Music Theory And Epicurean Philosophy

  • [Edit by Cassius: This thread was started in response to my asking about Major and Minor key, which came up in the discussion of Romanze in Moll (the Romance in Minor Key" movie. I asked:  Nate if you get a chance to glance at this thread: Can you explain to a non-musician like me what "minor key" is and how it is musically able to evoke sadness, as opposed to major key? I will look this up on Wikipedia but I would be interested in your comment.]

    Yes! So, to dive into this, I'd like to talk about two, different, creative arenas.

    First, we have an immediate phenomenology of music: what is music, and how do we experience music?

    Second, we need to explore the cultural environment in which the appearance of structures like "major", and "minor" arise (because they are not, themselves, universal variables). Furthermore, I'll discuss "major" and "minor" specifically, to explain why those two structures (of many) are the most useful examples for non-musicians to regularly cite to acknowledge how human emotion corresponds with soundwaves.

    First, what is music? Music is a storytelling art in which music-listeners accept sound as the medium through which the story is told; jumping deeper, sound is the reverberation of mechanical energy and, physically, mechanical energy is a sin wave. So, phenomenologically, music, as we experience it, is the story our minds spin when the mind anticipates patterns in the sin waves of mechanical energy (captured by the fleshy satellite dishes on either side of our cranium). Most of the time, we assume music to be an artificially-generated (i.e. intentional) composition––this is not always true, for Nature, itself, is inherently musical. The parts of our brain that register auditory impulses are simply looking for periodic (regularly patterned) sound waves. While most sounds we hear in nature are aperiodic (irregularly patterned) sound waves (which we call technically refer to as "noise"), that does not mean that natural patterns do not exist. For example, consider the "Wow! signal" [!_signal ]––which, in this case, deals with electromagnetic, and not mechanical waveforms, but still demonstrates the point, which is that the mind starts writing stories when it begins anticipating patterns, regardless of whether or not those patterns were intentionally-generated. To summarize, music is the story that our minds spin, according to the patterns it interprets and anticipates from sound waves.

    Next, let's explore the perceived structures of music. Starting a few levels of scale above atoms, let's first acknowledge that our ears (the hosts of our internal auditorium) will only identify mechanical energy that vibrates between 20 and 20,000 Hz. That's the full sonic spectrum with which we have to paint. But we don't use that full spectrum––the full spectrum sometimes looks like 'Waves Crashing On Rocks' or 'Volcanic Explosions', a lot of musical colors (notes) that, together, just create dissatisfying messes of mutually-indistinguishable farts. Herein, the musician's job is to select a few musical colors (notes) that most adequately express the acoustic picture they are trying to audibly paint. Like the colors of the rainbow, which reduce the visible spectrum of electromagnetic radiation vibrating between 430 and 770 THz to "Roy G. Biv", we identify the audible spectrum of sound by symbolic qualia. For example, the mind of a painter does not mathematically register light at 430 THz, but it does artistically know precisely what deep red looks like. Similarly, the mind of a musician does not mathematically register sound at 440 Hz, but we know exactly how 'Middle A' sounds. The qualitaties we use to express anticipatory patterns of mechanical energy (the C note), as with light (the color Red), correspond with cultural-linguistic symbols. So when we're talking about "major" and "minor", we need to discuss it within the system we call modern, "Western" music theory, and its antecedent.

    Once upon a time, Pythagoras realized that you can "double" the frequency (highness or lowness––pitch) of a plucked string by halving its length. In modern language, an example would be middle 'A'––it works out mathematically that 880 Hz is the 'A' immediately above the middle 'A' at 440 Hz––Pythagoras certainly loved numbers, which is where we derive the flexible number '12' notes per set of repeating values (12 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, and that was ... I don't know ... a source of arousal for Pythagoras? He based his entire music theory off of the ratio 3:2, which deserves a thread all on its own, but that's getting off-topic) . The original Hz for each note was based off of an explicit, mathematical ratio ... without delving into the volumes of information that describes the evolution of tuning, and the history of tones in Western music, let's just conclude that, by the 18th-century, musicians were using the standard tuning that we use today, because, earlier, purely ratio-based tunings would lead to ... sounds that aren't pleasing to contemporary ears (as unusual as I'm sure contemporary music would seem to ancient ears). I'm bringing up the following because we're Epicureans, and this provides some philosophical context into the history of music: in terms of metaphysics, Pythagoras freaked out when he realized that the very aesthetically pleasing number '2' did not have a perfect square root; similarly, he rejected certain pitches that could not be defined by the ratios of pure integers. This lead to an attempt, for centuries, by philosophers to harmonize number theory, music theory, humor theory, and celestial science––so we get weird ideas like the Celestial Spheres, and the Perfect Forms of the Heavens that correspond with ratios which sound is capable of audibly expressing. That is just an example of how the ancient Greek search for 'ideal forms' can generate mathematical ideals that may not be subjectively pleasing (at least, not to many of us).

    There's this brilliant episode of Star Trek: Voyager that beautifully demonstrates this: a planet of non-musical humanoids accidentally hear the ship's doctor sing an operatic piece. They are inspired by the music––utterly inspired. The inspiration echoes throughout the planet, and many of the alien beings begin attempting to emulate the operatic voice they so loved. Now, while these beings didn't sponsor the subjective art of sound we call music, they did have an advanced understanding of number theory, so they could only comfortable interface with human music through an intentional analysis of mathematics (like good old Pythagoras). Twenty minutes of plot or so later, the doctor becomes dismayed to find that he is no longer a planetary celebrity: local musicians have––according to their own tastes––surpassed the doctor's operatic baritone. The doctor is hurt, but respectfully agrees to attend a performance to which he has been invited. He sits with other crewmates, and they listen with anticipation ... and, to the surprise of their anticipatory minds, the alien opera sounds like abysmal trash. Rather than making the subjective switch that Renaissance and Modern artists made, the aliens took a queue from Pythagoras, and employed advanced differential equations to determine which notes would be sung, and in which order they would be arranged. To the crew, it sounded like a comptuer generating tones according to a string of prime numbers, which, though being intentionally-composed, periodic sound waves (i.e. music) has no ability to tell humans a story––it just comes off as a brown fart. What I want to convey with this example is that the aliens most certainly had "a specific musical structure that corresponds to the subjective expeirence of pain " as well as "a specific musical structure that corresponds to the subjective expeirence of pleasure", but they weren't the same physical structures as "major" and "minor", which technically do not even have relevance to all human populations, but only those that can interface with the music tradition since the 18th-century.

    Edited once, last by Nate ().

  • So where do "majors" and "minors" fit into all of this? Prior to the Renaissance period, we would not have described any of the ratios that determine pitch by "major" and "minor". "Major-ness" and "minor-ness" come from tri-tones, or, a chord (multiple tones played simultenously) that changes the form of a sin wave. Prior to the Renaissance period, we weren't playing with tri-tones. Monks from the Medieval period mostly sang melodies with no accompaniment, and it took hundreds of years to develop the concept of "harmony". Western music didn't become what we hear today, with multiple instruments and movements, until the late-Renaissance period. While there are truly fascinating mathematical patterns in music theory, and while we can diagram each and every note, interval, and chord by a rather elegant mathematics, our perception of "major-ness" and "minor-ness" largely originates from philosophers who attempted to equate emotional qualities from acoustic structures. Ultimately, music is rooted in language and culture, and our music is rooted in Renaissance-era refinement of Pythagorean theory (you can see how completely appropriate this topic is for Epicureans. Literally, the revival of classical materialism lead to a revision of idealistic music theory to the messy, emotional, assymetrical music we know and love, today). Plato was one of the first to attempt to metaphysically link music and the human soul (and managed to be an uncompromising authoritarian while doing so). Without getting into a discussion of ancient Greek "modes" (which deserves its own thread), Plato considered––for example––the Mixolydian mode, in which the Seikilos Epitaph was written, to be an "effeminate" mode, that "discourages men" from "action". If he were around today, Plato would have been making speeches alongside Lynne Cheney and Tipper Gore to ban hip-hop, rap, metal, hard rock, punk––you name it. A lot of philosophers spent time assigning emotional qualities to mathematical ratios. Aristotle wasn't a cultural totalitarian like Plato, but he was equally prejudiced against certain forms of music. Of the Mixolydian Mode he said that it makes me "sad and grave". Fuck him, and fuck Plato. The Seikilos Epitaph is beautiful, and I think the Memento Mori expressions are empowering. But, within the context of our own bodies, we're both right.

    Now, I want to spend some time discussing my own, subjective music theory.

    There is nothing inherently absolute about "majors" and "minors", anymore than there is about "fifths" or "sevenths" or "sustained seconds" or "sustained fourths", with the sole exception––by the theory I derived–– of "augmentations". An augmentation has exactly three notes between each note, all the way up, and down the musical spectrum. It is the only one that does this. Also, it sounds weird, and really gross if you just play it by itself without context. It sounds like a mess. It is also more symmetrical to modern music than any of the other sounds. Many of us suppose a "major" chord to be the "correct" sound. It's not. It's no more special than a "minor", or than a "minor second", which also sounds like a weird perversion. My point here is that––in my opinion––any mathematically perfect chords in contemporary music ... sound gross. Now, grotesque sounds have a time, and a place, and, depending on what's around them, relatively, can actually sound beautiful. But that too is highly subjective. But human life isn't about perfect ideals. Maybe the Star Trek aliens like music to be written with correspondance to Prime Numbers, but we don't. Our lives are hormonal, sweaty, happy, horny, hungry, scared, frightened, elated, and empowered. Our music reflects the diversity of our lives.

    And, to get back to Cassius' original question, if I can answer this succinctly, "major" and "minor" are what they are because the expression of happiness (pleasure), and the expression of sadness (pain) represent the range of our colorful spectrum of our human experience, and have identified the sound of pleasure with brightness, light, gladness, and empowerment, while we identify that sound of pain as a shadow that darkens, weighs, and depresses. Subjectively, this language corresponds with the subjective experience of those sounds. So, we queue-in on those two chord structures.

    Edited once, last by Nate ().

  • There are a variety of others, and I'd like to share my personal, artistic analysis of each of the twelve notes' relationship to the dominant root, or tonic, which determines the key of the song, and the relative starting point.

    r - This is our root, the Tonic, wherein any interval is in Perfect Unison. This is our setting, and our context.

    b2 - This is our minor 2nd, a perversion that mutates and distorts.

    sus2 - This is our major 2nd, a cushion that clouds, buffers, thickens, layers.

    m3 - This is our minor 3rd, a shadow which darkens, saddens, weighs, and depresses.

    3 - This is our major 3rd, a light that brightens, lightnes, gladdens, and empowers.

    sus4 - This is a perfect 4th, a reassurance that polishes, reinforces, and encourages.

    dim5 - This is our diminished fifth, an opposition that contradicts, opposes, sickens, and poisons

    P5 - This is our perfect 5th, a strength that dominates, reinforces, supports, cradles, and extends.

    m6 - This is our minor 6th, the augmentation that hints, twists, puzzles, and complicates.

    6 - This is our 6th, an enchantment that intoxicates and romanticizes.

    m7 - This is our minor 7th, a playful invitation that loosens and challenges.

    M7 - This is our major 7th, a beautiful, softening that inspires memory, familiarity, yet hesitation.

    r - We're back to our root, refreshed, balanced, centered, at musical equilibrium––we are home.

    Plato and Aristotle both came up with their own version of this. So did Goethe. (So has your mind!)

    Even looking through my old, written scribbles (which is where this comes from), I unintentionally use the word "shadow" with "minor" (when we say "minor" we are always specifically referring to the "minor 3rd"), and "light" with "major" (when we say "major" we are always specifically referring to the "major 3rd"). If each note is a character, then the Major Character and the Minor Character have the biggest personalities––so, too, do pleasure and pain. The root defines our position, and the "major" or "minor" determines our disposition. Everything else is a commentary on that disposition––in my completely subjective opinion . I herein purport that "Major" and "Minor" are––in a generalized sense––the values that we can, as a collective culture, identify as being the best reflections of pleasure, and of pain.

    Again, though, at some point, we're all just aliens on different planets. That's why we all have unique musical tastes, and interpret those very slight nuances in chord structure quite differently. However, like culture, there are dominant trends that seem to direct our thought through the use of common language.

    That is why "major" is "happy", and "minor" is "sad".

  • One final addition: there is a tremendous correspondance between sound, and evolutionary history. We're queued-in to listen to certain high pitches, because that is the sound our infants make. Cats know this, so they mimic the pitch of infants to get human attention. We have a tendency to appreciate rhythm, and low, percussive noises because––among other things––it acted as a social bonding mechanism for primate species. There are a number of evolutionary adaptations to music, and probably, the most important one is the development of speech as a way to communicate.

    However, I do not believe that ancient, evolutionary history impacts our perception of "major" and "minor". I assign responsibility to Pythagoras, and the Renaissance's refinement of his ideas.

  • Let me add these to visually demonstrate the thesis: "Majors" and "Minors" are subjective reflections of our language and culture, and not of an inherent mathematical purity.

    For example, consider all notes modeled on a circle that grows as it proceeds, like a spiral. Consider it spirals from the center. Now, consider, like a clock with 12 hours, that each tick-mark represents a different note of 12 tones.

    If we diagram a "Major" chord, being the root note, a major third, and a perfect fifth, it looks like this:


    If we diagram a "Minor" chord, being the root note, a minor third, and a perfect fifth, it looks like this:


    BUT, if we diagram the messy, weird-sounding "Augmented" chord, we have perfect symmetry:


    So, there isn't something physically pure about "Majors" and "Minors"––they just work really well with classical music, and contemporary, popular music (to our ears). Plato and Aristotle would have heard the "Major" chord to be absolute garbage (sort of how we hear an augmented chord), while they may have found the weird, augmented chord to be rather beautiful.

    Edited once, last by Nate ().

  • So, there isn't something physically pure about "Majors" and "Minors"––they just work really well with classical music, and contemporary, popular music (to our ears). Plato and Aristotle would have heard the "Minor" chord to be absolute garbage (sort of how we hear an augmented chord), while they may have found the weird, augmented chord to be rather beautiful.

    Brilliant, Nate! Really. You should have these posts published somewhere.

    ‘Classical music,’ far from being a universal phenomenon, represents a specific geographical and cultural epoch without equal in other eras or civilisations. Indeed, even in pre-Bachian Europe, the music the Church imposed on the Catholic ecumene was based on the imitation of the Greco-Roman musical tradition, which was fundamentally of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origin and, arguably, deriving from an exclusive melodic sensitivity.

    Shortly after Carolingian times—with the forced conversion of Saxon tribes that followed the Massacre of Verden and the restoration of the Empire—another musical sensitivity (in this case harmonic) starts to penetrate the musical universe of the Church, which had remained secluded until that point. What might have been the origin of such new sensitivity?

    Musicologists refer to a ‘pagan residue’ existing in the indigenous cultures of Northern Europe (Thrasybulos Georgiades, Music and Language: The Rise of Western Music as Exemplified in Settings of the Mass). Undoubtedly, a tonal system emerged, after a few centuries, from the opposition of the Church tradition and that of the indigenous music culture of Northern Europe.

  • After reading that article, here are my thoughts:

    My reading of this is that the Epicureans were critical of the view that music theory could lead to the embodiment of "ideas" in particular musical forms. They weren't opposed to music itself, and indeed found it pleasurable, but they opposed the theory of trying to use music to imitate ideal forms and thereby embody "good" or "bad" in the music itself.

    If that is correct, that would be parallel to the general Epicurean view against Platonic ideal forms in general. It seems clear that Epicurus campaigned against the Platonic view that ideal forms exist to be embodied in word formulas (concepts) and mathematical formulas (geometry and math), so it only makes sense that they would campaign against the attempt to embody ideal forms into musical formulas.

    Surely the Epicureans did not campaign against music in general, and surely they did not argue that music cannot evoke pleasure or pain. So it seems most likely to me that they were not campaigning against music itself, but against the idea that music can embody something (ideal forms) that don't exist. Probably this kind of view also describes what Epicurus was saying about poetry. ("Only the wise man will be able to converse correctly about music and poetry, without however actually writing poems himself.") We can converse about how poetry and music make us feel without giving ourselves over to abstract theories that they embody something in themselves. Just like geometry and math can have highly productive practical uses without being considered to be mystical in themselves.

    I'm interested to hear any and all opinions about this. No doubt this formulation of my initial reaction could be improved.

  • Cassius, thanks for your synopsis! I got completely derailed by the untranslated Greek in the piece.

    What you say makes perfect sense. I've been under the impression, without recalling the sources offhand, that Epicurus was somehow opposed to poetry and music. This has always seemed peculiar to me; your interpretation makes much more sense with EP as I understand it.

  • I got completely derailed by the untranslated Greek in the piece.

    That is maddening, isn't it? These academics could SO easily translate the word, but instead they keep it in the original as if to keep the meaning to themselves! I feel exactly the same way. :)

    No doubt my explanation could be tweaked and improved, but it's probably going in the right direction. Godfrey I can't recall at the moment if you said you had finished reading DeWitt, but to me that is why he is so good. He looks for logical explanations consistent with the core theory, rather that acting as if there's no possible reasonable explanation and making himself look superior to Epicurus.

    Your example is right on point too. Epicurus, who reveled in the public festivals, and can't imagine the good without the pleasures of smooth motion and similar, dislikes music and poetry???? How ridiculous, but that is exactly what the commentators lead you to believe.

    I think you can trace this line of thinking in many directions through Epicurus. He's against the construction of Platonic idealism - of things that don't have a real existence - but he is 100% in favor of those things that DO have a real existence as revealed to us through our senses. Many of these seeming contradictions can be explained that way, but you won't find most modern commentators suggesting that, because they too "buy in" to the Platonic abstraction method and can't imagine that someone could sincerely challenge it.

  • I can agree that the intentional, storytelling art of sound we call music does not have "by itself" any inherent "power" besides the mechanical energy of a waveform, because music requires an audience who can interface with the acoustic narrative. If––like the crew of the Voyager––we are unable to interface with a composition that seems alien, then the narrative will be lost to us; thus, the "power" of music is only apparent to the human soul which interfaces with it. To those who can interface, the "power" is in our minds' ability to remember, and to imagine (not some mystical dimension or forms).

    It's exactly like spoken language: if Elli speaks to me in Greek (of which I am not fluent), then my experience of her speech is simply the experience of a human female making labial, alveolar, velar, and glottal noises from her mouth, in my direction. Her words (music) therein have no "power" (because I cannot interface with them), and are reduced to grunts (sound). Certainly, if her grunts are meant to convey "Run! There's a fire!" then her words would have enough "power" to stir my soul to pump adrenaline through my muscles so I can escape the flames (but that's my mind, not her noises).

    Sound "by itself" can only stir the senses to perceive. Indeed, it "'is unthinkable [...] that sounds which merely move the irrational hearing [faculty] should contribute'" or, conversely, corrupt the virtue nested within the soul of the listener. The soul's capacity to process mechanical energy through the eardrum, and relay it as various volumes of pitches does not require the mind to identify those mechanical impulses as anything except for the experience of processing mechanical energy as sound. Agreeably, "it is impossible to imitate things by voice and sounds; it is only possible to imitate their voices and sounds", because an event is an event, not a sound. Only a sound is a sound. Only a song is a song––that's why the music that does have "power" over us is what we remember from youth: it's not music anymore, it's memory.

    This observation also demonstrates how violent video games are not the cause of mass shootings, and why gangster rap is not responsible for inner city violence––only personalities who can interface with that media can cause violence. The media, itself, is without any inherent moral or ethical dimension. We don't have any 'Justice' bosons that create 'Moral Fields' in which those ethical particles can be measured. The "power" of these things begins and ends with the subject's mind. "[I]t is possible for varying impressions to be received corresponding to predispositions".

    I wish Philodemus were still around to tell Marvel and DC fans to respect each others: "[T]hus both in the case of the [scales] people differ, not in respect of the irrational perception, but in respect of their opinions [...], some [...] saying that [one] is solemn and noble and straightgorward and pure, and the [other] unmanly and vulgar and mean, while others call the [one] severe and despotic, and the [other] mild and persuasive; both sides importing ideas which do not belong to either scale by nature."

    The author elaborates on a few things I mentioned in the original posts, where Plato calls the Phrygian mode sober and resigned, while Aristotle thought it to be "ecstatic". He includes another anecdote that "'Plato associated our modern key of C major with sorrow, weakness and self-indulgence, while Helmholz associates it with brightness and strength, and Pauer with purity, innocence, manliness, and other virtues." For context, John Lennon's song "Imagine" was written in C major. As one of his sources wrote, "'the whole matter is one of subjective imagination [...] based in the first instance on association'".

    It sounds like Musicis is to Acoustics what Astrology and Alchemy are to Astronomy and Chemistry. We can expect materialists to be critical of the musicis tradition––it attempted to equate the moral ideals implied by spoken words with the geometric ratios of acoustic instrumentation. Philodemus was correct to accuse the practitioner of this tradition of "'seeking a knowledge of the non-existent'", just as Epicureans were correct to accuse Platonists of seeking non-existent Forms, and correct to accuse religious populations of superstitiously responding to delusional fears.

    Philodemus responding to Platonic and Peripatetic interpretations of modes reads to me like a physicist in the 1990s using a technical analysis of acoustics to show Biggie Smalls and Tupac how stupid the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry was. Music, itself, is not emotional, because we are emotional. Music, itself, is not ethical, because we are the agents of ethics.

  • Ben: I agree with what you say, Cassius Amicus, and interpreting Philodemus in the light of Epicurean criticism of Plato makes sense. But I also can't escape the notion that Philodemus was not aware of everything we have discovered about music therapy in recent times, and if he had known this, he might have changed his tune (pun intended).

    Cassius Amicus: Ben what do you think Philodemus would have changed (or what would be different in the way this article represents Philodemus as saying)?

    Ben:I would hope he would see instrumental music as something meaningful (though without the Platonic notion) in itself, that affects the mood, and can be useful in therapy, and contributing to the good life (eudemonia).


    Ben wrote: "I would hope he would see instrumental music as something meaningful (though without the Platonic notion) in itself, that affects the mood, and can be useful in therapy, and contributing to the good life (eudemonia)." Absent absolutely clear proof to the contrary (which is why I am suspicious of aggressive reconstruction of fragmentary texts) I have to believe that what you have just stated Ben WAS generally the Epicurean position. Lucretius would not have written his poem, and Epicurus would not have enjoyed the public festivals and talked about smooth motion, had they not derived pleasure from poetry and music.

    It seems very likely to me that the contention that the Epicureans were against ALL music and ALL poetry is malicious misrepresentation of their true position, calculated to marginalize them and dissuade people from learning more about their philosophy. When evidence is conflicting I think it should be interpreted in a way consistent with what we are sure of as to the basics of the philosophy. We know that Epicurus embraced all kinds of pleasures; we know that certain kinds of music and poetry in certain contexts are pleasurable; therefore we can be sure that Epicurus appreciated music and poetry, and that the issue he had was something deeper than is superficially portrayed by his enemies.

    And anyone who suggests that pleasure of any kind is anti-Epicurean is himself displaying that he does not understand Epicurus. "PD8. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves. VS 37. When confronted by evil nature is weak, but not when faced with good; for pleasures make it secure but pains ruin it."

  • I do not why it pleases me to hear that melody by Morricone entitled "the ecstasy of gold", and why when I created a video with an article on "epicurean friendship" by G. Kaplanis in the Garden of Thessaloniki, I had put this melody as a background. :)

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    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Ι just found the WHY, I like this melody !!! This melody is connected with those movies that have guns and shooting.

    My epicurean friend George Kaplanis likes the exercise with guns and shooting. I like guns and shooting too, but I did not try to exercise with guns because I'm afraid of the guns... George's fearlessness of the guns makes me to imagine that I can do it too. That sense of his fearlessness makes me to feel pleasure. The fearlessness of Epicurus on the issue of death makes us to not fear too, and any fear when is eliminated it produces pleasure. So, Epicurus or Philodemus on the issue of music he wanted to eliminate the fears that provoked by Plato Because Plato and his gang had spread around fears that are against our pleasure.

    When a composer composes a melody, we feel something of his hedonic calculation among pleasure and pain. This is reinforced when the melody has verses with words.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • This Morricone music gives me pleasure because it takes me back to the 1970s. Clint Eastwood movies were quite popular then, which led to an interest in the so called (perhaps inappropriately) "spaghetti Westerns" that Eastwood had been in in the 60s. My friends and I would sneak beers into the theater where we would watch his latest movies and have quite a good time.

    I haven't seen many of his movies since then, but his latest, "The Mule", is a tale of a life poorly lived and is an interesting bookend to the Sergio Leone movies. I'm curious if the Leone movies are worth another look: I just remember them as really bleak westerns with great music.

  • by the same director Sergio Leone there is a movie of 1959 entitled "The last days of Pompeii "that is the city near our known Herculaneum.

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    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Interesting discussion.

    I'm curious to know what others think (since Lucretius in DRN often acts as an anthropologist and looks at primitive humans, anticipating that their behavior initiated as a natural response to the environment and then evolved via culture / rational management by people) about an observation I've made for many years:

    In nature documentaries, when monkeys and other species engage in musical expressions (calls and call and response behavior), it's typically TERRITORIAL, or for protection from dangers (also in a way an expression of social and territorial instinct) and to this day a lot of music in our species is also territorial or patriotic or enhances a sense of tribal identity. Singing together is the ultimate "cultural machine" to create a collective psyche. People sometimes go to churches / temples just for the music, and this gives them a sense of community.

    And so it has always seemed to me that music has always played a role in consolidating social units, and appeals to the social / tribal instinct.

    This does not exclude romantic / pair-bonding and other uses of music.

    I don't remember if Lucretius mentions music and how it originated, but I do know that he mentions music / dancing in his portion on neural pathways where he talks about habituation


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

  • Also, this ties to Polystratus' claim that the noble and the vile and pleasure / aversion are REAL natural phenomena even if subjective, and that they exist as relational properties of bodies.

    I say this because watching a documentary about primate evolution, I learned that the universally REPULSIVE reaction humans have to the sound of FINGER NAILS ON CHALKBOARD has been traced back to the sound of certain monkeys who warn each other of danger. Like other triggers for fight-or-flight instinct, this sound immediately awakens all the tribe members in some monkey troops and is used to warn of predators.

    So the theory is that our repulsion to this is due to a VERY ANCIENT inherited ancestral memory from our remote past as early primates.

    And if so, this means that at least CERTAIN sound vibrations, tones or rhythms have this property and other properties that are NATURAL, not cultural, and then via culture we have rationally and consciously built on these initial natural drives to develop musical expressions, among other behaviors.

    On the relationship between pleasure and rhythm / anticipation of sounds and repetition, we have of course Marian Diamond's study on chanting and its slowing the heart rate and blood pressure.

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

  • So it seems most likely to me that they were not campaigning against music itself, but against the idea that music can embody something (ideal forms) that don't exist. Probably this kind of view also describes what Epicurus was saying about poetry.

    What Philodemus said was that PHILOSOPHY HEALS THROUGH WORDS, Logos heals the soul.

    While reason (and words) is not in the canon, it has a therapeutic / healing role in the practice of philosophy itself.

    The idea is that we can reason with our unlimited desires to bring them under control, and in this form of cognitive therapy I have to cite Principal Doctrine 20


    So it's not just about being anti idealism, there's a specific therapeutic utility that was being discussed in the Philodeman scroll with regards to music, and he was arguing that music could only heal the soul (through the practices of repetition and memorization, etc.) IF it contained the words of healing philosophy, which were the ones that had the potency to heal.

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