Episode One Hundred Forty - The Letter to Menoeceus 07 - Completion of the Letter

  • Welcome to Episode One Hundred Forty 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 ancient Epicurean texts, 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.

    Today we continue our discussion of Pleasure in Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus. Now let's join Kalosyni reading today's text:


    [133] For indeed who, think you, is a better man than he who holds reverent opinions concerning the gods, and is at all times free from fear of death, and has reasoned out the end ordained by nature? He understands that the limit of good things is easy to fulfill and easy to attain, whereas the course of ills is either short in time or slight in pain; he laughs at (destiny), whom some have introduced as the mistress of all things. (He thinks that with us lies the chief power in determining events, some of which happen by necessity) and some by chance, and some are within our control; for while necessity cannot be called to account, he sees that chance is inconstant, but that which is in our control is subject to no master, and to it are naturally attached praise and blame.

    [134] For, indeed, it were better to follow the myths about the gods than to become a slave to the destiny of the natural philosophers: for the former suggests a hope of placating the gods by worship, whereas the latter involves a necessity which knows no placation. As to chance, he does not regard it as a god as most men do (for in a god’s acts there is no disorder), nor as an uncertain cause (of all things) for he does not believe that good and evil are given by chance to man for the framing of a blessed life, but that opportunities for great good and great evil are afforded by it.

    [135] He therefore thinks it better to be unfortunate in reasonable action than to prosper in unreason. For it is better in a man’s actions that what is well chosen (should fail, rather than that what is ill chosen) should be successful owing to chance.

    Meditate therefore on these things and things akin to them night and day by yourself; and with a companion like to yourself, and never shall you be disturbed waking or asleep, but you shall live like a god among men. For a man who lives among immortal blessings is not like unto a mortal being.


    [133] Who, then, is superior in thy judgement to such a man? He holds a holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but slight. Destiny, which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he laughs to scorn, affirming rather that some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance or fortune is inconstant; whereas our own actions are free, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach.

    [134] It were better, indeed, to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath that yoke of destiny which the natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope that we may escape if we honour the gods, while the necessity of the naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to men so as to make life blessed, though it supplies the starting-point of great good and great evil.

    [135] He believes that the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to the aid of chance.

    Exercise thyself in these and kindred precepts day and night, both by thyself and with him who is like unto thee; then never, either in waking or in dream, wilt thou be disturbed, but wilt live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.

  • Letter To Menoikeus: A New Translation With Commentary : Don Boozer : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    A new translation of the Letter to Menoikeus (Menoeceus) by Epicurus with commentary.

    [133] Seeing that, whom do you consider is better or more powerful than one who holds pious beliefs concerning the gods; one who has absolutely no fears concerning death; one who has rationally determined the τέλος of one's natural state; and the one who grasps that, on the one hand, good things (namely pleasures) are both easily attained and easily secured, and, on the other hand, evil things (or pains) are either short in time or brief in suffering; someone who laughs at Fate which is introduced onto the stage of life by many as the mistress of all things? For that person, even though some things happen by necessity, some by chance, and some by our own power, for although necessity is beyond our control, they see that chance is unstable and there is no other master beyond themselves, so that praise and its opposite are inseparably connected to themselves. [134] Because of this, it is better to follow the stories of the gods than to be enslaved by the deterministic decrees of the old natural philosophers, because necessity is not moved by prayer; and such a one accepts that Fortune is not a god, as the hoi polloi understand (for a god does nothing in a disorderly or haphazardly manner); And it is not the uncertain cause of everything, for one cannot think it can grant good or evil for a person’s blessed life; however, it does furnish for oneself the starting point of great goods and great evils, [135] believing that it is better to be unfortunate rationally than fortunate irrationally because it is better to have been deciding the noble way in accomplishing one's actions and to have been foiled than having decided the bad way and to succeed by means of chance.

    Meditate day and night then on this and similar things by yourself as well as together with those like yourself. And never, neither awake nor in sleep, throw yourself into confusion, and you will live as a god among humans; because no person who lives among eternal pleasures is like a mortal being.

  • Quote

    Let us imagine a man living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain: what possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? One so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain; he will know that death means complete unconsciousness, and that pain is generally light if long and short if strong, so that its intensity is compensated by brief duration and its continuance by diminishing severity. Let such a man moreover have no dread of any supernatural power; let him never suffer the pleasures of the past to fade away, but constantly renew their enjoyment in recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement.

    -Cicero, On Ends

  • Editing is coming along but I need to post this before I forget. In the episode Joshua brings up several references to Cassius and Brutus discussing "fate" in "Julius Caesar." I note in editing that when we dsicussed the second quote, about tides in the affairs of men, I don't think we quite read all that is relevant. Here's the full quote (which was from Brutus and wouldn't be understood the same way by Epicurus. The full quote really hits hard on the "fate" aspect:


    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    Which contrasts with Cassius saying:

    Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Episode One Hundred Forty - The Letter to Menoeceus 07 - The Conclusion of the Letter - (Preproduction )” to “Episode One Hundred Forty - The Letter to Menoeceus 07 - Completion of the Letter”.
  • Episode 140 - The Letter to Menoeceus 07 - Completion of the Letter - is now available!

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  • Quality talk. I still have about 130 episodes to hear. ^^ I especially enjoyed the discussion on chance and the jump to Epicurus' classification of desires. I also recently read Lucian's "Alexander the Oracle Monger" (or did Charles mention Alexander the Great or both? But I definitely remember the mentioning of false and ambigious oracles) and I can tell you, it's a quite immersive experience listening to people talking about and interconnect all these issues as if they were grown up with. Living in the Epicurusphere. Brilliant. :thumbup:

  • I am biased but I am convinced th podcasts are getting better and better, and the last series on Menoeceus have been the best yet.

    In fact all of them since we finished Lucretius are among the best we have done, and if we live long enough I am going to see that we go back through Lucretius a second time.

    At this point I would encourage new listeners to start with the episodes for the letters from Epicurus if they have to pick a place to start.

    I am going to work on packaging these for YouTube, and I am going to start that process in that order, with either the letter to Herodotus or Menoeceus first.

  • Gosh I forgot to mention the Torquatus podcast episodes, which reminds me that if I can forget about them myself I really need to get these organized and repackaged on YouTube. If I were recommending the real "best place to start" that might be the place.