Pacatus Level 03
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Posts by Pacatus

    I re-read what is here, and I’m not sure what the point is. Why is some further organization/organizing needed? Or wanted? How organized is the Garden supposed to be (e.g., to meet modern needs)?

    Some random first thoughts, and perhaps hard questions that might influence, in part, what kind of further organizing/outreach you want to do – and for what purpose (recognizing my admitted ignorance):

    ~ ~ ~

    Do you just want to attract more people? How “catholic” are you willing to be to attract people who might not find their way here now? Versus keeping (and insisting on) a more pure understanding of Epicureanism?

    Is part of your aim to compete with Crespo’s group, or others? Or to help people who may not end up actually becoming “members” – or may just hang out to absorb whatever teaching they can and that feeds them? Are you looking to expand the Garden only to potential “true believers” (True Epicureans™). Or to broaden the appeal to those who might never go there? (I hasten to add that neither is, from my view, invalid.)

    How will you reach busy people in a hyper-texting world, who may not want to delve further into the original texts or scholarly discussion? Do you want to? (I remind myself that doing philosophy in Epicurus’ sense was living a way of life based on certain therapeutic tenets, not necessarily continuing intellectual exploration.)

    ~ ~ ~

    A possible analogy: When Arrian wanted to expand the reach of Epictetus’ Stoic teachings, he did not call upon everyone to read the extensive Discourses (even in chewable chunks); he compiled the Enchiridion as an epitome. The Enchiridion is a very popular book. I’m sure many people allow it to inform their lives, and read maybe a little more about Stoicism or neo-Stoicism – but not much else. Bite-size daily meditation books are also popular (there are even AA meditation books for agnostics and atheists to practice “one day at a time”).

    Epicurus produced his epitome, and we have some good translations (and Cassius’ “Elemental Epicureanism”), but even that may not be sufficiently accessible to the busy modern reader. There are the PD and Vatican Sayings, bite-size enough for sure: but I note how much discussion takes place on here on questions of translation and interpretation. So anything like the Enchiridion (combining various sources) would need to be put into easy modern English that the reader can interpret (and re-interpret) as needed according to their own life needs. [A foundational assumption here is that Epicureanism is a sound – if not the soundest – way to meet such needs. I agree.]

    At bottom, this is a good place that people find their way to now – and that may really be sufficient. Further outreach involves advertising. My suggestion would be to publish something like the Enchiridion or a daily meditation book that is a) non-argumentative (vis-à-vis other philosophies or religions), b) easy to absorb in small bites, c) is inviting but not insistent on any further study/participation, and d) presents the Garden as a safe place, not a strict creedal “church” (you guys already do a good job on that score here 😊 – or I wouldn’t be here at all).


    I want to note that even allowing a broadly “catholic” membership does not mean, cannot mean, allowing disruptive argument from, say, neo-Epicureans who want to insist on their own way. Some disagreement is fine, but not disruption – that destroys the Garden itself.

    Also, unlike Kalosyni, I notice that I have used the second-person plural here; in retrospect there are two reasons: 1) based on my personal history, I always avoid declaring “membership” and 2) I’m not convinced that what is here, as it is (and how people get here), is not good enough.

    My bias is: I wish I had an Epicurean Enchiridion. I basically use the Vatican Sayings (selected randomly) and a Taoist daily meditation book. But it would take, I think, at least a year of diligent writing/editing to produce.

    I may have misunderstood this whole thing. If so, sincere apologies …

    Yes. And it is important, I think (from perhaps a prejudiced view) that philosophy – including Epicurean philosophy, when it sometimes seems to fail to do so – needs to preserve a bountiful place for "the heart" in the midst of scholarly discoveries and delights.

    [Which is not to say that the more scholarly pursuits are absent heart – and if they are to be therapeutic, they need heart. And those of us (me) who these days need to simplify our thinking, also need to keep open to the heart-sustaining message of our more scholarly friends. My ADHD (and my refusal to clench tightly my mind – via willpower or medication – as I once did, for years) means that it will take me a long time to finish Lucretius, say – while I am still reading DeWitt! 😉 And here and there some essay that I found. But I can dip in here anytime, and learn things readily applicable to my daily round. I hope that makes sense … ]

    “How Epicurean Science Saves Humanity”

    How Epicurean Science Saves Humanity in Lucretius (book chapter)
    An appreciation of Lucretius and Epicureanism. How his science and ethics are related; how he has non-materialist values in a materialist world. Takes issue…

    I would understand “mind” (with the so-called “hard questions” of consciousness, such as intentionality and rationality) as an emergent process, arising from the physical construct of the brain. So, there is no “mind/body(brain)” substance dualism.

    My immediate reaction to what seems an interesting article.

    (I am really just beginning to read Lucretius – embarrassing! ☹ )

    Opulent Hours

    Tart-cherry blossoms have burst in full bloom,

    perfuming our backyard orchard garden;

    and the Maythorn flowers umbrella me

    as I lounge on a bench in mottled shade,

    frail back braced against gnarly brindled bark

    with flecks of gray like an aging man’s beard.

    A thousand thousand sun-honeyed gold bees

    hum feverish aphrodisiac hymns,

    vibrant arias that tingle my veins—

    and tease me away from my daydream drowse,

    arousing erotic sweet reveries

    resurrected from a livelier youth.

    Feast of fragrances, lush amorous choirs,

    magical memories: opulent hours.


    “Maythorn”: another name for a hawthorn tree.

    (Prompted by a discussion of bees and honey in ancient Greece and Rome by Kalosyni.)

    I remember Mill only from my days as an economics student – Mill being classified as a utilitarian. “Utility” in economics means – not some measure of particular usefulness (e.g., a serviceable crescent wrench) – but a measure of pleasure or satisfaction (or alleviation of the opposites on a continuum).

    Although, in terms of utilitarian social ethics, generally expressed as “the greatest good for the greatest number,” it really would mean the greatest happiness/pleasure/satisfaction for the greatest number. But that is not really subject to a strict formulation/calculus. (And I have suggested that Rawls’ theory of justice might provide a useful addendum.)

    Modern neoclassical microeconomics followed Mill in its pursuit of “utility maximization.” But Herbert Simon, with his theory of “satisficing” (as opposed to maximizing) behavior, I think comes closer to Epicurus. (As I tried to address briefly in the thread “Natural Wealth and Natural Goods in Epicureanism”.)

    The French philosopher Michel Onfray, in his book A Hedonist Manifesto, links Epicurus to the utilitarians (i.e., Bentham and Mill) to move from a personal to a social ethics.

    I didn't know where to post this. I found this artist's rendering of a facial reconstruction of Epicurus by Allesandro Tomassi. He's apparently done others as well. (

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    Alessandro Tomasi on Twitter:


    “In this simple extrapolation, time started with that singularity. … That opens ways to speculate about a time before the point in time of the nominal singularity. However, we have no data to support these speculations.”

    I understand the point about having no data to support such speculations, but any such data would peel back the singularity itself, would it not? And any speculation about “a time before time” seems to me to be logically incoherent. Why not just accept the epistemological limitations implied by the singularity? Until there may be, in fact, actual data that peels it back?

    EDIT: I don't think I'm arguing here -- just asking questions that I suspect are in general agreement with your understanding.

    My wife and I did 15 years of life simplification in the country: growing most of our own vegetables, some fruit trees, etc. It was wonderful – but it is hard work, and after 15 years the axes and the pick and the chainsaw were 15 years heavier; and my bad back from a youthful injury would no longer take it. (For about the first 10 years we had no TV, no cell phone and minimal, at best, dial-up internet service.) We moved to a small apartment in a quasi-urban, fairly liberal university town, where we have lived happily for the past 9 years; still simple living. I am still a bit of a recluse most days.

    I once looked at Uruguay. From Wikipedia:

    “Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption,[13] and e-government.[14][15] It is the lowest ranking South American nation in the Global Terrorism Index, and ranks second in the continent on economic freedom, income equality, per-capita income, and inflows of FDI.[13] Uruguay is the third-best country on the continent in terms of Human Development Index, GDP growth,[16] innovation, and infrastructure.[13] Uruguay is regarded as one of the most socially progressive countries in Latin America.[17] It ranks high on global measures of personal rights, tolerance, and inclusion issues,[18] including its acceptance of the LGBT community.[19] The country has legalized cannabis, same-sex marriage, prostitution and abortion. Uruguay is a founding member of the United Nations, OAS, and Mercosur.”

    Uruguay - Wikipedia

    Volupta Dawn

    Dawn shatters the brittle husk of night—

    as cracked shards fall, an amphora sun

    generously pours orange-blossom honey—

    nimble-footed Domina Volupta

    with bountiful golden cornucopia

    dances gaily from the vernal east—

    festive agora fragrances of oregano,

    ginger, black peppercorns and sage,

    olives, lemons and lusty fermented grapes

    are conjured on the rising breeze:

    now redolent with citrus, wine and spice—

    drowsing heartbeats are mellowly awakened

    by melodious imaginal byzantine chimes;

    flurries of bees cavort in your veins,

    an undulous hum enraptures your spine—

    the grace-infused, sun-hallowed celebration

    of freshening day draws breath—and begins.


    Volupta: a variant of Voluptas, Roman counterpart to the Greek Hedone, goddess of pleasure.

    agora: Greco-Roman marketplace.


    Please do not take this Pacatus as critical of you personally -- and if you would like to in fact defend that position, please do, as that would help the discussion move forward too.

    No, I think your correction is spot on. :) Thank you for making it. (And no cave with bread and water, please!)

    LATE EDIT: I think I've walked into this error before; I am reading the thread "Differences Between Epicureanism and Cyrenaicsm" -- because I think my mistake might stem, at least in part, from an erroneous (or at lest a sloppy) understanding of the distinctions there; and I think I should probably re-read Nikolsky.

    To me, the notion of (substantive) universals always conjures some Platonic notion of, say, “redness” as some essence/substance that imbues those things that we see as red – as opposed to some generalization about things that we just see as "red". And as opposed to the fact that experiencing things as "being red" in color simply enables us to generalize to the idea of redness (really a certain wavelength range in the color spectrum, to which we apply the word “red”).

    If, as Nate points out, “the only real existences are atoms and void [i.e., the universe is strictly physical in nature], it follows that no abstractions exist” – then, to the extent that they are (and I think they are) abstractions, universals such as “redness” are not themselves any kind of existent.

    I wonder if this generalizing aptitude is related to Epicurean prolepsis? If I say I saw a red rose, you have (based on your own memoried experience) an immediate, general grasp of what I mean – without actually seeing the particular rose?

    @ Kungi

    For me, a virtue is something that leads to a value. For Aristotle, the ultimate value (that which is not just instrumental, leading to another, higher value) was eudaimonia – a life of happy well-being. A virtue is anything that leads to that goal (telos).

    But if the goal (value) is to, say, split wood well, a proper and well-honed axe is a virtuous axe. The Greek term, arete ("excellence"), included but was not limited to moral virtue.

    The Stoics seem to have generally equated a set of specific moral virtues with eudaimonia itself: If you were sufficiently wise, courageous, just and temperate – then you must have had a eudaimonic life. (This is not to suggest that the Stoics were a monolithic group, without variations – nor that they did not recognize eupathe: good feelings, as opposed to the more general pathe, for which they recommend apatheia). As one modern Stoic, Massimo Pigliucci, suggested in a blog I read, eudaimonia thus becomes a value judgment: “Have I done well enough?” (Again, there are variations among Stoics, old and new.)

    For Epicureans, eudaimonia is a life pleasantly lived. A life pleasantly lived means one in which natural pleasures (mental and physical) outweigh pain and suffering (mental and physical).

    And that goal (telos) requires certain social, as well as strictly personal virtues. To live justly, for example (which Epicurus thought was necessary to live such a life), means actively making due allowance for others to also have what they need to live such a life. None of the virtues are abstract (or Platonic) ideals worthy in themselves per se (or eudaimonic in themselves per se) – but are instrumental. An Epicurean view of socially virtuous behavior – for me – is grounded more in natural sympathy/empathy (which can be cultivated, but not demanded) than in any simple, dictated “should.”

    That is my simplified interpretive summary. (But there are others here who are better versed than I – including those who have posted here before me.)


    Yes, "deviant" certainly is a weird word here. I'd suggest that what he's after is the oikonomia that requires a techne because it goes beyond (deviates from) the natural (Epicurean) bounds, i.e. with its maximizing aim. That kind of oikonomia seems to match that last line of the Tsouna quote: "On the other hand, 'more' corresponds somehow to 'the measure of wealth' but never amounts to the open-ended goal of traditional οἰκονομία, namely, to amass as many riches as possible through decent and lawful means."

    Still, a strange word choice.

    Now I have to go watch some baseball. :)

    I have finished reading the Philodemus essay, and also found this interpretation by Tim O’Keefe: “The Epicureans on happiness, wealth, and the deviant craft of property management” (Tim O’Keefe, Georgia State University) It is downloadable free as a Word doc here:…mail_work_card=view-paper

    O’Keefe sees Philodemus’ objection to the oikonomia of Theophrastus and Xenophon as a techne is that that is an expertise aimed at both preserving and maximizing wealth. He contrasts this with simply attaining “’natural wealth’ that is needed to satisfy our natural and necessary desires [and] is limited and easy to obtain.” For the Epicurean, then, property management does not require some special expertise (techne), but simple practical knowledge.

    In his conclusion, O’Keefe employs modern economic terms, describing the oikonomia of Theophrastus and Xenophon as “maximizing” behavior, and describes the Epicurean as following “satisficing” behavior: “When it comes to wealth, then, the Epicurean Sage is a satisficer and not a maximizer: she will not spend a lot of time worrying about finding the option that gets her the best financial return, but will go ahead and act once she’s found an option that’s good enough. And given the Epicurean conception of what we need in order to satisfy our natural and necessary desires, ‘good enough’ is easy to achieve.”

    In economics, "satisficing" is a behavior which attempts to achieve at least some minimum (satisfactory) level of a particular variable, but which does not necessarily maximize its value. [Herbert Simon, 1978 Nobel laureate in economics]

    O’Keefe also notes that, in modern economic terms, oikonomia would fall under heading of microeconomics, as opposed to macroeconomics – dealing with such things as inflation, unemployment, income distribution, government fiscal policy, etc. – which would be considered part of politike.