On a cursory search, I found a couple of other versions, which I thought might lend some nuance, even if they’re not the best renderings –
63. There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance. (This from a Kindle book, with no translator named – also here: https://epicurus.net/en/vatican.html. Maybe someone here is familiar with it.)
63. There is an elegance in simplicity, and one who is thoughtless resembles one whose feelings run to excess. (Trans. Peter Saint-Andre, Monadnock Valley Press; this one seems to be somewhat in contradiction to the others.)
(Now an NBA game is calling …)
Hmmm … Maybe continue as a thread for brief, fortune-cookie-like snippets and humorisms that might relate to Epicureanism?
I’ll toss this in, since I just stumbled on it:
“Sometimes I think the surest sign of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.” Bill Watterson
(My immediate weird thought was of the Epicurean gods living in bliss “elsewhere in the universe” – with neither need nor desire to interfere with our affairs.)
Epicurus’ Dance – A Doggerel Whimsy
I wonder if Epicurus e’er danced
– for pleasure and robust vigor –
as Socrates was wont to do at dawn?
“Friendship capers round the world,” he averred,
“heralding our ‘rousal to joy.”
Why should he not have thrown a frisky jig
in the walkways of his Garden?
Did the festive air of Eikas resound
with pan flute, palm-struck tympanum,
spritely-fingered tortoise-shell lyre
and lyrical seven-stringed kithara?
Did the friends and guests of ho Kepos dance?
~ ~ ~
O, I imagine Epicurus danced!
as I am sometimes wont to crudely do
past noon – with raw impromptu abandon –
when the pulse quickens in my feet.
Yea, I fancy our exuberant sage,
who bequeathed to us more than wizened words,
heartily and happily – danced!
~ ~ ~
So may we, with a Garden boogie, groove!
– no matter how gawkily we might move …
Image is of Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek, dancing.
But at the very least I think it is safe to say philosophically that when you think you have a divine sanction, or a categorical imperative that everyone should follow the same rules all the time and everywhere, then you have a strong tendency to plant seeds that will likely grow into a major conflict that will violate all sorts of otherwise ethical norms.
Thank you, Joshua!
The hexameter is difficult and unyielding. If he can't make this one line work, he'll have to backtrack, and rework the preceding 3 or 4 lines. It is a devilishly intricate art, sometimes more like playing chess than writing--you have to be able to see a few moves ahead, or you write yourself into a corner.
I suspect that Lucretius was more fastidious about his hexameter than Stallings is with her “fourteeners”: her rhythm is often awkward, even though she is consistent with the final iambic foot. (I think of Robert Frost, who wiggled his blank verse sometimes – but in order, it seemed, to make it read more smoothly without using the apostrophe for elision.)
I get myself into a corner all the time -- in chess, too!
(unless there was a trend ancient poets adopted of heavily employing repetition as a rhetorical technique
In her translator’s notes, Stallings mentions the repetition:
“Writing in the epic tradition of Homer, Lucretius occasionally repeats phrases, lines and even passages verbatim. Within the constraints of a rhymed translation, this effect was not always possible to replicate, and so I sometimes make use of variation where Lucretius uses repetition.”
Lucretius. The Nature of Things (Penguin Classics) (p. 238). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
So, she seems to think it was a poetic device in the Homerian epic tradition ...
Cassius: I want to just note that, in that thread, I found Elayne's understanding of prolepsis as "pattern recognition" (as an innate human function) to really clarify that for me. When I get a chance, I will update my "Epicurean Outline" thingy to reflect that.
Thank you! And thank you for the αἵρεσῐς example.
Don You and I seem so much alike. I took no personal offense, nor did I think you intended any. My “Do you have a list?” was also intended rhetorically.
The cold written word often has a hard time communicating such nuances. I suspect that if we were sitting together at a table (over pints of beer or a bottle – or two – of wine) it would be easier, and likely we’d have a lot of laughter to go with the arguments. 😊 And there’s no question that each time we would part friends (nor that we will do so here).
My only assertion was that those of us who like to think of ourselves as Epicureans most likely have some shared ideas that join us together.
Understood and wholeheartedly agreed. I will never have the Epicurean scholarship that many on here do, and so I will likely always end up mixing and matching a bit (what I learn from here and reading, with my own personal experience). Truth be told, I’ve always been that kind of thinker … And so often it’s in the course of congenial argument that I am able to discover what I really think! [When my elder son (more a Stoic) and I go at it, both our wives just laugh at us – and we end up laughing too!]
Be well, and thank you, my friend. 😊
Words carry meaning, or else we wouldn’t be able to communicate with them. But they don’t come with some “formal” (in the Platonic sense) meaning. They are given meanings by how we use them, and carry meanings forward as we try to understand how, say, people used them in the past as opposed to how we might now. (That’s one of the things, I think, that makes translation such yeoman’s work.) And why context is so critical. And why Wittgenstein famously said: “Don’t look for the meaning, look for the use.” And it’s why dictionaries are continually being updated: not just new words, but new usages for words that have been around.
~ ~ ~
An example that I looked at years ago is the English word “evil.” Several, very different definitions are listed in Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evil.
According to Etymology Online: “Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm (n.), crime, misfortune, disease (n.). In Middle English, bad took the wider range of senses and evil began to focus on moral badness.” https://www.etymonline.com/sea…&ref=searchbar_searchhint
Now, the word evil was used in the King James Version of the Bible to translate the Hebrew word “ra” – which, in Hebrew, just meant “bad”, not especially or even generally morally bad (as in “the tree of good and evil”).The opposite of mazel tov (“good luck”) would be mazel ra (“bad luck”). Years ago when I was fiddling around a bit with Hebrew, I noticed that Jewish translators often made that point. In reality, it was likely closer to definition 2. and 3.b in Merriam-Webster.
The ancient Greek word κακό, I think, had a similar fate: i.e., becoming religiously limited to the moral dimension. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki…CF%8C%CF%82#Ancient_Greek
Similarly for translating the Greek word ἁμαρτία as “sin.” https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki…CE%AF%CE%B1#Ancient_Greek Over time, as Christianity evolved, it took on the strict meaning of moral violation or a wicked (“evil”) act.
Thus, evil and sin, became justifications for (especially divine) punishment in Christianity. Theologians and philosophers of religion argue about whether the biblical writers (in the original languages at least) – or the immediate post-apostolic church fathers and early rabbis – intended such strict usage.
~ ~ ~
Cassius is correct that me must not “lose appreciation for the usefulness of words at the same time that we acknowledge their limits. … so we don't go on explaining forever, while at the same time we acknowledge that that image does not come from God or from a realm of forms or from an ‘essence’ that exists independently of the examples.”
For me, there are two critical contexts here: (1) what Epicurus et al intended in their usage, and (2) whether that usage remains truly useful (for understanding and agency) in the modern world. I don’t think, for example, that we would have to hew to Epicurus’ particular physics of “atoms and void” in the face of modern physics and quantum mechanics (which have their own differences of opinion among scientists). That’s a crude example, for sure. I have also used the example of modern logics that were not in the Hellenistic toolbox. Other discussions on here have focused on how we should understand the gods (or lack thereof).
I think it’s clear that not all Epicurean scholars agree about context (1) – but that does mean that we cannot come to some agreements in order to communicate among ourselves (we will always need a Don!). Context (2) seems trickier, and likely will entail some adjustments as knowledge evolves (maybe not in my lifetime, though! 😊).
~ ~ ~
As a poet of sorts, I am also cognizant of poetic usage (metaphor, imagery, how word-sounds can evoke feelings or moods, etc.) versus propositional usage and descriptive usage. It seems Epicurus was also cognizant of such things, and rightly (to my mind) eschewed poetry (e.g. Homer) and rhetoric as vehicles for knowledge. Philodemus seems to have agreed, as both a philosopher and a poet. Lucretius – ah, Lucretius! – took the leap of re-presenting philosophy in poetic form; but he did not derive that philosophy from poetry.
~ ~ ~
I don’t think any of these things are to suffer stress or angst (ταραχή) over. I agree with Wittgenstein that our ordinary usages are just fine for getting along, with due recognition of more technical usages within a given “language game” (his use of that word “game” had no connotations of frivolousness). I certainly don’t think any of this entails continual disagreement in the “language game” of discussing Epicurean philosophy here – let alone for communication in general.
This is more intended as a (wordy, pun intended 😊) discussion of a few of what I might call “meta-principles” of language (to my mind anyway). I think they are important, but not critical to reaching practical agreement on what we mean here. (Just as we can all agree on what the word “castle” means in chess, as opposed to some feudal estate.)
Now I need to get ready to watch the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Argentina. 😊
I confess that any perceived hint of defining a “party line” that I must, no matter what, affirm or adhere to in order to be a “True™” anything triggers a visceral unease in me – based on my own history. It’s probably part of my reactive survival system, that I am unlikely to jettison any time soon (and not sure I should). [And that “TM” isn’t really intended as snark – just a shorthand means of emphasis on the point; and I did not intend any offense by its use.]
That does not mean that the other person was actually hinting at any such thing at all. Communication is – for humans at least – more of an art than a science. If we could all send and receive with perfect clarity on the first pass, we’d need a lot fewer words.
(I want to say something more about words, but I’ll start another thread; and if it ends up being duplicative, Cassius can maybe roll it into a better place.)
I’ll just add that some of us are “slow learners” when it comes to social conditioning, and it takes us longer to (even try to) unravel the “slow, piece-by-piece hypnosis” that was imposed on us in our formative years. I’m at the start of my seventh decade and I’m still working at it … 😉
And sometimes it takes some traumatic event to kick-start us (mine in my fourth decade).
If you're trying to apply Epicurus's teachings to better your life, that makes you an Epicurean as opposed to a Christian or Stoic or something else.
And if we could stop there, we’d be in perfect agreement. But – 😉
I'd ask what "Epicurean teachings" are you trying to apply to better your life.
Do you have an “acceptable” list? (Otherwise, why would you ask?) And why should I accept (in toto) whatever list you (or anyone else) might have?
That whole “TM” thing comes out of engagement with Christians (when I thought of myself as a Christian) who claimed that – because there were certain tenets of theirs that I did not accept – I really could not be a “True Christian™” (the “TM” was not, of course, theirs – but my own snarky reaction). Today, whether I was or wasn’t a “True Christian™” is of no consequence to me – except as a point of sincerity. And that is not a trivial point …
I generally think of myself as a neo-Epicurean (though I don’t fit any of Cassius’ differentiating points in his chart – so maybe I’m not so “neo”) just because I subscribe to updating the knowledge base that was available to Epicurus (and the Stoics and the Pyrrhonians) in light of advancements in things like logic, epistemology and science.
So, at bottom, I think that word “sincerity” might hold some gravitas in the matter. I’m sure (sincerely) that when you were a Buddhist you were very honest and sincere about that. You found a different path – does that mean you were never a “True Buddhist™”? 😉 Or that you were not honest and sincere? Of course not.
EDIT: If at some point I decide that I am not fundamentally Epicurean, for whatever reason, I will be honest enough to simply say so. And, just as honestly, wish all my Epicurean friends well -- and gratitude. I don't envision that, but a lot of things have happened in my life that I never envisioned ...
There have to be some Epicurean criteria or some "essential" (I don't like the word but I'll use it) doctrines by which one lives their life to be considered an Epicurean. Otherwise the word has no meaning.
The problem here, Don, is that there is no "one" – no generalized person. There is me, and you, as we try to apply Epicurean teachings to better our lives – not in adherence to some exogenous “truth” (no matter wherefrom derived) whether it is personally helpful or not.
So, yes, it’s possible (maybe probable) that I don’t measure up to some criteria required to be a “True Epicurean™” in someone’s eyes, or some "authoritative" version. Okay. Not a problem for me.
I really don’t think we can get beyond that, much as it might be tempting to try.