Joshua Moderator
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Posts by Joshua

    Since I've only focused on sensations in the chart I'm going to restrain myself to one thing right now--which is that I question whether error really does enter in that late in the process. I think there are numerous visual tests that demonstrate that the brain starts lying pretty much immediately upon receiving input. The retinal blind spot test is a good example. Rather than reporting two gaps in the visual field, which is clearly what the eyes sense and report due to their structure, the brain is constantly fabricating false information from the surrounding true information. The error is instantaneous.

    If that links works, it will take you to a .png file on my google drive that is an export of a drawio flow chart on epistemology. I'm finding the task to be a bit overwhelming, but it might prove interesting.

    I've only covered sensation so far, and have barely scratched the surface there. I have some ideas where to go with feelings, but it's all quite vague in my mind at the moment.

    Prolepsis/Anticipations/Preconceptions remain completely obscure to me. I just don't understand them very well. I'm hoping this will give me a framework from which to approach the upcoming chapters in DeWitt, because this is a serious weak point of mine.

    This is the School of Athens fiasco all over again. The mosaic:

    Appears to portray six Greek philosophers in various attitudes of respose, gathered around a central figure leaning against a tree, and thought to be Plato. As is frequently the case, no one can know for sure who the artist intended to portray. I have seen the second man from the right identified as Epicurus, though this is not the common assessment.

    In favor the Epicurus argument is this statue:

    In both statue and mosaic, the subject is featured with the right foot forward and the right forearm bent upward, holding a scroll. In the actual statue the head and right arm were lost, and the work was fitted with a different head and different limb. The hypothesized scroll in the hand was of course lost with the limb.

    Quote from Titus

    It seems we need a thread on interior decoration.

    As requested by Titus in...let me see...March of '21, I decided to pull together a few things that might inspire an idea or two. I haven't led the most settled of lives, and I'm now trying to furnish an apartment from square one.

    So I'm thinking particularly of things that can tastefully be used as decor, while giving a nod to the school of Epicurus.

    A throw pillow with the dolphin and anchor, the Printer's Mark of Aldus Manutius, a Renaissance Venetian who specialized in ancient texts, and revolutionized the way we read, giving us among other things Italic text, portable readers (precursors to the modern paperback), and two editions of the Latin text of Lucretius in 1500 and 1515.

    The dolphin and anchor motif was used in Roman coinage, and symbolized the proverbial Latin phrase Festina Lente (σπεῦδε βρᾰδέως), meaning "make haste slowly.

    Also dating from the sixteenth century is this charming map of Greece. I gather from some of the names that it was meant to be contemporary and not ancient Greece.

    Perhaps something older? This mosaic from Pompeii is thought by some to portray Epicurus second from the right. He is portrayed, as in the famous 'seated statue' with his right foot forward, and his right arm bent upward and holding a scroll. (Others suggest that everyone present is a Platonist...let's have that argument in another thread, shall we?)

    Every scholar needs some book-ends. Why not the Alpha and Omega of book-ends!

    Forum user Bryan had the idea of reproducing the Herculaneum fragments for display.

    His execution of the idea looks quite good!

    I hope to see a thread full of interesting photos!


    To Epicurus it meant that the idea of primeval chaos was absurd; the universe has always been a cosmos.

    This is on page 124 of Epicurus and His Philosophy by Norman DeWitt; rather than starting a new thread I thought it might fit here.

    What I am surprised to learn is that "cosmos" and "universe" are not synonymous;


    Using the word cosmos implies viewing the universe as a complex and orderly system or entity. --Wikipedia

    'Cosmos' in this meaning is almost a direct antonym to 'chaos', which I find interesting. Don has made reference to the use of the word παν (all, or even, "the all") as a word used by Epicurus. Is cosmos used as well?


    People were doing things for thousands of years. They were using some criteria (deliberately plural). They didn't have to stand around and ponder "the good" (or if there was one good, or many goods, or any good at all) before they could do anything.

    I'm aware of the danger of erring too far the other way, but I take an alternative view of the history of this question. My sense is that the general conditions which predated Greek thought--and whatever non-Greek influences it may have had, say, in Phonoecia--were those of varying degrees of monarchy.

    In Egypt, the rule of the Pharoahs had been replaced by the Persian occupation under the Achaemenid Empire; in Phonoecia itself, as well as Carthage, Etruria, and Macedonia, the monarchy was not yet in full decline. In all of these cases, the value of the individual was in his capacity as a subject. What does it mean in these circumstances to speak of a purpose in life, when the purpose is so manifestly servitude? Prosperity is a product of piety, and famine, war, destruction, conquest, and exile are, as punishments, the outward signs of a sinful and guilty people. We have, in a word, entered the world of the Hebrew Testament. It is the book not of one people, but of a whole barbaric age.

    Individuality has no place in that world. The ruler is the father of a tribe--reveals himself to a tribe--makes a covenant with the tribe--and with no small degree of relish, he punishes the tribe. If they are very lucky, a scapegoat is punished on their behalf, but the motivating sin is always public, and always mutual, and always on display.

    The Greek polis was, for the space of a few centuries, something new. Power was not so centralized as it had once been; the individual was governed not by an absolute monarch, but by a body of his fellow citizens. An appreciation for skill, talent, genius, and many-sidedness began to take shape, here as in the Renaissance and elsewhere always a sign of increasing liberty.

    In Miletus, probably, or at least somewhere in Ionia, in the seventh or sixth century B.C. some individuals began asking a series of daring questions: what is nature? What is it made of, how does it operate, where did it come from, when does it change, and above all why? Who are we, and how should we live? What is the nature of our mind and consciousness? What happens to it when we die?

    What are we here for?

    These are not the kinds of questions entertained by those grasping for power and control. The Book of Job makes that plain: Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?

    The only question fit for an all-powerful God is a rhetorical one. He has all the answers--and that is the meaning of control. Pay no attention to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil behind the curtain. 😇

    Lucretius versus the Lake Poets

    by Robert Frost

    ‘Nature I loved; and next to Nature, Art.’

    Dean, adult education may seem silly.

    What of it, though? I got some willy-nilly

    The other evening at your college deanery.

    And grateful for it (let's not be facetious!)

    For I thought Epicurus and Lucretius

    By Nature meant the Whole Goddam Machinery.

    But you say that in college nomenclature

    The only meaning possible for Nature

    In Landor's quatrain would be Pretty Scenery.

    Which makes opposing it to Art absurd

    I grant you—if you're sure about the word.

    God bless the Dean and make his deanship plenary.


    ^Regarding the meaning of nature, as discussed above

    What Todd says about pleasure is something I mentioned on the podcast, I think in the first episode of the Torquatus material or near it.

    Since I'm certain I did a poor job of explaining it then, I'll summarize a variation of the same idea.

    1. Epicurus uses the example of infants and newborn animals to demonstrate the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain descriptively.

    2. He proceeds by noticing that the condition of the infant is one unburdened by culture, education, sophistication, bias, social expectation, rationalization and so on.

    3. The unwritten premise: that infancy, free from all of those, and directed in its pursuits only by nature itself, is the best guide to uncovering the proper end of life.

    4. The normative conclusion: that the proper end of life is the pursuit of pleasure, and the avoidance of pain.

    The descriptive premise (that pleasure is pursued as the goal) and the normative conclusion (that pleasure should be pursued as the goal) are connected, and I think inextricably so.


    The "abolished by law" is what I have heard but have not researched. I thought I had read that Augustus closed all the schools, not just the Epicurean, and that would predate the Christian issue. Presumably this would have hurt all the schools, but if the Epicureans were "taking Italy by storm" as Cicero complained, then this would have been especially damaging to the Epicureans.

    The closing of the schools of philosophy did not happen until much, much later, under Justinian in 529. But Constantine converted the Empire in the 4th century, and then Julian the Apostate deconverted--but his paganism was not less authoritarian for that, as you may read in his own words here.

    In attempting to resurrect the piety of old Rome, he singled out the Epicureans and the Pyrrhonists as being against his project. Himerius was a secretary of Justinian's, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica of 1911 says:


    Other declamations, only known from the excerpts in Photius, were imaginary orations put into the mouth of famous persons—Demosthenes advocating the recall of Aeschines from banishment, Hypereides supporting the policy of Demosthenes, Themistocles inveighing against the king of Persia, an orator unnamed attacking Epicurus for atheism before Julian at Constantinople.

    This is John Dryden giving some of his opinion on the matter. I'll pull out a few excerpts;


    [Juvenal] treats tyranny, and all the vices attending it, as they deserve, with the utmost rigour; and consequently a noble soul is better pleased with a zealous vindicator of Roman liberty [i.e. Juvenal] than with a temporising poet, a well-mannered court slave, and a man who is often afraid of laughing in the right place [i.e. Horace]—who is ever decent, because he is naturally servile.

    After all, Horace had the disadvantage of the times in which he lived; they were better for the man, but worse for the satirist. It is generally said that those enormous vices which were practised under the reign of Domitian were unknown in the time of Augustus Cæsar; that therefore Juvenal had a larger field than Horace. Little follies were out of doors when oppression was to be scourged instead of avarice; it was no longer time to turn into ridicule the false opinions of philosophers when the Roman liberty was to be asserted. There was more need of a Brutus in Domitian’s days to redeem or mend, than of a Horace, if he had then been living, to laugh at a fly-catcher.


    Herein, then, it is that [ Aulus Persius Flaccus, a Stoic] has excelled both Juvenal and Horace. He sticks to his own philosophy; he shifts not sides, like Horace (who is sometimes an Epicurean, sometimes a Stoic, sometimes an Eclectic, as his present humour leads him), nor declaims, like Juvenal, against vices more like an orator than a philosopher. Persius is everywhere the same—true to the dogmas of his master. What he has learnt, he teaches vehemently; and what he teaches, that he practises himself.


    Fame is in itself a real good, if we may believe Cicero, who was perhaps too fond of it; but even fame, as Virgil tells us, acquires strength by going forward. Let Epicurus give indolency as an attribute to his gods, and place in it the happiness of the blest: the Divinity which we worship has given us not only a precept against it [indolence], but His own example to the contrary [In the life of Christ].


    We who are better taught by our religion, yet own every wonderful accident which befalls us for the best, to be brought to pass by some special providence of Almighty God, and by the care of guardian angels; and from hence I might infer that no heroic poem can be writ on the Epicurean principles, which I could easily demonstrate if there were need to prove it or I had leisure.

    "Once I wandered, an expert in crazy wisdom, a scant and infrequent adorer of gods, now I’m forced to set sail and return, to go back to the paths I abandoned. For Jupiter, Father of all of the gods, who generally splits the clouds with his lightning, flashing away, drove thundering horses, and his swift chariot, through the clear sky, till the dull earth, and the wandering rivers, and Styx, and dread Taenarus’ hateful headland, and Atlas’s mountain-summits shook. The god has the power to replace the highest with the lowest, bring down the famous, and raise the obscure to the heights. And greedy Fortune with her shrill whirring, carries away the crown and delights in setting it, there."

    --Horace, Ode 1.34, Translated by A. S. Kline


    This, this it is, O Memmius, to see through

    The very nature of fire-fraught thunderbolt;

    O this it is to mark by what blind force

    It maketh each effect, and not, O not

    To unwind Etrurian scrolls oracular,

    Inquiring tokens of occult will of gods,

    Even as to whence the flying flame hath come,

    Or to which half of heaven it turns, or how

    Through walled places it hath wound its way,

    Or, after proving its dominion there,

    How it hath speeded forth from thence amain,

    Or what the thunderstroke portends of ill

    From out high heaven. But if Jupiter

    And other gods shake those refulgent vaults

    With dread reverberations and hurl fire

    Whither it pleases each, why smite they not

    Mortals of reckless and revolting crimes,

    That such may pant from a transpierced breast

    Forth flames of the red levin- unto men

    A drastic lesson?- why is rather he-

    O he self-conscious of no foul offence-

    Involved in flames, though innocent, and clasped

    Up-caught in skiey whirlwind and in fire?

    Nay, why, then, aim they at eternal wastes,

    And spend themselves in vain?- perchance, even so

    To exercise their arms and strengthen shoulders?

    Why suffer they the Father's javelin

    To be so blunted on the earth? And why

    Doth he himself allow it, nor spare the same

    Even for his enemies? O why most oft

    Aims he at lofty places? Why behold we

    Marks of his lightnings most on mountain tops?

    Then for what reason shoots he at the sea?-

    What sacrilege have waves and bulk of brine

    And floating fields of foam been guilty of?

    Besides, if 'tis his will that we beware

    Against the lightning-stroke, why feareth he

    To grant us power for to behold the shot?

    And, contrariwise, if wills he to o'erwhelm us,

    Quite off our guard, with fire, why thunders he

    Off in yon quarter, so that we may shun?

    Why rouseth he beforehand darkling air

    And the far din and rumblings? And O how

    Canst thou believe he shoots at one same time

    Into diverse directions? Or darest thou

    Contend that never hath it come to pass

    That divers strokes have happened at one time?

    But oft and often hath it come to pass,

    And often still it must, that, even as showers

    And rains o'er many regions fall, so too

    Dart many thunderbolts at one same time.

    Again, why never hurtles Jupiter

    A bolt upon the lands nor pours abroad

    Clap upon clap, when skies are cloudless all?

    Or, say, doth he, so soon as ever the clouds

    Have come thereunder, then into the same

    Descend in person, and that from thence he may

    Near-by decide upon the stroke of shaft?

    And, lastly, why, with devastating bolt

    Shakes he asunder holy shrines of gods

    And his own thrones of splendour, and to-breaks

    The well-wrought idols of divinities,

    And robs of glory his own images

    By wound of violence?

    -Lucretius Book VI, transl. William Ellery Leonard

    I have had a few personal literary traditions of long standing about this time of year, dating from my high school reading. Some books are inextricably linked in my mind with the mood of December--Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes were usual re-reading for me in this time of year.

    New Years Eve I still read Ring out, wild bells from Tennyson's In Memoriam, and January is given over to Robert Burns. This December I have my own apartment again for the first time in ~4 years. Looking forward to that!