Cassius Administrator
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Posts by Cassius

    But with regards to free will, aside from the context of a deity (some external intelligence that "tests" us - an idea that has been an excuse to avoid any critical thought), what could materialism have against the concept of free will

    If you reduce everything to atoms and motion in a straight line, people think that that would lead to a totally mechanistic result, and so a straight line materialist such as Democritus would conclude that everything is in the grip of an iron "fate" that allows no room for personal decisions whatsoever. Cicero made this argument against Epicurus in criticizing the swerve as a departure and regression from Democritus.

    Your definition is thoroughly suitable to me, but I believe would have been totally unsuitable to Cicero, as it would have prevented him from ridiculing Epicureans as worthless in civil society.

    As to whether your definition would be suitable to the professional academic class today, I very much doubt it, as it would prevent them from keeping Epicureanism in a medicine box for use mainly in nursing homes and anxiety clinics.

    I would like to think that, over time and little by little, we can make a dent in public perception and widen the discussion toward your definition.

    Ren's caveat is correct though, in that I don't think we can ever expect, nor should we try, to convince "everyone" of all dispositions that the Epicurean view is "best." But in the world at large I am convinced there are huge numbers that would profit if they understood how and why the modern academic interpretation is so off base.

    So many of us here end up saying about Epicurus "that's the way I always thought before I heard of Epicurus." That number could really grow if we could leapfrog the Ciceronian / academic box.

    Yes Nate I agree. There are multiple perspectives that have to be appreciated and understood and allowing one perspective to dominate the others ends up with a similar problem as when we mix up the ends with the means, as is the problem with "virtue."

    And as Ren says it's never going to be the case that everyone is going to agree on a single perspective - nor should we expect them to.

    The issue for those who consider themselves to be primarily Epicurean seems largely to be a matter of finding a way to work with these several perspectives without letting any of them crowd out the big picture of the full Epicurean worldview.

    "Some people can't achieve tranquility in the near term, but that does not mean they are any less Epicurean in pursuing the best mix of pleasure and pain that is available for them at any particular place or time."

    In saying that I am thinking back to the recent thread on "Whether one has to be well off to be an Epicurean" (or a title something like that - I will find it and link. - Here it is)

    I think it's a significant problem that many people get the idea that one has to be rich or successful to be an Epicurean, and I think what we are talking about now is related to that. One can be very upset and energetically engaged in some very difficult behavior that no one would call "tranquil" and still be a good Epicurean. In fact I would say that a person who in appropriate circumstances DOES NOT forgo tranquility in favor of vigorous action is the one who is not the good Epicurean (again, the "diving into the stream" example in AFDIA).

    OK keeping in mind here that I think we are all largely on the same page but we're debating the "best" way to explain the issue in the world of 2022 among non-specialists:

    I don't think I would agree that tranquility is a "necessary" condition.

    If what we are talking about is "defining the best life" then yes it would be a significant part of the conceptual definition and in that sense it be necessary to include it somewhere in the definition of what to shoot for.

    But if what we are talking about is explaining to real people a real working approximation of what we should work for at all times, then I think we would have to consider that there are times when "tranquility" is not an immediate focus, any more than many other pleasures are the immediate focus.

    Getting back to the "natural and necessary" desires perspective, I would say it makes sense to include "the basics of life" (what we talk about as "necessary") as a necessary part of the goal an Epicurean would generally expect to secure at all times. But "tranquility" is often not available, as in wartime or in many other situations where energetic action is needed ( EG Epicurus diving into the stream to rescue the others in A Few Days In Athens).

    Now I sense that will be responded to by the "hard cases make bad law" objection, but in this case I don't think that most of us live in a world where we can expect to be "tranquil" all the time.

    To me the better way to articulate the goal in basic terms that are difficult to misunderstand is something more like:

    "Life is about intelligently pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain in a way that ends up maximizing for you the pleasures of life, among which tranquility is an important pleasure along with many others."

    But formulations that imply that tranquility is dominant or even "necessary" are the slippery slope to living in the cave. Some people can't achieve tranquility in the near term, but that does not mean they are any less Epicurean in pursuing the best mix of pleasure and pain that is available for them at any particular place or time.

    Right - I agree with both of these comments:

    I maintain that cultivating tranquility is an important component of an Epicurean life, an Epicurean practice, but that is not at the expense of that "which the sensual enjoyment is attended by a kind of agreeableness." It's both

    If anything, it sounds like this might be one of us trying to blend in with the modern landscape of Epicureans by pointing to ataraxia as the goal, but then saying that doesn't actually mean you eschew all sensual pleasure.

    Both of which are stated very differently, and would be understood very differently by most people, from the following promoted to the world by OKeefe and many other writers as the way to understand Epicurus:

    Quote from OKeefe

    "Given this pair of distinctions, the Epicureans maintain that the main constituent of the pleasant life, and hence, of the happy life, is the static mental pleasure of ataraxia, or tranquility—the state of being free from mental disturbance."

    Was Cicero capable of and familiar with the tactic of taking words out of context and giving them meanings not originally intended or understood when it is to his advantage?

    Consider this from De Officiis (Marcus Tullius Cicero. De Officiis. Translated by Walter Miller. Loeb Edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913.)

    33 Injustice often arises also through chicanery, that is, through an over-subtle and even fraudulent construction of the law. This it is that gave rise to the now familiar saw, "More law, less justice." Through such interpretation also a great deal of wrong is committed in transactions between state and state; thus, when a truce had been made with the enemy for thirty days, a famous general went to ravaging their fields by night, because, he said, the truce stipulated "days," not nights. Not even our own countryman's action is to be commended, if what is told of Quintus Fabius Labeo is true - or whoever it was (for I have no authority but hearsay): appointed by the Senate to arbitrate a boundary dispute between Nola and Naples, he took up the case and interviewed both parties separately, asking them not to proceed in a covetous or grasping spirit, but to make some concession rather than claim some accession. When each party had agreed to this, there was a considerable strip of territory left between them. And so he set the boundary of each city as each had severally agreed; and the tract in between he awarded to the Roman People. Now that is swindling, not arbitration. And therefore such sharp practice is under all circumstances to be avoided.

    Here is an example we have discussed before that illustrates the same thing. I have underlined two sentences to stress what I see as the important off-key statements that lead to problems:


    Achieving Tranquility: Epicurus on Living without FearTim O’Keefe, Georgia State University

    [Penultimate draft. Final version is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy, eds. Jacob

    Klein and Nathan Powers, Oxford University Press. Please cite that version once it is published.]

    1. Introduction: the place of eliminating fear in Epicurean ethics and physics

    Eliminating fear is at the center of Epicurean ethics, because of their idiosyncratic doctrines regarding pleasure. The Epicureans are hedonists, maintaining that only pleasure is intrinsically good and only pain intrinsically bad. (Cicero Fin. 1.29). They distinguish between bodily and mental pleasures and pains. Bodily pleasures and pains—such as the feelings of eating a bacon cheeseburger, suffering from hunger, or being punched in the face—concern the present state of one’s body. But mental pleasures and pains—such as a thrill of excitement, or a

    pang of regret—encompass the past and future too. For this reason, the Epicureans think that mental pleasures and pains are greater than bodily ones. (Cicero Fin. 1.55-57) When people initially think of pleasure, they often have in mind some process of active titillation of the senses or of the mind, such as a yummy sensation of eating a bacon cheeseburger or a thrill of excitement—which the Epicureans call “kinetic” pleasures. But the absence of pain, such as being free of hunger after having eaten the cheeseburger, is not merely a neutral state

    between pleasure and pain. Instead, it is itself a kind of pleasure—a “static” pleasure, as opposed to the kinetic pleasures. (Cicero Fin. 1.37-38) Indeed, the Epicureans proclaim that the absence of pain marks the limit of pleasure, and that once this limit is reached, the pleasure one experiences cannot be increased. (KD 3, KD 18) 1

    Given this pair of distinctions, the Epicureans maintain that the main constituent of the pleasant life, and hence, of the happy life, is the static mental pleasure of ataraxia, or tranquility—the state of being free from mental disturbance. So while it is accurate to call the Epicureans hedonists, it might be less misleading to say that they are “tranquillists.” Fear is the primary obstacle to achieving tranquility, and so Epicurean ethics centers on eliminating fear. (It also concerns itself with eliminating other sources of mental disturbance, such as regret and

    envy.) In fact, it might rightly be said that all of Epicurean philosophy centers on eliminating fear. That is because Epicureanism is ruthlessly consistent in its hedonism, holding that everything we do—including philosophizing—is justified only to the extent that it contributes to a pleasant life.


    My comment:

    The thrust of the Okeefe argument is the first underlined sentence: "Eliminating fear is at the center of Epicurean ethics, because of their idiosyncratic doctrines regarding pleasure." I believe this is wrong because I do not believe that Epicurus held "idiosyncratic doctrines regarding pleasure."

    In this case I believe the meaning of idiosyncratic intended by OKeefe is "Eccentric" for the purpose of conveying that Epicurus did not hold a normal view of pleasure at all, but defined pleasure in an unconventional way that leads to unconventional results. The eccentric and unconventional result allegedly identified by Okeefe is in the second sentence that I underlined:

    "Given this pair of distinctions, the Epicureans maintain that the main constituent of the pleasant life, and hence, of the happy life, is the static mental pleasure of ataraxia, or tranquility—the state of being free from mental disturbance."

    Okeefe and other similar writers would have us believe that Epicurus held "the main constituent of the pleasant life to be "the state of being free from mental disturbance."

    The heart of their argument to that effect are references to the limit of pleasure in the letter to Menoeceus and in PD3 and PD18, plus reference to statements such as in Torquatus to the effect that:

    Quote from Cicero's Torquatus

    "For the pleasure which we pursue is not that alone which excites the natural constitution itself by a kind of sweetness, and of which the sensual enjoyment is attended by a kind of agreeableness, but we look upon the greatest pleasure as that which is enjoyed when all pain is removed."


    [38] Therefore Epicurus refused to allow that there is any middle term between pain and pleasure; what was thought by some to be a middle term, the absence of all pain, was not only itself pleasure, but the highest pleasure possible. Surely any one who is conscious of his own condition must needs be either in a state of pleasure or in a state of pain. Epicurus thinks that the highest degree of pleasure is defined by the removal of all pain, so that pleasure may afterwards exhibit diversities and differences but is incapable of increase or extension.

    Are these views "eccentric" or "unconventional"? If so what is eccentric and unconventional about them?

    My belief is that - rightly understood - there is nothing eccentric or unconventional about these statements at all, and the way to reconcile the terminology to our own conventional understanding is right there in the texts, in statements such as:

    "Surely any one who is conscious of his own condition must needs be either in a state of pleasure or in a state of pain."

    Epicurus has defined clearly (and this is stated in Diogenes Laertius as well) that there are only two feelings: (1) pleasure and (2) pain. Every one of the myriad experiences that we feel going on in our bodies in our minds from moment to moment and throughout our lives is therefore categorizable as either a pleasurable or a painful experience.

    The analysis which is compelled by categorizing every experience as either pleasure or pain is that we can and should evaluate our experiences, both at each moment and throughout our lifetimes, as a "sum" in which we individually assess the "balance" of pleasures offset against pains. Just as we conceptually choose to divide all experiences into either pleasure or pain, we conceptually view our total experience (by which we judge whether we are happy or unhappy) as an individual feeling of assessment about the totality of all our experiences. We offset the pains of life against the pleasures and we ask ourselves "Were the pleasures we obtained worth the pain that it cost us?"

    The part of the analysis where Cicero and others exploit the potential confusion is that we may not normally viewing our happiness as a mathematical sum of pleasures offset with pains. However it makes perfect sense to do so because in the Epicurean worldview we understand that there is no absolute definition of happiness and no supernatural god blessing our lives as happy or unhappy. Just as we are bodily the sum of our atoms and void, we are mentally the sum of our experiences (all of which we have chosen to categorize as either pleasurable or painful) and it makes perfect sense for us to add them all up so we can both feel and think about "Was it worth it?"

    And because it makes perfect sense to evaluate our lives (remembering that we have defined the pursuit of pleasure to be the goal) we want to add up our experiences and evaluate them as whole to see how much (if at all) the pleasures of life have predominated over the pains. In doing so, we have to remember the subjectivity of pleasures and pains, which makes it impossible for us to use a Benthamite approach and somehow assign particular units of pleasure and pain to each experience. Everyone evaluates sex vs food vs material luxuries differently, and even in their own single lives evaluates them differently at different periods of time. So we can't suggest a "perfect mix" of experiences as the 'best" pleasures or combinations of pleasures or pains to pursue.

    But what we can do is to observe that the "best" way of life would be - conceptually and in general - the life in which pleasures most predominate over pains. And a perfectly reasonable way of expressing that goal conceptually is "a life free from pain" ---- because we know that that means in our analysis framework a life full of pleasures!

    Viewed in this way there is nothing idiosyncratic or eccentric or unusual in Epicurus' approach whatsoever. The philosopher who advocates the pursuit of pleasure is saying nothing more than that the best life is that in which pleasures so predominate over pain that pains are reduced to zero. There is no need to infer that the philosophy who valued clarity and stripping away error would have us invert the normal definition of pleasure and accept a paradoxical definition that implies to us the absence of pleasure.

    The "main constituent" of the pleasant life is not found in "tranquility" or "freedom from disturbance" but exactly where Epicurus clearly placed it, in the same place that the young of all living things place it before they have been perverted by error - in Pleasure. There are no absolute measurements of which pleasures are greater or lesser than others, and which pains are so great that they outweigh many pleasures. It is up to us to subjectively judge in our own circumstances what combination of mental and bodily feelings provide to us the happiest mix that is available to us. Given this viewpoint you would not expect to find an elaborate description of "absence of pain" or "tranquility" as if it were some exquisite jewel to be savored in some special way. What you would expect to find instead would be an elaborate description of the practical way to offset pains against pleasures with a goal of elevating the pleasures in our subjective analysis to as close to 100% as possible (which means getting pains as close to 0% as possible). And that is exactly what you find in both the letter to Menoeceus and, more expansively, in Torquatus:

    Quote from Cicero's Torquatus

    But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

    On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

    But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

    In short, once it is seen that there is nothing eccentric whatsoever about Epicurus' reasoning, it becomes easy to see that the weirdness and the error that disconcerts our intuitive understanding of pleasure is not in Epicurus. The error was planted in the twisted interpretations of Cicero and those who follow him who wish to tame and neuter the true thrust of Epicurean philosophy: Pleasure - as the term is normally understood and subjectively evaluated sum of all mental and bodily experiences.

    That article certainly fits the classic pattern:

    1 - Epicurus held pleasure to be the goal.

    2 - But when he said "pleasure" he really meant "absence of pain."

    3 - That means we should above all our single-minded goal should be to minimize pain - come hell or high water, we should make all our decisions on avoiding the slighted pain or disturbance whatsoever!

    4 - We now see that Epicurus was an ascetic and really didn't mean anything about pleasure at all.

    5 - We can't achieve that goal of being painless, so we can't be good Epicureans, but the nearest way we can simulate the goal is to live an absolutely minimalist lifestyle.

    6 - And in doing so we'll find a way to mention how much we like Martha Nussbaum's pro-Stoic book "Therapy of Desire."

    That item six is especially key! ;)

    I think in implying that we might have lost the "therapeutic" portions of the Epicurean texts you're connecting to what these mainstream articles imply. In contrast to focusing on pain, I would say to them that the entire philosophy IS therapeutic if you rightly consider that the goal is NOT "absence of pain" but is instead a life that is as fully pleasurable as possible (which means one that is undiluted by any more pain than is necessary). And that means - as Epicurus explicitly said - that we will sometimes choose pain when it makes more pleasure possible, or avoids more pain. Once that is recognized there's no way to come to the conclusion that "avoiding pain" is a complete statement of the goal.

    I doubt very many ancient Greeks or Romans really had a hard time understanding this, and it really takes an attitude of playing games with words to make the issue sound difficult. Cicero and his lawyerly arguing set the pattern of taking the issue out of context, but if you keep in mind that the goal of therapy would not be to "minimize pain" but instead "to bring the person back to health" and you understand also (as you stated) that every human life involves some degree of pain just to survive, then I think the issues clarify pretty readily.

    Welcome Rubac1985 !

    Note: In order to minimize spam registrations, all new registrants must respond in this thread to this welcome message within 72 hours of its posting, or their account is subject to deletion. All that is required is a "Hello!" but of course we hope you will introduce yourself further and join one or more of our conversations.

    This is the place for students of Epicurus to coordinate their studies and work together to promote the philosophy of Epicurus. Please remember that all posting here is subject to our Community Standards / Rules of the Forum our Not Neo-Epicurean, But Epicurean and our Posting Policy statements and associated posts.

    Please understand that the leaders of this forum are well aware that many fans of Epicurus may have sincerely-held views of what Epicurus taught that are incompatible with the purposes and standards of this forum. This forum is dedicated exclusively to the study and support of people who are committed to classical Epicurean views. As a result, this forum is not for people who seek to mix and match some Epicurean views with positions that are inherently inconsistent with the core teachings of Epicurus.

    All of us who are here have arrived at our respect for Epicurus after long journeys through other philosophies, and we do not demand of others what we were not able to do ourselves. Epicurean philosophy is very different from other viewpoints, and it takes time to understand how deep those differences really are. That's why we have membership levels here at the forum which allow for new participants to discuss and develop their own learning, but it's also why we have standards that will lead in some cases to arguments being limited, and even participants being removed, when the purposes of the community require it. Epicurean philosophy is not inherently democratic, or committed to unlimited free speech, or devoted to any other form of organization other than the pursuit by our community of happy living through the principles of Epicurean philosophy.

    One way you can be most assured of your time here being productive is to tell us a little about yourself and personal your background in reading Epicurean texts. It would also be helpful if you could tell us how you found this forum, and any particular areas of interest that you have which would help us make sure that your questions and thoughts are addressed.

    In that regard we have found over the years that there are a number of key texts and references which most all serious students of Epicurus will want to read and evaluate for themselves. Those include the following.

    1. "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Norman DeWitt
    2. The Biography of Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius. This includes the surviving letters of Epicurus, including those to Herodotus, Pythocles, and Menoeceus.
    3. "On The Nature of Things" - by Lucretius (a poetic abridgement of Epicurus' "On Nature"
    4. "Epicurus on Pleasure" - By Boris Nikolsky
    5. The chapters on Epicurus in Gosling and Taylor's "The Greeks On Pleasure."
    6. Cicero's "On Ends" - Torquatus Section
    7. Cicero's "On The Nature of the Gods" - Velleius Section
    8. The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda - Martin Ferguson Smith translation
    9. A Few Days In Athens" - Frances Wright
    10. Lucian Core Texts on Epicurus: (1) Alexander the Oracle-Monger, (2) Hermotimus
    11. Philodemus "On Methods of Inference" (De Lacy version, including his appendix on relationship of Epicurean canon to Aristotle and other Greeks)
    12. "The Greeks on Pleasure" -Gosling & Taylor Sections on Epicurus, especially the section on katastematic and kinetic pleasure which explains why ultimately this distinction was not of great significance to Epicurus.

    It is by no means essential or required that you have read these texts before participating in the forum, but your understanding of Epicurus will be much enhanced the more of these you have read.

    And time has also indicated to us that if you can find the time to read one book which will best explain classical Epicurean philosophy, as opposed to most modern "eclectic" interpretations of Epicurus, that book is Norman DeWitt's Epicurus And His Philosophy.

    Welcome to the forum!




    In organizing my Epicurean and other material, I am wondering if people here (especially the professional research librarians :) ) have any suggestions for computer technology.

    My specific question arises today in saving a PDF that covers several important topics. I'd like to "Tag" that PDF with key words so that at a later date in another program I can search by keyword and file all files everywhere related to that topic.

    Also, I don't want to get tied into a specific computer operating system that would keep me from moving to another computer and having access to the tags indefinitely.

    Anyone know such product?

    Does anyone have experience with using Zotero or Mendeley other research assistant software do this?

    Sometime you might choose to suffer some small harm in the short term if it led to a better long-term outcome.

    Yes that's another good cite. Sometimes we might choose to suffer a harm, sometimes we might choose to inflict harm, based on circumstances and our prediction of the total eventual outcome of the action.

    The real issue here is whether there is an "absolute rule" of conduct that says "never cause harm" and I think just about every absolute rule suggestion gets answered with "it depends."

    And the reason for that is the Epicurean worldview that there is no supernatural god, no absolute good and bad, no ideal forms of conduct, etc.... that apply to all situations at all times. It is definitely possible to generalize and it's good to do so ("Don't walk up to people who resemble Muhammed Ali and hit in the face") but if you forget that it's just a general rule then you're committing the 'virtue' error of thinking that there are absolute rules of conduct that never change.

    This question (or the evaluation of the "is it better to suffer harm than to harm?" question) came up in our 20th discussion last night.

    Before going further I need to say that I intuitively think that Epicurus would NOT agree with the question/statement. With the usual caveats as to circumstances controlling, it is overbroad and therefore incorrect to think that as a general principle or rule of thumb it is better to suffer harm than to harm. However like many questions in justice (again apart from contextual issues) it's an interesting question to think about. Surely Epicurus would first say that it is better to do neither, but what happens when we find ourselves in a harm situation that we believe to be beyond our control, or "justified"? When we are harmed by someone, is it a safe general rule to say that it is better that we not reply or respond with force or harm of any kind?

    We were talking about this in context of whether Epicurus would differ from Buddhism in this regard, and as usual we ran into the issue that Buddhism is hard to pin down on much of anything.

    However I should have remembered to bring to the discussion this better-known statement of the issue:


    1 Corinthians 6:7 Context

    4If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    With this commentary by Wesley:

    Wesley's Notes for 1 Corinthians 6:7

    6:7 Indeed there is a fault, that ye quarrel with each other at all, whether ye go to law or no. Why do ye not rather suffer wrong - All men cannot or will not receive this saying. Many aim only at this, I will neither do wrong, nor suffer it. These are honest heathens, but no Christians.

    Putting this issue in context of "turning the other cheek" and similar statements in the "New Testament" (this doesn't necessarily track at all with the "Old Testament") I would say it is pretty clear that a CHRISTIAN would answer the question "Is it better to suffer harm than to harm" with a "YES" -- and thus we have passivism etc of the pre-war "Sergeant York" model. Maybe in fact that is really the dominant / orthodox Christian position.

    But I don't think it is the Epicurean position, and I would site such things as:

    PD06. Whatever you can provide yourself with to secure protection from men is a natural good.

    PD14. The most unalloyed source of protection from men, which is secured to some extent by a certain force of expulsion, is in fact the immunity which results from a quiet life, and retirement from the world.

    PD39. The man who has best ordered the element of disquiet arising from external circumstances has made those things that he could akin to himself, and the rest at least not alien; but with all to which he could not do even this, he has refrained from mixing, and has expelled from his life all which it was of advantage to treat thus.

    PD40. As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbors, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and, after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend, as though he were to be pitied.

    Torquatus XVI, Cicero's On Ends Book One: "Yet nevertheless some men indulge without limit their avarice, ambition and love of power, lust, gluttony and those other desires, which ill-gotten gains can never diminish but rather must inflame the more; inasmuch that they appear proper subjects for restraint rather than for reformation."

    Of course the big issue that arises in taking action that would end in harm to someone else is "justification." But that is where I would see "It is better to suffer harm than to harm" is overbroad -- I think Epicurus would look to the circumstances and evaluate whether "harming" the other person is (burglar, murderer, etc) is "justified" and consider that as part of evaluating whether to take pre-emptive or retributory action or not.

    So I think Wesley is actually correct -- there is a significant distinction between a Christian and an Epicurean in this regard.


    Yes we will miss those who can't attend. For those who can't, here is the material Kalosyni has delivered as an introduction for the last several meetings:

    20th Celebration Opening Statement

    Welcome friends, and thank you for joining us today as we commemorate the life of Epicurus!

    On the 20th of every month we hold this meeting in accord with the instructions of Epicurus himself to celebrate the memory of the founders of the Epicurean School.

    The significance of Epicurus is summarized in the Torquatus narrative, where Epicurus is referred to as the "great discoverer of truth and... master-builder... of the life of happiness."

    Torquatus wrote also: "Here is indeed a royal road to happiness-- open, simple, and direct! For clearly man can have no greater good than complete freedom from pain and sorrow coupled with the enjoyment of the highest bodily and mental pleasures."

    "Notice then how the theory embraces every possible enhancement of life, every aid to the attainment of the Chief Good which is our object. Epicurus, the man whom you denounce as a voluptuary, cries aloud that no one can live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly, and no one wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly."

    And further on he continues:

    "If then the doctrine I have set forth is clearer and more luminous than daylight itself: if it is derived entirely from Nature's source; if my whole discourse relies throughout for confirmation of the unbiased and unimpeachable evidence of the senses; if newborn children, even speechless animals, led by nature's teaching, almost find voice to proclaim that there is no welfare but pleasure, no hardship but pain -- and their judgement in these matters is neither sophisticated nor biased -- ought we not to feel the greatest gratitude to him who caught this utterance of Nature's voice, and grasped its import so firmly and so fully that he has guided all sane-minded men into the paths of peace and happiness, calmness and repose?"

    Epicurus died in 270 BC, after having lived and taught in Athens for 35 years. In his will he asked that his commemoration of the founders be continued into the future.

    Almost two hundred years later, we have record of Philodemus of Gadara commemorating another twentieth in writing: "Tomorrow, dearest Piso, your friend, beloved by the Muses, who keeps our feast of the twentieth, invites your annual visit after the ninth hour to his simple cottage. If you miss udders and draughts of Chian wine, you will see at least sincere friends and you will hear things far sweeter than the land of Phaeacians. But if you ever cast your eyes on me, Piso, we shall celebrate the twentieth richly instead of simply."

    Now today we gather once again, to raise a toast to Epicurus and in the words of Lucian of Samosata, to "strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all who consorted with him."