**This is the seventy-first in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion of Epicurean philosophy is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.
**As of tonight, our participant total has grown to 480. Last week this time we were 432. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers! We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”
** This week featured several more in a series of basic theory posts by Haris Dimitriadis. I will cover them separately below, but I want to thank Haris for this series and the excellent discussions they have provoked. Every member of the group does not always agree on every detail, of course, but these discussions are tremendously helpful in clarifying our views on advanced topics. I hope we will continue to have discussions of this type as long as the group continues. That leads me to observe that there are several “types” of posts that are particularly helpful and appreciated. There are advanced theory posts like these from Haris. There are “question” posts, where participants (new or old) ask questions about ideas or applications in Epicurean philosophy that the group can try to answer. Another category that I’d like to encourage are “outreach” posts. These come in various types, including the graphics such as Elli has produced, the Stoic v Epicurean comparison chart I produced, the Question/Answer format Illka produces, and the “applications” posts that Hiram produces. Several weeks ago when we first discussed the Stoic/Epicurean comparison chart, we posted it on Reddit and other places, and we saw a big bump in visitors. Likewise, many of the other posts we generate, such as Ilkka’s comment on the Epicurus page about organizing by geographic area, lend themselves to “sharing” on Facebook or crossposting on Reddit or other websites. If people have ideas on creating graphic memes for sharing outside the group, are articles geared toward introducing Epicurus to new people, please feel free to offer them in the group so we can encourage their spread. We have a number of websites now which people will find when they google Epicurus. When people search on Facebook for “Epicurus” they will easily find Ilkka’s “Epicurus” page, which now has over Eighty-Two THOUSAND likes. And for those who search for a discussion group, our Epicurean Philosophy facebook group is easy to find. But in order to draw in interest from those outside who have never heard of Epicurus, not much can beat an attractive graphic meme or short essay of general interest. Please feel free to share your ideas for things like that in this thread.
** Getting to this week’s posts, as indicated already, Haris posted more in his series on the Epicurean canon. If you are new to Epicurean philosophy, what you need to know is that this is one of the most important topics that distinguishes Epicurus from other major philosophers. Many of Epicurus’ conclusions about how to live life are not unique, and thus a number of his suggestions in isolation are co-opted by other philosophers. The key to understanding how Epicurus’ suggestions fit together is found at a deeper level – that of physics and “epistemology” – the question of “how we know what we know.” These two go hand in hand, and discussion of them is therefore frequently combined, as did Lucretius in “On The Nature of Things” and as did Epicurus himself in his “Letter to Herodotus.” Physics can be reduced to a number of elemtary observations, such as the famous “no thing comes from nothing” and “no thing goes completely to nothing.” In order to grasph even these basic issues, however, we need a basic understanding of the “rules of evidence” wherein we decide that the things we “sense” (such as what we see and touch and hear) are worthy of consideration, while speculation based on (1) religious fantasy or (2) logic separated from evidence is rejected. The faculties given us by Nature (the five senses, the sense of pain and pleasure, and the faculty known as “anticipations”) along with the rules by which we use the faculties, are what is referred to when we dicuss the “Canon of Truth.” This week Haris posted a thread entitled “RECAP” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/713928528656110/ in which he commented on the elements stated in Principal Doctrine 24: ”…We cannot be confident of our conclusions unless they are justified by actual, immediate, and clear evidence, and this evidence must come from the FIVE SENSES, from the SENSE OF PAIN AND PLEASURE, and from the CONCEPTIONS OF THE MIND WHICH ARISE FROM THE ANTICIPATIONS…”
**Haris also posted on the “Healing Effects of the Epicurean Canon of Truth” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/714825085233121/
** Another important post I want to highlight was one that Hiram and Ilkka combined on to discuss the possibility of local Epicureans making contact with each other. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/715612108487752/ I don’t read all the comments that get posted to the main Epicurus facebook page, but with 82,000 + “likes” there are people all over the world with an interest in Epicurus. If you have interest in making closer contact with like-minded students of Epicurus in your area, be sure to check out that post.
**Alexander R. posted a link on modern research into how the senses operate: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/714854488563514/
**Ilkka reminded us this week in our posts to use some basic formatting conventions 😉 https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/715583065157323/
**David Peluso posted good photographs of one of the best surviving busts of Epicurus: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=809737392390948&set=gm.712867308762232&type=1
** Hopefully we will not need to start an obituary section, but this week we had posts involving the deaths of two significant figures. The first was actually a death from June of this year that had previously not been posted here, but it involved the death of noted Epicurean researcher Diskin Clay from Duke University. DIskin Clay was a prolific academic writer on Epicurean subjects over his lifetime, and any googling of Epicurean topics will turn up multiple references to his work. The notice of Clay’s death is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/716159351766361/
** In another notable loss, Alexander R. posted that noted particle physicist Victor Stenger had died this week. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/713292708719692/ I am not aware of Stenger writing specifically about Epicurus, but according to several posts in our group Stenger’s research has notable parallels with “atomist” theory.
** In probably the most commented post of the week, I posted a link to a new article by Richard Dawkins in which he attacks the “essentialism” of Plato and Aristotle. This is a topic that is key to understanding how Epicurus differed from the more famous Greek philosophers, and I highly recommend at least the first two paragraphs of this article as an introduction to this topic. They are important enough to quote here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/713263048722658/
“Essentialism—what I’ve called “the tyranny of the discontinuous mind”—stems from Plato, with his characteristically Greek geometer’s view of things. For Plato, a circle, or a right triangle, were ideal forms, definable mathematically but never realised in practice. A circle drawn in the sand was an imperfect approximation to the ideal Platonic circle hanging in some abstract space. That works for geometric shapes like circles, but essentialism has been applied to living things and Ernst Mayr blamed this for humanity’s late discovery of evolution—as late as the nineteenth century. If, like Aristotle, you treat all flesh-and-blood rabbits as imperfect approximations to an ideal Platonic rabbit, it won’t occur to you that rabbits might have evolved from a non-rabbit ancestor, and might evolve into a non-rabbit descendant. If you think, following the dictionary definition of essentialism, that the essence of rabbitness is “prior to” the existence of rabbits (whatever “prior to” might mean, and that’s a nonsense in itself) evolution is not an idea that will spring readily to your mind, and you may resist when somebody else suggests it.”
“Paleontologists will argue passionately about whether a particular fossil is, say, Australopithecus or Homo. But any evolutionist knows there must have existed individuals who were exactly intermediate. It’s essentialist folly to insist on the necessity of shoehorning your fossil into one genus or the other. There never was an Australopithecus mother who gave birth to a Homo child, for every child ever born belonged to the same species as its mother. The whole system of labelling species with discontinuous names is geared to a time slice, the present, in which ancestors have been conveniently expunged from our awareness (and “ring species” tactfully ignored). If by some miracle every ancestor were preserved as a fossil, discontinuous naming would be impossible. Creationists are misguidedly fond of citing “gaps” as embarrassing for evolutionists, but gaps are a fortuitous boon for taxonomists who, with good reason, want to give species discrete names. Quarrelling about whether a fossil is “really” Australopithecus or Homo is like quarrelling over whether George should be called “tall”. He’s five foot ten, doesn’t that tell you what you need to know?”
** Also posted this week was a “New-To-Us” authentic image of Lucretius. This appears to be a photographic image of the ring that was translated into an etching that H. A. J. Munro affixed to the front of his translations of De Rerum Natura. Munro wrote that this ring had been found in the excavations surrounding Mount Vesuvius, but I have never been able to find any additional information about it or where it might be located today. If anyone knows please comment. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/716161395099490/
** In another well-commented post, Elli posted an excerpt from an article by George Kaplanis (a founder of the Epicurean Garden of Thessalonika in Greece) which referenced Lucian’s “Hermotimus.” https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204250262399790&set=gm.715974875118142&type=1 I have highly recommended that dialogue before and I’ll repeat that again. The basic setting is a discussion between two students in ancient Greece. Hermotimus is a student of Stoicism, and while the other person’s school is not clear, the argument he makes favors the Epicurean viewpoint without saying so. The beauty of this dialogue is that it uses Hermotimus’ enthusiasm for Stoicism as a backdrop to show why it is important to understand as many arguments of other major schools as possible before selecting from among them. Epicureans are content to argue that if one “studies Nature” one will eventually see the truth of the Epicurean viewpoint, but the dialogue points out that those schools which erect arbitrary goals on any basis other than studying Nature (and Stoicism’s “virtue” is an excellent example of that) are inherently flawed and unverifiable. If you read only two works by Lucian, read “Alexander the Oracle-Monger” and this one – “Hermotimus.”
** As we near the end of this week’s update I want to be sure to mention a nice inaugural post from a new participant, Francisco Martinez, who asked an excellent question about the implications of Epicurean philosophy for society and politics. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/716014801780816/
**And last but not least, to balance off the newcomer, one of our oldest old-timers posted a link to an article on “alternative hedonism” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/716145248434438/
** In closing, please remember that we invite your questions and discussions on any matter relating to ancient or modern Epicureanism, no matter what your level of expertise in asking the question. Even if you are a younger person studying Epicurus for a philosophy class, we invite you to ask your questions here. There is no better way for us to learn more, and have fun doing it, than to discuss Epicurean philosophy issues with new people who are sincerely interested.
Thanks to all who participated this week, and we look forward to another active week ahead.
**OK that’s it for the week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicureanism by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com
PEACE AND SAFETY!