I want to second all of these great suggestions and wish you luck with your group! Austin has done some podcasts, and I myself think the best of them is the two-part episode with Lucretius Today, accessible for free on this site and wherever podcasts are found.
Posts by Little Rocker
This thread is great! I'll convince myself that this thread is so important that I won't do the unpleasant thing that needs doing (forget long-term advantage!).
On friendship, I agree with Waterholic that there is a sense (I think false) that we can now outsource the practical dimensions of friendship through internet resources. But I think even our natural and necessary desires are too vast to be satisfied by a curated yellow pages. But even if they could be, I think there are good reasons not to entirely outsource everything. Friendships are reciprocal and equal, and most relationships with people I pay are not. Also, there are still many places even in America where you 'need a guy,' and other places where there is not even reliable internet. My brother lives in such a place (he calls it 'the mountain') and he has a guy who welds and a guy who cuts trees and a guy who.... my brother does computers, and they all swap resources gratis+beers through highly informal arrangements. He thinks other people's way of approaching these practical things is sad, and I tend to admire this part of his somewhat unorthodox life. In places where people cannot afford or travel for services or they have friends who provide services, they have much different practical relationships. I got a bid to fix the plumbing in my house for 1500, and my partner did it for 200 in supplies because he's handy and I'm wordy.
But even if things are entirely outsourced on a practical level, intimacy is something that doesn't work that way, and intimacy matters a lot in laughter and misfortune. In the periods of my life when I have not had close friends, I have struggled. I currently have a group of friends I would not leave for any other reason than to care for my parents. I consider myself immensely fortunate to have them. One friend went through a serious mental health crisis, and another had a premature infant at 25 weeks, and we are closer now than we have ever been in the decade we have known each other. So yeah, I would be anxious without those friends and they contribute more to my life than pretty much anything else.
Which brings me to the question about anxiety in the Epicurean life. That's not an issue we can settle, though we benefit from continuing to discuss it, but I tend to split the difference between Don and Cassius. Unlike Don, I would be anxious if I saw a tornado on the horizon, but I am not currently anxious that I will be abandoned if I get sick. I have a great deal of confidence that friends will be there for me. If I do get sick, I hope I'll be as chill as I can, but I'm pretty sure I'll be anxious. Epicureanism can help me cope, but it won't tell me it doesn't suck. Perhaps the thing I like most about Epicureanism is its 'let's cross that bridge if we come to it' mentality. I'm not going to catastrophize or imagine all the bad things that can happen--I'm just going to live and enjoy my life with friends as long as it lasts. And read about how to take shelter in the event of a tornado (though I already know that one because I grew up in Tornado Alley).
On Cassius' point about Platonism and the desire to control others, a hearty Amen.
Just like there is the idea within religion of Perennial philosophy, so to we need to watch out for some like this when comparing Epicureanism to other philosophies (such as the philosophy of Buddhism). I once read a very good explaination about why the belief in "perennial philosophy" is incorrect -- since the end goal of each religion is actually slightly different.
Like Cassius, this is a new term to me and it's like a penny dropped that helped me make some connections about the motives behind some of the 'wisdom' related organization/podcasts out there that seem to give off some vaguely religious vibes. For example,this guy.
Even scooping dried pigeon droppings under bridges for "the best garden fertilizer." This is where it starts to sound like work!
I'm wondering how many people read the book and say, 'you know, this other advice I could take or leave, but scavenging pigeon droppings is a great idea!'
I always find myself of two minds when Don and Cassius discuss this. It definitely feels odd to start off by describing Epicurus with a term people commonly associate with something else and then tack on--'but not in the familiar sense.' It risks sounding like, 'he's a gastroenterologist, but not like any gastroenterologist you've ever met.' It's what leads to the charge that he's a hedonist in name only. But then if you don't call him a hedonist, then you risk making it sound like the goal isn't pleasure. Not to mention that he does the same thing himself--he identifies the aim as pleasure, then complains that people misunderstand what he means, so he tries to clear it up.
I'll be curious, Don, to find out whether 'frugal hedonism' ends up weighing in on the other stuff--like, you could be a frugal hedonist and still await your heavenly reward or be a frugal hedonist and still think the death of a child is part of a well-ordered cosmos.
As a related anecdote, my partner and I are very different people with entirely different skill sets who thankfully share the actually important commitments, and I remember when I was explaining the basics of Epicureanism to him, he said, 'Oh, I think I watched an interview with an Epicurean on an episode of Cheap RV Living.' So I watched it and thought, 'Well, I can see why he would think that.' Especially when they talk about community, death, and memories.
Were you thinking of Epicurus maybe?
"Epicurus's teachings caused strife in Mytilene and he was forced to leave." (Wikipedia)
DeWitt pieces together an intriguing piece of historical fiction to flesh out Epicurus's experience and expulsion from Mytilene.
One source has a certain Philodemus driven from the Sicilian town of Himera when his teachings were thought to have incurred divine wrath in the form of an epidemic (Aelian, in Suda, s.vv. Himeraiai, sukophantein, and timôntai; cf. Sider 1997, 9–10). The reconstruction of the testimonium is somewhat difficult, and nothing says that it must have to do with our Philodemus. Still, it would not be unusual for an Epicurean to be accused of atheism, and new readings in Philodemus’ Index Academicorum (cf. Fleischer 2017b) show that he did indeed spend time in Sicily. (From Blank, SEP)
As I understand it, all awareness, whether sensory, awareness of thought, proprioception, etc., depends on the configuration of atomic structure. When that structure breaks apart at death, all awareness goes down with the ship. Our current medical situation, which Epicurus could not have anticipated, has introduced questions about whether continued bodily reflexes in the absence of any capacity for awareness counts as death, but medical consensus on brain death and harvesting organs says it does.
I admittedly haven't done much reading on it, but it wouldn't surprise me if Epicurus thought our capacity to reflect on our thoughts and feelings is semi-perceptual. Aristotle talked about thought in the same terms as perception, for example. That leaves a person with a regress problem, but there are fancy ways to try to evade that (Aristotle's bizarre 'thought thinking itself'). But either way, Epicurus thinks it all depends on an atomic structure that breaks apart at death, so KD2 is on solid footing as far as I'm concerned.
Now that you mention it, I think that Epicurus might move if given the option (didn't Philodemus get kicked out of somewhere for impiety?), but I wonder what he would do if his only options were to recant or die.
Yeah, Socrates claims that he can't expect anyone else to tolerate his company if his own fellow citizens won't, so he refuses to propose exile as his penalty. He also claims that it would be cowardly and hypocritical after he says he would rather die than give up philosophy to give up philosophy to avoid death. He would be a laughingstock. It reminds me a bit of that part in Lucretius where he talks about how lots of people say that plenty of things are worse than death, then they willingly choose those things rather than die. Lucretius is like, 'and yet they live.'
The question about Socrates and the afterlife is super interesting because in Plato's Apology, he considers it equally likely that there could be no afterlife. I think Xenophon's Socrates never says anything about the afterlife. So the Socrates who cares about the afterlife could be colored through Plato's own Pythagorean commitments.
Keep us posted. Can't help seeing that cover and thinking of Prufrock: 'Do I dare to eat a peach?/ I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.'
Yeah, it sounds like she might be ceding too much ground to the common objection from academic philosophers that if Epicurus thinks we only study science for the sake of achieving the good, then that opens the empirical possibility that false scientific beliefs can be prudent, either because false beliefs more effectively diminish anxiety or make you safer from external threats. Epicurus cares both about diminishing anxiety and protecting himself against external threats, so they object that his commitment to truth is only skin deep.
I myself prefer to think that true belief diminishes anxiety, and I sort of suspect Epicurus might be happy to die rather than recant his science before the world. But I could be wrong--perhaps those beatific faces of the saints really do reflect greater psychological equanimity than I will ever achieve (see this study, admittedly quite vague, as usual, about 'happiness'), and perhaps Epicurus would recommend turning Galileo under the circumstances. I agree she probably should have argued in Epicurus' defense more forcefully.
Yeah, as I remember it (ever so vaguely from a long time ago and I could be wrong), Descartes didn't initially have the 'ergo,' but he does take it to prove something, so it might as well be there. I can't help but wonder whether Epicurus would consider Descartes' skeptical exercise a bit precious. Makes me think of GE Moore's proof of the existence of the external world--'Here is one hand. And here is another. Hands exist!'
Late to this conversation, but there do seem to be some people who try to argue that psychological hedonism is empirically falsifiable by establishing empirically that altruism is possible (with the buried assumption that if possible, altruism is good and recommended). I have been as yet unconvinced, but the main people trying to establish this from a psychological perspective are Daniel Batson and (more recently) Paul Bloom. In the Philosophy Bites interview with Bloom, the blunt British hosts sort of reassert that it's not falsifiable.
Looked at it this way, "happy" is a mushy, ill-defined word that can take on any number of meanings in context. It's like the English word "love"... "I love you" to "I love ice cream." At least Greek had different words for different forms of "love."
One thing that I think can get lost in this discussion is that the same is true of eudaimonia to the average Ancient Greek non-philosopher, the 'man on the street.' Philosophers have never had a particularly intuitive account of happiness.
I find Don's list of different ways of taking the question of 'Are you happy?' super helpful.
I heard an interview with Rucker last week and bought the book, but I haven't started it yet.
But my expectation would be that if we had more of the "point in issue" we would see that this is a very abstract debate being stated in very philosophical, rather than practical, terms.
I agree that for practical intents and purposes we can set the question aside. Epicurus inherited a debate and he definitely intends to situate himself within that debate using (roughly) the established terminology, but it seems to me that the most important thing to know is: 'we say pleasure is the goal.' That doesn't settle other important questions, like whether pursuing pleasure is far more about removing anxiety than walks on the beach at sunset, but it's pretty clear that pleasure is the goal.
For all their fussiness about making pleasure the goal, the anti-hedonists insisted that you weren't living well unless your life was a source of pleasure and that virtuous people have the best, most durable pleasure. For Aristotle, 'pleasure completes the activity,' and happiness is a life of excellent activity. They're all just a hop, skip, and jump from hedonism. Sometimes I think it just makes them uncomfortable to share a goal with animals.
Me: Pleasure (artfully chosen)
Host: So, you think the answer is 'pleasure (artfully chosen).' Interesting, and is that your final answer?
[silence, silence, audience squirms because so much is at stake]
Me: Yes, that's my best and final answer, at least for today.
O'Keefe's review seems spot-on. I've read most, though not all, of the book. None of the chapters offer a deep dive into the philosophy itself, but they all explore features (and criticisms of) Epicureanism that, it seems to me, continue in the current discussion of Epicureanism as somehow the weak inferior to Stoicism's 'active life of pursuing power and money.' The book is also filled with interesting historical tidbits. And, like O'Keefe says, she doesn't try to make too much of the evidence we have. I think another strength of her book is that she doesn't get lost in contemporary theory, instead doing what strikes me as old school classical research.
Don, I love how you produce posts like the ones above and then say you're no good at such things.
To add to the hopper, Inwood and Gerson render it as: 'There is also a proper measure for parsimony, and he who does not reason it out is as badly off as he who goes wrong by total neglect of limit.'
Long and Sedley: 'There can be refinement even on slender means, and one who fails to take account of it is in a similar position to someone who goes astray through ignoring limits.'
I initially had some misgivings about Smith's translation using 'miraculously,' since the more literal translation is definitely something like 'by divine hand,' but using 'miraculously' manages to express what is only suggested/entailed in the other translations. As Cassius put it, most translations imply the 'or by any other means.' But 'miraculously' might better capture both a divine and non-divine hand.
What irritates me most about the Leonard passage, actually, is the 'yet.' (Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.) Like, what, but it might start happening soon?
Damn, that's a beautiful book! I knew someone whose graduate adviser (securing consent, of course) asked her students to write a check to an organization that represented something they greatly disliked as an incentive to finish a research task. Otherwise, she mailed the check. Are there any Stoic organizations that take donations? Asking for a friend.