Don Level 03
  • from Ohio
  • Member since Feb 25th 2020

Posts by Don

    1 - My how times have changed. There was a time when I was convinced that Don would never cite anything that DeWitt said about the christian analogy approvingly! ;)

    LOL! :) Well, if the DeWitticism fits...

    3 - Yes I started a wiki earlier but have not had time to expand it; I use it mainly for the Lucretius texts:

    Didn't realize that was out there. Have to dig around a little.

    5 - Wait - so WHAT is the root of evangelize? It is greek and not latin? And the greek does not have a religious connotation?

    You bet! It's Greek: ευ- "eu-" good as in euthanasia (good death), eulogy (good words), etc. + άγγελος "angelos" messenger as in "angel" (again, co-opted by the Christians). It literally just meant the bearer of good news (like victory in a battle) or to bring good news as a verb. The ευ/eu- got the "ev" pronunciation instead of "you" pronunciation in the c. 1st-4th c. CE when the Christians would have been appropriating and coining terms.

    Or we take the word back from the Christians! :) In looking at the Liddell & Scott at Perseus, the word evangelize and its variants was used by Lucian, Pausanias, Aristophanes, and other ancient authors before being co-opted by the Christians. Although I know exactly where Godfrey is coming from - emoji and all :)

    It's not like Christians have cornered the market on "good news."

    But I get what camotero and Godfrey are saying about the goal here on the forum: opportunities for collaboration, education, etc. (for evangelizing classical Epicurean philosophy).

    I know it's a loaded term with tons of baggage, but the word that maybe best describes what you're proposing is evangelism.

    1. We have discovered Epicurus's philosophy.
    2. We have found it to be valuable.
    3. We want to spread that valuable message of "good news" to others - the original meaning of evangelize: "bring good news."

    I fully realize the word has been almost trademarked by the Christians, but even DeWitt used it to describe Epicureanism.

    I'm certain others will respond, too, but I'll get the ball rolling. One classification that Epicureans get put into is hedonism or hedonistic philosophies. I think I remember that Cassius is reluctant to describe Epicurus this way, but most popular and academic perspectives put the school into this category. Elsewhere on the forum, we've been comparing and contrasting the Epicureans with the Cyrenaics, another contemporary hedonistic philosophy with the ancient Epicureans. The hedonism Wikipedia article provides a solid survey with additional links. French philosopher Michel Onfray is a modern hedonistic philosopher.

    This may be off thread a little and a little later to the game, but here goes. And I after with Cassius 's last post. Academic philosophers probably need to tow the party line to an extent if they want to publish and present.

    On 18.3.19, it seems off to me as well, and I mostly agree with Cassius on his thoughts on ataraxia in that section there. For me, ataraxia and aponia have been simply characteristics of the most pleasant life. The fact that they are both negative (a- "not, no" as in apolitical, atheist, etc.) has struck me as odd; but, as descriptors of pleasure, I think I can see where Epicurus is coming from. Pleasure can be euphoric, washing over you so thoroughly that you get that "wrapped in a warm blanket" feeling, not disturbed, not feeling any pain. Actually, the "-ponia" is cognate with "ponos" which is defined as:

    - work, especially hard work; toil

    - bodily exertion, exercise

    - work, task, business

    - the consequence of toil, distress, trouble, suffering

    So, the connotation of "aponia" goes beyond what we think of as feeling pain in your body. The non-philosophical definition of "aponia" is actually "laziness, non-exertion."

    I don't want to go down a tranquilist rabbit hole, but there's an element of tranquility in there.

    I think both academic and popular writers get hung up on Ataraxia and Aponia in Fragment 2 being called katastematic pleasures, but if you look at the whole text below, why aren't euphrosunē and khara obsessed over as well. Ataraxia is used throughout Epicurus's writing simply referring to "peace of mind" but it's hidden by various translations of the Greek.

    Here are some examples I found in a quick search. I think it helps to see Ataraxia used in a wider context. My notes are in brackets.

    Fragment 519: The greatest fruit of justice is serenity [ataraxia]. δικαιοσύνης καρπὸς μέγιστος ἀταραξία.

    [You have peace of mind if you treat people justly.]

    Fragment 2: Lack of mental disturbance [ataraxia] and lack of bodily pain [aponia] are static pleasures, whereas revelry [khara] and rejoicing [euphrosunē] are active pleasures involving movement. ἡ μὲν γὰρ ἀταραξία καὶ <ἡ> ἀπονία καταστηματικαί εἰσιν ἡδοναί. ἡ δὲ χαρὰ καὶ ἡ εὐφροσύνη κατὰ κίνησιν ἐνεργείᾳ βλέπονται.

    [It seems to me that here it's just saying that lack of pain and mental distress don't involve moving around or doing something but they're still pleasurable, revelry and rejoicing by definition seem to involve bodily movement (dancing, singing, merry-making if you will). I realize tons of academic ink have been spilled on this, so I'm sure I haven't settled anything here! Just my take. And I also think this contrasts with the Cyrenaics, to bring it back, who felt all pleasure started in the body not in the mind. Epicurus may be emphasizing both the mind (no disturbance in the mind) and the body (no disturbance in the body) since the Cyrenaics seem to have only recognized pleasure as originating in the body.]

    Letter to Menoikos:

    The steady contemplation of these facts enables you to understand everything that you accept or reject [uses same Greek terms for "choice and avoidance"] in terms of the health of the body and the serenity [ataraxia] of the soul — since that is the goal of a completely happy life.

    τούτων γὰρ ἀπλανὴς θεωρία πᾶσαν αἵρεσιν καὶ φυγὴν ἐπανάγειν οἶδεν ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ὑγίειαν καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀταραξίαν, ἐπεὶ τοῦτο τοῦ μακαρίως ζῆν ἐστι τέλος.

    [Here we see "health of the body" (hygieian) and not "aponia" paired with ataraxia. So it's not like the word ataraxia is always paired with the word aponia. And these two are said here to explicitly be the goal/telos of a completely happy life, literally a blessed life using the same word (makarios) to describe the gods in PD 1. I don't think that takes anything away from pleasure. A healthy body and a peaceful mind are pleasurable. But Epicurus's explicit use of telos here is interesting. I think he's just using health (of the body) and ataraxia as synonyms for the most pleasant life, which *is* the goal/telos.]

    Letter to Pythocles:

    "In the first place, remember that, like everything else, knowledge of celestial phenomena, whether taken along with other things or in isolation, has no other end in view than peace of mind [ataraxia] and firm conviction."

    Πρῶτον μὲν οὖν μὴ ἄλλο τι τέλος ἐκ τῆς περὶ μετεώρων γνώσεως εἴτε κατὰ συναφὴν λεγομένων εἴτε αὐτοτελῶς νομίζειν εἶναι ἤπερ ἀταραξίαν καὶ πίστιν βέβαιον, καθάπερ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν λοιπῶν.

    [Here Epicurus calls ataraxia the telos/goal of knowledge. The goal of this knowledge is to have peace of mind or ataraxia. And he emphasizes this in the next excerpt, too.]

    Letter to Pythocles:

    ([96] For in all the celestial phenomena such a line of research is not to be abandoned;) for, if you fight against clear evidence, you never can enjoy genuine peace of mind [ataraxia].

    ἢν γάρ τις ᾖ μαχόμενος τοῖς ἐναργήμασιν, οὐδέποτε δυνήσεται ἀταραξίας γνησίου μεταλαβεῖν.

    " As far as I can see, Aristippus advocated for his followers to experience *every* pleasure"

    Do you think so? I have not read the material closely enough to agree or disagree. But on its face that position would seem to be difficult to reconcile with real life, so I wonder if that allegation (that *every* pleasure should be experienced) was true or a slander.

    Hmm... Maybe I was hasty. I take your point about slander, and the Nikolsky article opened my eyes to DL's potential shortcomings. I'll reassess and repost... Off to the books ;)

    [Edit 1: I found someone online who appears to have assembled a comprehensive list of Cyrenaic resources and quotations. The site could use work but the sources include citations. This could be helpful.]

    [Edit 2: In rereading the Cyrenaic mentions in DL X and scrolling through that website mentioned above, it seems one of Epicurus's primary differences with the Cyrenaics was the inclusion of mental pleasures, for lack of a better term right now. From what I'm interpreting, the Cyrenaics only recognized pleasures in doing something in the here and now. Bodily pleasures -- eating, drinking, sex, etc. -- experienced in the present were all we have. It sounds like they didn't accept that recollection of past pleasures or the anticipation of future pleasures counted (again, for lack of a better word). It sounds to me that that is one area where Epicurus could have been contrasting his limits or fulfilment of pleasure (see Cassius 's leaky vessel graphic) with them. My next project (in addition to completing DeWitt - see how I got that in there ;)) may be going thru the texts and comparing and contrasting what we know if the Cyrenaics and Epicureans. It seems important to me know know how these schools differed and how they didn't. I did find it interesting that Aristippus's daughter is the one credited (or maybe blamed according to ancient authors) for having transmitted his teachings to her son, Aristippus the Younger.

    Okay, no more edits on this one.]

    In reading about the Cyrenaics, it seems to me that PD 10 (and the similar text in the Letter to Menoikos) is a direct rebuke to them.


    If the things which debauched men find pleasurable put an end to all fears... and if they revealed how we ought to limit our desires, we would have no reason to reproach them, for they would be fulfilled with pleasures from every source while experiencing no pain, neither in mind nor body, which is the chief evil of life.

    The key word here, to me, has always been *if*. As far as I can see, Aristippus advocated for his followers to experience *every* pleasure. Epicurus agreed that every pleasure is good, but advocated for a selection - choice and avoidance - of pleasures leading to the most pleasant life.

    Reading about the Cyrenaics has further convinced me that PD 10 is directly addressing people who would try and lump in the Epicureans with the Cyrenaics just because of their emphasis on pleasure.

    For anyone reading this thread, this is the heart of the Nikoslky argument, which is something he says that he researched after reading through the arguments of Gosling and Taylor. Full article is here.

    Thank you for posting that link. I thought I had read it, but, if I did, I had forgotten some of his arguments. He raises some strong arguments for his case! I'm convinced, I think, but it definitely calls for a close, attentive reading.

    I need to go back and re-read that Nikolsky article, but I agree with your point that compilers decide what to compile. To paraphrase what you mentioned previously, the winners write the history and the compilers decide what to collect.

    And I think I see your perspective on those last points. So then which comes first: The realization that pleasure is worthy of pursuit? Or the realization that there's no afterlife and it's acceptable to then pursue pleasure in the here and now? Or do they arise together? Or do we build each up as on the "Canon, Physics, Ethics" tripod? If this, then that. This isn't a criticism of your points. I'm just working through how we arrive at answers to those questions you posed. This is why I think it's important to see Epicurus's context and thought process in opposing the Cyrenaics and what they disagreed with in his philosophy. How did we get where we are?

    Your thoughtful replies and posts are always appreciated! It definitely helps me hone my own thinking!

    I think I see where Cassius is coming from, but I have almost the opposite reaction to Aristippus's chapter in DL.

    I've always found it interesting that DL ends his entire work with Epicurus's Principal Doctrines. He even writes:


    Come, then, let me set the seal, so to say, on my entire work as well as on this philosopher's life by citing his Sovran Maxims, therewith bringing the whole work to a close and making the end of it to coincide with the beginning of happiness.

    which suggests to me that DL was either positively inclined toward Epicurus or was at least not hostile. My impression had always been that DL is basically a compiler, pulling in anecdotes that interest him from disparate sources with an editorial sentiment similar to Herodotus (the historian, not the recipient of Epicurus's letter) with a "some people say this, others say that..." way of reporting his findings. Overall, I don't see a Stoic/Platonic bias. I admit I need to be read more DL chapters, so please feel free to point me to passages that reflect that if I miss them.

    The other thing I think is interesting about the Aristippus chapter (Note: DL gives Epicurus a whole book) is that it compares and contrasts two philosophies giving paramount importance to pleasure. Seeing how Aristippus prioritizes pleasure gives us a window into what Epicurus was up against when he was formulating his own philosophy. What did he agree with Aristippus about? What did he disagree? I think this is important to understand how pleasure fits into each of their worldviews. Maybe some of us are actually Cyrenaics? Maybe seeing Aristippus's perspective strengthens our commitment to Epicurus's novel approach (at the time) in seeing memories as part of pleasure?

    The five details that Cassius lays out are important, but I think understanding what role pleasure had in each of these two philosophies is even more important. This was an argument taking place at the founding of the philosophy of life we purport to follow. Knowing how that philosophy came to be - and how its tenets were formed - is the most important thing in my opinion. DL provides a window - ever so slightly open - into that foundation and history.

    Here are some of my initial thoughts on the Aristippus chapter.

    "[Aristippus] derived pleasure from what was present, and did not toil to procure the enjoyment of something not present"

    This would appear to contrast with Epicurus's teaching that we don't choose every pleasure that presents itself but weigh it against possible resulting pains.

    To me, the following seems to be showing the Cyrenaics' "end/telos" being contrasted with the Epicureans' "happiness/eudaimonia" so I disagree with Cassius on the interpretation here:

    II.86-87 "They [the Cyrenaics] laid down that there are two states, pleasure and pain, the former a smooth, the latter a rough motion, and that pleasure does not differ from pleasure nor is one pleasure more pleasant than another. The one state is agreeable and the other repellent to all living things. [NOTE: Epicurus seems to agree with this latter part.] However, the bodily pleasure which is the end is... not the settled pleasure [καταστηματικὴν ἡδονὴν katastēmatkēn hēdonēn, the infamous "katastematic pleasure"] following the removal of pains, or the sort of freedom from discomfort which Epicurus accepts and maintains to be the end. They [Cyrenaics] also hold that there is a difference between "end" and "happiness." [τέλος and εὐδαιμονίας "telos, eudaimonia" in the original] Our [i.e., the Cyrenaics? as if quoting one of their works?] end is particular pleasure, whereas [the Epicureans'] happiness is the sum total of all particular pleasures, in which are included both past and future pleasures. [88] Particular pleasure is desirable for its own sake, whereas happiness is desirable not for its own sake but for the sake of particular pleasures."

    The mention of "past and future pleasures" makes me think that the Epicureans are the ones being said to concern themselves with "happiness / eudaimonia" and the Cyrenaics are the ones concerned with "particular pleasure" at least as far as the Cyrenaics themselves are concerned. From this, it appears to me that the Cyrenaics are saying (via DL) that the Epicureans are concerned with "the sum total of all particular pleasures."

    It seems to me that what the Cyrenaics are saying is that what is important is to have every pleasure as it comes, in the moment, then they're contrasting that (via DL) with the Epicureans' "eudaimonia/happiness" which is assessed on sum of sequential pleasures experienced throughout a pleasant life.

    Which follows on to the next section:

    "Nor again do they admit that pleasure is derived from the memory or expectation of good, which was a doctrine of Epicurus."

    So, the Cyrenaics only recognized pleasures of motion experienced in the present. Pleasures in the past don't seem to have mattered: they're done! Pleasures in the future didn't matter: they're not being experienced! Epicurus took the step to recognize that the memory of pleasures past was itself pleasurable and thinking of upcoming pleasures was pleasurable as well.

    Which gets at another of the Cyrenaics' objections to Epicurus:

    "[89] The removal of pain, however, which is put forward in Epicurus, seems to them not to be pleasure at all, any more than the absence of pleasure is pain."

    So, according to Cyrenaics, Epicureans don't recognize an intermediate state: neither pleasure nor pain. It's either one or the other. Which seems to me why Epicurus needed to recognize mental pleasure as pleasure in contrast to the Cyrenaics who say there *must* be motion involved, smooth motion = pleasure; rough motion = pain, and "they hold that pleasure is not derived from sight or from hearing alone."

    I'm not sure this passage is saying they did not enjoy the "most irksome business" of making choices and rejections of pleasures or if it says it was just difficult to decide what pleasures to indulge in:

    "For these reasons they paid more attention to the body than to the mind. Hence, although pleasure is in itself desirable, yet they hold that the things which are productive of certain pleasures are often of a painful nature, the very opposite of pleasure; so that to accumulate the pleasures which are productive of happiness appears to them a most irksome business."

    There's more to say here, but I'll stop there for now.


    2.3.3 Cyrenaics were radical hedonists, taking the pleasure of the moment to be more important than the pleasantest life. Bodily pleasures were most important, but no pleasure was pleasanter than any other. All living things pursue pleasure and shun pain. All we have available to us is the present moment, which is why the pleasure of the moment isthe most important.

    This gets at the reason I believe was at the heart of Epicurus's opposition to the Cyrenaics:

    My understanding is that Epicurus advocated the most pleasant life, which is why we make our choices and rejections and don't choose every pleasure we encounter. I'll be interested to see if the later chapters address this or point out the fallacy in my understanding.

    Thanks for posting this!

    An enjoyable episode.

    The discussion of being in the grass beside a river with a group of friends reminded me of one of my favorite discoveries when doing my recent translation of the Characteristics of the Epicurean Sage: the one-word (in the original) characteristic of φιλαγρήσειν "They will love the ἀγρός "fields, land, country as opposed to the town.""

    Happy Twentieth, my Epicurean friends!

    I just finished a brisk, sweaty walk around my neighborhood - a choice I make for my long-term pleasure :)

    A lovely, sunny day to take pleasure in living!

    Ευ πραττειν! Practice well!

    Excellent posts! I've addressed some of your questions and statements below.

    camotero asked
    First question: This is the 39th passage from what text? Are there any arguments related to it that could give a logical explanation of why this is the case?

    This is the 39th Principle Doctrine as listed in Diogenes Laertius's 10th book of his Lives of Eminent Philosophers. That book is all about Epicurus and is one of the primary sources of Epicurus's works to survive from the ancient world. There are numerous translations online and the Principal Doctrines (Kuriai Doxai in Ancient Greek) are at the end of the book.

    Perseus Digital Library

    Attalus' site
    Epicurus Wiki

    camotero said:
    But I do recognize that we need to be aware of the limits. I was reading the other day that "complete" communication can only happen when two people are physically together.

    This is actually a very interesting point and probably the reason there is the academic discipline of literary and textual criticism and interpretation. Without being able to see a person's body language, tone of voice, etc., there can be ambiguity even in the clearest writing even though sometimes it's all we have. Consider reading the Principle Doctrines as opposed to being in the Garden getting a lecture from Epicurus. Which would be the most "complete" way of receiving these teachings?

    camotero said:
    So there's probably no point in starting a non profit to help the most people that you're probably never going to even meet (unless I'm going to get a lot of pleasure from the starting up of the organization, but this would be beside the point)

    On the contrary, I think that's exactly the point. If you're going to be fulfilled by the starting of such an organization and will find pleasure in the work, then (I believe) Epicureanism would have no argument against your starting it up. You should still have a realistic expectation of the limits on the organization. However, also consider Epicurus' warning about the inherent pains of getting involved in politics and such if the organisation will take on a lobbying function in the political arena.

    camotero said:
    Is there anything said within the philosophy about spreading its message? Oh my... I didn't mean to get evangelical... it just happened.

    :) Actually, Epicureans *were* an evangelical bunch and their "good news" spread throughout the ancient world. There's a great (albeit depressing) book about the downfall of the ancient pagan world, including the burning of Epicurean texts: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey.

    This is a very thought-provoking discussion. Thank you, camotero , for raising these issues! And thank you, Martin , for the replies and link to that article. (My mind started to bend part way through so I plan to go back for another read. Saved it to my Pocket app.)

    One thing that came to mind when reading camotero 's posts was the Epicurean concept of the limits of Nature. I may not be interpreting this correctly, so feel free to critique this. As Epicureans, we have to respect the natural limits of our abilities. We can't solve the world's problems by ourselves. We can't necessarily rescue every homeless individual we meet on the street (to use camotero 's example). If we feel pain all the time in contemplating the plight of that person, it doesn't do them or us any good, leads to our living miserable lives, and wastes this precious - and only - life that we have to live. This doesn't mean we ignore the pain we feel at others' plights. It means we look soberly at what we can reasonably do, what we feel we can accomplish, what we know our personal limits of effective action can be. For some, this may very well translate into devoting one's life to living among the poor and having direct action every day of our lives. For others, it may mean supporting a charity. For others, it may mean accepting that the problem is bigger than you can personally handle at this time and revisiting your options later. Dwelling on misery and human suffering will, in the end, make you miserable and make you suffer... Unless it doesn't and spurs you to action! In which case, you will feel pleasure in the energy and excitement you feel about working for a cause you believe in. If, on the other hand, it makes you feel overwhelmed and full of pain, figure out where that pain is coming from, make a choice of what you can handle to alleviate that pain - at this moment in time - take the action, and move along. We always reserve the ability to make further choices and rejections in the future. Our future is not determined by Fate. Our future is made by the choices we make in the present.

    As another example, I regularly regret that the ancient Epicureans had to face the decline and fall of their civilization to Christianity, but I try to budget the time I spend on that to a minimum since unless I am able to build a time machine before I die, there is precious little I can do about it! :)

    You can at least take pleasure in the thought experiment :) in going back and helping to save the Epicureans and bring back some original texts.