Joshua Moderator
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Posts by Joshua


    [...] we need to be very careful in loose use of words that have become associated with anti-Epicurean philosophies [...]

    Do I take your meaning, Cassius, to be that Eudaimonia becomes a problem only when removed from the Greek and set into English? I can certainly understand how the following sentences might be construed to have different meanings;

    1. Someone who says that the time to love and practice wisdom has not yet come or has passed is like someone who says that the time for happiness has not yet come or has passed.

    2. Someone who says that the time to love and practice wisdom has not yet come or has passed is like someone who says that the time for Eudaimonia has not yet come or has passed.

    In other words, Eudaimonia takes on a separate connotative life and power when the word is carried through untranslated. So that happiness in an English sentence is ok, εὐδαιμονία in a Greek sentence is ok, but Eudamonia in an English sentence only invites trouble.

    A question that comes to my mind is this; what if eudaimonia was the word of choice simply because the Greek language didn't offer a better one? I certainly won't be answerable to the accidents of etymology in every word I use.

    When my mother says that "blood runs thicker than water", for example, she means that family is of utmost importance. What she likely doesn't know is that this phrase originally meant something quite different; "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb". Under this formulation, family relations are actually less important than relations forged by oath, shared faith, or the battlefield. An Arab saying expresses the same concept with slightly different maternal anatomy; "blood is thicker than milk".

    Elli will be of better use than me, but I'll attach a dictionary reference with alternative words for happiness.

    In the video from the Getty Villa that Cassius posted it was mentioned that a chest of Latin texts was found along with the main Greek library, but that they were too badly damaged to even know what they are. So we probably shouldn't read too much into it.

    In my truck, for example, there are 6 or 7 Epicurean texts, my old well-worn copy of Walden, a Latin Dictionary, and a copy of Macbeth that I bought at a used book store in Salt Lake City. I would encourage future papyrologists poking through my stuff not to place too much importance on the Macbeth!

    Among the scrolls of (mostly) Philodemus found at the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, there is a copy of a play by the (apparently) famous-in-Rome comic playwright Caecilius Statius. I've only just recently discovered that Caecilius was the author of a quote I have always seen attributed to Cicero—for Cicero does quote him directly;


    One plants trees for the benefit of another age.

    -Caecilius Statius

    I'm struggling to find much in English on this writer. In addition to the above, here are a few quotes attributed to him:

    ***note; I have not verified these selections***


    Fear created the first gods in the world


    The whole world is a man's birthplace


    Grant us a brief delay; impulse in everything is but a worthless servant.


    Wisdom oft lurks beneath a tattered coat.

    I'm wondering whether anybody else has come across him. I know Hiram has delved deeply into Philodemus' scrolls. I'm just wondering if he should be on our radar?

    Benjamin Franklin learned to read Italian by "gamifying" his studies with a chess-playing acquaintance. The victor of that day's chess match had the 'right', mutually agreed to, to impose a linguistic task on the vanquished. You might order your opponent, for example, to translate a passage into English, or to memorize a section of Italian grammar. In that way, he writes in his autobiography, "we thus beat one another into the language".

    Since I would love to be more disciplined with language study, I would like a local Epicurean group to reinforce classical language studies somehow. Greek and Latin being the obvious choices, although it wouldn't have to end there.

    The major business, of course, would be to enjoy in fellowship all of those pleasures that conspire to make a happy life. Shared meals, pleasant walks, the study of local natural sciences, literary discussions, etc.

    The dream school would be straight out of Frances Wright; a special 'temple' and garden were there is always something happening, where you can come and go as you please, and where scholars fill the days with their own pursuits while always having time for the broader group project.

    And in THAT dream, I don't have a job 😁

    Thanks, Cassius.

    There was a bill put forward in 2017 in the legislature of my home state of Iowa to put Intelligent Design into the science curriculum. This bill was put forward in the State Capitol building in Des Moines, 35 miles south of Iowa State University where the first computer was invented in 1937.

    The bill died mercifully in committee.

    I've been following the Pew survey on religious identification for several years now, and there are several features of interest in the analysis. Here's the new data;…-continues-at-rapid-pace/

    The most salient question that presents itself is this; what's bloody taking so long!? When I was a teenager, and only recently an atheist, Bill Maher made his signature "Mockumentary" Religulous. This film was just the right kind of funny to me, at just the right time in my life. (I bought the DVD, and later bought it again on iTunes.)

    In addition to being a reliably rewatchable (if somewhat cheap) piece of mind-candy, Maher's film managed to be instructive. For example, I recall being mortified to discover that out of 30-odd developed nations, only Turkey ranked more pious than the United States. Astonishing! The country that crossed the cold hell of space and set boots on another world was little better in this respect than the corrupt sectarian shadow-puppet of the declined Ottoman Empire.

    The intervening decade has brought victories as well as defeats for the religious nones in this country, but at last we seem to be putting space between our secular republic and the burgeoning Islamic Autocracy in Asia Minor; 10 years after Religulous, Turkey spurned the Enlightenment tradition of the West and banned Darwin from all of its textbooks. Americans, thanks in part to the internet and the "New Atheists", seem finally ready to turn a new page. Only 26% are unaffiliated today, but large concentrations of that number are to be found in the younger generations. With any luck, we'll be sidling ever closer to the secular states of Western Europe as the next decades unfold.

    This will be the best chance Epicureanism has had in this country since the Enlightenment of the 18th century.

    That's EXCELLENT, Elayne! You've handled the subtleties of free verse where I've always struggled.

    Calls to mind the second ending that Tolkien gave to the tragic story of Beren and Luthien, because he could—and he wanted to.

    Not sure if this really belongs here or not, but it's one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems;

    (It very often comes to mind when I'm in discussion with a young-/flat-earth Christian in the family)

    I share your reservations, Elayne. Mostly, in my case, because academia is the favored bogeyman among a large group of people for whom the factual age, shape, and making of the world is "just a theory".

    I spent four years in a University (undergoing "indoctrination", I have no doubt ;) ), and knew nearly every one of the professors in my acquaintance to have been intelligent, serious, curious, decent and well-meaning.

    That being said, I agree with Cassius on the main point. If we can't make headway among the common man, we will have failed of our purpose.

    "Known for telling tall tales"...

    Also known for multiple fraud convictions in Ohio and upstate New York 😁.

    There's a good article on 19th century astronomy and the "extra-terrestrial" problem.

    And one of my favorite Thoreau quotes is relevant;


    We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I hoed them. 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.

    PD 1 employs "aphtharton", as mentioned above. Perhaps this is Epicurus' preferred word when describing gods?

    Vatican saying 78 uses "athanaton", speaking of immortal good.

    The Letter to Menoeceus uses "athanatois", a slight variation of the same word. This change reflects the agreement of the word with the plural "agathois" (goods). "Agathon", singular, is used in the previous formulation.

    Both relevant words, aphtharton and athanaton, are formed by prefixing the word stem with the negation "a-". Same here as in English; atheist, amoral, abiogenesis.

    Phtharton is defined in the "Middle Liddell" (a scholarly lexicon of Ancient Greek) as "corrupted; decaying". Aphtharton, then, is uncorrupted, and undecaying.

    Thanaton (-os), as Hiram mentions above, is death. Athanaton is immortal, or deathless. So there are evident shades of meaning between the two.

    Back when I had an apartment I kept it very tidy and well-appointed. Now that I live exclusively in a truck, I find the minimalism forced and constraining. I miss my book collection, my kitchen, my desk and chair; and my hammock most of all.

    She did an interview on Stephen Colbert's show recently that I watched. I was especially impressed with the translator!

    Well as for Joseph Smith, he was living (and composing, to select a term advisedly) in the period during which it was generally suspected that the other immediate planets of the solar system might harbor life. Astronomy was sufficiently advanced by then to know what a planet was, but not advanced enough to know about what Mars and Venus were really like on their surfaces. This is the century that gave birth to science fiction (Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley)—unless we count Lucian and his True Story, which was 16 centuries ahead of its time.

    In the main I don't think I find fault with those objections, Hiram; and at any rate, the value in such beings is not in their being, per se, but in the human frame of mind that allows for their being.

    I, like Godfrey, am an atheist as I understand the term. I deny the existence of the God of theism, since by definition that God is creative and supernatural (an impossibility), intercessory (a contradiction with lived experience), and revelatory (a gross offense against the intellect of the common man).

    And what is the desirable frame of mind I mention above? Simply this;

    1. An alert and healthy sense of perspective.

    While it is mean and petty and narcissistic to suppose oneself the exclusive beneficiary of divine revelation, and to announce oneself thereby as the inheritor and disposer of creation, it is cautious and magnanimous to imagine a rung of natural intelligence still higher up the ladder. Compare the Hymn to Venus in Lucretius with the following verse in Psalms; "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men." And behold whither this leads, in the following contemptible utterance of Anne Coulter; "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours." Well, the earth is not ours. It was here for billions of years before our ancestors, and others will inhabit it for aeons after the last of our kind has died. We should not be nihilists, forever moaning the smallness of man in the dead emptiness of space. Neither should we be megalomaniacs.

    2. A becoming and genuine intellectual modesty.

    This is a related problem, and finds its distinction in the difference between Pyrrho and all Prophets. One claimed to know nothing; the other, to know everything. They were both playing false.

    3. A reverence for life and its contingencies.

    This goes a long way toward explaining why Epicurus attended the sacred rites. To express gratitude to Demeter is not to grant any meaning to the silly and fatuous myths that surround her; it is merely to recognize that our own common social existence depends upon the fecundity of Nature. As for the attendant virtue of civility, it is expressed best by Christopher Hitchens; "When I go into a Mosque, I take off my shoes. When I go into a Synagogue, I cover my head."

    And why is this frame of mind desirable? Because it encapsulates the spirit of inquiry that is best able to delve into the nature of physics and ethics, as typified by the figure of Epicurus. That spirit of inquiry is essential to probing the nature of the good (pleasure), and the foundation of human happiness.