Posts by JJElbert


    Great to hear from you - post whenever you can. So you've move from truck-driving to surveying? Quite a move there must be a story behind how you picked surveying!

    Actually, Cassius, I sort of just fell into it through a family connection. But land surveying was Henry David Thoreau's profession for most of his life—and in fact a handful of his surveys, including the survey of Walden Pond, are still on file at the records office in Concord, Massachusetts. And that pleases me immensely. I love being outside, and the work isn't bad.



    As I was setting up the instrument the other day in preparation for a topographic land survey, I found myself thinking back to Plato's dictum;

    "Let no one who is ignorant of geometry enter here."

    Now, It happens that I am not altogether ignorant of geometry; but working as a land survey rodman is giving me a more thorough education in its practical application than I had ever hoped for. My library (after much shrinking) is beginning to expand in odd directions; I've ordered four books on land surveying and one, an irresistible Loeb edition by the Roman engineer Frontinus, on the engineering of aqueducts. Lucretius in several places makes reference to "boundary marks" and "the shining borders of the light", and I've lately found myself reading those lines with a fresh eye. Perhaps I will bring myself closer to those Epicureans of whom Torquatus said,


    We value the art of medicine not for its interest as a science, but because it produces health. We commend the art of navigation for its practical, and not its scientific value, because it conveys the rules for sailing a ship with success.

    I haven't been as active here as I'd like to be, but I do remain dedicated to the study of Epicurus and the pursuit of pleasure.



    Great thoughts hallow any labor. To-day I earned seventy-five cents heaving manure out of a pen, and made a good bargain of it. If the ditcher muses the while how he may live uprightly, the ditching spade and turf knife may be engraved on the coat-of-arms of his posterity. —The Journal of Henry David Thoreau

    I do mean to check up on my hexameter theory when I get home. It never occurred to me before this thread. There's certainly a lot of precedence; Homer wrote in hexameter, and his two Epics draw on all of the major Greek dialects in order to make the meter come out right.


    Cicero never claimed to have emended the text, but he did praise the poem in a letter to his brother.

    I believe they do know where Jerome got his "information", but I can't recall which author it might have been. Lactantius, possibly?

    Edit; I keep cross-posting you, Cassius! I don't mean to sound so pedantic

    There was a claim to that effect reported by St. Jerome, Charles. The meaning of the word "corrected" (or "edited" or "revised") in that context is uncertain—does "corrected" mean slight copy-editing, or does it mean thorough revision? And in any case the provenance of the claim is highly suspect for two reasons: first, because Cicero and Jerome were against the Epicurean tradition themselves; and second, because Jerome also reported the claim that Lucretius "wrote the poem in the intervals of his insanity" and finally killed himself. Personally I don't believe any of it.

    Master Latinists will also tell you that there's textual evidence that the poem was never thoroughly revised by Lucretius. They base that claim on certain irregularities in the text, such as hypermetrical lines. I don't know how they can determine that those lines aren't the result of copying errors, but there we are. There are some answers we'll never have with these old texts.


    Why did Lucretius choose Iphianassa?

    I don't have concrete evidence for this, but here's a lazy answer;

    Because it fits the hexameter. Lucretius is often using neologisms (eg. frugiferentis), elision (eg. divomque instead of divorumque), and uncommon use cases of morphology, at least partly because those were the words that best made the meter of the poem work. William Blake called a similar phenomenon in English "The bondage of Rhyme".


    Good evening, Lee.

    Regarding your question about indeterminacy and free will, I'll offer an explanation. But Caveat Emptor—I do consider myself to be less well-versed in the technical side of the philosophy than most who post here. I've read all the really relevant literature, but sadly the better part of learning is trying to remember what you already know ;)

    It can be difficult to approach Epicurus without an understanding of the mental universe of the Greeks with whom he argued. Cassius, and by no means he alone, has observed the degree to which the philosophy of Epicurus is simply a systematic dismantling of Platonism. It's not much different here.

    In the case of free will, the necessary thing to engage with is the objection to free will that was current in Epicurus' time. There are two that come to mind. First, in Greek religion and literature the idea of fate was well-entrenched. The Oedipus Cycle, known to secondary school students everywhere, presents the case memorably.

    The second objection was philosophical and metaphysical. If you take the view as Democritus did that the cosmos was perfectly material and mechanical, then the mechanical universe would push you around like clockwork. In an ancient metaphor, your mind would jostle about in the chariot of your body with no one at the reins.

    Epicurus dismisses the first objection as a corollary to dismissing fate and the participation of the gods. He dismisses the second objection by proposing the Swerve. An indeterminate cosmos is to that extent non-mechanical. Instead of lifting your arm against the full tide and current of atomic motion, there is enough 'play' in the system to allow you to lift your arms through the atomic matrix.

    This doesn't exactly answer your question. Nor have I explored modern objections to free will. But my eyelids are drooping, and this much will be enough to get things started.


    I'm hoping to make more time for it, Cassius! It's as much as I can do these days to remember what little of Lucretius I've memorized—and that, only because I recite it mentally during the day.

    Don't be afraid to check back in from time to time, Oscar! I've been somewhat scarce myself, but I'm still trying to read what I can.

    Perhaps you will serve to disprove Arcesilaus' old sneer; that "Men may become eunuchs [Epicureans], but [Epicureans] may never become men."

    Good luck with everything!



    When the intellectual universe alters, in other words, I don’t feel arrogant enough to exempt myself from self-criticism. And I am content to think that some contradictions will remain contradictory, some problems will never be resolved by the mammalian equipment of the human cerebral cortex, and some things are indefinitely unknowable. If the universe was found to be finite or infinite, either discovery would be equally stupefying and impenetrable to me. And though I have met many people much wiser and more clever than myself, I know of nobody who could be wise or intelligent enough to say differently.

    -Christopher Hitchens

    Just to clarify something; the current state of cosmology does not hold that the universe (observable or otherwise) is expanding from a central point. It holds that the universe is expanding equally in all points. This is a difficult point to get a hold of, and metaphors only go so far. But it's worth looking into

    This actually relates to a small project I've had cooking.

    I'm adapting the lyrics of "Northwest Passage" by Stan Rogers to an Epicurean theme. I don't know why, but the song felt perfect for it. It has an energy, a spirit of adventure, and a sense of history suitable to practical philosophy.

    Progress so far;


    Ah, for just one time, I would take passage to Hellas,

    To feel the wind from Samos sigh from the Aegean Sea,

    Tracing that lost line in the steps of Epicurus,

    And bring his garden back across the sea.

    Westward from Vesuvius 'tis there 'twas said to lie

    A villa of philosophy in which so many died

    Seeking peace and pleasure,

    Leaving scattered, broken souls

    And a long-forgotten library of scrolls.


    I'm having fun with it!

    Welcome! I suppose your name signifies Darius the Great? I only ask because the story of the sons of Darius II related by Xenophon is perhaps my favorite story from the ancient world.

    Analogies are always flawed. It is certainly the Epicurean position that there are a finite number of kinds of atoms, but an infinite quantity of each kind.

    The idea of an infinite alphabet is one I can't really wrap my head around. And of course, for an alphabet and a language to carry meaning implies a subject capable of interpreting meaning. Atoms and their compounded objects don't require a subject.