Questions Re PD 26 - PD30 From the 10/5/22 Zoom

  • Several related questions came up last night which would be very good for discussion. If I am missing one in this list below, someone please add it:

    1. PD26 and PD30 are almost identical. Why are they so similar and is there a significant difference between them?
    2. PD30 is pretty hard to follow whether in isolation or in context. Taken alone it could easily be used by Stoic sympathizers to say that Epicurus was basically preaching not to pursue any desire (even natural desires!) which takes significant effort, regardless of the amount of pleasure thereby obtained. Probably the first and most important observation is that no single statement should be taken out of context, and there are many other texts that would not lead in that direction, including Epicurus himself saying in the letter to Menoeceus that we sometimes choose pain in order to pursue greater pleasure. But mainly using the text of PD30 itself, what's the best translation and way to untangle it consist with the whole?
    3. Also as to PD30, some translators say "natural" desires while others say "physical" desires? Why this ambiguity in the translators? Which is correct? Of the translators, which ones make the most sense and seem most consistent with the rest of the philosophy?
    4. PDs 26, 29, and 30 are tightly focused on the issue of proper analysis and dealing with desires. But why were PD27 and PD28 as to friendship inserted in the middle of that sequence, totally (or almost totally) breaking the train of thought?
    5. Given the questions above (especially question 4), what is best position to take on whether the PD's were authored in the form we have them by Epicurus himself? Did he write them in that form? Or are they like the Vatican Sayings, clearly compiled by someone else, probably after Epicurus' death? We know they were referred to as "Authorized" but does that mean by Epicurus personally, or by later heads of the school? Epicurus himself advised the use of outlines in the letter to Herodotus, and this appears to be an outline, and in an outline we do "jump around" and we don't demand the kind of strict continuity between headings that we would in a continuous presentation. But does not the issue raised in item 4 raise the objection that Epicurus himself (or maybe even any one person) would not have created such a break as was created by putting PD27 and PD28 in that order, when they could easily have been placed elsewhere where they would be more in context?
    6. Last but not least: Onenski raised the point (after reading a chapter in Martha Nussbaum) that PD30 probably includes "romance/sexual love/etc" as a natural desire that (by the wording of the doctrine) should be dispelled Does it make sense to consider romantic love as falling under PD30?

    We can split these questions up later over time, if needed, but I wanted to first get them recorded.

  • Here are three versions of PD30:

    PD30 “Among natural desires, those that do not bring pain when unfulfilled and that require intense exertion arise from groundless opinion; and such desires fail to be stamped out not by nature but because of the groundless opinions of humankind.” St.-Andre (2008)

    PD30 "Those natural desires which create no pain when unfulfilled, though pursued with an intense effort, are also due to groundless opinion; and if they are not dispelled, it is not because of their own nature, but because of human vanity." Epicurus Wiki

    PD30 “When those natural desires, which do not lead to pain if they are not satisfied, are violent and insistent, it is a proof that there is an admixture of vain opinion in them; for then energy does not arise from their own nature, but from the vain opinions of men.” Yonge (1853)

    In outline:

    Those natural (or bodily, in some translations) desires which

    1. don't bring pain when unfulfilled (another of Epicurus' double negatives)

    2. AND

    - require intense exertion

    - (or) are pursued with intense effort

    - (or) are violent and insistent desires

    3. are driven by vanity, not by their own nature

    This seems like catnip for someone with an ascetic point of view. However, in plain, modern English, at least by my paraphrasing:

    PD30 "Say you have a natural desire, and that if you don't fulfill it, it's not a big deal to you. If you do pursue it, it's going to require a lot of effort and potential pain. Do you think that this desire is worth pursuing? It would seem that your potential gratification would be outweighed by your potential suffering. Might it be wiser to spend your limited time pursuing something that's a bigger deal to you?" Godfrey (2022) :)

    Put this way, is this really ascetic or is it just common sense? PD26 seems to confirm this view:

    PD26 “The desires that do not bring pain when they go unfulfilled are not necessary; indeed they are easy to reject if they are hard to achieve or if they seem to produce harm.” St.-Andre (2008)

  • Since PD30 and PD26 seem so similar other than the inclusion of natural or bodily desires in PD30, I'm curious if anyone ( Don ) has a fresh take on the Greek? :/ (But only if the gratification outweighs the effort!)


    τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν ὅσαι μὴ ἐπʼ ἀλγοῦν ἐπανάγουσιν ἐὰν μὴ συμπληρῶσιν, οὐκ εἰσιν ἀναγκαῖαι, ἀλλʼ εὐδιάχυτον τὴν ὄρεξιν ἔχουσιν, ὅταν δυσπορίστων ἤ βλάβης ἀπεργαστικαὶ δόξωσιν εἶναι.


    ἐν αἷς τῶν φυσικῶν ἐπιθμιῶν μὴ ἐπʼ ἀλγοῦν δὲ ἐπαναγουσῶν ἐὰν μὴ συντελεσθῶσιν, ὑπάρχει ἡ σπουδὴ σύντονος, παρὰ κενὴν δόξαν αὗται γίνονται, καὶ οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν οὐ διαχέονται ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν.

  • I'm curious if anyone has a fresh take on the Greek?

    XXVI (26)

    ALGOUN - AΛΓOYN - ἀλγοῦν - /aːl.'gn/ the present contracted neuter infinitive participle ἄλγος (álgos, “pain”), meaning “suffering”, “illness”, “hardship”, “physical pain”.

    ANAGKAIAI - ANAΓKAIAI - ἀναγκαῖαι - /aːnag.'kaɪ.jaɪ/ - the singular feminine form of ἀναγκαῖος (anagkaîos) from ἀνάγκη (anánkē, “necessity”) +‎ -ιος (-ios) meaning “necessary”.

    APERGASTIKAI - AΠEPΓAΣTIKAI - ἀπεργαστικαὶ - /aːper.'gas.ti:kaɪ/ - related to ἀπεργαστικός (apergastikós, “fit for finishing”) meaning “produce”, “cause”, “lead to”.

    BLABES - BΛABHΣ - βλάβης - /'bla.bεːs/ - the genitive singular inflection of βλάβη (blábi), “hurt”, “damage”) meaning “harm”, “injury”.

    DOXOSIN - ΔOΞΩΣIN - δόξωσιν - /'dok.sɔːsiːn/ - related to δοκέω (dokéo, “expect”, “form an opinion”) sharing the same root δοξα (doksa) as Doxai (as in the Kuriai Doxai), meaning “thing desired”, “unnecessary desires”, “object of desire”, “desired objects”.

    DYSPORISTON - ΔYΣΠOPIΣTΩN - δυσπορίστων - /dyːspo.'riːstɔːn/ - the genitive plural inflection of δυσπόριστος (duspóristos, “gotten with much labor”, “hard to come by” or “procure”) meaning “difficult to procure”, “hard to acquire”.

    EKHOUSIN - EXOYΣIN - ἔχουσιν - /'eːkʰuːsiːn/ - the third-person plural present active indicative inflection of ἔχω (ékhō) meaning “possess”, obtain”, “attain”, “have”, “gain”.

    EPANAGOUSIN - EΠANAΓOYΣIN - ἐπανάγουσιν - /eːpa.'na.guːsiːn/ - related to ἐπανάγω(epanágō, “stir up”, “excite”) meaning “lead”, “bring”, “create”.

    EPITHYMION - EΠIΘYMIΩN - ἐπιθυμιῶν - /eːpiː'tʰyːmiːɔːn/ - the genitive plural inflection of επιθυμία (epithumía, “desire”, “yearning”, “appetite”, “wish”, “longing”) meaning “passion”, “striving”, “interest”, “desires”.

    EUDIAKHUTON - EUYIAXYTON - εὐδιάχυτον - /eu̯.diː'a.kʰyːton/ - from the word εὐδιάχυτος (eudiákhutos, “easily diffused”, “easily relieved”) meaning “easily got rid of”, “easily dispelled”, “easily thrust aside”, “easily diffused”, “easily dissolved”.

    OREXIN - OPEΞIN - ὄρεξιν - /'oːrek.siːn/ - an inflection of ὄρεξις (órexis) from ὀρέγω (orégō, “I stretch”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis) meaning “the thing desired”, “the craved object”.

    SYMPLEROSIN - ΣYMΠΛHPΩΣIN - συμπληρῶσιν - /syːm.plεː'ːsiːn/ - from συν- (syn-, “with”, “together”) + πληρόω (pleróō, “to fill”, “to full”, “to finish”, “to complete”, “to fulfill”) meaning “gratified”, “fulfilled”, “satisfied”.

    XXX (30)

    ALGOUN - AΛΓOYN - ἀλγοῦν - /aːl.'gn/ the present contracted neuter infinitive participle ἄλγος (álgos, “pain”), meaning “suffering”, “illness”, “hardship”, “physical pain”.

    ANTHROPOU - ANΘPΩΠOY - ἀνθρώπου - /aːn.'tʰrɔ:puː/ - the genitive singular form of ἄνθρωπος (ánthropos) "human being”, “people” “man”, “humanity”, “mankind”.

    DIAKHEONTAI - ΔIAXEONTAI - διαχέονται - /diːa.'kʰe.on.taɪ/ - an inflection of διαχέω (diakhéō, “to pour different ways”, “disperse”, “confound”, “run through”) meaning “dispelled”, “dissolved”, “defused”, “stamped out”, “dissipated”

    DOXAN - ΔOΞAN - δόξαν - /'dok.san/ - the accusative singular of δόξα (dóxa) from which δόξαι (doxai, “doctrines”) is derived (as in the Kuriai Doxai or “Key Doctrines” of Epicurus), meaning “expectation”, “opinion”, “judgment”, and “belief”.

    EPANAGOUSON - EΠANAΓOYΣΩN - ἐπαναγουσῶν - /eːː'ːn/ - related to ἐπανάγω (epanágo, “to stir up”) meaning “satisfied”, “gratified”, “fulfilled”, “indulged”.

    EPITHYMION - EΠIΘYMIΩN - ἐπιθυμιῶν - /eːpiː'tʰyːmiːɔːn/- the genitive plural inflection of επιθυμία (epithumía, “desire”, “yearning”, “appetite”, “wish”, “longing”) meaning “passion”, “striving”, “interest”, “desires”.

    GINONTAI - ΓINONTAI - γίνονται - /'giːnon.taɪ/ - related to γίγνομαι (gígnomai, “to come into being”, “be born”, “be produced”) meaning “arise”, “arising from”, “owing to”.

    HYPARKHEI - YΠAPXEI - υπάρχει - /hyː'par.kʰeɪ/ - the third-person singular present inflection of the the verb υπάρχω (hupárkhō, “to begin”) from ῠ̔πο- (húpo-, “under”) +‎ ᾰ̓́ρχω (árkhō, “to begin”) meaning “origin” or “beginning”.

    KENEN - KENHN - κενὴν - /ke.'nεːn/ the singular, feminine, accusative of κενός (kenós) meaning “empty”, “vain”, “fruitless”, “exhausted”, “void”, and “destitute”. The word κενὴν (kenén) describes an epistemological analogue to the physical “void” of κενῶν (kenón).

    KENODOXIAN - KENOΔOΞIAN - κενοδοξίαν - /'siːan/ - from κενὴν (kenén) and δόξαν (dóxan) meaning “liability to vain imagination”, “vanity”, “vain opinions”, “groundless”, “illusory”, “vain fancies”, “empty imaginings”, “beliefs”, “senseless whims”.

    PHYSIKON - ΦYΣIKΩN - φυσικῶν - /pʰyːsiː'kɔːn/- the genitive plural form of φυσικός (phusikós, “natural”, “physical”) describing “natural” desires.

    PHYSIN - ΦYΣIN - φύσιν - /'pʰyːsiːn/ - a singular, nominative form of φῠ́ω (phúō, “grow”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis) meaning “nature”, “origin”, “birth”, “quality”, “property”.

    SPOUDE - ΣΠOYΔH - σπουδὴ - /spuː'dεː/ - from σπεύδω (speúdō, “to make haste”) +‎ -η (, verbal stem) meaning “insistent”, “pursued”, “effort”, “fulfilled”, “exertion”, “satisfied”.

    SYNTELESTHOSIN - ΣYNTEΛEΣΘΩΣIN - συντελεσθῶσιν - /syːn.te.les.'tʰɔːsiːn/ - from συντελέω (sunteléo, “bring to an end”, “complete”, “finish”, “perpetrate”, “celebrate”, “hold”, “contribute”) meaning “satisfied”, “gratified”, “fulfilled”, “indulged”.

    SYNTONOS - ΣYNTONOΣ - σὺντονος - /'syː - meaning “strained tight”, “intense”, “impetuous”, “eager”, “jerking”, “violent”, “vehement”, “severe”, “earnest”.

  • I'll take you up on that challenge... tomorrow :)

    But the big difference I see off the bat is that 26 just mentions desires ἐπιθυμιῶν and 30 specifically physical/natural desires τῶν φυσικῶν ἐπιθμιῶν.

    More tomorrow....

    Edit: Thanks, Nate !!! I need to scroll better before I just post! Those vocabulary lists are great! Your compilation continues to be a great resource!

  • Okay, my mind is rambling, I'm tired, it's late, and still getting over some illness, but I made the decision to start playing with the Greek. Here's my work in progress... But then I'm really hanging up the phone and going to sleep. Really... Really! ^^


    ἐν αἷς τῶν φυσικῶν ἐπιθμιῶν μὴ ἐπʼ ἀλγοῦν δὲ ἐπαναγουσῶν ἐὰν μὴ συντελεσθῶσιν, ὑπάρχει ἡ σπουδὴ σύντονος, παρὰ κενὴν δόξαν αὗται γίνονται, καὶ οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν οὐ διαχέονται ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν.

    τῶν φυσικῶν ἐπιθμιῶν the "physikon" desires

    φυσικός < φύσις

    I. natural, native, opp. to διδακτός ("things taught, learned"), Xen., Arist.

    II. of or in the order of nature, natural, physical, opp. to ἠθικός ("morals, ethics"), Arist.

    So, the φυσικῶν ἐπιθμιῶν seem to be, while usually translated just "natural desires", are those desires that arise naturally from within the needs of our bodies and from the needs within our minds, too, maybe, since Epicurus teaches that our minds are physical; from our physical nature, not those desires that we learn or are taught we *should* have. These desires arising within our minds can also come from the need for well-being and not just shelter, food, and other physical needs.

    Then when saying that καὶ οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν οὐ διαχέονται "and not through their own 'nature' (φύσιν) are they not dispelled themselves." (Double negatives were common ways of emphasizing a point not the way we think of them)

    Compare the last phrases:

    καὶ οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν οὐ διαχέονται ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν (διαχέονται).

    -- οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν "*not* by its own nature dispelled

    -- παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν "by the empty beliefs of humans dispelled

    παρὰ with the accusative case can mean "*by* which anything increases or decreases, and so of the cause according to which anything comes into existence or varies" which seems to be the intent here in this phrase.

  • Apparently, then, PD30 is more specific than PD26 in that it's saying that even natural desires can get out of hand, but that this can't be blamed on the fact that they're natural. If you put a lot of effort into something that you can be perfectly happy without, that's vanity whether the desire is a natural one or not.

  • Don or Nate, what about the varying translations of "natural" vs "physical"? What explains that variation and which do you think is best?

    I'm interested to hear Nate's take.

    My initial thought would be "the whim of the translator." φυσικός is transliterated "physikos" so it looks like (and is the source of) English physical, physics, so some translators play up that similarity. Others lean on the definition instead:

    I. natural, native, opp. to διδακτός, Xen., Arist.

    II. of or in the order of nature, natural, physical, opp. to ἠθικός, Arist.

    This is again why it is SO important to go back to the texts! Two English words in translations can imply there's something going on where in fact it's just the quirk of the individual translator pulling at different connotations of a word.

    Φυσικός comes from the word φύσις physis which is even more nuanced. See below.

    To address your "which is best?" The best is φυσικός ^^ but seriously they both have good points and bad points but any English word is ultimately going to bring its own semantic baggage and be looking at the texts through a glass darkly. The best we can do is be aware of this and NEVER rely on one translation like it's the King James Bible.


    I. the nature, natural qualities, powers, constitution, condition, of a person or thing, Od., Hdt., attic

    2. like φυή, form, stature, ἢ νόον ἤ τοι φύσιν either in mind or outward form, Pind.; τὸν δὲ Λάϊον, φύσιν τίνʼ εἶχε, φράζε Soph.; τὴν ἐμὴν ἰδὼν φύσιν Ar.

    3. of the mind, one's nature, natural bent, powers, character, Soph., etc.

    4. often periphr., πέτρου φύσιν σύ γʼ ὀργάνειας, i. e. would'st provoke a stone, id=Soph.; ἡ φ. αὐτοῦ for αὐτός, Plat.

    II. nature, i. e. the order or law of nature, κατὰ φύσιν πεφυκέναι to be made so by nature, naturally, Hdt., etc.;—opp. to παρὰ φύσιν, Eur., Thuc.; so, προδότης ἐκ φύσεως a traitor by nature, Aeschin.:—so, in dat. φύσει, by nature, naturally, Ar., etc.:—f4usin 24exei, c. inf., it is natural that . . , Hdt., Plat.

    2. origin, birth, φύσει γεγονότες εὖ Hdt.; φ. νεώτερος Soph.; so, τὴν φύσιν Xen.

    III. nature, universe, Plat., Arist.

    IV. as a concrete term, creatures, animals (cf. φύστις), θνητὴ φ. man kind, Soph.; πόντου εἰναλία φ. the creatures of the sea, id=Soph.; θήλεια φ. woman- kind, Xen.; οἱ τοιαῦται φύσεις such creatures as these, Isocr.

    V. a nature, kind, sort, βιοτῆς φύσις Soph.: species, Xen.

    VI. sex, Soph., Thuc.

  • I suppose if we did not invest the word "natural" with a positive moral judgment then "natural" and "physical" would seem much more interchangeable. So is this going on throughout the "natural and necessary" discussion?

    If so that puts a whole different spin on the formula as an "ethical" doctrine and would cause one to question whether the analysis applies to purely "mental" desires.

    I tend to think it does apply to both, but this highlights the view of the nature of mental activity as also being physical.

  • We know they were referred to as "Authorized"

    I wouldn't put too much stress on that one word. What they are called are the κυριαι δοξαι kyriai doxai.

    The doxai are beliefs, doctrines, opinions, etc. This is where English gets the -dox in words like orthodox "correct/right beliefs".

    Kyriai is related to the the Kyrie (vocative case of kyrios) in the Christian prayer "Kyrie, eleison" "Lord, have mercy"

    Kyrie - Wikipedia

    The kyriai has connection to kyrios "lord, master, sir, the big kahuna, etc." So, these beliefs, doctrines, opinions are, in one sense, the *important* ones, the master doctrines, the important beliefs, the ones you're going to hold if you're an Epicurean.

    Here's the definition of kyrios

    Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, κύριος

    You'll see words like power, ordained, authority/authorized/authoritative, supreme, sovereign, principal, valid, proper, etc... All are equally correct and all bring their own English baggage with them. That's why some academics simply use KD (Kyriai Doxai) to refer to them.

    That's why you have SO many variations on the title of that work, which remember was NOT originally written as a numbered list!

  • To address your "which is best?" The best is φυσικός ^^ but seriously they both have good points and bad points but any English word is ultimately going to bring its own semantic baggage and be looking at the texts through a glass darkly. The best we can do is be aware of this and NEVER rely on one translation like it's the King James Bible

    Yes I think that is the key point and this emphasizes the danger of taking passages out of the context of the whole philosophy. If something seems to deviate from the whole that is a big clue to look for differences in word constructions and connotations, and this to look for ways to reconcile rather than adopt a construction that conflicts with the big picture.

  • As for the "K" in the KD issue let's also discuss our thoughts on whether this list was assembled BY Epicurus himself or assembled FROM his works by others. I am beginning to trend toward the latter view.

  • Well, Diogenes includes it in Epicurus's list of works. I realize that's not definitive, but KD holds together much better than Vatican Sayings which is definitely a compilation. Could a scribal error have mixed up some sections of KD? Definitely! Does KD have it's overall organization in a work by Epicurus? That's my position. And Epicurus didn't have to call it KD though I don't see why he couldn't. But I'd want to check references to such a work in Seneca, Cicero, and Philodemus et al. before staking a flag too deep:

    Such, then, in number and character are the writings of Epicurus, the best of which are the following :

    Of Nature, thirty-seven books.

    Of Atoms and Void.

    Of Love.

    Epitome of Objections to the Physicists.

    Against the Megarians.


    Sovran Maxims. Κύριαι δόξαι

    Of Choice and Avoidance.

    Of the End.

    Of the Standard, a work entitled Canon.


    Of the Gods.

    Of Piety.

    [28] Hegesianax.

    Of Human Life, four books.

    Of Just Dealing.

    Neocles : dedicated to Themista.


    Eurylochus : dedicated to Metrodorus.

    Of Vision.

    Of the Angle in the Atom.

    Of Touch.

    Of Fate.

    Theories of the Feelings--against Timocrates.

    Discovery of the Future.

    Introduction to Philosophy.

    Of Images.

    Of Presentation.


    Of Music.

    Of Justice and the other Virtues.

    Of Benefits and Gratitude.


    Timocrates, three books.

    Metrodorus, five books.

    Antidorus, two books.

    Theories about Diseases (and Death)--to Mithras.41


    Of Kingship.



    Edit: Oh, his Wikipedia article lists the work as Fundamental Propositions. I like that!

  • Again thanks to Don for finding that material in the Lycia book. My thoughts are definitely parallel with those of Usener to the effect that this was a collection that seems very unlikely to have been arranged by Epicurus himself, but which likely constitutes a series of quotes from Epicurus' writings. The result of that reasoning would be that the material is authentic to Epicurus himself, but not the collection or arrangement, and that brings into play important limitations in how we "read between the lines" from this single document.

  • My thoughts are definitely parallel with those of Usener

    My thoughts parallel Diskin Clay's in that excerpt in thinking Epicurus himself formulated and distributed a work forming the basis of the KD that may have been added to and edited after his death

  • The "Epicurus in Lycia" source says three different versions of KD's !!!

    That's why flexibility, insight, and willingness to think independently from the crowd are so important in studying Epicurus.

    The truth is out there, but has to be dug out, and controversies abound, so I recommend wearing a helmet while digging for it= ;)

    From Lucretius Book One:

    [398] Wherefore, however long you hang back with much objection, you must needs confess at last that there is void in things. And besides by telling you many an instance, I can heap up proof for my words. But these light footprints are enough for a keen mind: by them you may detect the rest for yourself. For as dogs ranging over mountains often find by scent the lairs of wild beasts shrouded under leafage, when once they are set on sure traces of their track, so for yourself you will be able in such themes as this to see one thing after another, to win your way to all the secret places and draw out the truth thence.


    If you know this, It only takes a very little trouble To learn the rest: the lessons, one by one, Brighten each other, no dark night will keep you, Pathless, astray, from ultimate vision and light, All things illumined in each other's radiance.