Onenski Level 03
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Posts by Onenski

    I think this can be related to the opinion in some scholars about the Garden as a sectarian and authoritarian place. One example is Martha Nussbaum's Therapy of desire, but it's not the only one (I've been reading a paper on Basic Education in Epicureanism and it's the same).
    Their idea is that Epicurus was a kind of megalomaniac, because of those statues, rings and protraits; or the celebrations every month; or because of the patternalistic practices, described supposedly by Philodemus.
    I haven't read Philodemus, and I don't know why I think Nussbaum and other people take what he says to argue that Epicurus was egotistical.
    By the way, is there a thread with a discussion about this "authoritarian" objection to Epicurus?

    I like Austin's characterization of corrosive desires as those that cannot be satisfied (we need infinite things and infinite time to "satisfy" them). With "corrosive", I think in the vessel analogy. Those desires are corrosive because the pleasure we get from them makes holes in our vessel of pleasure. We need more and more to fill it, but it gets worse and worse.
    In any case, I think the best of her book was the examples. At least for me it's easier to classify and identify my desires. And when I notice that I have an extravagant one, I relax, because I see that I don't need it (though I'll enjoy it if I get it).

    I just found a 3D model made by Frischer in a clip on YouTube.

    (I think the reconstruction of the eyes is not the best, but I understand the difficulty of making more expressing eyes in his model.)

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    I share some notes I did.

    The question behind the paper is: how epicureanism produce new members of the School? There are at least two possible ways: 1) indoctrination of the children of epicurean members; 2) attracting new people from the outside. There’s no information of children raised as epicureans, but there’s information of the recruitment of external people. The problem is that recruitment of new people is too difficult, and it’s not too effective (as some studies with religious recruitment suggest).

    Supposing that epicureans actually used the attraction of new people rather than indoctrination, there were two methods (according to Hieronymos the peripathetic): active and passive. In the first, the philosopher gives speeches in public or publishes his books. In the second, the philosopher creates a mysterious or attractive reputation for himself. That’s the case, according to Frischer, of Pyrrho.

    Frischer argues that passive recruitment is consistent with epicurean philosophy (specifically the "live unnoticed” and the search for security in the Garden). Epicurean philosophy spreaded out through portraits and sculptures, as we can see in De finibus or in Diogenes Laertius.

    Frischer makes a semiotic analysis to suggest how some features in Epicurus' portrait work to attract people, in function of their symbolic meaning. He concentrates in two: “the sympathetic awareness” expressed in his face, and the throne. The first is present also in the sculpture of Asklepios of Melos, and in all Epicurus’ portraits. This implies that those portraits were made to express that “sympathetic awareness” intentionally (because different artists from different places made those portraits), and also implies that Epicurus portraits were not merely representational, but symbolic.

    The second feature analyzed by Frischer, the throne, symbolizes the divinization of Epicurus. This could be a satire of the gods, but it’s also consistent with epicurean philosophy (think about Vatican Saying 33). The sage can be as happy as a god.

    Frischer suggests that the recruitment of external people looked for certain psychological traits in new members. The idea is that some people have a major tendency to believe in epicurean premises (those who have more tendency to trust in their senses, for example) than others. Frischer uses some psychoanalytic framework (from Carl Jung) to make this suggestion (which I think is too speculative, by the way).

    Briefly, Epicurus' portrait was intentionally symbolic and not merely representational. It had the function of attracting new people to the School. Additionally (and as a speculation of Frischer) this recruitment worked attracting a specific psychological profile.

    I don't know if this helps, but I'm checking some translations into Spanish.


    Abbe Marchena (1791): Engendradora del romano pueblo / placer de hombres y dioses, alma Venus (Marchena's translation is the most popular.)

    Francisco Socas (2003): Engendradora de los Enéadas, placer de hombres y dioses, nutricia Venus

    Victoria Pégolo et. al. (2020): Engendradora de los Enéadas, impulso vital de los hombres y de los dioses, nutricia Venus


    In Spanish is a little more frequent the use of the word "pleasure /placer", although it's interesting that an abbe in a catholic country like Spain in XVIII century used that word.

    and yet when it says "When we have someone reassure us then we can live like Epicurus" then I feel a little hesitant because to me it seems that so much of the Epicurean philosophy is about using the power of your own mind to understand the true nature of things, so we don't depend on someone reassuring us

    I think epicureans can accept, more easily than a stoic, that we depend on others. That's why Epicurus insists so much on the importance of a community of reliable friends. At least that's what I've observed in Emily Austin's interpretation in Living for pleasure, which I think is very reasonable. In some parts of the book, for example, she points out the role of friends in enjoying daily life (ch. 18) or facing adversity (including the death of loved ones) (ch. 15, 21).
    I guess the song takes the important role of friends in an epicurean life, but without explicitly say the word "friend". :D

    In The Resistance, an album by Muse, the last three songs are made to tell a story about an apocalypse (they're called "Exogenesis Symphony"). The first it's about a disaster produced by human ambition. The second it's about a tripulation taking human embryos (or something like that) to restart life in another planet. The third it's exactly about restarting life again. Maybe this song can be an example of the topic of this thread.

    I think it's the best example I find for now 😅 But I'll be thinking about another example.


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    The lyrics:

    Let's start over again

    Why can't we start it over again

    Just let us start it over again

    And we'll be good

    This time we'll get it, get it right

    It's the last chance to forgive ourselves

    I agree with Joshua on how Minecraft (or any similar virtual space) would be more appropiate, but I'm not sure if it's the most efficient way to spread epicurean philosophy in younger people.
    I found an article (link below) on how some people do their job meetings in videogames: GTA, Animal Crossing, Minecraft, etc. However, I think it works with people they already know, not for integrate new people. In those cases, they didn't' want to have more Zoom meetings. My opinion is that so far our Zoom meetings and the forum itself are good enough for the creation of an epicurean community.
    Perhaps tiktoks or (more) videos in YouTube may have more impact in attracting new younger people.

    The key aspect of (in)determinism, in my view, is that we have agency, meaning that it was not pre-determined that I would want to smash that cup. This still does not mean that absolutely everything is unpredictable.

    Thanks for your answer, Nate. My understanding of determinism it's that even what you want is determined by previous events (what you've experienced, the culture where you live, the beliefs with which you've grown up, etc.). So the fact that you wanted to smash the cup was determined as well (I recommend one more time Sapolsky's book "Behave" for more on this).
    I fear that the use of the word "agency" in this paragraph and the next refers to a special kind of causation in the world. (Sorry if I misinterpet this part of your point of view.) If agency was special, we should wonder what make it so special?
    Perhaps you meant that agency is a kind of very complex causation, so that social phenomena it's harder to predict. I think a determinist could agree, because complexity is not indeterminism.

    In other words, if some random (even subtle) things happen, we have less control than we think we have.

    What I have in mind here, perhaps is clearer if I put it like this. Determinism is the idea that every event in the universe has a causal explanation. Every event is explained appealing to past events that caused it. There is no event without cause.
    The idea of a swerve implies an event that is not caused (because is random). So, the world is indeterministic if we accept the swerve.
    I imagine something like: you're a chemist, but in an indeterministic world sometimes chemical reactions doesn't work (because some atoms or molecules deviate from the behaviour we think they're going to have). Wouldn´t that be strange? If chemical reactions sometimes doesn't work, then the same would happen to biochemical reaction. Life would have been hard even impossible.
    In other words, the swerve is an event without cause, and it's hard to see how it helps to explain that I can do what I do. In fact, makes the explanation of my behavior more difficult, because some events previous to my action doesn't have an explanation. They are more out of my control in virtue of their randomness.

    I'm sorry if I made things more confusing by introducing the distinction determinism/fatalism. I just wanted to make some justice to Democritus' position. Specially because there are contemporary people who defend something similar, that "free will" (that's the term they use) is an illusion.

    This is why Epicurus introduced the "swerve" - a randomness in the system that is unpredictable.

    With the modern vantage point "the swerve" combined with the idea of the void are remarkable achievements of pure deductive reasoning. Although quantum mechanics does not exactly work as imagined by Epicurus, the introduction of chance/randomness is essential for understanding how the world works.

    I totally agree with you, Nate. However by introducing the swerve in the nature of the world Epicurus (or Lucretius) introduced a form of indeterminism. (The supercomputer that you mentioned could not predict a future state of the world.)

    So we arrive to what in philosophy is called the problem of luck: if the world is indeterministic (in the macro level), then we must be lucky if our actions have the outcomes we want they have. A subtle deviation may cause a very great deviation (like in chaos theory that you mentioned).

    In other words, if some random (even subtle) things happen, we have less control than we think we have.

    (I'm sorry if, again, I make thing more confusing. I just think this can contribute to our understanding of Epicurus' position in order to make it more plausible.)

    If you reduce everything to atoms and motion in a straight line, people think that that would lead to a totally mechanistic result, and so a straight line materialist such as Democritus would conclude that everything is in the grip of an iron "fate" that allows no room for personal decisions whatsoever. Cicero made this argument against Epicurus in criticizing the swerve as a departure and regression from Democritus.

    I hope to add something to the discussion by bringing up the difference between determinism and fatalism.
    I don't think that Democritus' position imply that there's no room for personal decision, but I recognize that Epicurus could have understood so. Those who do think that we can't change our future whatever we do are the stoics. (They even talk frequently about Providence.)
    Democritus was a determinist, stoics were fatalist. What's the difference? A determinist thinks that every event, including our decisions, is determined by previous states of the universe (out of our control). Every thought, decision and action is determined by too many factors (a good example is in the book "Behave" by Robert Sapolsky), but we don't know all of them. However, determinists consider our agency as part of the causes in the world. Whatever we do has consequences in the world. So, there's room for personal decisions. The future is unknown for us, but we are part of the causes that determine it.
    (The practical implications, by the way, include the elimination of retrospective moral responsibility, that is: we're not responsible for what we've done, but we are for what we're going to do).
    Fatalist, on the other hand, think that the future is pre-established. Whatever we do, that future won't change. We can decide and act, but it doesn't matter. So, it's like not having personal decision at all.

    Now, by the wat, I've never understood how the swerve can give us freedom. How random and subtle movements of the atoms can make macro-organisms to have the power of decision and action? Maybe you've discussed this in another thread, but I don't find it :D
    I agree with Nate on how the quote from the Letter to Menoeceus suggests a compatibilist position of Epicurus. However, the postulation of the swerve as the source of our freedom would imply that Epicurus is a hard incompatibilist (that is, either the world is determinstic or we are free and responsible; and he takes the latter; so the world is indeterministic).
    As I said, it's confusing to me. ?(
    I know that we should not apply some modern labels to ancient philosophers, but I think in this case it's relevant. :D
    What do you think?

    Hello, dear epicurean friends! This is Onenski, I'm very interested in having a deeper understanding of epicurean texts and ideas. I got knowledge of this webpage through facebook group. :)