Cassius Administrator
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Posts by Cassius

    Anyone who comes across this thread, please post if you have questions or comments about how the website is organized. Currently it is set up to balance two goals: (1) People who come here for the first time need quick access to samples of information that is here so they will dig further and return, and (2) People who return regularly need quick access to updated messages without having to scroll through too much of the same static content.

    So the way this is currently set up is that the Home page has the most static content highlighting the features of the website, while the Dashboard and Timeline pages focus on a balance of the message and changing content and can be used for bookmarking the site to return to in the future.

    If anyone has suggestions for better implementing this please comment.

    Last year we put together a playlist of "Epicurean Music" which is now on the Society of Epicurus channel. But even more than links to existing music, it's great to hear original compositions from people such as EricR and Nate who are fans of Epicurus. It would really be great to hear more from people like this so if you are a fan of Epicurus with musical talent, please consider posting about your work here.

    In the meantime, here's Michael Nyman's well titled: "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" -

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    Very interesting! I don't think there is any issue with the fact that the brain takes all its inputs and assembles a conclusion, as stated at 2:57 in the video. Of COURSE we can't always trust what we see or here or any other sense - that is the purpose of multiple exposures and examining the facts from as many different sides as we can. Epicurus absolutely knew that and taught to compensate for it, and it's just a fallacy of anti-Epicureans to suggest that he would be taken aback by this kind of things.

    So in the end I think this is an excellent video for getting to the root of the issue - illusions do NOT invalidate the need for sensation, and that's just the point that Lucretius argues about sensations in Book IV.

    I think our first two voice/text meetings on have been very successful test runs. The software works well and the experience of talking to people live is well worth the effort to schedule and attend. Just as Ilkka mentioned, I think online meetings dovetail nicely with local "meetup" style organizations. I am going to post about this on my meetup page and try to get a couple of locals to attend online as part of us setting up a live local group.

    What do you people think is a good frequency of doing this? Is once every week too much? I am thinking that if we end up segmenting and using Discord for local groups as well as geneal meetings, we could even have several events scheduled per week for different purposes (local groups) and people who aren't part of that local group can at least listen in if they don't have a local group in their area.

    There are indeed scary aspects of it and I agree that it is not a subject to bring up lightly - which is why we speak of it infrequently on facebook. And yet it is a good example of Epicurus carrying through the "atomistic universe" premise to its ultimate conclusions, and as we face death and other sobering aspects of reality, it's something else that has to be faced in its proper time. But certainly as not one of the first steps, and certainly not with strangers. ;)

    Mako that is an OUTSTANDING first draft. on the issue of the absence of pain, did you get a chance to read theNikolsky article yet? Every time I read It I realize that I picked up its argument and just say it in a different way. Also, I realize that I have internalized some material from Gosling & Taylor too. Now THAT is a book that is not so easy to find, and better access to it would help a lot. Although I say it this way all the time, I am not sure that this phrase is really all that helpful "The highest state of pleasure" --- I think that implies (to me, when I say it) that there is some single type of pleasure which is mysterious and needs to be found. I think rather the truth is exactly as stated in PD3 - the LIMIT OF QUANTITY OF PLEASURE..... meaning that the pleasure contained in the vessel can be an mixture of any type just so long as the vessel is full and pain has been crowded out.

    Which is not to say that that is easy or even possible to do (effort from breathing?) but that seems to be the way the goal is defined. Nikolsky describes this response to the Academics in a somewhat different way than I do, but I think the result is the same. And the bottom line is that we have a philsophically defensible position in which we rely on nature for our goal and have no need to resort to gods or to false standards for something higher.

    A lot of what we are doing here is trying to break free of the Stoic/Academic framework of false goals, and we have to rethink even the terminology to make sure we are not boxed in.

    As you say it takes time to put these things together and time to analyze them, and over time you and I and others can come back here and comment on new things that jump out at us.

    Nothing else really jumps out at me but I have a comment on this - this too is true "Justice is a contract not to cause pain to one another." I've been in some private conversations lately about how controversial this is - the implication being that "injustice" is nothing but breach of an express or implied agreement. There are plenty of things that are horrible in the world that we can and should want to take action to attack and to change, but unless there was a prior agreement between the parties which was breached, no matter how horrible we consider the problem, it's not a problem of "justice/injustice." It's a problem of "I personally find that intolerable and I am not going to put up with it, and I don't need a god or a false standard of virtue or "justice in the air" to tell me it's ok before i do it!" ;)

    Here is an advanced draft:


    Welcome to this month's Online Epicurean Twentieth. We know that the ancient Epicureans commemorated this date because the will of Epicurus contains this instruction:

    "The income of the property left by me to Amynomachus and Timocrates shall be divided by them as far as possible, with the advice of Hermarchus, for the offerings in honor of my father and mother and brothers, and for the customary celebration of my birthday every year on the tenth of Gamelion, and likewise for the assembly of my disciples which takes place on the twentieth of each month, having been established in recollection of myself and Metrodorus."

    (1) Now we’d like to have everyone say hello and any few words to introduce yourself. Let’s go in the order your name appears in the list to the left. Don't give too much personal information, but say hello and say something brief about your interest and background in Epicurus. I will start as an example: My name is ___________, and I live in _______, and I have been studying Epicurus for ___ years now.

    (2) OK, thanks to everyone who has joined us this month. Now in memory of Epicurus, _______ will read this brief biography of the life of Epicurus which is taken from Book Ten of Diogenes Laertius:

    “Epicurus, son of Neocles and Chaerestrate, was an Athenian of the Gargettus ward and the Philaidae clan. He is said by Heraclides as well as by others, to have been brought up at Samos after the Athenians had sent colonists there and to have come to Athens at the age of eighteen, at the time when Xenocrates was head of the Academy and Aristotle was in Chalcis. After the death of Alexander of Macedon and the expulsion of the Athenian colonists from Samos by Perdiccas, Epicurus left Athens to join his father in Colophon; for some time he stayed there and gathered students around him, then returned to Athens again during the archonship of Anaxicrates in 307 B.C.

    For a while, it is said, he pursued his studies in common with other philosophers, but afterwards put forward independent views by founding the school named after him.

    He says himself that he first came to study philosophy at the age of fourteen. Apollodorus the Epicurean (in the first book of his Life of Epicurus) says that he turned to philosophy in contempt of the school-teachers who could not tell him the meaning of “chaos” in Hesiod.

    Epicurus used to call Nausiphanes "jellyfish, an illiterate, a fraud, and a trollop;" Plato's school he called “the toadies of Dionysius,” their master himself the “golden” Plato, and Aristotle a profligate, who after devouring his patrimony took to soldiering and selling drugs; Protagoras a porter and the secretary of Democritus and village school-teacher; Heraclitus a muddler; Democritus Lerocritus [“trifler”]; and Antidorus Sannidorus [“flattering gift-bearer”]; the Cynics "enemies of Greece;" the Dialecticians "consumed with envy;" and Pyrrho [the Skeptic] "an ignorant boor."

    But our philosopher has numerous witnesses to attest his unsurpassed goodwill to all men:

    • His native land honored him with statues in bronze;
    • His friends were so many in number that they could hardly be counted by whole cities;
    • The Garden itself, while nearly all the others have died out, continues for ever without interruption through numberless successions of one director after another;
    • His gratitude to his parents, his generosity to his brothers, his gentleness to his servants, as evidenced by the terms of his will and by the fact that they were members of the Garden, the most eminent of them being the aforesaid Mys;
    • And in general, his benevolence to all mankind.

    His piety towards the gods and his affection for his country no words can describe. He carried his modesty to such an excess that he did not even enter public life.

    He spent all his life in Greece, notwithstanding the calamities which had befallen her in that era; when he did once or twice take a trip to Ionia, it was to visit his friends there. Friends indeed came to him from all parts and lived with him in his garden.

    Diocles in the third book of his Epitome speaks of them as living a very simple and frugal life; at all events they were content with a cup of thin wine and were, for the rest, thoroughgoing water-drinkers.

    He further says that Epicurus did not think it right that their property should be held in common, as required by the maxim of Pythagoras about the goods of friends; such a practice in his opinion implied mistrust, and without confidence there is no friendship.

    In his correspondence he himself mentions that he was content with plain bread and water. And again: “Send me a little pot of cheese, that, when I like, I may fare sumptuously.”

    Such was the man who laid down that pleasure was the end of life."

    (3) The purpose of this assembly is to remember not only Epicurus, but also Metrodorus. Now _________ will read this brief excerpt on the life of Metrodorus, also from Diogenes Laertius:

    Among the disciples of Epicurus, of whom there were many, among the most eminent was Metrodorus, the son of Athenaeus (or of Timocrates) and of Sande, a citizen of Lampsacus, who from his first acquaintance with Epicurus never left him except once for six months spent on a visit to his native place, from which he returned to him again. His goodness was proved in all ways, as Epicurus testifies in the introductions to his works and in the third book of the Timocrates. Such he was: he gave his sister Batis to Idomeneus to wife, and himself took Leontion the Athenian courtesan as his concubine. He showed dauntless courage in meeting troubles and death, as Epicurus declares in the first book of his memoir.

    He died, we learn, seven years before Epicurus in his fifty-third year, and Epicurus himself in his will clearly speaks of him as departed, and enjoins upon his executors to make provision for Metrodorus's children. The above-mentioned Timocrates also, the brother of Metrodorus and a giddy fellow, was another of his pupils.

    Metrodorus wrote the following works:

    • Against the Physicians, in three books.
    • Of Sensations.
    • Against Timocrates.
    • Of Magnanimity.
    • Of Epicurus's Weak Health.
    • Against the Dialecticians.
    • Against the Sophists, in nine books.
    • The Way to Wisdom.
    • Of Change.
    • Of Wealth.
    • In Criticism of Democritus.
    • Of Noble Birth.

    (4) Because we’re here to remember not only the lives of Epicurus and Metrodorus, but their teachings, we now have a brief passage from Epicurus’s Letter to Menoeceus read by ________:

    Epicurus to Menoeceus: Greetings.

    “LET no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old grow weary of his study. For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul. And the man who says that the age for philosophy has either not yet come or has gone by is like the man who says that the age for happiness is not yet come to him, or has passed away. Wherefore both when young and old a man must study philosophy, that as he grows old he may be young in blessings through the grateful recollection of what has been, and that in youth he may be old as well, since he will know no fear of what is to come. We must then meditate on the things that make our happiness, seeing that when that is with us we have all, but when it is absent we do all to win it.

    (5) Now we’ll take a few comments or questions for discussion, depending on how much time we have left in the hour. Let’s organize this with anyone who wants to raise a point typing in a request to speak and the topic, and then (the moderator) will lead us through in that order.

    (Take questions and comments, selected from what people type into the text chat, for as long as appropriate to fill up an hour.)

    (6) Our time for this Twentieth is now coming to a close. Thanks to all for attending. We hope to see you again next month. In closing, _______ will read to us a brief passage about Epicurus from Book 1 of Lucretius (this is the Humphries translation):

    When human life, all too conspicuous,

    Lay foully groveling on earth, weighed down

    By grim Religion looming from the skies,

    Horribly threatening mortal men, a man,

    A HELLENE, first raised his mortal eyes

    Bravely against this menace. No report

    Of gods, no lightning-flash, no thunder-peal

    Made this man cower, but drove him all the more

    With passionate manliness of mind and will

    To be the first to spring the tight-barred gates

    Of Nature's hold asunder. So his force,

    His vital force of mind, a conqueror

    Beyond the flaming ramparts of the world

    Explored the vast immensities of space

    With wit and wisdom, and came back to us

    Triumphant, bringing news of what can be

    And what cannot, limits and boundaries,

    The borderline, the benchmark, set forever.

    Religion, so, is trampled underfoot,

    And by his victory we reach the stars.

    Thanks again to everyone who has joined us in this first online twentieth meeting. We’ll close this month’s meeting now. Anyone who would like to remain and chat by text or voice with others, please move to the general Garden of Epicurus channel.

    Then moderator close channel and move participants to the main channel.

    My reading of Epicurus suggests to me that the ultimate question we should be concerned about is not "Where are we going?" but "Who or What is going to be our guide?"

    In a world that is not set in motion and controlled by a supreme being or force, each individual is going to start at a different place and end up in a different place. In a universe of unplanned and purely natural forces it can be no other way.

    To suggest that we all start in the same place, or that we should all end up in the same place, is fantasy - wishful thinking based on false religious or Platonic idealism. At birth we start individually at a unique place, at death we wind up individually at a unique place, and at every step in between our experience is unique to ourselves.

    So the question "What is my destination?" is not nearly as important as the question "Who or What will I choose as my guide on my journey?" The choice is simple but all-important: We can choose to follow supernatural gods, which do not exist; we can choose to follow abstract ideals, which likewise do not exist except in the words fed to us by others; or we can choose to follow the only faculty given individually to us by Nature for the purpose: PLEASURE.

    And it's up to us to study and understand that the faculty of "pleasure" is not limited simply to bodily needs and stimulations, as the opponents of Epicurus like to suggest, but includes every activity of mind and body that we experience in life and feel - to ourselves - to be desirable.

    Yes, I suspect that he probably either agreed with Epicurus exactly, but no matter what he really thought he knew that he better keep at least some of those views to himself in the interest of his politics. I seem to remember reading that Thomas Paine and some of the more radical deists resented this about Jefferson.

    And that actually is another interesting topic. For a while I was reading a lot of Thomas Paine. Paine truly seems to have been a Deist, and as radical as he was I have never read that Paine talked about Epicurus directly.

    I should have addressed that point in my first post. Yes I agree that my understanding of "Deist" is a detached god, but I also understand the term to mean "supernatural" and also "created the universe." I associate the term Deist with the "clockmaker" model of the god who sets things in motion and steps back, and THAT would not be compatible with Epicurus. The part you describe is definitely compatible, but if "deist" also includes "supernatural" and "universe creater" then that part would not. Those are the issues I would like to see clarified in examining what Jefferson believed.

    I think that is a great question and I agree with the concern. Given that Jefferson clearly understood Epicurus and Epicurus' contentions about the universe being eternal, I would not think that Jefferson thought of himself as a deist, and I bet a lot of the commentary just comes from the lack of familiarity people have with the Epicurean position - they don't know of any alternative to (1) Theist , (2) Deist, or (3) Atheist. I think we'd have to dig into Jefferson's own letters to determine what he thought, so maybe over time as people come across this thread they can suggest cites. But I do recall reading that Jefferson was very concerned about his words being used against him, so it may always be difficult to be sure of what he really thought, as opposed to what he wrote. Hopefully others can clarify this over time.

    Glad to have you Elbrando! If you re friends of Brett then you are certainly welcome here. There is generally lots of interest in Epicurus from people into physics who appreciate Luretius, which I know would include Martin and Harrington Andros . If there's anything we can help you find let us know.