Hmm...I have noticed, based on many such quotes against Epicureans especially from antiquity, that critics understood pleasure as animalistic and unvirtuous. Such prejudice pressuposes that the audience or listeners are virtuous the same way Cicero ridicules Epicureanism.
Why do you think they understood pleasure that way? Was there an authority defimition of pleasure around the time of Epicurus that was far different from his description of pleasure?
Happy Birthday Elayne!
One of the possible things that comes to mind is that Epicurus has been cited as saying "I call you to constant pleasures", and that this line of reasoning is that passive and active pleasures both complete a lifestyle of constant pleasures. We can not be always active (or else we'd be exhausted) or constantly idle.
This is also how I understand it. I don't know whether which authority or secondary literature is needed to explain it. But through my ignorance of different interpretations, the sentence simply tells me about the moderation between rest and activity.
The first things I read on Epicureanism made me wonder if it would be as inspiriatonal as stoicism,
Hi Tim. Yes it is...not only as inspirational but even more so. I don't have much time left to explain it now (maybe tomorrow), but rest assured that Ryan Holiday of Stoic group has a lot of counter-parts here.
My philosophy is no philosophy these days. Life becomes much quieter when you don’t have other people’s speculations bouncing about in your consciousness.
If you refer "philisophy these days" as the mainstream academic philosophy that reduces philosophy to Philology and historicism as though there is a market of philosophical thoughts to choose from, then, I am with you. I wouldn't philosophize in that sense.
But Epicurus would think of philosophy in a different way. As I understand it, philosophy for him is a living philosophy and not a list of dead appearances of the living. Here I quote from VS 54: "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."
In my case, my philosophy is the pleasure of learning from my experience while applying my lessons of past experiences and testing all sorts of wisdom through practice.
Excellent choice. My experience is very little with people who talk about Buddhism, but the Stoics love the term "mindfulness" so "mindset" seems a good way to distinguish it. Or simply "attitude" as I think DeWitt generally uses.
Yes Cassius. Attitude is another simple word for it. ☺
I smell Neoplatonism cooking in here.
Yes. That's also what I observed from the sentences especially the fact that there is a higher level of ascension, and this is a typical epistemological element of Platonism and Neo-platonism.
"Minimalism" is the wrong goal for the obvious reason...
This is why I avoid using the term "mindfulness" the way Zen Buddhists use it. Instead, I prefer the word "mindset" to describe the state of mind while in the process of prudence.
For instance, I'd choose to be frugal only because my eagerness to reap a much greater pleasure out of it afterward sets my mind to keep being frugal. Therefore, I do it not because it's my ascent to frugality.
On the other hand, I'd put a limit on frugality not because of my ascent to self-control or freedom of choice but because a need for immediate pleasure sets my mind to do so.
In other words, nothing is divine in virtues like courage and temperance. They are just utilities for the pursuit of pleasure, hence nothing to ascend to.
Yes Cassius. DeWitt makes sense to me now. Now I understand why EAHP is highly recommended for beginners of Epicurean philosophy.
On the contrary for Epicurus, philosophy is not the appearance of good health but the enjoyment of its truth. Ascending to virtues only affirms the appearance of truth while sensation affirms the truth itself. This is how I understand VS 54 which I use as my signature below.
You're right Cassius. When I gave stoicism a shot, I used to ascend to such Virtue, and in fact there are four virtues to ascend to - these are wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. Like what I told you, it didn't work for me. Ascending seems too ascetic for my passionate character.
What? Is this saying that there is a "Divine" law higher than nature? Is that not the inference or "ascend?"
Lol That sounds very familiar. As far as I know, it is only the Stoics who frequently use the word "ascend", and this is what they do to assign what to react on an indifferent circumstance. They ascend to a deterministic law as a way to exercise control of their mind and reason while in fact they are only submitting themselves to such laws that they consider divine.
Thanks Cassius. I'll keep that in mind. I just want to make my learning process as simple as I wish to apply it.
Thanks for the clarification. I have tremendous respect for DeWitt's scholarship and have found no reason to doubt him on fundamental issues even after many years of additional reading.
I also have high respect on your estimation of him as I know you have dedicated years of studying and investigating Epicureanism deeply as much as I respect the rest of you guys here. My aim is simple - to understand Epicurean philosophy correctly and bring it to lay audience in a down-to-earth language that can be understood and be applied by ordinary people the way I apply it in my practical daily life.
Does that address your question because I am not quite sure what part you think calls into question DeWitt's credibility.
Yes. Thanks Cassius. I find it more comfortable focusing on DeWitt to lessen the complexity of my learning. I only raised this question so the confirmation can make me go on and have complete confidence on the material I have.
The weight of the biographical evidence suggests to me that the Bailey translation is less accurate.
As far I learned, DeWitt, with similar views as yours, also used the Bailey translation as I read on the bibliography:
"Meanwhile a return to moderation becomes observable in R. D. Hicks' Stoic
and Epicurean (London, 1910), and to this virtue urbanity was added by Cyril Bailey
in his Epicurus and his Greek Atomists (Oxford, 1925 and 1928); but the amplification of fallacy still went on, culminating in the ascription to Epicurus of belief in
"the infallibility of sensation.""
Does it affect the credibility of his book Epicurus and His Philosophy?
Mike this is the never-ending theme. if you think Epicurus was a coward leading the charge to escape all pain, then you will interpret him one way. If you think he was a courageous conqueror leading the charge against false religion in the pursuit of pleasure as nature teaches it, then you interpret him totally differently.
That is actually my dilemma since I am still unaware which translation is authoritative. If I resort to DeWitt's interpretation, I am also unaware if the translation he used was authoritative, too.
I am still at a stalemate between these two statements:
The wise man will not marry....Occasionally, under certain circumstances in his life, he may marry.
(absolute but with exception)
Moreover, the wise man will marry and have children....But he will marry according to the circumstances of his life.(relative but with condition)
This is probably another time to remember the opening advice from DeWitt's book - to always remember that Epicurus was at the same time one of the most revered and REVILED of the Greek philosophers. And it is the REVILERS who won the culture wars, and who wrote almost all the books and commentaries that are left to us.
Well...I think that's the safest way for me to endeavor now. I have started reading it but still at the very beginning part which is the synopsis. Speaking of synopsis, that I think is the method to handle all such contradictions - by going back to the basic map that is crystal clear.
Also it is disappointing to me to see her take the side of the flat assertion that the wise man will not marry and have children, without even noting any possibility of ambiguity:
Yes. This is very alarming especially to newbies like me who are only beginning to ascertain which are authoritative sources and which are not. I'm not a linguist, but I find it strange that a translation (or transliteration) could have been either affirmative or negative statement. Moreover, I learned many times from several Youtube lectures and series of podcast that Epicurus discourages marriages and even having children since he himself exercised such teaching. I heard it said by some known philosophy figures like Alain De Botton and Dr. Gregory Sadler. But by seeing Bailey's translation for the first time that presents an opposite truth, I feel like I am suffering from cognitive dissonance. Which is true? Is there any other way for newbies like me to determine which translation is correct especially for non-linguists? Is marrying and having children discouraged by Epicurus? I'm not just curious. I'm getting confused as well.