Gordon (Pamela) - The Invention and Gendering Of Epicurus

  • This book comes highly recommended (as in the podcast with Emily Austin) but I am sad to say that I have only skimmed it in the past and am not able to discuss it in detail. It definitely sounds like we need to have some discussion of it, and I don't think we have a previous thread on it. (If someone finds one please let me know and I will merge.)

    In addition to general commentary it looks like we are going to find some specific unexpected nuggets that we don't see elsewhere, so I hope we can help save some time by pointing those out to be sure we don't miss them.

  • O'Keefe's review seems spot-on. I've read most, though not all, of the book. None of the chapters offer a deep dive into the philosophy itself, but they all explore features (and criticisms of) Epicureanism that, it seems to me, continue in the current discussion of Epicureanism as somehow the weak inferior to Stoicism's 'active life of pursuing power and money.' The book is also filled with interesting historical tidbits. And, like O'Keefe says, she doesn't try to make too much of the evidence we have. I think another strength of her book is that she doesn't get lost in contemporary theory, instead doing what strikes me as old school classical research.

  • And, like O'Keefe says, she doesn't try to make too much of the evidence we have

    That's a constant temptation and a good warning. Aside from checking alternate translations and commentaries to compare different readings, it seems to me that another basic category of check amounts to what Lucretius says in book one about starting from the observational basics about the universe. Taking those observations you then - like a hunting dog or using the light of one step to enlighten another- you sniff out and deduce for yourself what can be supported as unchanging vs what is a matter of opinion that changes with circumstance. I have to think that is what Epicurus himself would say that he was doing.

    When we find something that changes as a matter of context we should clearly label it so. That doesn't make it less important to us individually, but it cautions us that we are not a supernatural "God" or "Nature" ourselves. Then we take that into account as we decide what we think is "true" or "right," and what we choose to do about it.

    That section in Lucretius about eternal properties of atoms vs accidents/events/emergent properties of bodies, and how they relate to the Trojan War, needs a lot more attention than it has been given.