Perhaps we should start with either the Letter to Menoceus, or a combination of the PD's and VS's, it would make more sense to build a following from the ground up that can keep up, rather than attempt to read Lucretius or the more advanced letters like Herodotus or Pythocles.
Oh, and something to bear in mind when reading about Mettrie, he used the words "pleasure" and "voluptuousness" in the exact same regards, sometimes using both in the same sentence. Kirk Watson also denotes that "voluptuousness" can be translated as "pleasure"
Here's the opening statement to Anti-Seneca, its quite wordy but already so pleasing and promising.
"The Philosophers have come to no more agreement about happiness than about anything else. Some of them see it in the dirtiest and most brazen deeds; these are recognizable by their unblushing Cynical faces. Others would have it consist of voluptuousness, understood in various ways--whether the refined voluptuousness of love, or the same voluptuousness but tempered, rational, and tamed: not as dictated by the lusty whims of a fevered imagination, but only by the needs of nature: here we have the voluptuousness of the mind that is either addicted to the pursuit of truth, or entranced by its possession; there, finally, you have peace of mind, the grounding and aim of all we do, which Epicurus called “voluptuousness”: a is [sic.] dangerously ambiguous word, which led his disciples to carry home a fruit that is quite different from what this great personality had intended. Others have seen the highest good in the possession of every perfection of mind and body. In Zeno’s conception, it is found in honor and virtue. Seneca, the most illustrious Stock of all, said it could be found in knowing the truth, but he didn’t specify what truths he meant.
To live in tranquility, without ambitions, without desire; to use wealth, but not enjoy it; to keep all of it without anxiety, to lose it without regret, to be its master instead of its slave; to remain undisturbed and unmoved by any passion whatsoever or, even better, not to experience any passions at all; to be equally content with poverty or opulence: with pain, as with pleasure; to have a soul that’s strong and sound, in a body thats weak and sickly; to feel neither fear nor terror; to strip away all anxiety, to scorn pleasure and voluptuousness; to consent to have pleasure in the same way as to be rich, without reaching for these comforts; to despise even life: finally, to achieve virtue by knowing the truth; here we have the highest good, as per Seneca and the Stoics generally speaking, with the perfect beatitude that follows.
How Anti-Stoical will we be, then! These philosophers are severe, sad, and hardened--we’ll be pleasant, cheerful, and indulgent. They are all soul, ignoring their bodies; let’s be all body, ignoring our souls. They act like they don’t care about pleasure and pain; we’ll stride ourselves on feeling anything whatsoever. Striving for the sublime, they rise above all events, and they only call themselves to be men to the extent they cease to be human. As for us, we will not presume to regulate that which governs us; we will not command our sensations; confessing their authority and our slavery, we will try to make them pleasant for us, as persuaded as we are that that is where happiness in life is to be found: finally, we will think ourselves happier to the extent that we are human, or worthy to be such; how much of a feeling will we have for nature, humanity, and all the social virtues; we will accept no others, nor any life aside from this one only. So we see that the chain of truths that are necessary for happiness is shorter than those forged by Hegesias, Descartes, and many other philosophers; that to explain the mechanism of happiness we need only consult nature and reason--the only two stars that can shine the way and guide us; but we must open our souls to their rays and seal all access to it against those poisoned miasmas that create, as it were, the atmosphere of fanaticism and prejudice. Let’s begin."
Kirk Watson's: "A Hazardous Materialist", italics denote titles from Watson, quotations mark sub-headings of letters and entries that are primary sources, also named by Watson.
La Mettrie's Chronology
Eulogized by a King
- "A Eulogy for La Mettrie"
In His Own Words: La Mettrie's Autobiographies
- "Preliminary Discourse"
- "A Response to a Libel Against the Author"
- "Pleasure is Prophylactic"
- "Writings Home from Exile"
A "Persecuted Philosopher" In The Prussian Court
- "From the King to Maupertuis"
- "From Maupertius to the King"
- "From the King to Maupertuis"
- "La Mettrie's Letter of Introduction at the Prussian Court"
- "From the King to Maupertuis"
- "From Maupertius to the King"
- "La Mettrie in Voltaire's Correspondence"
Dissecting the Late La Mettrie: Post-Mortem Depositions
- "A Letter from King Frederick to His Sister Wilhemine"
- "The Haller-Maupertuis Exchange"
- "Letter from Mr. Haller,"
- "Maupertuis's Response to the Preceding Letter"
- "A Sympathetic Letter from a Friend at Court"
- "Diderot Attacks La Mettrie"
- "D'Argens 'Sacrifices' La Mettrie"
An Anecdotal Atheist
- "At Ease with The King"
- "A Ridiculous Materialist in the Court"
- "Anecdotes from The Court"
- "Further Late Anecdotes from The Court"
I'll edit this thread later as I have a violin lesson very shortly from the time of this entry. But my library of Mettrie's works came in today after much delay. Much like my glossary thread, I will detail the smallest of details regarding Mettrie here as well as provide pdf's, citations, and quotes that are of importance.
Charles: Do you know yet, in outline, the basis for saying how he deviated from Gassendi?
The only evidence for a claim is that Lamy was very much interested in the Physics of Epicurean Philosophy and applied the physics to his medical & chemical work, including the soul. He was frustrated over how Gassendi had "watered-down" Epicurus' Atomism and tried to bring it back to its original form, despite being Christian in the same way Gassendi was, I can't say whether or not (yet) he looked to Lucretius like Mettrie did, though the latter was also taught by Herman Boerhaave, who took a mechanistic approach to medicine.
No, I've only found footnotes and citations. But my English copy arrives tomorrow, in addition to just about everything he wrote (all translated in English). I'd like to write them out on a google doc or pdf and share them here.
Edit: that also includes Discourse on Happiness, which he considered his masterpiece
There's not much from Lamy. It's clear from academic sources that Lamy was Christian and didn't deviate from Medicine, and that's where Mettrie comes in, and is very adamant about returning to Lucretius and bringing him back with him to the Enlightenment.
As a side note, Mettrie also mentions Ninon de Lenclos a fair amount of times, and I'd like to get started right away on his "Anti-Seneca" book when I get home from work tomorrow. The context of that one is that he was offered to write a biography about Seneca to restore his reputation, but chose instead to refine and even criticize Stoicism.
Lodging this in here for future use - some rare works from Guillaume Lamy, an un-apologetically Epicurean Physician who deviated from Gassendi and opted instead to turn to Lucretius, (Lamy) who would later inspire a certain Julien Offray de la Mettrie to uphold the hedonistic values of Epicurus rather than, as my academic sources say "natural sciences and simple mental pleasures through the removal of pain" (despite Mettrie being a Physcian and Materialist *of course he values natural science!*).
The books are:
"Explication Mechanique et Physique des Fonctions de L'Ame Sensitive; ou Des Sens, Des Passions. Et du Mouvement Volontaire. Ou l'on a ajoute une Description des organes des Sens."
(will add them later)
If happiness for Epicurus is Eudamonia, that doesn't mean pleasure is ataraxia the way the absence of pain doesn't necessarily mean pleasure.
I very much agree with you on this point. But it is established in multiple sources (Torquatus, LtM, PD, VS) that pleasure can mean the absence of pain, however that's not to undermine pleasure as the satisfaction and fulfillment of desire. Bear in mind, Epicurean Philosophy is hedonistic for recognizing that pleasure is the chief good. Getting stuck on minor definitions or playing word games can lead us in circles, whether its eudaimonia as the Greek language says it, or happiness, or bliss, or blessedness, the destination we should always find ourselves heading towards is pleasure.
If that is the case, no words or knowledge can explain well what happiness really is.
Which is why practice and translating our words into living actions is of extreme importance
Welcome A_Gardner ! Thanks for signing up on the forums. It's great to have you here, and I hope that you'll find both great company and a plethora of knowledge & discussion here.
For those that don't know, Gardner is one of the mods (pretty much the only one) of the Epicurean Discord Server, and essentially the most reliable and knowledgeable user in there. I've urged him to sign up on here for a while and to become more involved within the wider EP community, for the other regulars here, you'll know him as very apt and genial.
But I'd like to give him the chance to properly introduce himself to everyone else below.
Not to derail the thread, but I hope I can eventually thread Epicurean Philosophy to the Enlightenment era thinkers, and hold them in almost the same regard as Cicero/Philodemus. Providing a clear path throughout history is extremely important and gives us the platform on which to oppose those who oppose and censor us.
Mettrie seems promising in this regard, a la "I ask you Anti-Epicureans" quote and numerous references to Lucretius and shared sentiments about Death and Pleasure (he may echo Metrodorus and he certainly did not believe that pleasure was the absence of pain).
Edit: by clear path I mean having a library of books that we can potentially cite, since the Stoics and Platonists have their volumes, we only have a few letters, epistles, and fragments, barring Lucretius.
Quick question Cassius
Why is it that we often cite Cicero? He was a Stoic and he absolutely loathed the Epicureans to no end. Is it because he wrote against them so prolifically? Or is it instead that in his refutations he presented the original ideas and opinions of the Epicureans that have otherwise been lost to history?
Would you mean the definitions of both pleasure and pain or the differences between pleasure and happiness?
I'm referring to the multiple Epicurean sources that say
"Pleasure is the absence of pain" and that "pleasure is a feeling when desires are satisfied" (ie a more hedonistic pleasure)