Joshua Level 03
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Posts by Joshua

    Show Notes:

    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.

    Thales and the Eclipse of 585 BC

    The anniversary of this eclipse was yesterday, May 28th (sorry Don!)

    Eclipse of Thales - Wikipedia

    Lucretius and Natural Selection

    Evolution and Paleontology in the Ancient World


    I think the article I mentioned may have been "Animals in War and Isonomia" by K. L. McKay, but it's behind a paywall and I won't likely read it again.

    Mark Twain

    Caustic vs Corrosive,chemical%2520acts%2520as%2520an%2520irritant.&ved=2ahUKEwiV8qzygYX4AhVyRDABHeG3B5wQFnoECA0QBQ&usg=AOvVaw3ZAiapcVHK1sS6Ic2van03

    Thanks to Martin for correcting me!

    I think the fundamental problem is going to be this; while Christian Humanists have been quite happy to import Epicurean Ethics, they haven't been very interested in adopting his view of the gods. Epicureans and their fellow travelers, by contrast, have had little interest in the Christian God, and even less interest in Christian morality.

    So you're looking for someone with one foot squarely planted in both worlds. The closest you're going to get to that (and it's far from a good fit) is probably the expelled and denounced Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza. He really was prepared to adopt materialism, at great personal risk, and to reject the supernatural entirely. His God is completely natural--nothing less than the sum of Nature and all her laws.

    So I will amend my previous suggestion, and say: I'd start with Spinoza.

    You may find this book useful; with the caveat, again, that I have not read it!

    Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism

    by Dimitris Vardoulakis

    I'm fresh off a review of the Philebus material, and wanted to have another look at Plato the "Golden".


    Plato's school he called "the toadies of Dionysius," their master himself the "golden" Plato, [...]


    τούς τε περὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσοκόλακας καὶ αὐτὸν Πλάτωνα χρυσοῦν,

    It seems that the word we're dealing with is χρυσοῦν. If that word is an adjective, and derives from χρύσεος, then it certainly does mean "golden". But if χρυσοῦν is a participle deriving from χρυσόω, then it may instead mean "gilded"--papered over with gold-leaf.

    If my fanciful and doubtlessly flawed analysis has any weight, Epicurus may have been going for a pun here. Because "Plato" (Πλάτων) comes from the word platys (πλατύς), meaning variously broad, flat, level, etc.

    If this was the intent of Epicurus' words, then Plato's goldenness was, as his own name suggests, just a false veneer, like the Platte River in Nebraska--a mile wide and an inch deep. All surface, and no substance.

    Perhaps Don can come in here and bring me back to reality!

    It would be difficulty to express it accurately and concisely, but here is my attempt:

    Plato held that (1) the pursuit of pleasure could not be the best mode of life, because (2) pleasure has no limit--and (3) having no limit, the pursuit of limitless pleasure ends in wickedness.

    (4) Virtue is the way to correct wickedness, (5) and Divine Law is the supernatural check against the heedless pursuit of pleasure.

    But Epicurus thought (1) that the pursuit of pleasure was the best mode of life, because (2) the limit of the quantity of pleasure is the removal of all pain--and (3) culminating in the removal of all pain, the pursuit of pleasure does not lead to wickedness. (4) The wicked bring pain on themselves, (5) and pain is the natural check against the heedless pursuit of pleasure.

    Principal Doctrine 3


    ὅρος τοῦ μεγέθους τῶν ἡδονῶν ἡ παντὸς τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσις. ὅπου δʼἂν τὸ ἡδόμενον ἐνῇ, καθʼὃν ἂν χρόνον ᾖ, ουκ ἔστι τὸ ἀλγοῦν ἢ λυπούμενον ἢ τὸ συναμφότερον.

    Cyril Bailey:


    The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body nor of mind, nor of both at once.

    Inwood and Gerson:


    The removal of all feeling of pain is the limit of the magnitude of pleasures. Wherever a pleasurable feeling is present, for as long as it is present, there is neither a feeling of pain nor a feeling of distress, nor both together.

    Peter Saint-Andre


    The limit of enjoyment is the removal of all pains. Wherever and for however long pleasure is present, there is neither bodily pain nor mental distress.

    from Plato's Philebus:



    καὶ ἄλλα γε δὴ μυρία ἐπιλείπω λέγων, οἷον μεθ᾽ ὑγιείας κάλλος καὶ ἰσχύν, καὶ ἐν ψυχαῖς αὖ πάμπολλα ἕτερα καὶ πάγκαλα. ὕβριν γάρ που καὶ σύμπασαν πάντων πονηρίαν αὕτη κατιδοῦσα ἡ θεός, ὦ καλὲ Φίληβε, πέρας οὔτε ἡδονῶν οὐδὲν οὔτε πλησμονῶν ἐνὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς, νόμον καὶ τάξιν πέρας ἔχοντ᾽ ἔθετο: καὶ σὺ μὲν ἀποκναῖσαι φῂς αὐτήν, ἐγὼ δὲ τοὐναντίον ἀποσῶσαι λέγω. σοὶ δέ, ὦ Πρώταρχε, πῶς φαίνεται;

    Benjamin Jowett:


    Soc. I omit ten thousand other things, such as beauty and health and strength, and the many beauties and high perfections of the soul: O my beautiful Philebus, the goddess, methinks, seeing the universal wantonness and wickedness of all things, and that there was in them no limit to pleasures and self-indulgence, devised the limit of law and order, whereby, as you say, Philebus, she torments, or as I maintain, delivers the soul-What think you, Protarchus?

    Harold Fowler:


    There are countless other things which I pass over, such as health, beauty, and strength of the body and the many glorious beauties of the soul. For this goddess,1 my fair Philebus, beholding the violence and universal wickedness which prevailed, since there was no limit of pleasures or of indulgence in them, established law and order, which contain a limit. You say she did harm; I say, on the contrary, she brought salvation. What do you think, Protarchus?

    We discuss the same problem in that thread.


    In ancient art, double herms were a common statue type. While in Greece they were displayed in public rooms, in the Roman empire they were shown in private spaces.



    Double herms were a creation of the imperial period and this example is one of four double herms found in the corners of the peristyle garden of the villa at Fondo Bottaro, one each corner.

    That seems to me the best explanation. The floor-plan of these ancient villas was so thoroughly different to the way we do things now where everything gets shoved against wall. Their walls had frescoes, not televisions. Furniture and objects would be arranged in the center of the room. The perimeter of the room was for walking--a place where slaves would be on hand and free to move about, but of the way.

    The "corners" of a peristyle courtyard would still be away from the walls some considerable distance, as a colonnade and covered walkway would surround the garden.

    Everyone sitting down side by side and facing one wall is an artefact of the fireplace, and then the television. A Roman villa would use braziers, not a hearth.

    The other possibility is that a bust was found without its plinth, and it was affixed to a different one.

    There is a renaissance statue of Poggio Bracciolini that was found in a collection of statues portraying the Last Supper. The scholarship on this sort of thing wasn't particularly scrupulous for a long time.

    This is one of the surviving "double-herm" statues showing Metrodorus. A 1st century Roman copy, I think.

    This inscription (the left one) says Ἕρμαρχoς -- (Hermarxos, Hermarchus.)

    This appears to be the bust that the left sketch was taken of. Some websites record this as Metrodorus, but again the inscription makes it clear. This is Hermarchus.

    I'll see what I can find about the righthand sketch.

    I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier.

    First Snow in Alsace

    by Richard Wilbur

    The snow came down last night like moths

    Burned on the moon; it fell till dawn,

    Covered the town with simple cloths.

    Absolute snow lies rumpled on

    What shellbursts scattered and deranged,

    Entangled railings, crevassed lawn.

    As if it did not know they'd changed,

    Snow smoothly clasps the roofs of homes

    Fear-gutted, trustless and estranged.

    The ration stacks are milky domes;

    Across the ammunition pile

    The snow has climbed in sparkling combs.

    You think: beyond the town a mile

    Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes

    Of soldiers dead a little while.

    Persons and persons in disguise,

    Walking the new air white and fine,

    Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

    At children's windows, heaped, benign,

    As always, winter shines the most,

    And frost makes marvelous designs.

    The night guard coming from his post,

    Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow

    And warms him with a boyish boast:

    He was the first to see the snow.

    Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

    Old Time is still a-flying;

    And this same flower that smiles today

    Tomorrow will be dying.

    -Robert Herrick, To the Virgins to Make Much of Time


    Had we but world enough and time,

    This coyness, lady, were no crime.

    -Andrew Marvell, To his Coy Mistress


    carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

    Seize the present; trust tomorrow e'en as little as you may.

    -Horace, Odes


    "Timor mortis conturbat me" is a Latin phrase commonly found in late medieval Scottish and English poetry, translating to "fear of death disturbs me". The phrase comes from a responsory of the Catholic Office of the Dead, in the third Nocturn of Matins:

    "Peccantem me quotidie, et non poenitentem, timor mortis conturbat me. Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio, miserere mei, Deus, et salva me." Sinning daily, and not repenting, the fear of death disturbs me. For there is no redemption in Hell, have mercy on me, o God, and save me.

    The practical question of risk depends largely on the terms of the agreement DeWitt had with Minnesota University Press. Did he transfer the copyright to them, or did he merely license to them the publication rights? If the latter, it may be that the only people with standing to bring action against infringement are his heirs, presumably his living grandchildren, or his executor, presumably also dead.

    It would certainly be nice to have a resolution.