Episode Sixty - Dreams and the Mind's Use of Images

  • I am objecting to attributing ideas to Epicurus that he didn't state, especially when those ideas are wrong! He clearly describes visual images as being made of particles and imagined images as being made of even finer particles, both thrown off as films from objects. He never says we store those particles in our minds, and that whole idea is even wilder than having them available to re-enter.


    When we remember images, we are not pulling particles of what we saw back out of storage to view. Visual memory involves neural transmission from the parietal lobe to the visual cortex (as well as widespread network neural activation in the brain), whereas in the initial seeing, the neural transmission is from the visual cortex to those other parts. But it's not image particles (the modern analogous thing being photons, which stimulate our retinas) being sent around again in the brain.


    Epicurus was very literal about his images being made of films of particles, and he has never said they are stored. He very concretely describes a re-entry process for visual imagination and dreams that is images re-entering, and he has not said memory is getting its images a different way. And although we do have a lot to learn about memory and imagination still today, it's very safe to say we are not storing photons in the brain! So why attribute such a notion of storing the actual _images_ to him, when he never said it?

  • Over my years of reading about Epicurus and talking about him on the internet I have always realized that images were one of the most challenging topics, right up there with anticipations (maybe for good reason).


    Certainly we're not alone in seeing this as challenging, and I feel absolutely sure that there are a lot of commentaries focused on these passages that will save us some time, at least in integrating other relevant passages, no matter whether we agree with the commentators' conclusions or not.


    So I will start looking through the basics (Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes of Oinoanda, Munro, Bailey, and also on JSTOR) and I am sure we will find some helpful material to post back here. Anyone who can help with that will of course be welcome!

  • Besides that, when he explains visualizing (imagination) of an actual type of thing as images re-entering, that whole process relies on memory! If I want to think of a cow, how would I do it without memory of what a cow looks like? And he said that is a process of deciding to see the thing and that image is instantly available. Not that the memory of what a cow looks like comes from inside a storage in the mind!

  • Besides that, when he explains visualizing (imagination) of an actual type of thing as images re-entering, that whole process relies on memory! If I want to think of a cow, how would I do it without memory of what a cow looks like? And he said that is a process of deciding to see the thing and that image is instantly available. Not that the memory of what a cow looks like comes from inside a storage in the mind!

    Yep - that's the kind of observation that makes it clear that there's more to this picture / spectre / image than we're currently seeing!

  • And he said that is a process of deciding to see the thing and that image is instantly available. Not that the memory of what a cow looks like comes from inside a storage in the mind!

    But isn't that how some academics describe the prolepseis? We know we're seeing a cow because we "have" a prolepsis of the concept of a cow in our language? Where do we "have" that Prolepsis?

    I'm not attempting to imply I have answers... Just questions.

  • Another implication is that we need to keep in mind that unless we are going to equate this process with that of "anticipations / preconceptions" then whatever this process is it has nothing to do with the "Canon of Truth" since it is not included within in. If so, what would that mean?



    Note: Don and I cross-posted on essentially the same point.

  • Diskin Clay on "An Epicurean Interpretation of Dreams. My comment on this one is that Diskin Clay impresses me a lot but I sense a pattern in his writing that he takes a very winding path to get to the important parts of an article. You probably need to skim over the first sections before you get to what is of interest here. As indicated on the first page, he starts off talking about Sigmund Freud and takes his time getting to the good stuff.


  • On the issue of whether this process of working with images is the same or similar to that of preconceptions, it would be good to review Voula Tsouna's article. In posting this today I scanned through it to look for whether it equated image processing with preconceptions. It doesn't jump out at me that she does, but I may have missed it. I do note, however, that in her table of keywords I do not see "images" or its equivalent.



  • Here is side by side comparison of the commentary of Bailey (white, left) vs Munro (colored, right) on this same section. Compare how Bailey categorizes the entire discussion in terms of "thought" while Munro does not mention the words "thought" or any variation of "thinking," but deals with the subject as if it is just another variation of sensation, not something different in kind.


    I also added underlines in Bailey which emphasize where Bailey is presuming his conclusion in his description. In passages marked 2 and 3 I also question the presumption that it is necessary for sensation and thought BOTH to be "set in action" and "stirred" by emations from outside. Yes as to sensations, but why does the action of the mind have to be in reaction to something OUTSIDE. I see no reason whatsoever in the rest of Epicurus to think that the mind cannot generate its own actions, and I would presume as devoted as Epicurus was to "agency" that the mind DOES initiate its own thoughts, in addition to responding to things that it perceives, just as we in this thread are both initiating our own comments and responding to the comments of each other.


    Bailey is insisting that in all cases the the receipt of images in the mind and the receipt of vision by the eyes are linked together in result, and I certainly see the passage that he is referring to it, but by no means does it follow (in my view) that this process is going on in *everything* that our minds think.



  • Here's another example of my ongoing dispute with Bailey, from the next page after what is quoted in the last post:




    Why, Mr Bailey, are you so certain that Lucretius / Epicurus chose to "go off into side issues" rather than "the main theory of thought?" Maybe it is you, Mr. Bailey, who misunderstands what the main issue is, and that that main issue is not "thought" at all, but the issues which Lucretius chooses to discuss?


    Following what I always think should be one of the most important rules of construction, maybe we should give Lucretius the benefit of the doubt and presume that he knows a little more about Epicurus than we do, and that if Lucretius chooses to say something and go off in a particular direction, that he has good reason for it?

  • I generally don't purchase antique / antiquarian books, but several years ago on ebay I saw listed a copy of Lucretius translated by John Mason Goode and published in 1810. The binding and format looked impressive and I had not heard of this edition, so I bought it. It has forever soured me on "poetic" translations of Lucretius, because I took an immediate dislike to it and have got very little benefit from it over the years. Goode takes what seem to me to be extreme liberties in converting the text into English poetry, and as if to one-up his questionable translation, Goode tended to add the most incredibly tangential footnotes I have ever read in a Lucretius translation. They seem much more oriented toward making Mr. Goode look like a man of the world rather than a classical poetry scholar.


    At any rate, I decided to check Goode's notes on this topic and what do you know he actually wrote a fairly lucid note that is probably helpful enough to include here. In the end his point seems to be "Epicurus' theory may be nonsense but those that came afterwards have been just as bad" but I do think the part that is his comparison to Plato and Aristotle on the theory of ideas is actually pretty insightful. I don't know that this puts him in either Munro's camp or Bailey's camp -- possibly slightly closer to Bailey than Munro, but in the end, it seems to me Goode is focused on the images more in the respect that they end up being a component of "analysis" or "truth" than their being the main mechanism of general "thought."


    A perfect example of my frustration with Goode is that he starts his note off by referencing the exchange between Cassius and Cicero, which as noted above i think is right on point, but he manages to cut out Cassius' reply and thereby omits to say that Cassius *denied* what Cicero was alleging about the images. Seems to me a rather surprising omission. ;)


    Anyway, maybe someone will find a scan of this to be a little thought-provoking. (Attached)




    I feel like the comment below underlined in red is HIGHLY justified, if Goode's note-writing is any indication: