THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/4/2014***
**This is the seventy-fifth in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion 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 640. Last week this time we were 568. 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!”
** Last week you will recall that we announced the formation of a new Facebook group entitled “NeoEpicurean Philosophy” for purposes of focusing on conversation about topics beyond the scope of the focus of this forum. That forum is now operational at https://www.facebook.com/groups/neoepicureanism/ Here in *this* forum we are committed to providing a supportive, positive environment for those who wish to focus on the ofstudy Epicurus’ doctrines and discuss applying them in the modern world. If you peruse the new group you will find that not everyone there appreciates our approach. That should not surprise you! Epicurean views have always evoked strong responses. As Norman DeWitt said in the opening of his “Epicurus and His Philosophy, “At the very outset the reader should be prepared to think of him [Epicurus] at one and the same time as the most revered and the most reviled of all founders of thought in the Graeco-Roman world.” Active Epicurean coordination disappeared over a thousand years ago, but many in the world remain alert for his reappearance and continue to revile his core doctrines. “Free will” is anathema to religious fundamentalists as well as to secular determinists. The idea that “confidence in knowledge” can be obtained outside religion is outrageous to religionists, just as the contention that knowledge can be obtained at all is outrageous to the modern skeptics who dominate every branch of academia.
**We continue to wish the NeoEpicureanism forum well despite any unfortunate comments that are made. Just be assured that if you happen to read something about Epicurean philosophy there (or anywhere!)that you find disconcerting and would like explained from a core Epicurean perspective, please do not hesitate to ask us.
**One example of divergent views among fans of Epicurus is the topic I posted about here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727352970646999/ Alexander R. asked a question about the concept of being stoical, and this gave me the chance to talk again about a major controversy that has raged for thousands of years – the difference between the stoic and Epicurean view of pleasure and its role as the goal of life. Those of stoic frame of mind would have you believe that Epicurus was something of a sly dog — they allege that Epicurus led you to believe that he was talking about “pleasure” as you understand the term, but that he really was not. They say that he was really of one spirit with stoicism, and that the Epicurean view of the “absence of pain” means that “absence of pain” (in those simple terms) is *the* goal of life. In other words, they allege that while you think Epicurus is instructing you on how to live pleasurably, he is really telling you to live like a stoic and to suppress your emotions, to flee and repress all desire for enjoyment, and to join the Stoics in their goal of ascetism.
There is a straightforward response to this, and I have marshalled the citations in the post linked above. But to prepare you for that, remember this: Just as with “gods,” Epicurus does not shrink from requiring you to think. He is not going to accept common definitions which contain major errors, either with “gods” or with “pleasure.” He is going to require you to examine the premises in each term and separate the true from the false. When you do, you will see that there are many strong reasons why Stoics and their related philosophers have attacked Epicurus for two thousand years. You can be sure that Stoics did not waste their time attacking a kindred spirit who simply used different wording. The Stoics knew who their enemies were, and they knew who was their friend in their quest to suppress personality and the joy of life. That’s why Stoicism merged with Christianity, while Epicureans fought the impositions of all religions.
In comparing Epicurean and Stoic views, you will find that this is one area where you can trust the general “colloquial” meaning of these words as they have come down to us today. Stoicism and its variants, just as the modern term implies, advocate suppression of emotion of all kind. Epicureans (again as the modern term implies) advocate experiencing life in all its fullness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The two views of life could not be more different, and it is essential that students of Epicurus not be confused about how they differ.
**Another example of divergent views can be found in Elli’s excellent graphic on “dogma” here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204431393527955&set=gm.726658604049769&type=1 If there is one thing that Epicurus stands for at its most basic level, it is that the nature of the universe and the nature of our faculties together allow us to determine the truth of those matters which are essential to our happy living. There is much that is beyond our knowledge and always will be (the other side of the moon; space beyond the reach of our telescopes; etc.) but Nature did not leave us floundering and unable to count the fingers of our hands. Many philosophers throughout history have taken the extreme skeptical position that NOTHING is certain and NOTHING can be known. They do this despite the circular reasoning and hypocrisy involved in asserting as a firm position that firm positions are impossible. Nevertheless, this attitude has triumphed in the modern world, and Elli produced the graphic referenced above to highlight how Epicurean philosophy does not share any of the truly negative aspects that skeptics like to argue is inherent in any assertion of knowledge. It is tiresome to have to explain this point over and over, but rest that this issue will never die, even in this forum. What we pledge to you in *this* forum, is that when you post here, you do not have to worry that you are talking to people who cannot count the fingers on their hands. We will leave those discussions to other forums, and we will equip you to see the nonsense of the opposing arguments.
**Moving on, there were many new and updated posts this week, and I invite readers to check them all for fruitful discussion. Let me highlight a number of the new threads in date order:
**Recent events led me repeat the excellent passage from “A Few Days In Athens” on “The Futility of Arguments” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725096497539313/
**Chad C. started a new thread on the ever-interesting topic of the role of “the gods” in Epicurean philosophy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725207297528233/
**Elli posted a very good graphic on the elements of leadership and mentoring (this was related to her other graphic on “dogma”: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204409281495168&set=gm.725356420846654&type=1
**Christopher L. posted a link to an interesting article on “Epicurus and Job” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725339207515042/
**I want to single out Francisco M. for some excellent contributions this week. One which he inspired was this thread where we collected variations of the theme in art over the centuries which featured the theme of Democritus v Heraclitus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725405414175088/
**Recent events also led me to conclude it was a good time for me to recap some of the basic reasons for finding Epicurean philosophy helpful even today, in my essay “I Choose Epicurus” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726006934114936/
**Hiram announced that his “Tending the Epicurean Garden” is now available in epub/ebook format: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726450627403900/
**Agamemnon K. posted to an interesting physics article with Epicurean overtones: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726591910723105/
**Related to Agamemnon’s post, I posted a link (originally posted by the Epicurus page) to an interview with physicist George Elliott, which had MANY Epicurean overtones and implications: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726578574057772/
**Christopher L posted to a new SHAPEWAYS 3d model which appears to be a very high-quality bust of Epicurus. I have not been able to order one of these yet but I will, and I will devote more coverage to this in the future. The bust appears to be much higher resolution than the one I produced previously, so this is well worth looking into, in addition to the medallions that are also offered. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725256674189962/
**Leonard M. linked to the excellent Melvyn Bragg radio interview: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727090790673217/
**Hiram linked to a film on “forgiveness” – a very timely topic https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727118504003779/
**Jakob Ae. asked an excellent question on application of Epicurean views to real life https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727187217330241/
**Hiram posted to a “School of Life” link about Epicurus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727114127337550/
**Hiram also posted to a Humanist Press free offering of the Malone rendition of Lucretius: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727345120647784/
**Elli posted to an article from Greece on the Swerve and its implications for free willhttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204438003293195&set=gm.727075647341398&type=1
**Alexander started a good thread to discuss the Epicurean view that “”The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727083654007264/
**Nick N. Shared an excellent Nietzsche graphic: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727732347275728/
**Eric C. gets credit for the most novel thread of the week with a female body-builder graphic – https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727518963963733/
**In closing, I hope those of you who follow the group closely won’t let the events of the last week cause you to be unduly discouraged. The silver lining in this cloud is that rising intensity of disputes over philosophy and direction of the group show that *interest in Epicurus* is rising, and that as we are taking a firm stand we are indeed “striking a blow for Epicurus.” Do not be surprised to see more of this in the future, as we improve our ability to understand and articulate the ancient wisdom of Epicurus. The world is full of people who would prefer that everyone smile and nod and drift along under the influence of the mist that Karl Marx aptly called the opiate of the people. But religion is not the only opiate, and while religion may dominate today in some parts of the world, there are other opiates that are equally or more demoralizing and desensitizing. Those include the Academic doctrines of skepticism and determinism against which Epicurus has always carried the flag of battle. Epicurus pointed the way free from these errors over two thousand years ago when he – in Lucretius’ words – burst the gates that separate men from Nature. With the passing of the Epicurean age those gates were rebuilt and reinforced, and they will not lightly fall again to those who simply dabble Epicurus’ ideas and fail to study how he successfully defeated them in the ancient world.
Those of us who are sincerely studying Epicurus in this group cannot promise you success in your own effort to unbar the gates of Nature. What we can promise, though, is that when you come to the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook page for assistance, you will find support from true friends of Epicurus.
**OK that’s it for this 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 Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com
PEACE AND SAFETY!