Episode One Hundred Eight - The Benefits of A Proper Understanding of the Senses and of Natural Science

  • Welcome to Episode One Hundred Eight of Lucretius Today.

    This is a podcast dedicated to the poet Lucretius, who wrote "On The Nature of Things," the only complete presentation of Epicurean philosophy left to us from the ancient world.

    I am your host Cassius, and together with our panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we'll walk you through the six books of Lucretius' poem, and we'll discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.

    If you find the Epicurean worldview attractive, we invite you to join us in the study of Epicurus at EpicureanFriends.com, where you will find a discussion thread for each of our podcast episodes and many other topics.

    At this point in our podcast we have completed our first line-by-line review of the poem, and we have turned to the presentation of Epicurean ethics found in Cicero's On Ends. Today we turn to section 64 of Book One, and we discuss the Epicurean reliance on the senses and the benefits of natural science.

    Now let's join Joshua reading today's text:

    [64] Moreover, unless the constitution of the world is thoroughly understood, we shall by no means be able to justify the verdicts of our senses. Further, our mental perceptions all arise from our sensations; and if these are all to be true, as the system of Epicurus proves to us, then only will cognition and perception become possible. Now those who invalidate sensations and say that perception is altogether impossible, cannot even clear the way for this very argument of theirs when they have thrust the senses aside. Moreover, when cognition and knowledge have been invalidated, every principle concerning the conduct of life and the performance of its business becomes invalidated. So from natural science we borrow courage to withstand the fear of death, and firmness to face superstitious dread, and tranquillity of mind, through the removal of ignorance concerning the mysteries of the world, and self-control, arising from the elucidation of the nature of the passions and their different classes, and as I shewed just now, our leader again has established the canon and criterion of knowledge and thus has imparted to us a method for marking off falsehood from truth.

  • A metaphor for the relationship between the three core components of Epicurean philosophy.

    The keystone arch was a Roman invention, and a gateway to the building of the palatial domes and vaulted ceilings of Imperial architecture. For us, it may stand as a symbol for the careful balance of the Epicurean system.

    The keystone, or capstone, is clearly supported by the stones on either side. But just as the apex of the span is supported by the lower elements, it supports them also in its turn; the arch, though classified into parts, is in truth a single self-reinforcing whole. The Physics may stand alone, but standing alone it is weakened; and the same with the Canonics. Together they hold up the higher order function of the Ethics, and, so doing, hold each other up as well---and so without the Ethics, the system falls.

  • Great analogy! Thanks Joshua!

    And without the ethics (a position on how to live) we would have no interest whatsoever in the physics or canonics and they would be as irrelevant to us as they are to many people who drift aimlessly through life.

  • That is a great visual metaphor, Joshua !! It also alleviates the problem of which is more important or which comes first. All three are needed for the structure. I like it, too, for the idea that the arch can be seen as a portal to the Garden. Too bad the Greeks didn't have the arch. Lintel/post construction isn't as elegant as a metaphor. Maybe that's our visual representation of the philosophy. Better to have an arch necklace than an execution device around one's neck ^^ (Yeah, looking at you, Christians.)

  • The best thing the History Channel ever did, in my view, was a program that ran for one season called Engineering an Empire.

    Go Here and at the 25 minute mark there is a good little bit on how the keystone arch transformed Roman architecture.

  • Quote

    I'm curious if any of the newer members of the forum have ideas on a "symbol/logo" for Epicureanism.

    I have an idea for a flag, if that counts!

    A piglet, in attic-black, wreathed with laurel styled the same, on a field of goldenrod.


    Wreathed in Laurel;

    In Attic Black-Figure;

    On a field of goldenrod;

  • Because saffron has religious connotations in the East, and I don't know the names of very many colors!

    Whatever best matches the ceramic on attic pottery would be my choice.

    Edit; the range of colors that meet that criteria is of course quite broad, going from buff through yellow and into the reds.

  • Quote

    It is the color of paper that the Church of Scientology's Ethics Department prints its Suppressive Person Declares on, giving rise to the term "golden-rodding".

    I see that goldenrod is also a badge of honor! 😅

  • Summary of Pyrrhonism

    From the Wikipedia article on Pyrrho;


    A summary of Pyrrho's philosophy was preserved by Eusebius, quoting Aristocles, quoting Timon, in what is known as the "Aristocles passage."[7] There are conflicting interpretations of the ideas presented in this passage, each of which leads to a different conclusion as to what Pyrrho meant.[7]

    Whoever wants to live well (eudaimonia) must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?" Pyrrho's answer is that "As for pragmata they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastoi (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantoi (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.

    Why did I bring the flat earth into this?


    The 1876 Larousse dictionary, p. 1479, wrote thus:

    The name of zététiques, which means seekers, indicates a rather original nuance of skepticism: it is provisional skepticism, it is close to Descartes' idea about doubt as a means, not as an end, as a preliminary procedure, not as a definitive result. If all skeptics really were zététiques and only zététiques, they would have said with Pyrrho: "We do not arrive at doubt, but at the suspension of judgement" ... skeptics literally mean examiners, people who think, reflect, study attentively; but in the long run they take a more negative than doubtful stance, and has meant that those who are under the pretext of always examining never decide. ... the word zététiques is not made to resolve the debate between the two meanings of all these terms ... Moreover, the name zététiques has remained on the ground of the school that created it; and, despite its wide expansion, which would have helped make the term general for all seekers of truth in all fields, it is exclusively applied to skeptics, and we could even say to Greek skeptics or Pyrrhonists.

    That may sound well and good; but enter Zetetic Astronomy, and see where it leads.

    Zetetic Astronomy


    Samuel Birley Rowbotham (/ˈroʊbɒtəm/;[1] 1816 – 23 December 1884, in London) was an English inventor, writer and socialist[2] who wrote Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe under the pseudonym Parallax. His work was originally published as a 16-page pamphlet (1849), and later expanded into a book (1865).

    Rowbotham's method, which he called zetetic astronomy, models the Earth as a flat disc centered at the North Pole and bounded along its perimeter by a wall of ice, with the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars moving only several thousand miles above the surface of Earth.


    In his lectures and writings, Samuel Birley Rowbotham, founder of the modern flat-earth movement, repeatedly emphasized the importance of sticking to the facts. He called his system “zetetic astronomy” (zetetic from the Greek verb zetetikos, meaning to seek or inquire) because he sought only facts, and left mere theories to the likes of Copernicus and Newton. Rowbotham devoted the entire first chapter of his magnum opus to praising facts at the expense of theories, concluding, “Let the practise of theorising be abandoned as one oppressive to the reasoning powers, fatal to the full development of truth, and, in every sense, inimical to the solid progress of sound philosophy.”

  • That honestly sounds very interesting, especially in regards to Pyrrhonism. Awaiting the episode with big interest :)

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Episode One Hundred Eight - The Benefits of A Proper Undestanding of the Senses and of Natural Science” to “Episode One Hundred Eight - The Benefits of A Proper Understanding of the Senses and of Natural Science”.
  • Episode 108 of the Lucretius Today Podcast is now available. In this week's episode we discuss the benefits of the study of natural science, and how that study supports our reliance on the senses and our ability to live successfully.

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