Joshua Level 03
  • from NW Florida
  • Member since May 28th 2019
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Posts by Joshua


    Elli: If you were asked to justify what form of government you think Epicurus would approve of, what would you say, ad what would you cite in support of it?

    I can give my take on this, except in the negative;

    Epicurean philosophy does not to me seem compatible with a state that does not allow for the freedom of αἵρεσις--that is, hairesis, as in heresy, or the freedom to choose. Constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, direct democracy, social democracy, republic--there are many forms of government that are capable of meeting this very simple requirement. There are also many other forms which are likely to fail this test.

    Show Notes:

    The Tower of the Winds

    "The Tower of the Winds or the Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes is an octagonal Pentelic marble clocktower in the Roman Agora in Athens that functioned as a horologion or "timepiece"."


    The Lake Peigneur Drilling Accident

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    Parhelion of the Sun and Moon

    "A Sun Dog (or sundog) or mock sun, also called a parhelion[1] (plural parhelia) in meteorology, is an atmospheric optical phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to one or both sides of the Sun. Two sun dogs often flank the Sun within a 22° halo."



    So we're talking about the Criterion of Truth, and what amount and class of evidence beyond our own experience should be required to form such an opinion?

    This must necessarily vary with the nature of the claim being made, or the hypothesis being proposed.

    There's an interesting thought experiment in one of Patrick Rothfuss's books, which I will attempt to badly paraphrase from distance and memory:


    "Imagine a wild forest with three villages clinging to its edges. You travel to the first village, and the residents warn you not to go into those woods, for the place is haunted by demons and no one comes back alive.

    In the second village, you are again advised to keep a wide berth from the trees, for the forest is home to a powerful witch. All who go there fall under her spell, and are never seen again.

    At the third village they tell stories of men who were killed by werewolves in the night, and talk of the howling shrieks by moonlight that pierce the verdant gloom as darkness settles over the hamlet.

    Which of these is true? Neither of them? Neither, of course. But here's the real question:

    Would you go into those woods? Perhaps the witch and the demons are simply bandits or thieves, whose first and best weapon is fear? The howling beasts merely wolves, yet no less deadly for that? Maybe the forest is every bit as dangerous as they all say, though they all say it wrongly."


    The point, I think, is that mundane claims require no great amount of evidence, but fantastical claims demand a great deal more--a demand they seldom satisfy.

    I'd like to see someone draw a map of terra incognito and write, "I don't know what's here, but I'll warrant it isn't dragons."

    Ah! That dread and dismal realm of human underachievement called 'politics'!

    The first thing I recommend is a corrective--a palate cleanser, if you will. If you cannot steer wide of politics, then at least allow yourself the pleasure of a temporary restorative. In their art the Greeks called this Catharsis. In medicine, relief. Sometimes this is as easy as reframing your perspective: say, by gazing at the forbidding immensity of space;


    The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?

    Or by sitting quietly at the back door.


    There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.

    Sometimes it takes a single day well spent, going slowly un-mindful of the world.

    So much for the Sage of Walden Pond. But how to proceed?

    Here are some ideas:

    • Throttle your news intake. This is difficult, but I think essential. More copy is printed everyday than a person could possibly read, and there are no points for trying! Curate your news reading, and try to do it efficiently. I used to get the Economist delivered. If I still had a subscription, I'd get an E-reader for it. At all costs avoid the endless 24-hour-news internet click machine! People made it through two world wars with a daily newspaper. Get through it quickly, and have done with it.
    • Read dispassionate reporting, dispassionately. The former is difficult to find, and the latter more difficult to do, but we can try. When I read about the end of the Roman Republic, I'm not rooting for a side; this "old news" means nothing to me. And the day is not far off when the geopolitics of 2022 won't mean much to me either. Try to situate yourself in that context. Imagine what it would be like to read about this year in 2122. BO-RING! This isn't an argument for cynicism or jadedness. This is advice meant to direct our passion to the things we care most about. Thoreau didn't care who sat in the governor's mansion, but he did care deeply about the horror of slavery, and that was where he directed his effort and attention.
    • Recognize that you cannot carry the world's traumas on your shoulders, and that it's not even a reasonable thing to ask. It sometimes feels heartless to disconnect from politics, or to neglect the news, when so many people are suffering. But just knowing about it doesn't really help, does it?

    The fate of the country does not depend on who you vote for at the polls--the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.

    All quotes from Henry David Thoreau

    Further Show Notes:

    The Great Chain of Being;

    Or "Ladder of Being"


    The great chain of being is a hierarchical structure of all matter and life, thought by medieval Christianity to have been decreed by God. The chain begins with God and descends through angels, humans, animals and plants to minerals.

    Dante's Inferno:

    The Fermi Paradox


    The Fermi paradox is the conflict between the lack of clear, obvious evidence for extraterrestrial life and various high estimates for their existence.[1][2] As a 2015 article put it, "If life is so easy, someone from somewhere must have come calling by now.

    The Dark Forest Hypothesis;

    In science fiction; Liu Cixin

    The Hellmouth


    In this case, my remark is that this episode marks the return of Joshua after a two week absence, and as I complete the editing I keep thinking to myself that this is one (of many) strong episodes by Joshua.

    Ha! I thought things were getting off to a bad start at the very beginning of the recording when I made some excuse and instantly pushed it back over to you.

    One further point I'm gleaning from Wikipedia; the Greeks celebrated birthdays monthly instead of annually. So we've got a local Athenian calendar, enshrouded in a Greek culture, which has been generally interpreted for us by non-Athenians, non-Greeks, and/or latecomers.


    The 21st day: "the later tenth". The Attic month had three days named "tenth" (equivalent in a straight sequence to the 10th, 20th, and 21st days). These were distinguished as

    10th: "the tenth (of the month) waxing"

    20th: "the earlier tenth" (i.e. waning)

    21st: "the later tenth" (i.e. waning)

    Does this clarify things for you? :S

    Also of note; the 7th day of each month was (apparently) sacred to Apollo. Since one of the aspects of that God was Apollo Epicurius, is it too bold to propose that Neocles and Chaerestrate may have had this in mind when they named him? Or perhaps Epicurus really was born on the 10th or 20th, and later ancient commentators pigeonholed him into the seventh to fit the Apollo connection.

    Impossible to say. But I would like to see this "3 tenths" business cleared up.

    I don't think that methodological naturalism asserts that there is nothing supernatural--that to my understanding would be 'philosophical naturalism'. Methodological naturalism is not so much a doctrine or belief, as it is an attitude or approach to inquiry.

    But to state my own position plainly, I think that Epicurus was a philosophical naturalist, who further employed methodological naturalism in his study of nature.

    By contrast, Dr. Francis Collins who is a renowned geneticist and was the the head of the Human Genome Project is not at all a naturalist, being a Christian, but in his scientific work he sought natural explanations for the phenomena of nature.

    I think I mentioned that term on the first episode of the letter to Pythocles, during the discussion as to whether the ancients were really doing "science". I'd have to listen back to be sure.

    But I certainly think it's applicable to what Epicurus was doing in the 4th century.

    I'll try to summarize what I recall to be the main points of the essay;


    -Epicurus' primary interest in the size of the sun is to rule out the supernatural.

    -A superficial reading of the passage will always be plagued with error.

    -The author stresses the importance of considering the question in light of the whole philosophy.

    -And that includes offering a few explanations, not just asserting one.

    -Epicurus draws a distinction between how we interpret things that appear to our senses, and how those things actually are.

    -The senses themselves are to Epicurus never wrong. Merely the judgment we make about sense-perception can be wrong, or not.

    -The sun may be bigger or smaller than it appears, but it's not possible to know which (in the fourth century B.C) because we can never change our perspective by getting closer or going further away.

    -The passages in both Pythocles and Lucretius are very noncommittal in their grammar and diction. Something like 8 subordinate clauses in five lines. So there's a resistance to speaking certainly about it. Nowhere does any Epicurean actually make a definite claim about the size of the sun.

    -In the discussion on eclipses, the ancient sources seem to imply or suggest that the sun may be larger than the Earth. One of the explanations offered for eclipses is the interposition of the Earth between the sun and the moon.

    -The author suggests that the sun-size issue is a didactic challenge to students and readers; like the plague at the end of Lucretius, it sets up a test to see how well you've grasped Epicurean method. The reader will come to that passage, and then feel compelled to review the other material to make sure they haven't missed something.

    -The final suggestion the author makes is that the sun-size issue became a shibboleth for ancient Epicureans. That it became a way of 'sounding out' the Epicurean knowledge-base of the interlocutor. Cassius often says that hard cases make bad law. But the argument being made here is that this hard case is useful for determining how well other people really understand this. Useful for teachers with their students, or for scholarchs with their scholars.


    The essay does not make the following point, which I think is nevertheless important; namely, how stupid do people think Epicurus was to say that he thought the sun was the size of an orange!?

    Certainly the sun is, at minimum, bigger than the biggest object that crosses it but fails to entirely eclipse it. A lifetime's accumulated experience would surely have been sufficient for Epicurus to know that the sun was bigger than a bird. Bigger than a horse, a house, a tree, a trireme--bigger than the better part of a mountain. Bigger than the moon.

    Edit: I need to review some of this information to make sure the comparisons refer to the diameter of the Sun in relation to the diameter of Earth. Don't take it at face value just yet ;)


    Anaxagoras, 500-428

    -Sun as a mass of blazing metal, larger than the Peloponnese

    Eudoxus of Cnidus, 408-355 BC

    -27 Concentric Spheres

    Epicurus, 341–270 BC

    -"The sun is to us the size that it appears"

    Aristarchus of Samos, 310-230 BC


    -Sun is 6 times bigger than the Earth

    Hipparchus of Nicaea, 190 – 120 BC

    -Sun is 1,880 times bigger than the Earth

    Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria, 100-170 AD

    -Geocentric Universe

    Actual Size of sun; 109 times the size of the earth?

    I have been listening once again to the Folger Library's dramatic audiobook rendition of Romeo and Juliet, and it occurred to me that someone needs to write a paper on the Lucretian influence in this particular play. Well—someone has done just that!

    This link gives a flavor of the approach that Dr. Roychoudhury has taken, and I pronounce myself in love with it!

    I have not read the paper yet, which is actually a chapter out of her book, Phantasmatic Shakespeare, but it just moved to the top of my list.

    When I have read the work, I will report back;


    What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

    Probably my approach to this question would be twofold. The first point I would like to see articulated is that Epicurus' opinions abouts sex and romance—whatever they turn out to be—are just that; opinions. I'm not very likely to consult a dead philosopher at all on these matters, they being so intimate and so personal, and I am especially uninterested in giving my ear to any High Priest of Epicureanism on what I should do, or what I am allowed to do when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

    The second point is this; apart from the physicality of the thing itself, nearly everything about sex and about romance has changed wildly since the 3rd century BC. "Chaste"—I detest the word pure when applied to people—but "chaste" women tethered to their looms, and shut away in an inner room, is no longer the order of the day. Richard Nixon famously said about economics that "we are all Keynesians now". Well, in the 21st century we are, in the English-speaking world of my experience, nearly all Epicureans when it comes to sex. Purity and sin, thank heavens or culture, are on the outs, and choice and avoidance are the new watchwords.

    My parents have an average of 8 or 9 siblings. Them and their siblings have an average of two or 3 children. This fact tells a story that the homilies of their parish priests do not tell. They will continue to say one thing, but secular culture and law has allowed them to choose quite another.

    So, if you are lucky enough now that no one has the power to coerce you—what will you choose? That is, in my view, the only question that means anything.