesn't specify a relationship between object and subject. With adventum, the object "comes to" the subject. With eventum, the object and the subject can be considered separately.

    This word is of particular interest to me since it relates to one of my old Literature professors' favorite hobby-horses; What Shakespeare meant by the word "prevent" and what we think Shakespeare meant are two different things. In modern idiom, "prevent" means to stop or inhibit. In Shakespeare's day the word did not yet have this connotation; it merely meant "to come/arrive before"--that is, to anticipate. The 1743 translation is old enough that this becomes a legitimate concern; we have to remember that Dr. Samuel Johnson's lexicon of the English Language (the first serious effort of its kind) wasn't even published until 1755.


    Damn poets. :-)

    Such happy interview, and fair event

    Of love, and youth not lost, songs, garlands, flow'rs,

    And charming symphonies, attach'd the heart

    Of Adam. Milton's Par. Lost, b. xi.


    Edit; I was long in typing; Todd prevented me!!!


    It could be exciting times for Epicureans if this is succesful!

    We have been incredibly fortunate.

    If Diogenes Laertius had been a less sympathetic biographer...

    If Poggio hadn't laid his hands on the manuscript of Lucretius at the monastery in Fulda...

    If Vesuvius hadn't buried Herculaneum...

    If Cicero had been less the combative showman...

    Our school seems to specialize in Resurrection ;) .