Presenting the Principal Doctrines in Narrative Form

  • Don has recently emphasized the importance of not reading the Doctrines in isolation from each other, and that the original format probably was not divided into 40 doctrines as we have them.

    Let's talk about how they are logically divided in narrative form. Here is a first draft at dividing them logically - can this be improved?

    The Principal Doctrines [The Epicurus College Wiki]

  • I'm going to at some point go through the manuscripts like I started to for that other post to see if there are any obvious demarcations in the texts.

    But this is a good start!!

    :thumbup: :thumbup: Cassius !

  • My letter at the beginning of my Doxai contains an attempt at linking the ideas together fluidly:

    Dear Stranger,

    Your Best Life is an existence of uninterruptible satisfaction. Never let fear disrupt your Best Life. Remember, pleasure peaks when your pain has been relieved. All pain is temporary, and the worst pain is the most brief.

    Living a full life requires sense, dignity, and decency. Make choices based on their consequences, not ideology. Know that fame is no guarantee of your Best Life.

    Keep pleasure as your goal, even though pleasurable things sometimes cause pain. Things are “good” when they relieve pain and “evil” when they increase pain. Ignorance of “good” and “evil” leads to even more pain; knowing that pleasure is good dispels fear.

    Defense against others is pointless if you live in fear of the unknown. Real security means knowledge, discretion, and privacy, not wealth and power. The best things in life are free; luxuries always come with added stress. Minimize the impact of “bad luck” by making wise decisions. Be honest to enjoy your freest life; cheating leads to angst.

    Physical pleasure is painlessness; mental pleasure is fearlessness. There is no greater joy than pure pleasure. The Good Life is available to everyone, no matter how long they live. There is no need to compete for happiness; Nature provides it abundantly.

    Reconcile your opinions with evidence. If you doubt your eyes, you'll never be able to see clearly. Listen carefully, but don't believe everything you hear.

    Always make decisions with your Best Life in mind. Rest assured, wants are easier to forget than needs; needs are easier to satisfy. Friendship is our greatest source of pleasure, and also , our greatest source of security. Some desires are needs, some, wants , and some, unhealthy obsessions. Commit to healthy priorities to live your Best Life.

    Justice is just a natural peace. Anything incapable of peace is incapable of justice. Universal laws are not real; only natural peace is real. Therefore, violating the law is not evil; what is evil is the pain of spending your life looking over your shoulder. Violating the peace of nature, however, is always unjust. Even so, justice is not the same for everyone. Violating the law can be just, when the law, itself becomes unjust.

    At your best, form genuine friendships and spread cheer. At your worst, avoid making enemies. Cultivate a true circle of loved ones to help you live your Best Life.

    May you cultivate true happiness,


  • Okay, as promised, here are the best digitized manuscripts I can find online of Diogenes Laertius with citations and images of where the Principal Doctrines start. I have not begun to go through the various texts to see where gaps appear to be, but the Oxford Arundel MS531 seems to be the most promising for that exercise; however, the others definitely need to be examined.

    Oh, and this isn't intended to be just for people who read Greek. I would be curious for anyone to take a look at the pages starting where I've indicated to see if anyone sees, to their eyes, natural breaks in the text. Even if you don't read Greek, point them out! We'll see where they end up.


    First manuscript from 14th century CE

    codex Parisinus gr. 1759 (14th c.) known as P

    Diogène Laërce
    Diogène Laërce -- 1075-1150 -- manuscrits

    Principal Doctrines start on 247v, bottom of page, middle of the 3rd line from the bottom with το μακαριον…


    Second manuscript from 14/15th c. CE

    codex Parisinus gr. I758 (14th or 15th c.) known as Q

    Grec 1758
    Grec 1758 -- 1401-1500 -- manuscrits

    Principal Doctrines start on folio 206, middle of page; 14 lines from the top, right side; alternatively, 12 lines from the bottom


    Third manuscript from the 12 century CE

    codex Laurentianus Plut.69.35 - written 1101-1200 CE (12 century CE)

    Principal Doctrines start on folio 243v, 10 lines from the bottom on the left side.


    Fourth Manuscript from 2nd half of 15th century CE

    Oxford Arundel MS531

    Principal Doctrines start on f.176r: 7 lines down from the top after a NOTICEABLE SPACE in the text.


    There is a fifth manuscript, codex Vaticanus gr. 140 (14th c.) known as W


    but the digital copy is in terrible shape!

  • Wow thank you Don! At least we are now pretty sure the original was NOT divided neatly and numbered to 40! But I do see regular "dots" that presumably indicate something (?)

  • Wow thank you Don! At least we are now pretty sure the original was divided neatly and numbered to 40! But I do see regular "dots" that presumably indicate something (?)

    My pleasure! It was fun.

    The "dots" are typically either "semi-colons" (a raised dot in Greek manuscripts) or periods.

  • Do we think even those dots date back to the original, or did they evolve later

    Greek orthography - Wikipedia

    For contrast, here's a page from Philodemus' On Choices and Avoidances from P.Herc. 1251. dating to between 50 to 1 BCE.

    At that time, everyone just "knew" where to read punctuation and the script was written continuously and in all "capitals" to our way of thinking... But that was just how they wrote. Once Greek started to be a lingua franca among disparate cultures (or just to make it easier to read!), the punctuation and accent marks were "invented" and added to the text.

    It's the difference between this:




    and this

    It would be quite difficult, but not impossible, to read this way in text.

    So, the "punctuation marks" were always there, after a fashion, even if they weren't written. That said, it can be interesting to see how phrases were punctuated. Here's an example from my characteristics of the sage:

    Epicurean Sage - Service to a king... A sage will be grateful to anyone who corrects them
    Hicks: And he will make money, but only by his wisdom, if he should be in poverty, and he will pay court to a king, if need be. Yonge: The wise man will also,…