First Principle of Autarchy

  • As many of you must have noticed, and because Herculaneum Day is coming up later this month, I've put together blogs to serve as focused study guides for different aspects of the Philodeman teachings, particularly the central conclusions that many years ago I drew from their reading. I've done so with the scroll on piety and now also with the scroll on property management. Here is the first one:

    The Seven Principles of Autarchy are seven general guiding ideas that were distilled from the reasonings about Philodemus of Gadara’s Herculaneum scroll On Property Management which were published in Society of Epicurus. They are guides to aid in memorization of key, useful points that can be gleaned from the scroll, following the Epicurean educational tradition of short, concise summaries of ideas, as well as conversation starters for students of philosophy who want to delve deeper into pragmatic aspects of the tradition–in this case, Epicurean economics. They are:

    The first principle is:

    There is a natural measure of wealth (as opposed to the corrupt, cultural measure of wealth), which is tied to natural and necessary desires. Understanding this will provide us with serenity and indifference to profit and loss.

    Princeton University Study on Money and Happiness

    An Epicurean “Measure of Wealth” in Horace, Satires 1.1, by Sergio Yona

    The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure;
    but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

    – Principal Doctrine 15

    [One] must [regard] wealth [beyond] what is natural [as of no more use than water] to a container that is full [to] overflowing. We can look at the other people’s possessions [without envy] and experience [purer] pleasure than they can; for [we are free from cravings]. – Diogenes’ Wall, Fragment 108

    [Expecting] that they will find the pleasant life [above all] in wealth, they embark on a frenzied quest for it; then, if they become wealthy, they are indignant at not finding what they expected. – Diogenes’ Wall, Fragment 124

    Indeed, I think that the right management of wealth lies in this: in not feeling distressed about what one loses and in not trapping oneself on treadmills because of an obsessive zeal concerning the more and the less. – Philodemus of Gadara

    Surely, Socrates always had the characteristic of impracticality. Besides, as regards his claim that five minae seem to him sufficient for the necessary and natural needs of men, that prosperity in life is something empty, and that he does not need anything more in addition to those, it is impracticable and conflicts with reason. – Philodemus, On Weath Management, Column IV

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • James Bridge says:

    I might just be slow on the uptake since I’ve got no background in philosophy, but could I ask you to more clearly define or explain the statement that, “There is a natural measure of wealth (as opposed to the corrupt, cultural measure of wealth)?” Much thanks!

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words