** This is the ninety-second 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 1404. Last week this time we were 1390. 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!”
**Tonight is a good time to start off with best wishes to the Athens Garden of Epicurus, which is in the middle of its weekend conference as I post this. We hope to have some photos and/or videos to post in the coming week. See here for more info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/784336261615336/
**Another subject I would like to highlight before getting to the week’s post is one that comes up from a link Hiram posted to a video on hedonism from ThePhilosophyTube: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/785258668189762/ It’s a well done video of which the Epicurus discussion was only a part. I posted in the comments that I thought that part did not really do Epicurus justice, as it focused on the static/active pleasure issue as a precursor to moving on the further questioning about whether pleasure really should be considered the goal of life. This is a very important topic, and it is possible to highlight the issue with a particular passage from the Letter to Menoeceus. The only point I want to accomplish here is to point out a troublesome sentence that is translated in several different ways by English authorities. The varying translations are a good reminder that it is best to compare several versions and not read too much into any single translation. Here’s the key sentence, in three ways:
(1) wiki.epicurus.info: “It is when we feel pain that we must seek relief, which is pleasure. And when we no longer feel pain, we no longer need pleasure.”
(2) Cyril Bailey: “For it is then we have need of pleasure, when we feel pain owing to the absence of pleasure; (but when we do not feel pain) we no longer need pleasure.”
(3) Norman Dewitt, from appendix to St. Paul and Epicurus: (For only then have we need of pleasure when from the absence of pleasure we feel pain; and conversely, when we no longer feel pain we no longer feel need of pleasure.)
Are these passages stating flatly that when we feel no pain we have “no need of pleasure”? It would be easy to read that sentence to mean that pleasure is worthless in itself, and it is valuable only as a medicine to remedy pain. Is Epicurus saying that this we would have been better off never to have been born, so we would never have experienced pain, which is the true driving force of life?
Of course readers here know that I do NOT think that that is what Epicurus was saying, and yet if you divorce this passage from the rest of the preserved texts, it is very easy to make that argument. When two men who were highly educated on this topic corresponded with each other, Cassius wrote to Cicero ” For it is hard to convince men that “the good is to be chosen for its own sake”; but that pleasure and tranquillity of mind is acquired by virtue, justice, and the good is both true and demonstrable.” Was Cassius simply being redundant to list BOTH “pleasure” AND “tranquility of mind”? If they are identical – one and the same – why list them both? And if both words have no Epicurean meaning other than “escape from pain,” why did he not simply state “but that **escape from pain** is acquired by virtue, justice, and the good is both true and demonstrable”?
This is an example of a question that needs much time and attention so that the reasoning becomes clear and the ambiguities are lifted. I don’t blame those ambiguities on Epicurus, but on a world where Stoicism has triumped and pleasure is looked on with disdain and suspicion. In such an environment defenders of pleasure need to be clear on exactly what it is they are defending.
**And that transitions me to another important point. I want to thank Uwe F. for his excellent post on “Lathe biosas.” This is the kind of initiative and research of which I think we need much more. It has entered the common discussion on the internet that Epicurus advised that we should “live unknown” – which seems a mite contradictory for the founder of a worldwide philosophical reform movement. When Lucretius wrote his monumental poem, when Lucian wrote his satirical essays, when Horace wrote his poems, and when Cassius was leading an army in the name of his view of Epicurean pleasure, none of these men were following a flat rule of living “unknown.” How shall we reconcile this? Uwe’s post has some excellent background on this issue. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/785156631533299/
**Speaking of Horace, who left us the line “fat and sleek and in good keeping, a hog of Epicurus’ herd,” Elli posted an incredible video of a man blowing life back into a still-born piglet. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/784766504905645/
**Bryan W H posted another in his series of excellent recitations of Lucretius in Latin https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/784037204978575/ Somewhere down the road it would be great to turn these, or something like these, into youtube videos for use by Latin students. The opening of all of the books of Lucretius are excellent, and the passage beginning “Humana ante oculus” which focuses on what we owe to Epicurus would be particularly a good candidate.
** In other posts, I posted a series of quotes about Epicurus and Epicureans that appear on the internet with cites to the Jewish Talmud or similar Judaic sources: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/783094955072800/ There’s no doubt in my mind that the Talmud contains other references, at the very least in response to Epicurean ideas on atoms, void, and the nature of the universe, that would be helpful to know. It’s a shame that translations of the Talmud are not more readily available on the internet.
** In this post I linked to an article in Greek about the skeleton cup featuring Epicurus that was part of the Boscoreale treasure. I am hoping that before long we will get an English article on the same topic from one of our friends in Greece.
**Dragan N. posted a link to a good meme on “I am what I choose to become.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/783554001693562/
It appears that this actually deserves the “most-commented” award, but the thread got a little out of hand before it was closed by an Admin 😉
** Hiram posted a link to an article about death, which prompted him to go into some thoughts after reading Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/783744385007857/
**All in all it was an excellent 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!