Welcome Cleveland Oakie!

  • Welcome Cleveland Okie !

    This is the place for students of Epicurus to coordinate their studies and work together to promote the philosophy of Epicurus. Please remember that all posting here is subject to our Community Standards / Rules of the Forum our Not Neo-Epicurean, But Epicurean and our Posting Policy statements and associated posts.

    Please understand that the leaders of this forum are well aware that many fans of Epicurus may have sincerely-held views of what Epicurus taught that are incompatible with the purposes and standards of this forum. This forum is dedicated exclusively to the study and support of people who are committed to classical Epicurean views. As a result, this forum is not for people who seek to mix and match some Epicurean views with positions that are inherently inconsistent with the core teachings of Epicurus.

    All of us who are here have arrived at our respect for Epicurus after long journeys through other philosophies, and we do not demand of others what we were not able to do ourselves. Epicurean philosophy is very different from other viewpoints, and it takes time to understand how deep those differences really are. That's why we have membership levels here at the forum which allow for new participants to discuss and develop their own learning, but it's also why we have standards that will lead in some cases to arguments being limited, and even participants being removed, when the purposes of the community require it. Epicurean philosophy is not inherently democratic, or committed to unlimited free speech, or devoted to any other form of organization other than the pursuit by our community of happy living through the principles of Epicurean philosophy.

    One way you can be most assured of your time here being productive is to tell us a little about yourself and personal your background in reading Epicurean texts. It would also be helpful if you could tell us how you found this forum, and any particular areas of interest that you have which would help us make sure that your questions and thoughts are addressed.

    In that regard we have found over the years that there are a number of key texts and references which most all serious students of Epicurus will want to read and evaluate for themselves. Those include the following.

    1. "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Norman DeWitt
    2. The Biography of Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius. This includes the surviving letters of Epicurus, including those to Herodotus, Pythocles, and Menoeceus.
    3. "On The Nature of Things" - by Lucretius (a poetic abridgement of Epicurus' "On Nature"
    4. "Epicurus on Pleasure" - By Boris Nikolsky
    5. The chapters on Epicurus in Gosling and Taylor's "The Greeks On Pleasure."
    6. Cicero's "On Ends" - Torquatus Section
    7. Cicero's "On The Nature of the Gods" - Velleius Section
    8. The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda - Martin Ferguson Smith translation
    9. A Few Days In Athens" - Frances Wright
    10. Lucian Core Texts on Epicurus: (1) Alexander the Oracle-Monger, (2) Hermotimus
    11. Philodemus "On Methods of Inference" (De Lacy version, including his appendix on relationship of Epicurean canon to Aristotle and other Greeks)
    12. "The Greeks on Pleasure" -Gosling & Taylor Sections on Epicurus, especially the section on katastematic and kinetic pleasure which explains why ultimately this distinction was not of great significance to Epicurus.

    It is by no means essential or required that you have read these texts before participating in the forum, but your understanding of Epicurus will be much enhanced the more of these you have read.

    And time has also indicated to us that if you can find the time to read one book which will best explain classical Epicurean philosophy, as opposed to most modern "eclectic" interpretations of Epicurus, that book is Norman DeWitt's Epicurus And His Philosophy.

    Welcome to the forum!



  • Thanks for the welcome.

    How I got here: I have run across references to Epicureanism before that made the philosophy seem interesting, but what sparked my recent concentration was this blog post by Bryan Caplan:

    40 Things I Learned in My First 40 Years - Econlib
    Today I turn 40.  To ease the pain, I’ve decided to write a list of important lessons I’ve learned during my first four decades.  In no particular order:…

    Where he writes, "The best three pages in philosophy remain Epicurus’ “Letter to Menoeceus.”

    I read the letter, I think the version on your website, and I am now almost finished with "Epicurus and the Pleasant Life" by Haris Dimitriades. I have downloaded a copy of the DeWitt book and I plan to read it soon.

  • Haris Dimitriades.

    I've had many good exchanges with Haris over the last ten years via Facebook, and I have his book too. Among the recent ones that focus on the more practical aspect of applying Epicurean philosophy I think his is one of the better ones.

  • I've finished "Epicurus and the Pleasant Life." I thought it was quite good, if a little uneven. I particularly liked Chapter 9, the chapter on Pleasure. This is one of the sentences I bookmarked in the chapter: "The wise man creatively leverages the capacity of the mind to look backward and forward, but those who look to the past with bitterness and to the future with fear ran the danger of transforming this ability into a weakness."

    And I liked this sentence from Chapter 30: "The physical pleasures through our senses and the mental pleasures through our mind are an endless ocean. All we need to do is become more attentive to the present and not allow ourselves to be pulled out of our ongoing pleasure by fear of future pain."

    I'm going to read Norman DeWitt's book next; I'm a little frustrated by not being able to find a Kindle or ePub edition, but I have downloaded a PDF.

    One of the reasons Epicureanism is attractive to me is many of the doctrines fit with conclusions I already had reached. For example, his advice not to become obsessed with politics seems more relevant than ever in the current age; I sometimes feel I am the only person in the U.S. who doesn't endlessly post political talking points on Facebook, repeating slogans from a favorite political TV network.

    In my day job, I come into contact a lot with people affected by the opioid crisis. Epicurus wasn't talking about heroin, I guess, but addiction to hard drugs seems exactly like the kind of pleasures that are not worth indulging in. It's hard to enjoy looking at a sunset or talking to a pretty girl if you are dead from an overdose.

  • Cleveland you will find DeWitt's book to be significantly different in nature. It has been a while since I read Haris' book, but i recall it to be more focused on practical advice, much along the lines you quote.

    DeWitt's book is more of an encyclopedic treatment of the history and theory of Epicurean philosophy. It will give you the foundation on which the philosophy is built and explain the many details that are very unfamiliar to most of us as we approach the philosophy for the first time. I recall that Haris does go over the outlines, but i think you will find that Dewitt really puts Epicurus in context with a general philosophical framework.

    As we tell everybody please let us know if you have comments or questions as you read it. We have a whole section of the forum here devoted to discussing it chapter by chapter. You may find some things already there that will help you, but it's of great help to us if you make new comments or ask new questions as you read through it, so be sure to do that if you're at all inclined to.

  • Cassius, I have been reading DeWitt's book, a chapter a day, and I'm about halfway through. It's a very good backgrounder on the philosopher and the philosophy, so it's a good early book to read, but I think my main interest is, as you put it, to "focus on the more practical aspect of applying Epicurean philosophy." What is your favorite among books that do that?

  • That's a very good question! I am not sure that there are any that strike me as satisfying on that score as well as DeWitt does on the background, but because I trust his consistency I would probably say Haris Dimitriadis' book as found at Epicurusphilosophy.com.

    I would be curious at any comments from others in answer to this question.

    I would also rank Catherine Wilson's books as better than many, although with her i.have to warn that (as with many others) there is a tendency to equate the writers moral/political views as those of Epicurus.

    For that reason despite its emphasis on theory I think that someone who takes to heart the basic principles DeWitt discussed, and honestly sits back and asks "How would I be living today if I had been taught these things from childhood?" is far ahead of the game.

    The standard suggestions you will read about "simple loving" and the like in other books can indeed be helpful, but the danger is that each if us have different circumstances, and too cookie-cutter an effort to implement them is not a good idea. On that score VS63 is always good to remember!

    I think the true benefit of Epicurus is in helping you reprogram your mind on the ultimate issues of life, and once one does that the immediate practical decisions fall into place very naturally.

  • Oh gosh I am writing this at 4:00 am and just noticed in the thread that you have already read Haris' book!

    Maybe it would help if you told us about particular areas of interest?

  • Personally I haven't found a good book on how to practice EP: I think we need to write one :)

    I agree with Cassius that a major part of the process is just changing or fine tuning your world view. I'm also finding that the more that I live with that world view the clearer the practical details become and the better I'm able to interpret the nuances of the doctrines. But, at least for me, it's a long process and one that I'm still in the middle of.

  • OMG what a terrible typo! Though come to think of it maybe it was a Freudian slip! Simple loving without the romantic overload might be just what the doctor ordered! :)

  • It looks like the only recommendations I'm getting are Catherine Wilson's books, so I will try them next.

    What do you guys think of Hiram Crespo's book, "Tending the Epicurean Garden"?

  • Oh, I see you've created a useful thread!

  • I found Catherine Wilson's book "How to be an Epicurean: the Art of Ancient Art of Living Well" at my library. Skimmed through rather quickly, and returned it also rather quickly. It had a "fluffy" feeling to it...I think it's better to read the Principle Doctrines and contemplate their deeper meanings and how they can be applied to one's own life. Yet, if you can easily find it a library, could be good if you like things that have a "self-help" quality. (Been there, done that, too many times already).

  • Just for the record, realize that I shouldn't put down "self-help" books, as I've found great benefits in the past, seen many a time when just the right self-help book came along...it's just really a matter of personal reference.