I will look for a more definite statement of what I just wrote, but it is my understanding that that is a fair rendition of this section of the letter to Menoeceus:
I will look for a more definite statement of what I just wrote, but it is my understanding that that is a fair rendition of this section of the letter to Menoeceus:
We'll probably have a lot to discuss here, but let's first reestablish than anticipation is not true or false (so my wording is incorrect) - it is concepts that are true or false, and an anticipation precedes and is not the same as a concept:
So that first needs to be clarified in what I wrote above. It is not the "views of the gods" that are anticipations that are false, it is the conclusions that we make based on the anticipations.
The point I need to be focusing and making is that anticipations are not fully formed concepts and thus are neither true nor false -- it's opinions that are true or false.
No, that's not my interpretation of that section at all going back to the text itself.
The only valid - "true" - conception of the gods is through our prolepsis of a blessed and incorruptible being.
The beliefs of the masses, the hoi polloi, are what are false when they say the gods provide blessings to the good and punishment to the wicked.
(btw we cross posted. This was between your two.)
Nate what do you interpret that to mean? I have a lot of respect for Haris, and don't think he gets the credit he probably deserves for his books.
I just think his assertion lends weight to the proposition that ΠAΣAΝ ΦAΝTAΣTΙΚΗΝ EΠΙΒΟΛΗΝ TΗΣ ΔΙAΝΟΙAΣ (from KD24) is synonymous with the word ΠPOΛEΠΣIΣ.
Don would you say that any anticipation of the gods or anything else can be "true" or "false'?
That is probably the starting point for us to be together on. The rest derives from clarifying that, i think.
He makes a number of interesting assertions. On pages 71-72, he writes:
Our character, which incorporates the state of our mood, is a synthesis of our nature and nurture; it is biologically expressed through the neurons and synapses of our brain. In the Epicurean terminology it is known as "anticipations" or "prolepses," reflecting the view that our character anticipates, to a great extent, our future experiences.
I would reply - off the cuff here - that the components of the Canon - Sensations, Pathē, and Prolepseis - have to give us an accurate picture of reality upon which we then build our concepts which can then be either true or false or maybe valid or empty might need better. The pre-rational components on the Canon have to register reality or they're meaningless as a starting point. The idea that the oar is bent is an invalid concept built on the image reflected on our retina. Where the prolepseis fit in is more difficult but I have to think they also register reality before we begin to build concepts on them.
Liked I said, off the cuff.
I think Haris' instincts are good; it's unfortunate that he doesn't seem to pursue some of the details with footnotes or sources and so some of it does come across as "assertions" that are needing justifications. But someone reading and looking for new avenues to pursue would likely find his views useful.
Don this clip is what I see as the real issue, and the part underlined in red is where I think DeWitt canNOT be correct. To me he is implying that an anticipation is an idea (by calling it innate), so to me the part I poorly expressed above is this; the question is whether an anticipation is an "idea" that can be right or wrong (not that some anticipations are right and some are wrong; I stated that exactly incorrectly, as if I were taking DeWitt's position here):
I am pretty sure DeWitt's footnote 40 there is a reference to Bailey (I will look it up and confirm) and there I agree with Bailey, and would say that innate IDEAS are incompatible -- but not innate "principles".
(Note: Yes the cite 40 is to Bailey's "Greek Atomists and Epicurus, section 557.1)
I think deWiitt is mainly just speaking loosely, as I have been guilty of myself above. His last sentence, for example "yet there is compelling...." can still be correct. just because infant behavior may be anticipatory of later experience, that doesn't mean babies have innate "ideas."
40 is from Bailey's The Greek Atomists and Epicurus 557.1.
Continuing to try to think through these issues, as I reflect on our past discussions about anticipations, I currently think:
(1) That the path most likely to be productive is going to be something similar to a "pattern assembly" and/or "pattern recognition faculty, without which we would not even recognize that there are commonalities between things that upon further thinking we find similar in ways we can name.
(2) The most important question in the analysis is not about the mechanism, but the related issue of "content." If you take the position that anticipations are "true" or "false" in the same sense as we consider concepts to be true or false, then you will inevitably end up with Plato's ideal forms. You will conclude that Nature has somehow created on its own, and likely from eternity, certain "ideas" that exist in some way external to us, that we can eventually "recognize" through the rational use of our minds. So the closer you get to thinking that anticipations are fully formed ideas (in other words, you translate anticipations as "concepts" as Bailey does) then the closer you are to Plato and thinking that certain ideas are somehow created or blessed by Nature for us to recognize and adopt.
(3) I think DeWitt is correct in taking to task Diogenes Laertius' description of the formation of anticipations through repeated observations. Repeated observations can be part of the process of refining our thoughts, but they can't be the starting point. Something had to be in place previously so that the first time you saw a cow, or an ox, you had a faculty of absorbing certain parts of the observation into connections, that you then over time developed, through thinking and repeated observations, into the word "cow" or "ox." But that part of the process is the conceptual reasoning process, in which you think about the various attributes and decide what is and is not essential to your definition of "ox" and "cow." The pre-conceptual part, the part which it seems to me Epicurus is pointing to as anticipations, must involve an automatic, pre-rational, faculty (like the eyes or ears) that are turned to assemble perceptual data in certain ways, but which are not themselves pre-loaded with "ideas" to be recognized.
And that gets back to the error in my statements above. Concepts are true or false as a result of reasoning about them; we say 2 + 2 = 4 by definition, and we can say an equation is true or false due to our definitions. But a faculty like sight or hearing (or presumably anticipations) is only true or false in the sense of "how much of the full picture of all the facts are these perceptions accurately conveying to our minds?" Because neither the eyes nor the ears nor the anticipations (presumably) deliver "conclusions" to us; they just deliver raw data that we then ourselves have to evaluate is pleasurable or painful or blue or yellow or a tree or a flower or whatever.
OK I think I have it set up and linked correctly - if you see something you prefer changed, let me know. I'd like to keep some of the major stuff, like this and Don's Menoeceus and Josh's Torquatus, easily findable from the first page since they are so valuable. I've added a link to the "Core Document" page for the PDs too.
Did we talk about whether you might extend this at some point to the Vatican Sayings? Unfortunately I am not aware of nearly so many options.
And last but not least, if you ever had the time to really flesh it out as a handbook of all the lists, there's also the list of the "Twelve Fundamentals." I am only really aware of two versions of that: DeWitt's version, and also a list by Diskin Clay in his article on Epicurus' Last Will and Testament.
But those can come later I am sure what you've done already as you stretched as it is!
"The point which Epicurus discusses after sensation is what he called by the technical term of προλήψις, anticipation or preconception. It is explained asa general idea stored up, a right opinion, a conception, or the memory of what has been more than once presented to us from without. When we apply a name to an object we can only do so by means of a previous conception corresponding to the name: and that conception is ultimately an image derived from the senses. Epicurus, in explaining these "anticipations,” says: “In the case of every term of speech the primary ideas it conveys must be seen (by the mental eye) and not stand in need of demonstration: otherwise we shall have nothing to which to refer the point in question. These preconceptions are not in any true sense innate. They are products of observation. Their value lies in being common to the mass of mankind, and so affording a basis of argument. In the case of any dispute, in which general terms are employed, the first question is: What clear and distinct idea can we attach to it? And this does not mean, can I define it—can I substitute one set of general terms for another? But can I really put it before my intellectual vision distinctly? Epicurus, like Bishop Berkeley, reduces general ideas to the individual images which do duty for them in the imagination. He wants us to realize our ideas in a concrete case as the true test of our having them. And here, perhaps, is a fundamental fallacy of Epicureanism. It holds that truth is identical with what is clearly and distinctly conceived. It substitutes imagination for thought. Unlike Spinoza, who contrasts the imperfect conception of the imagination with the adequate knowledge of understanding, Epicurus abides by what is easily and satisfactorily presented to the mind under a pictorial or semi-sensuous aspect. Now, imagination most easily reproduces the phenomena familiar to us of bodies in motion. [...] A word only existed as the symbol of a mental image: and therefore it must present its credentials in the shape of a prolepsis, i.e. a clear and distinct image, conveyable, not in the general terms of a definition, but in the precise and particular language of a description. Can the conception be realized as an image? If it can, it is a safe and satisfactory basis of argument : if it cannot, it must be dismissed. A curious example of this dislike to generalities, to definitions and divisions, is seen in the contest which the Epicureans carried on against mathematics. If we believe Cicero, Epicurus declared the whole of geometry to be false : and he couples the remark with an expression of surprise as to whether Polyænus, who had a considerable mathematical reputation, had put the whole science aside after he became a disciple of Epicurus. We may be sure he did not; and the very conjunction of the two statements suggests that Epicureanism rather expressed a view of the nature and method of geometrical truth, than a doubt as to its scientific value. What the Epicureans principally objected to, we infer, were the principles—the axioms, postulates, and definitions: though others of them, like Zeno the Sidonian, went further, and urged that there were points involved in the demonstrations which had not been explicitly accepted in the preliminary principles. Now, the definitions of geometry have the defect that they cannot be represented in any distinct image. No man can conceive an image of a geometrical line, or point, or surface; the only image which can be raised to meet these terms is that of a physical line or surface, which is evidently quite unsatisfactory for the purposes of mathematics. Even if we go a step further, we can say that the general conception of a circle or a triangle corresponding to the definitions of Euclid is such as can only be realized in special and individual instances ofthesefigures. We need not particularly care for the abuse which, according to an ancient mathematician, they lavished on the proof of the proposition of the 1st Book of Euclid, as demonstrating what was palpable even to a donkey.) The main ground of their attack on the mathematical sciences was, that if they started from false premises (i.e.not in accordance with facts), they could not be true [...] The 'imaginative impressions on the intellect' are contrasted with the sensations in such a way as to render it more probable that we should understand by them the images which present themselves to the intellect (in the Epicurean description of it), and not to the senses. In other words, they represent the impressions derived from the spectra or idola, which are too delicate to affect the senses, but can act upon the mind." (Wallace, Epicureanism, 220-225)
And here, perhaps, is a fundamental fallacy of Epicureanism. It holds that truth is identical with what is clearly and distinctly conceived. It substitutes imagination for thought. Unlike Spinoza, who contrasts the imperfect conception of the imagination with the adequate knowledge of understanding, Epicurus abides by what is easily and satisfactorily presented to the mind under a pictorial or semi-sensuous aspect.
This is an example of the generally hostile tone toward Epicurus I pick up in Wallace's writing when I last tried to read this book. There's a lot going on here - another example is in referencing Berkeley, and I don't find Wallace persuasive in even being clear what his point is, much lest making it in a compelling way.
What the Epicureans principally objected to, we infer, were the principles—the axioms, postulates, and definitions: though others of them, like Zeno the Sidonian, went further, and urged that there were points involved in the demonstrations which had not been explicitly accepted in the preliminary principles.
This is a reference to geometry, but again I am not able to clearly say where Wallace is going. Is he saying that Epicurus was going too far in objecting to mathematics, or is he endorsing what I gather was Frances Wright's final viewpoint, that all efforts to conclude that any theory is sound, beyond just observation, is bound to fail.
It's definitely useful to add Wallace's translations to the big collection of variations of the texts, but I have not found his commentaries to be very helpful.
[Not posting this to be argumentative, just as a marker that if someone who is newer reads a long paragraph like that, and doesn't really follow where Wallace is going, that person is not alone.]
At the very least, if he is going to suggest that he is smarter than Epicurus and say something like this: "And here, perhaps, is a fundamental fallacy of Epicureanism. It holds that truth is identical with what is clearly and distinctly conceived. It substitutes imagination for thought." then I would like him to clearly explain why he thinks Epicurus was wrong and what he thinks the correct answer is. Does this mean he is a Platonist or religionist and finds truth in ideal forms or divine revelation or some kind of logic ("thought")?
From the text cover page on epicurus.info, fwiw:
by William Wallace (1843-1897)
Originally published by the "Society for promoting Christian Knowledge" in 1880 (now in public domain).
"The point which Epicurus discusses after sensation is what he called by the technical term of προλήψις, anticipation or preconception. It is explained asa general idea stored up, a right opinion, a conception, or the memory of what has been more than once presented to us from without. When we apply a name to an object we can only do so by means of a previous conception corresponding to the name: and that conception is ultimately an image derived from the senses.
This is the Laertius view of prolepsis which DeWitt argues against, so should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.
Being able to be summarised as a clear mental image can't be an essential feature of prolepsis since we know that Epicurus considered "justice" to be an example.
I think your statement is probably right SimonC, but it's no doubt a complex matter. There are all sorts of reasons to be careful in this controversy, or else you end up where Bailey did in his translation of this section of Diogenes Laertius - you just start using the word "concept" instead of pre-conceptions or prolepsis or anticipation:
The concept they speak of as an apprehension or right opinion or thought or general idea stored within the mind, that is to say a recollection of what has often been presented from without, as for instance ‘Such and such a thing is a man,’ for the moment the word ‘man’ is spoken, immediately by means of the concept his form too is thought of, as the senses give us the information. Therefore the first signification of every name is immediate and clear evidence. And we could not look for the object of our search, unless we have first known it. For instance, we ask, ‘Is that standing yonder a horse or a cow?’ To do this we must know by means of a concept the shape of horse and of cow. Otherwise we could not have named them, unless we previously knew their appearance by means of a concept. So the concepts are clear and immediate evidence.
I will give Bailey credit for honesty, because I think what he is describing is "conceptual reasoning" and certainly it does occur. We see or think of things over time, we form a definition of what is common or essential to a variety of things that we see (or just think about) to which we assign a name, and then we use that concept over time to discuss new instances of the same thing we have reduced to a definition.
But what Epicurus seems to be describing is something that occurs before we reach the stage of assigning a definition or even before we see any examples of a thing (this is where I think DeWitt rightly points to the Velleius material).
Plus, the process of assigning words (and aren't words pretty close to concepts?) would seem to be discretionary, and that's where you get the issue of opinion which is where error becomes possible, and it does not seem consistent to include a process where we know errors enter in to be a part of the "canon of truth" which seems to be uniformly "pre-rational."
I am not suggesting that what I am writing here is "correct" any more than previous attempts. I suppose the point here is that I don't see William Wallace's formulation as any more helpful than any of the other discussions.
As Nate has done for the translations, we probably would profit from trying to assemble the various options (DeWitt's, Bailey's, this one, etc etc etc) because it is even hard to state a list of the varying positions. I doubt that is at the top of my list to do, but assembling a list of the major positions on anticipations (sort of like we sometimes refer to idealist and realist views of the gods) would be very helpful. Simply saying "The DeWitt position" vs. "the Bailey position" vs. the "Voula Tsouna position" isn't really very helpful.
I was looking at Sedley's paper for something else and came across this:
According to Diogenes Laertius (X 31), the Canon gave the three criteria as being sensations, προλεψεις, and feelings. Cicero's translation of this phrase shows that there is no significance; except perhaps a grammatical one, in Diogenes' omission of the article before προλεψεις. I mention this because Furley and Rist have deduced from it that προλεψεις were lumped together with sensations as constituting a single category. Its inclusion of προλεψεις as truth-criteria dates the Canon at any rate later than the Letter to Herodotus, according to the principle established above. It may well also be significant that the metaphor of κανων, meaning a truth-criterion, does not occur in the fragments of On Nature Books I-XV, or in the Letter to Herodotus, but is found frequently in the writings which we have already established to belong after 300 B.C.71
This should help dispel the mystification created by Diogenes Laertius' observation that the Epicureans add φανταστικαι επιβολαι της διάνοιας as truth-criteria, which has appeared to many to conflict with Epicurus' own acceptance of these 'image-making mental acts of concentration ' as virtual truth-criteria in the Letter to Herodotus 79 and in KD XXIV. If we assign an early date not only to the Letter to Herodotus but also to KD XXIV, the most satisfactory solution will be that when he came to develop the notion of προλεψεις in the following years he subsumed under it certain truth-criteria to which he had previously granted an independent validity. We have already observed that the 'fundamental meaning of a word ' became an element in the broader concept of προλεψεις ; and the same goes also for the φανταστικαι επιβολαι της διάνοιας , without which we could not visualise things at will, and consequently could have no generalised conceptions at all. Thus when he came to write the Canon he had downgraded φανταστικαι επιβολαι της διάνοιας in favour of προλεψεις. And if later Epicureans chose to upgrade them once more to the status of criteria, they had good authority in their master's early works for so doing. (p.16)
Sedley's paper is available on Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/resource/work/4310042
Yikes. The main thing I get from that is that is going to pay to be cautious in taking positions on this topic.
This calls to mind how DeWitt comments that Lucretius seems to contain very little information on this subject, but that may be because Diogenes Laertius is the muddy one.
Maybe DeWitt is correct in pointing to the Velleius material as the best way to unwind the issues.
Very complicated and unclear subject.