Episode One Hundred Thirty-Four - The Letter to Menoeceus 01- Context and Opening of the Letter

  • Post-show notes:

    On the meaning of the word eudaimonia, from Wikipedia article, which contains entries on Classical/Hellenistic philosophical understanding of the word.

    Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯moníaː]; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, /juːdɪˈmoʊniə/) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonly translated as 'happiness' or 'welfare'.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Episode One Hundred Thirty-Four - The Letter to Menoeceus 01 - (Preproduction)” to “Episode One Hundred Thirty-Four - The Letter to Menoeceus 01- Context and Opening of the Letter”.
  • Episode 134 - The Letter to Menoeceus 01 - Context and Opening - is now available. This week Kalosyni joins the panel and we begin the Letter to Menoeceus.

    External Content www.spreaker.com
    Content embedded from external sources will not be displayed without your consent.
    Through the activation of external content, you agree that personal data may be transferred to third party platforms. We have provided more information on this in our privacy policy.

  • The word used in the first section is φιλοσοφείν , the infinitive of the verb φιλοσοφέω 'philosopheō'

    The word literally is composed of:

    φίλος philos φιλιά philia "love/friendship" (deeper than this but we'll let it stand for now)


    σοφια sophia "wisdom"

    Philos/philia is the same component in Philadelphia "love + brotherly"

    As well as things like anglophile "England-love"

    & philanthropy "love (of) human beings ('anthropoi')"

    Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, φι^λί-α

    The word philia has more of a connotation of friendly love, affection, friendship, distinct from ἔρως erōs "erotic, romantic love"

    So, to be philosopheō had the sense to me if having an affection for wisdom, being close friends with wisdom.

    And here are the definitions of sophia:


    1. skill in handicraft and art, Il., Xen., etc.:— ς. τινός or περί τινος knowledge of, acquaintance with a thing, Plat.

    2. sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom, such as was attributed to the Seven Wise men, Theogn., Hdt.; in not so good a sense, cunning, shrewdness, craft, like δεινότης, Hdt.

  • One thing I wish I had commented on more emphatically was when Joshua responded to Kalosyni's point about happiness.

    At 15:30 Kalosyni says "Everyone knows what happiness is - that it's a feeling."

    At 16:20 in part of his response Joshua says "Epicurus says the feelings are two - pleasure and pain."

    Joshua didn't pursue that particular point further, but I don't think we can hammer it hard enough:

    In the Epicurean worldview, Nature gives us only TWO faculties by which to determine what to choose and avoid, pleasure and pain. There are only TWO feelings - pleasure and pain. And that means that if something is a feeling - if something can be felt - then it is either pleasure or pain, one of the two most comprehensive and basic categories.

    And that means that since happiness can be felt, happiness is a pleasure, "by definition." It's not the other way around - pleasure is not properly thought of as being "a happiness." Pleasure is the wider and most basic category, not happiness.

    So when the word happiness is used, the Epicurean context demands that happiness be understood as a form of pleasure, not pleasure as a form of happiness.

    I think if we keep that hiearachy in mind and apply it rigorously its much easier to avoid the pitfalls of weird definitions of happiness which are not "feelings" at all.

  • So, both Kalosyni and Joshua are right, depending on one's perspective.

    That wording reminds me of how big an issue "perspective" is in Epicurean philosophy. Over the years so many times I see people bounce between "All truth is absolute" and the go for "objective-ism" and then others will bounce to "absolutely nothing is absolute and absolutely everything is "relative."

    A lot of the key to Epicurus I think is getting a more firm grip on this issue. Yes our "perspective" is a huge determinant of what is "true" in many situations, but in others (our perspective on a train coming down the track toward us) our perspective is really of very little relevance.

    So neither extreme of relativism or absolutism is correct, but on the other hand it doesn't help much to say that the truth is "in the middle." The "truth" has to come from understanding our makeup as humans and evaluating exactly what is and is not relevant to us. And those are questions that can't be answered without the information that the Epicurean physics and epistemology gives to us.

  • So neither extreme of relativism or absolutism is correct, but on the other hand it doesn't help much to say that the truth is "in the middle."

    Oh, I wasn't even going the absolute/relative track in my mind. I just meant that one "feels" eudaimonia. And eudaimonia is, by definition, a pleasurable feeling.

    You're going deeper than I was ^^