** This is the eighty-eighth in a series of weekly reports on 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 group has grown to 1353. Last week this time we were 1342. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers. If you apply to participate and don’t receive a reply promptly, please send an email to an admin about your interest in the group. 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 was our first full week back from holidays in the USA, and it was turned in a dramatically bad direction by the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Much of our discussion this week were directed toward support for Charlie Hebdo. Observing the various types of responses in the world at large was quite interesting, however, as already some religionists are diverging from uniform support for the right to free speech and the ability to criticize religion. I am sure this will generate more comment in the future. For now, here’s a report on the last seven days:
** Most-Commented Post of the Week: The winner here would be Hiram’s post on Charlie Hebdo: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/772852672763695/ Hiram focused on the lessons to be applied from Lucian’s “Alexander the Oracle-Monger” in which an Epicurean faced down a religious radical. In some of the comments we discussed that Lucian also had some cautionary words about how such facing-down should be done. In further comment, I want to say that there are very many complicated facts and cross-currents in the background leading up to the issue of Islamic terrorism. As I get older, the more I appreciate that there are two sides to every story. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. We need to be very cautious in examining a situation as complicated as this, and avoid being overbroad. Epicurus gives us sage advice on the nature of justice and how it is to be applied at different times and places to different people. This is one of the less-well-known aspects of Epicurean philosophy, and some people are going to Epicurus’ conclusions unexpected and disconcerting. As always, however, Epicurus was rigorously logical in the application of his core principles. He did not draw back from stating that the goal of life for **everyone** is to live happily. Epicurus was also renowned for his compassion, and that applies to everyone, Christian, Muslim, Jew, and non-religious. A significant number of Epicurus’ doctrines were devoted to the principle of “justice” and how it is to be applied. I urge you to read the post and Epicurus’ doctrines for more detail.
**Another significant post of the week was Bryan’s recitation of a passage from Lucretius on isonomy – in the original Latin. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=371601733019641 I realize that few of us can understand the spoken (or written, for that matter) Latin word, but there is much to be learned from a detailed study of Lucretius. This poem is truly the Epicurean equivalent of the Bible or the Koran, and unless new texts from Herculaneaum are recovered, it will likely always be our best testament to the Epicurean way of thought. Lucretius wrote this with Epicurus’ larger book “On Nature” before him, so the poem is a key method of “reverse engineering” our way back to a better understanding of Epicurean doctrine. As much as anything else, the poem is an extended example of the Epicurean **method of reasoning**, and in that respect even the passages on atoms and void that we find less interesting can still prove to be very, valuable. Bryan has a great deal of training and background in the study of Lucretius, and he has obvious affection for the subject. I would like to think that some of our interaction in the Facebook group will lead to significant contributions to the field of Epicurean research, and Bryan has the potential to really add to the understanding of Epicurus in the modern world. I hope everyone will help me encourage him in that goal — not for the sake of posterity, or for learning for the sake of learning, but so that we ourselves can live more happily!
**Dragan N. posted a graphic closely related to the Epicurean view of learning to control our desires and focus them on those things within our capabilities. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=561037237365303&set=gm.773838589331770&type=1
**Takis P. posted a copy of an English version of the flyer announcing the 5th Pan-Hellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy in Athens on February 7 and 8. This Symposium produces quality material, and it is my goal to try to bring more of it to the attention of the non-Greek speaking world. We’ll do what we can in that department and be sure to bring to you any photos or multimedia we can.
**The last post I’d like to draw to your attention was my own from earlier today. A friend brought to my attention a very recent post from the leader of the Stoic Facebook group, in which he went to some length to describe the differences between Stoicism and Epicurean philosophy as he sees it. This is an important topic, and much that he said I agree with very strongly. On the other hand, he naturally has a less enthusiastic view of Epicurus than I do, and he repeated a number of the standard slanders against Epicurus that have been used by Epicurus’ enemies for 2000 years. I do not know Mr. Robertson in person, and I feel sure that given the state of the world today, we would be in agreement in many areas about practical problems. In fact, there are many areas in which today’s Epicureans and Stoics might well be able to recreate the Epicurean/Stoic alliance pioneered by Cassius Longinus and Brutus in opposing Julius Caesar. Be that as it may, there is a tremendous amount of confusion out there in the general world about the relationship between Epicurean and Stoic philosophy. I welcome Stoic efforts to paint the differences in brigher colors from their point of view. I took the liberty of using his post to organize my responses, and I think many people on both sides of the question will find this post helpful.
In view of the arguments that this post may start, this is a good time to remind everyone of the purpose of our group and some limitations on our time. I posted my response here, and not in a general outside forum, because I do not have the time to engage in a full-blown war of words with dedicated Stoics. I wrote my post for those here who are genuinely interested in Epicurus, not as a means of reaching dedicated Stoics. In fact, I am beginning to think that the best use of my time has got to be, not to persuade people that Epicurus was right (though I think he was), but simply to expose them and educate them about what he really said. Only if someone understands both sides of a question is it possible to choose a side intelligently. The world is full of activists for Stoic and Stoic-related philosophies. If you have been educated in an English-speaking country, it is virtually guaranteed that you have been taught the Stoic point of view, as it is by far the mainstream view today, even if not referred to by that name.
Many people have been exposed to little else than the homgenized Stoic/Cynic/Skeptic/Platonic view, to the point that Epicurean views are hardly recognizable when they are heard. That means that our first use of time has got to be to ensure that the Epicurean point of view is presented in a form that is as complete as possible before we turn to argument with devoted anti-Epicureans. While we might find it tempting to devote our time to arguing with firm advocates of other philosophies, that cannot be allowed to consume all our time. Our task is to study, learn, and apply Epicurean philosophy to our own lives so as to live happily. In so doing, we will naturally learn to explain these ideas to others, and turn to that task, so that we can have Epicurean friends of the type Epicurus advised. Abstract arguments with anti-Epicureans has a place, but it cannot be allowed to distract from this primary goal.
**All in all it was another good week. Thanks to one and all for your participation. 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 world of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com
PEACE AND SAFETY!