Posts by JJElbert

    That's actually the very distinction I was trying to draw with the beer analogy!

    Sensation (ie 'cold, hot, sweet, sour'): objective

    Feeling (pleasure or pain): subjective

    There's certainly nothing objective about pleasure. Even with my brain-scan thought experiment, the obvious objection to make is that the feeling of pleasure remains subjective. The visual sense that detects an image of a brain experiencing pleasure is objective.

    This is a thread I've been following casually but haven't had time to thoroughly digest.

    It seems to me that 'sensation' is meant to carry the meaning of something sensed objectively.

    I don't like beer. For many, drinking beer stimulates a feeling of pleasure. For me, it's a kind of mild revulsion—a type of pain. But in both cases the objective sensation is the same; my friend and I both sense that the beer is cold, slightly bitter, tasting of hops and alcohol, and so forth.

    But the thing is, with brain scans it is possible to notice objectively the experience of pleasure and pain. So I'm not certain where that leaves us.

    There are a few different ways to go about this. Here's an effort at concision; Epicurean Philosophy is a practical philosophy whose end is pleasure, rooted in a theoretical philosophy whose ground is materialism. Epicurus believed that both aspects of his philosophy were discoverable through an epistemology of sensation, feeling, and anticipation—an epistemology that was therefore not strictly empirical.

    The Epicurean system attained to the best synthesis of practical and theoretical philosophy in the classical world, with every part of his system reinforcing the structure of the whole. His system was the first 'world-philosophy', a philosophy that spoke to the condition of every human on Earth. Plato developed refined (even if absurd) metaphysical theories, and made a complete muddle of their practical relevance. Stoicism offered a rigid and attractively self-aggrandizing behavioral code, founded on an indistinct and indefinable metaphysic. Epicurus laid out a system that satisfied both.

    And this, I think, is why DeWitt sees in Christian theology a pallid and shimmering reflection of Epicureanism. It was a world-philosophy, open to all; it answered, or tried to answer, to the philosophical needs of Man's total nature. Augustine's dream of a theology that was complete and unalterable, insofar as such a dream was ever realized, is still the most serious rival to our system.

    What I'm really saying is that the important thing to understand about Epicurean philosophy is that it is a system. You will find other materialists, and you will find empiricists; Charles can put you on the trail of many notable and interesting hedonists, and many of them drew their inspiration from Epicurus and Lucretius.

    But—if you dare!—go where the fighting is thickest. The intricate architecture of Christian theology is the best possible foil for the study of Epicurus, and important to study in it's own right.


    When I have more time I'd like to write a critique of Tennyson's Lucretius; a poetic exploration of St. Jerome's slander. Tennyson's poem bears in interesting ways on the questions you raise. What did Lucretius mean to convey by addressing Venus

    In lays that will outlast thy deity?

    Lucretius' Venus is a deeply complex figure. The personification of pleasure and sexual generation; the figurative mother of the city of Rome; the vital energy of endless and beginningless re-creation. The sometime lover and sometime rival of human strife, and the endower of human qualities.

    Because the world of Epicurean philosophy is a world of human will amidst ceaseless and random Nature, we can infer that the power of Venus to calm the bloodlust of Mars is a token of the power of humans to choose Venus, and not Mars; to—and I'm quoting Tennyson again—keep themselves

    from the lust of blood

    That makes a steaming slaughter-house of Rome.


    Just checking in - any new progress?

    Unfortunately, no. My sister came to town quite unexpectedly—which is nice!—but my free time has more or less evaporated.

    I have done some polishing with plain cotton cheesecloth to smooth out the sandpaper scratches; tedious, but it's working.

    That must have been an interesting class, Don! It's increasingly looking like I'll have something worth casting here. I think I'll find a professional to help with that part.

    Next steps:

    1. Fine-finishing the wax: Every scratch will show in the casting, so I want to have it really smooth before I send it out. Apparently nylon stockings work well for this 🤷‍♂️.

    2. Trace final portrait sketch and copy over to the ring surface.

    3. Carve the figure. I haven't used the dremel tool yet, but it might be perfect for detail carving.

    4. Finishing touches, 3D scan, and send it out for casting.

    I have a long way to go on the portrait, but I'm at least confident that it will work on this scale. So tonight's project was to finish shaping the ring!

    I needed to get the band substantially thinner, so I started with the wax carving tool. Here's what strikes me most about this project: I simply cannot believe how intuitive the shaping process has been the whole way through. Consider that I did not at any point sketch out the shape of the ring; I did not draw lines on the wax to tell me where to carve; I did not have a another ring on hand to compare with in three dimensions. Every step has been guided by one essential law, symmetry, and only the human eye to judge it by. I've been very pleased with the whole experience, and I can only dream that the portrait carving goes as smoothly!

    But I'm getting ahead of myself.


    After I scraped down far enough to make me nervous, I made the decision to put aside the tool and go slowly with the sandpaper.u4nv2Xy.jpg?1

    The sandpaper makes quite a mess as you can see, but the ring is infinitely better for it. After sanding things down smooth and symmetrical, I used the mandrel and the sandpaper to widen the hole a bit more. After several days of sliding the ring on and off I decided to go for the middle finger instead of the ring finger, since this would look best with a proportionally large carving surface.


    I know we're all more excited about the engraving itself when I get to that, but I'm very pleased just to have gotten this far. Thanks for following patiently--I hope to have more tomorrow.


    I agree with Cassius that these portraits leave a lot to be desired, but that's a good find regardless. Thank you Charles!

    The portrait of Horace is especially interesting. He is depicted not only as a boy, but as a free-born minor wearing the age-appropriate Toga Praetexta. Horace was free-born, which is a point worthy of note since his father endured some years of slavery.

    He is also depicted with a bay leaf (or laurel, from bay laurel), which signifies poetry. In fact, Horace did not write poetry in his youth; he turned to it in later years after choosing the wrong side in the Roman Civil War and losing his father's estate in Venusia as part of Augustus' land seizures. Since Rome did boast a number of boy-poets--among them Lucan, died age 25, and Catullus, died age 30--it might seem an unusual choice for a portrait of Horace who lived to be nearly 60. Personally, my favorite portrait of Horace depicts him bald and squat, in middle age, with a glass of wine and a winning grin.


    Another new friend!

    Pío Baroja (1872-1956) was a Spanish novelist of the last century who wrote the following in a text called Juventud, Egolatría (Youth and Egolatry):

    Epicuri de Grege Porcum

    I am also a swine of the herd of Epicurus; I, too, wax eloquent over this ancient philosopher, who conversed with his pupils in his garden. The very epithet of Horace, upon detaching himself from the Epicureans, Epicuri de grege porcum, is full of charm.

    All noble minds have hymned Epicurus. "Hail Epicurus, thou honour of Greece!" Lucretius exclaims in the third book of his poem.

    "I have sought to avenge Epicurus, that truly

    holy philosopher, that divine genius," Lucian

    tells us in his Alexander or the False Prophet.

    Lange, in his History of Materialism sets down Epicurus as a disciple and imitator of Democritus.

    I am not a man of sufficient classical culture to

    be able to form an authoritative opinion of the merits of Epicurus as a philosopher. All my

    knowledge of him, as well as of the other ancient philosophers, is derived from the book of Diogenes Laertius.

    Concerning Epicurus, I have read Bayle's magnificent article in his Historical and Critical

    Dictionary and Gassendi's work, De Vita et

    Moribus Epicuri. With this equipment, I have become one of the disciples of the master.

    Scholars may say that I have no right to enroll myself as one of the disciples of Epicurus,

    but when I think of myself, spontaneously there comes to my mind the grotesque epithet which Horace applied to the Epicureans in his Epistles, a characterization which for my part I accept and regard as an honour: Swine of the herd of Epicurus, Epicuri de grege porcum.

    [Translated from Spanish By JACOB S. FASSETT, Jr. and FRANCES L. PHILLIPS, in an edition presented by H.L. Mencken]

    There are a few items of concern here. The word 'detaching' with reference to Horace is curious, but that may be a problem of translation.

    And his praise for Gassendi's work is notable as well. Nevertheless, it's evident that he read Diogenes Laertius as well as Lucretius and Lucian, so that's enough to be getting on with.

    I haven't read any of his novels, bit Hemingway praised him very highly, suggesting to him that he (and not Hemingway) should have won the Nobel prize in literature.

    I'll try to find the reference, Cassius; it was in a GoogleBooks scan of an old doorstopper reference tome called--I don't know--"Collections of the British Museum: Volume 47" or whatever. The British Museum is like an iceberg. For every one piece on display for public viewing, 99 are gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

    And here's something before I forget; in my search for extant rings I didn't turn up anything new on Epicurus, but there is supposed to be a ring featuring a portrait of Horace carved in Topaz in the collections of the British Museum. So it would be great if we could track down a photograph of that.


    That is a point of interest, Godfrey. The 18th or early 19th century William Bligh ring is more squat and nearly circular than the rings above from antiquity, and it's also the worst semblance. In part because the beard has been cropped so close.

    Busy weekend, but back at it again this afternoon. There's still quite a lot of wax to be removed, but I decided that I'd like to have a clearer idea of the central figure before I went too much further. So I spent most of the evening sketching out profiles. I did up 20 or so, all using a penny as the template.


    The limitations of working on this scale have quickly become apparent! I found myself getting slightly annoyed at how difficult it was to do a recognizeable profile in the space allowed.

    Here's a sample of what I drew;





    What I gradually realized was that the design choices were hugely informed by the tension between the circular template I was working in and the demands of Epicurus' full beard and 'long' face.

    I think this last is the one I like best so far;


    The next decision; do I carve the image above in a two-dimensional relief (like the tree ring), which might be easier and more appropriate for a signet ring, or do I carve a fully three-dimensional profile portrait like we see in all Epicurean rings from antiquity? I suspect that it will be my skill and patience that decide the question.