Toward A Better Understanding of Epicurean Justice And Injustice (With Examples of "Just" and "Unjust")

  • Wow! This is a long interesting thread.

    I’m just going to comment on the latter part of “doing no harm”.

    In my opinion the doing of harm relates to intention. But purely the intention of harming someone outside of personal self-defense or preservation. As in assaulting or murdering an innocent person, defrauding them, slandering them...basically hurting the other for the sake of it or for your own benefit.

    Any act of self defense and the intention of defending yourself would fall outside the realm of doing harm, since defending yourself or a loved one is a “natural” act that is in accord with nature. So having a .38 in your nightstand and training to use it is intentional to DO HARM, but since the intention is based in self-defense and that act is natural it would seem to be entirely just.

  • Matt Your comments highlight exactly the points I'm trying to wrap my brain around. It seems to me that Epicurus is making the distinction you're looking at but taking the opposite tack:

    He seems to consistently use βλάπτειν (blaptein) to convey "harm" but that seems to be not wilfully…999.04.0058:entry=bla/ptw

    That word appears to be the opposite of αδικέω literally "not act unjustly" or to do wrong…entry=bla/ptw&i=1#lexicon

    Epicurus seems to be trying to take the motivation out of it from my reading. That's why he has to define "justice" as "not doing harm and not being harmed" regardless of the motivation of the actor.

    Still struggling... Open to ideas!

  • Yes I DEFINITELY think it's relevant. Two notes:

    (1) I edited Godfrey's post to put a link to make PD14 a link to the text.

    (2) And that reminds me that it would be very easy to add the PD's into the "lexicon" feature so that every time someone rights PDXX the text is converted into a link into that exact text. That would be a neat use of the Lexicon that had escaped me! I'll test that out and we'll see.

  • Reading Matt's post #101 brings to mind PD14 and how that might relate to this discussion. I'm not sure how that might be, just putting it out there :/

    One reason I'm posting here is to bump this back up the list of active threads. I don't think we're anywhere near exhausting this issue. I also wanted to refer back to my own interpretation/translation of PD14 to reply to Godfrey 's post above. Here's the link to the thread and my translation (click the phrase).

    If you look at Nathan's translation compilation, you'll see DeWitt uses "dynastic protection" but I think that is just incorrect (Sorry, Norman). The Greek is δυνάμει but dynastic seems to be more related to δυνάστης with a sigma after the alpha (noted). I have great respect for DeWitt's scholarship, but I'm not convinced of his "dynastic protection" here. It seems to be more related to an individual's power to repel aggression/harm. Which, I agree with Godfrey, related to the idea of "neither harm nor be harmed" in some way... and that is related to the idea of what it means to be "just" in Epicurean philosophy. We really have to wrestle with PD31 through maybe the end and PD40. There a LOT to sift through there!!

  • Epicurean Justice and Law
    This dissertation concerns a cluster of related issues surrounding the Epicurean conception of justice. First, I show that the Epicureans defend a…

    I certainly haven't read this entire PhD dissertation, but I was intrigued by the title in light of this thread

    I also hadn't heard of the author before: Jan Maximilian Robitzsch

    Epicurean Justice and Law


    This dissertation concerns a cluster of related issues surrounding the Epicurean conception of justice. First, I show that the Epicureans defend a sophisticated kind of social contract theory and maintain a kind of legal positivism, views that are widely held today and so are of continuing interest for contemporary readers. In doing so, I argue that thinking about justice and law forms an integral part of Epicurean philosophy (pace the standard view). Second, I take up some neglected issues regarding justice and so provide detailed accounts of the metaphysics of moral properties in Epicureanism as well as of Epicurean moral epistemology.

  • Yes that does sound interesting. I gather "legal positivism" refers generally to the view that laws are created by people and not thought to be "natural law" or "absolute" so that would seem right to me, as would the view that justice is an integral part of the philosophy.