Category Archives: books

The Bonobo and the Atheist Book Review

Today I’m reviewing the amazing book The Bonobo and the Atheist by Dutch anthropologist Frans de Waal. The author takes a soft, humanist approach to atheism and morality, focusing on the study of human and ape (and even mammalian) nature and focusing more on the similarities between us and other animals than on the differences.

This book crushes human exceptionalism and argues that complex human morality, just like our limbs and body parts, comes from earlier, simpler forms. In other words, the book treats morality as the product of natural selection and as a strictly natural phenomenon.

The Question of “Selfish Genes”

The book defines and cites examples of both altruism and reciprocity, both of which are seen in nature and evolved among animals. It is perhaps unfair to limit morality to altruism and reciprocity (or as interpersonal ethics expressed in terms of help / harm), but as we must begin somewhere and as the book is premised on the idea that morality, being a natural phenomenon, evolved from simpler and more rudimentary forms, these are good starting points–which also imply that morality(ies?) must be subject to evolutionary pressures, and evolve with the species.

There underlies animosity against the “new atheists” in the book, although the author admits that he himself is an atheist. They are characterized sometimes as narrow-minded, even bigoted, but not for the reasons that religious people would argue. The book rebels against scientism and against the “doctrines” established by biologists and other scientists. The author argues insistently that genes are not merely selfish, as Richard Dawkins and other brilliant biologists have argued. Yes, they do serve selfish purposes, but it is unfair and uncritical to argue that, if a behavior does not serve an obviously selfish motive, that it is unnatural, or a “misfiring” of a vestige instinct, or some other “error” of nature.

In this, the anthropologist is reminiscent of the ancient Epicureans, who often sought more than one interpretation of data and accepted them all, as long as they did not contradict each other and as long as they did not contradict the evidence. For instance: Lucretius, in De Rerum Natura, specifically argues that body parts evolved, and only later acquired their various purposes, functions, and uses–which may be varied, and not mutually exclusive. (See the Section in Book IV that says “No speaking ere the tongue created was“, or read this blog).

The author also argues that those that engage in atheistic activism may have experienced trauma earlier in life, which might be true for many, but then he goes as far as stating that he is anti-conviction, as if it was wrong to have definite views on things that are demonstrably clear. I don’t know if this is the answer to the problem, but he clearly is tackling some of the same issues that I tackled in Atheism 2.1.

He does have a point when he argues that philosophy is distinct from, and a necessary companion to, science.

Anti-something movements will go way of the dodo unless they manage to replace what they dislike with something better.

The author also engages in a bit of religious apologetics when he describes the play behavior of some apes who play with dolls. Some religious “make-believe” behavior that we see in humans cannot be compared with the innocent play of a human girl or an ape. Deeply held religious beliefs do have (sometimes awful) repercussions, and to confuse make-believe with proven truth–like religious people do–is infantile and irresponsible. As theater, or as play behavior, make-believe is fine.

Hedonic Kindness

The author coins the term “hedonic kindness” to speak of how doing good deeds and being altruistic releases feel-good hormones, citing maternal care as the possible source of this adaptation.

Invariably, nature associates things that we need to do with pleasure. Since we need to eat, the smell of food makes us drool like Pavlov’s dogs, and food consumption is a favorite activity. We need to reproduce, so sex is both an obsession and a joy. And to make sure we raise our young, nature gave us attachments, none of which exceeds that between mother and offspring. Like any other mammal, we are totally preprogrammed for this in body and mind. As a result, we barely notice the daily efforts on behalf of our progeny and joke about the arm and leg that it costs.

Not only does the author reject the “selfish gene” view that exceptional acts of altruism (like adoption of an unrelated creature) are errors, vestiges, or “misfiring” of our instincts, he also reminds us that human brains are wired for empathy, unlike insects. Social animals in the insect kingdom are highly efficient and have complex systems of communication and social interaction, but they do not have the neural complexity of a mammal. We are social and altruistic and moral in a different way from collectivist insects.

Part of the thesis of the author relies on a view of morality as a faculty, and therefore as somewhat unconscious. He uses the example of incest to argue that “moral decisions arise from the gut, they are irrational, visceral”. Modern biologists can of course reason why incest makes people so uncomfortable, but primitive man always had taboos against incest, long before geneticists pinpointed the need for genetic variation.

In order to understand hedonic kindness, we must first understand the mechanisms by which people experience empathy. This is where the science gets interesting: the author argues that these mechanisms are physical and neurological. He discusses processes of bodily synchronization, contagion of happiness or sadness, and yawn contagion which are seen in nature among many primates, and what is known as mirror neurons that “fuse people at a bodily level”.

… we activate neural representations of motor actions in our brain similar to the ones we perceive or expect in the other … Frowns induce sadness, smiles happiness. Ulf Dimberg, the Swedish psychologist who conducted this research, told me about the initial resistance, which made it hard to get his findings published in the 1990s … at the time, empathy was viewed as a complex skill under cerebral control. We decide to be empathic, so the thinking went, on the basis of deliberate simulations in our head of how we would feel in someone else’s situation. Empathy was seen as a cognitive skill. Now we know that the process is both simpler and more automatic. It’s not that we lack control (breathing is automatic too, but we are still in command), but science looked at empathy entirely the wrong way. Empathy stems from unconscious bodily connections involving faces, voices, and emotions. Humans don’t decide to be empathic; they just are.

One uniquely human instinct that strongly correlates with morality is blushing, which is a physical signal sent when one experiences shame. The author reminds us that bodily indicators of shame are also seen in great apes. The role of shame in a naturalist morality was discussed in my reasonings about Confucius’ Analects. Like other forms of humanism, Confucianism focuses on the need for good role models: wholesome leaders inspire wholesome citizens and individuals, and the fear or shame tied to the disapproval of these role models is one of the main incentives for moral behavior. The author of The Bonobo and the Atheist provides numerous examples of this from ape societies, and also cites the “the prestige effect” that is observed in primate societies: how apes and humans like to imitate those in higher social standing (role models, alphas).

Without getting too off-track–as this is not in the book, I should cite that gossip is theorized to have a role in instilling shame and building trust among humans and, although it is sometimes looked down upon, gossip behavior seems to also be part of our moral instinct. It helps to enforce shame and guilt when anti-social behavior is observed, and strengthens societal cohesion.

We are reminded that one of the founders of our School, Hermarchus, posited a doctrine that natural kinship contributed to our moral choices and avoidances: this doctrine strongly resonates with our anthropologist’s hedonic kindness. Hedonic kindness reminds us that logic and syllogisms are not the source of moral judgment, and that we must study empathy as an unconscious phenomenon in order to better understand our moral faculty. This also brings us back to our Cyranaic Reasonings, which concluded with the recognition that our way of philosophizing is rooted in the body, its instincts and drives.

External Reinforcement

Moral instincts are innate, but reinforced socially–both in hierarchical and egalitarian models of relationship. We see that respect for authority figures and alpha (fe)males is part of what keeps society in order and that, through bullying, through not sharing resources, through shame and other methods, individuals in a group internalize the rules.

Conflict is needed to reinforce the rules, but after conflict happens, we see in ape communities a huge amount of time and attention dedicated to repairing relationships, making amends via grooming, sharing a meal, and other behavior.

Egalitarian relations also exist among the great apes. The author explains that initially, anthropologists hesitated to use the word friendship for the relationships between unrelated members of a species that were always together, fearing that the term was too anthropomorphic. In reality, friendship is no exaggeration, as friends in ape societies have been observed to mourn after one of them dies.

The ultimate example of external reinforcement in human societies comes in the form of the death sentence, which has acted in human society as a form of artificial selection for certain moral traits: we have been killing off sociopaths for millennia, in doing so removing their strains from modern human DNA and producing an increasingly domesticated variety of human.

The Is / Ought Question

From a biological point of view, basic emotions are … nature’s way of orienting us to do what we prudently ought. The social emotions are a way of getting us to do what we socially ought, and the reward/punishment system is  away of learning to use past experiences to improve our performance in both domains. – Patricial Churchland, in “Braintrust”

The author argues that morality exists without reason, and is based mainly on instinct and emotion, and says that “the tension between (is and ought) is felt much less clearly in real life than at the conceptual level at which most philosophers like to dwell. They feel that we can not reason ourselves from one level to the other, and they are right, but who says that morality is or needs to be rationally constructed? What if it is grounded in emotional values?”

In other words, it is unnecessary to go from is to ought. Instead, we can study nature and base our choices and avoidances on what we know about nature–flow with it, not against it–because (and this is one of the key premises of this book) we really ARE good-natured.

The book closes by speaking up against top-down morality. If in fact morality, like our limbs, comes from simpler forms and we are good-natured, then we can speak of grassroots virtue or morality, a subject that I discussed in my Contemplations on Tao as tied to the virtue of naturalness. If we are authentic and true to our nature, we will naturally develop wholesome qualities.

Essays About Nietzsche’s Will to Power

Nietzsche’s Will to Power: Overview
Nietzsche’s Perspectivism Versus Epicurus’ Physics-Based Realism
On Pleasure as Subservient to Power in Nietzsche
On Autarchy
The Denaturalization of Morality
On the Genesis of Religion
A Critique of Nietzsche’s Aristocratic Ideal
La Gauche Nietzschéene
The Meaning of our Gardens
On Introversion
For What Does One Have to Atone Most
Against Moirolatry
Cosmologies Compared

Also Read:

Reasonings on Thus Spake Zarathustra

All the Past Shall Ye Thus Redeem

On Passing By

Against the Moloch of Abstraction

The Evolution of Law in Epicurus and Nietzsche

SoFE Journal Volume 11 – 2016-2017

Articles

Hiram Crespo
“Parallel Sayings” Buddhist Meme Series
January 23, 2016

Hiram Crespo
The Punctured Jar Parable
March 20, 2016

Hiram Crespo
Cyrenaic Reasonings
August 5, 2016

Alan Furth
Tending the Epicurean Garden, by Hiram Crespo
September 4, 2016

Friends of Epicurus
Dialogue on Virtue
September 5, 2016

Society of Epicurus
Society of Epicurus Publishes Epitome in Esperanto
September 20, 2016

Friends of Epicurus
Dialogue on the Search for Meaning
October 8, 2016

Hiram Crespo
Hermarchus on the Ethics of Vegetarianism and Treatment of Animals
October 24, 2016

Matt Jackson
The Gods of the Garden, the God of the Mount and the Absolute
February 5, 2017

Society of Epicurus
Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy, Greetings from Hiram Crespo, Founder of SoFE
February 24, 2017

Hiram Crespo
Essays About Nietzsche’s Will to Power
February 27, 2017

Hiram Crespo
The Bonobo and the Atheist Book Review
March 2, 2017

Hiram Crespo
The Taoist Hedonism of Yang Chu
March 7, 2017

Friends of Epicurus
Self-Guided Study Curriculum
March 20, 2017

Lucian of Samosata
Alexander the Oracle Monger
March 27, 2017

Hiram Crespo / Digenes of Oenoanda
Gleanings from Diogenes’ Wall
April 15, 2017

Friends of Epicurus
Self-Guided Study Curriculum
March 20, 2017

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Society of Epicurus Publishes Epitome in Esperanto

Press release

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL, September 20, 2016: The Society of Friends of Epicurus has published an Esperanto-language Epitome for 21st-century users of the international language. It “was written for Esperanto speakers who want to apply the teachings of this cosmopolitan philosophy of personal happiness in their life”, and seeks to bring philosophy to the lives of ordinary people. According to the introduction:

“We know that the ancient Epicureans walked around with Epitomes, studying and memorizing the teachings. According to Norman DeWitt in his book ‘Epicurus and his Philosophy’, they began their studies with the Little Epitome, which survives today as the Epistle to Herodotus, and then graduated to the Greater Epitome.”

The book has an educational objective and follows a chapter-and-verse format in order to facilitate reference and dignify the text of considerable historical value that it contains. It includes the Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, Letters to Menoeceus, Herodotus and Pythocles, Chronicles of the Scholarchs, and nine reasonings based on the Herculaneum scrolls. The introduction, translation and study guide are by Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Friends of Epicurus and author of Tending the Epicurean Garden/Cultivando el jardín epicúreo.

Ancient Epicureans made up an atomist School of philosophy recognized for its insistence that all reasoning should always refer to evidence, and were pioneers of modern scientific thought. They were among the first to propose the existence of the atom, photons, and the theories of natural selection and relativity. They also taught a secular ethics of happiness, and were the only ancient School that allowed women among their pupils.

Esperanto is an artificially created auxiliary language invented in the late 19th Century with the intention of serving as a politically-neutral secondary language, and of safeguarding linguistic diversity. It is the easiest to learn language in existence, with only sixteen grammar rules, no irregularities, and a vocabulary drawn mostly from Romance languages.

Epitomo is available directly from CreateSpace, from Amazon, and other sources. For more information, contact the author/translator Hiram Crespo, via e-mail at autarch@societyofepicurus.com.

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Society of Friends of Epicurus
info@societyofepicurus.com
societyofepicurus.com –  sociedadepicuro.wordpress.com

About SoFE: The Friends of Epicurus promote naturalist philosophy with the goal of securing the continuity of the wisdom tradition of Epicurus of Samos and all the later Epicurean intellectuals. They do this through interviews, books, memes, and articles. Other pages by Epicureans include NewEpicurean.com, afewdaysinathens.com, and ElementalEpicureanism.com.
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Tending the Epicurean Garden, by Hiram Crespo

The following is the English-language translation of the Spanish-language review of the book Tending the Epicurean Garden, in its first Spanish edition, which was originally written by Alan Furth for the Las Indias Blog.

Following the publication of the English translation of David’ post on Epicurus (“Fraternity, subversion, pigs and asparagus“), we contacted Hiram Crespo, with whom we have since maintained an enriching conversation about the role that Epicurean philosophy can play in the revival of the ancient therapeutic function of philosophy, a role that is becoming increasingly necessary in a world in accelerated decomposition.

Hiram is the founder of the Society of Friends of Epicurus and has just published a book that I had the pleasure of reading over the past two weeks.

The book is a condensed but comprehensive introduction to the basic principles and practice of Epicurean philosophy. But it also provides an interesting interpretation of the teachings of Epicurus from the point of view of positive psychology, neuroscience and other scientific disciplines that today corroborate much of the legacy of the master. Given the prominence of Epicurus as one of the first philosophers to defend the need to study science to get rid of our irrational fears, this aspect of the book is itself a tribute to his memory. One can not help thinking that, were he alive today, he would have expanded the focus of his teachings to address these issues.

The Road to Ataraxia

epicurusThroughout the book, Hiram breaks down the elements that Epicurus regarded as indispensable to achieve ataraxia, that state of imperturbability and serenity that would allow his disciples to live a genuinely pleasant life.

The road to ataraxia that Epicurus invites us to tread is fundamentally minimalist: although we are not called to give up the “kinetic” pleasures–those pleasures we enjoy as a result of achieving a more or less structured plan of action, like playing, engaging in sports, eating, drinking, or having sex–, those are considered secondary and potentially dangerous for their ability to cause restlessness, addictions, and generally to divert us away from ataraxia, particularly if they degenerate into a pursuit of the more destructive unnatural and unnecessary desires, like the lust for power, fame, glory and other delusions.

By contrast, Epicurus considers the “katastematic” or stable (abiding) pleasures to be essential. These are defined as those that nurture a state of inner harmony through the absence of pain of body and soul–a “soul” that is defined here in a strictly naturalistic sense, understood as the and neurological or nervous system, as everything that today we refer to as the psyche of an individual. And to eliminate the pain of the soul, Epicurus proposed several basic remedies, among which are philosophical reflection and cultivation of friendship, of true community.

The Analyzed Life 

For Epicurus, philosophical reflection was primarily aimed at freeing us from prejudices and irrational beliefs that become a source of anxiety and fears of all kinds. Perhaps the best known example is his argument against the fear of death, but the general idea is that irrational passions–from excessive appetite for food and sex to irascibility and arrogance–generally are based on irrational beliefs, and that if we clarify the contradictions inherent in these beliefs, we will be liberated from the tyranny of the passions which support them.

Hiram also reminds us that much of this capacity to analyze our lives has to do with the simple–but not always easy–task of learning to focus our attention and direct it so that we may become aware of our habits and automatic forms of behavior: the analysed life is not necessarily only based on an advanced development of the faculties of reflection beyond the proper control of attention. This is perhaps one of the reasons why contemporary movements, like existential minimalism, are largely dedicated to the cultivation of mindfulness in a hyper-connected world that is increasingly full of banal distractions. But while in the blogosphere of existential minimalism, metaphors and meditation exercises inspired by Zen Buddhism abound, Hiram’s book reminds us that there is no need to go beyond our own very rich tradition of Western thought to find inspiration in this regard.

Attention is the tool used by our minds to give us a model of reality: if we misuse it and let our minds dissipate in every direction like a running river, we’ll get lost in the cracks of inertia and habit. By living according to our firm resolve to create pleasant lives and by paying attention, we make sure that is it we who captain the boat of the mind, and not the pirates of our unconscious tendencies.

The purest happiness requires full attention and is a way of being, not a way of thinking or seeking. At the moment that we make the observation that we are happy, we are moving away … from our experience through the act of observing it, and if we were, for example, entranced dancing and listening to music … now the experience is less ecstatic. The bubble breaks.

The calculated and rational hedonistic theory of philosophy is vehemently opposed to the hedonism of instant gratification commonly practiced today, which is not Epicurean at all. It requires a preliminary process of introspection, to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary desires.

Friendship

David (de Ugarte) reminded us in his post that, above all else, what made Epicurus truly subversive was his strong sense of communal fraternity:

Like the Mithraics, who seem to have been influenced (by Epicurus) to a lesser extent than the Stoics, the Epicureans seem to intuit Dunbar‘s number. Not only are they preaching the apolitical stance, but they divide their communities so as to not be so many that fraternity can not be enjoyed, which in practice seems to be as important as freedom for the pursuit of happiness.

The fact that Hiram is committed to the growth of the Society of Friends of Epicurus already speaks for itself, but also in his book he makes it clear that he could not agree more with David regarding the prominence of fraternity as a fundamental value of Epicurean philosophy:

It is one thing to read and learn these lessons from a book, but quite another to learn them from close friends who wish us well, who express this affection, and remind us that death is nothing to us. This wholesome friendship makes all the difference. The experience of the teachings of philosophy is much more comforting when it’s acquired in the context of affiliation.

That is why Epicurean therapy only can be lived fully and concisely within a community of like-minded friends, and the task of building and nurturing a network of such friends should be seen as one of the most important long-term projects for every Epicurean philosopher.

Synthetic Happiness

One of the reflections that I like the most about Hiram’s book is the way in which he rescues the concept of “synthetic happiness” as posed by Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, in light of Epicurean philosophy.

In his book, Gilbert demonstrates an enormous amount of empirical evidence–experimental and otherwise–according to which the human being has a kind of psychological immune system that allows us to maintain a stable level of psychic well-being regardless of external circumstances. For example, Gilbert refers to a study that analyzed data measuring the levels of psychological well-being of people who have won millions in the lottery and comparing them with those of people left paraplegic.

Surprisingly, the study concludes that differences in welfare levels of both groups are not significant after a year of winning the lottery or losing a limb. That’s why Gilbert tells us that happiness is synthetic: our psyche has the ability to manufacture it regardless of external events, and the quality of that manufactured happiness is as genuine as that obtained when one stumbles upon a lucky event in life. Happiness is not something we have to strive to find: it is the natural state of a truly healthy psyche.

This TED talk transmits a clearer picture of what Gilbert wants to convey in his book, and illustrates other interesting experiments that support his theory.

One of the fundamental conclusions that Gilbert arrives at in his book, is that the fact that we are surprised to learn that paraplegics are as happy as the lucky winners of a million dollar lottery, says a lot about how likely we are to have a strong irrational bias that prevents us from predicting the factors that contribute genuinely to our happiness.

As a corollary of this conclusion, one might then ask about the socio-cultural factors that reinforce this irrational bias which, ultimately, prevent us from seeing what Epicurus has been telling us for centuries, and which is right under our noses: that pleasure is easy to obtain and suffering is easy to bear.

And it almost irresistibly evident that among the socio-cultural factors that reinforce this bias are the artificially inflated production scales which are predominant in crony capitalism. Or as Gilbert puts it in his TED talk:

Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we want, and synthetic happiness is what we manufacture when we do not get what we want. And in our society, we have a strong bias to believe that synthetic happiness is of an inferior quality. And why do we have that belief? Well, it’s very simple. What kind of economic engine would work if we believed that not getting what you want can make us as happy as getting it?

It is an extremely interesting question. And our attempts to answer it will surely continue to generate discussions that will enrich the discourse on what it means to live an interesting life: a pleasant life like the one that Epicurus invites us to live.

Originally written by Alan Furth for the Las Indias Blog.

Further Reading from the Las Indias collective:

The Book of Community (SoFE Review here)

The Communard Manifesto (On New Paradigms of Communal Production)

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Book Review of Epicureans and Apikorsim

The following is a review of the book Epicurus & Apikorsim by Yaakov Malkin.

Do not fear the Gods. – Philodemus of Gadara
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

Apikorsim is the term used in the rabbinic Judaism for a heretic. The word originates in the term Epicurean, and testifies to the huge threat that Epicurus’ doctrine posed to the religious life of the Jews during the hellenistic era. In fact, it was the intense hellenization of Judea that prompted the radicalization of religious Jews under the Maccabees, and Philonides of Laodicea contributed to this process as an Epicurean missionary.

When I began reading the book, after watching a video where the author seems to refer to Apikorsim as just a euphemism for secularism, I wanted to know whether he had a clear understanding of Epicurean doctrine. I did not find an introduction to Epicurus’ canon, but I was very happy to find that, early in the book, Malkin accurately explains the physics and the ethics of Epicurus. After finishing the book, I believe that the lack of thorough familiarity with the canon was a minor weakness, as it would have helped him to much better articulate why we Epicureans believe what we believe, and it would have helped to more clearly express some of the ideas in the book. He mentions the “principles of justice”, for instance, but no clear details are given and no mention is made of hedonic calculus.

He also accentuates the importance of friendship, and even cites the moral example of Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the Secular Humanist Jewish denomination who beautifully embodied the ideals of friendship in his own life. This is in line with both Epicurean and Jewish traditions: in Israel, the rabbis are frequently treated as pop celebrities. Like other Jewish denominations, SHJ also boasts compilations of traditions, interpretations, anecdotes and teachings by humanist rabbis which comprise their own separate wisdom tradition within Judaism.

After doing this, he is concerned to show Apikorsim not always as Epicureans in the full doctrinal sense, but as a sister historical tradition to hellenistic Epicureanism, one descended from it yet distinct, and characterised by being an affront to orthodox Jewish religious views, as well as by the tension between being part of a people and being an individual with views that are at odds with the majority of one’s people. Like many other aspects of Judaism, concerned as it was initially with God’s supposed role in history, the Apikorsim identity for Malkin is a historical narrative, an atheistic counter-history of Judaism. When detailing the specific beliefs of the Apikorsim, Malkin cites three main points.

  1. Belief in free choice and in man’s sovereignty
  2. The importance of enjoyment and in bettering life; in fact, elsewhere he characterizes Epicureanism as a philosophy that improves life
  3. Belief in the prudent pursuit of pleasure

Concerning this last point of Apikorsim doctrine, Malkin defends it and says that happiness is anti-religion, that it is un-Christian, a provocation of the church. Hedonism is recognized as another key point of contention with religion.

Apikorsim can in theory be as orthodox as any other Epicurean, although they do not strictly have to be Epicurean in Milken’s narrative–he cites the rabbis arguing that Spinoza was “the greatest of the Apikorsim”, which again reminds us that the Apikorsim label originates with the rabbis. Orthodox or not, they are kindred spirits, and the cross-fertilization of Epicurean and Jewish ideas is facilitated by a shared iconoclastic (idol-smashing) attitude in both traditions, which encouraged the Apikorsim to smash the Jewish god like the last idol standing long before Nietzsche and Richard Dawkins made the clarion call to do so.

One key argument the author makes is that Jewish culture has always been diverse and boasts a lively non-religious and anti-clerical intellectual tradition, one that was at one point greatly influenced by the ideas of Epicurus, that replaced the centrality of God in Judaism with the laws of nature, and that sees orthodox Judaism as “a mythological culture”.

It becomes clear as we read this book that apikorsim is a label and identity that was initially imposed by hostile religious Jews with derision, that is it is imposed from outside by rabbis (the so-called “sages of the Talmud”) who cursed and argued against the Apikorsim amongst them, but then the author takes the historical label used generically for atheistic Jews throughout history, and wears it proudly. He argues that atheistic Jews have always existed, and that they’re also part of Judaism, that Jews are not a people of only one religion or only one philosophy. Apikorsim are now out and proud as one of the philosophical tribes who have always existed at the margins of Judaism for millenia, as attested in ancient writings.

Some of the assertions of the book seem a bit forced. Ecclesiastes and Job are characterized as Epicurean works. Judging from the initial quotes in my review, it’s easy to admit similarities and influence, but difficult to argue that Ecclesiastes is an Epicurean book in the strict sense. It does say that this is the one life, and that we should enjoy and be merry, and it does deny the existence of an afterlife. As for Job, Malkin argues that it rejects that god is just and says nature is neutral, that it is an existentialist and atheistic book where God makes a pact with the devil to destroy the life of Job. It depicts God as an anti-hero, a villain. This, again, seems forced as an argument that it’s an Epicurean work, as the teachings consider such evil fairy tales as impious.

Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. – Epistle to Menoeceus

One strong point of Epicurus & Apikorsim is the severe critique of Plato, who is frequently characterized as a totalitarian philosopher who has left a heinous legacy which influenced the Christian Empire during the Dark Ages and many other evil and authoritarian regimes throughout history. The author also frequently cites Norman DeWitt, and says that his “book is one of the most comprehensive” on the subject of Epicurus. DeWitt is, indeed, considered one of the most important scholars by traditional Epicureans, and a good one to read if we want to get a glimpse of Epicurus on his own terms.

One interesting thesis presented by the author says that Epicurean principles guide the way in which we approach the tensions between free market economy and the welfare state. He cites consumerism as an example of Epicurean influence in modern culture, which it is not, in fact it’s a sign of lack of Epicurean insight within the culture. Epicurus gave us a curriculum for controling our desires, and former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica specifically cites Epicurus as a role model against consumerist values. Malkin is right, however, to antagonize traditional religion’s irresponsible doctrine that unbridled reproduction without fighting poverty is a good idea. A healthy model of economic growth is always needed.

The thesis is interesting, and we concede many of his points. In fact one letter by the Epicurean American founding father Thomas Jefferson was recently dug up where he argued that capitalism required protections against war-profiteering. This has been a recent topic of discussion in the Epicurean facebook group.

Towards the end of the book, Malkin discusses the legacy of Hiwi Al-Balkhi, one of the great Apikorsim cultural heroes. His writings were preserved only by hostile sources arguing against the anti-religious points he made.

Afterthought and Conclusion: a Covenant of Friendship

One afterthought that occured to me, having read this great volume, has to do with Epicurean contractarianism and what it may contribute to SHJ’s way of articulating its own identity within a legalistic, covenant-based tradition such as Judaism. In religious Judaism, the covenant comes from God and is imposed against the will of the “chosen”. A secular appropriation and re-interpretation of the covenant might be what Michel Onfray calls the “hedonic covenant”, where “I promote your pleasure in order to secure my own”. Might the secular humanist denomination of Judaism be able and willing to apply the contractarian theory to develop a working model of communitarian ethics, and to articulate in contractarian terms what kind of community it seeks to become?

Mitzvot (duties, commandments) are a central concept in Judaism, however they cannot emerge from God in a secular covenant of free men and women, but only from free agents engaging in binding contracts and oaths, so that if someone makes an agreement with others to follow this or that rule, then Apikorsim mitzvot are born. Otherwise, it is problematic to argue for a duty-based ethics without God or some kind of (potentially oppressive) caste system. A covenant of friendship might set the terms not only for what courtesies the members of SHJ owe each other, but also for what celebrations and traditions they will carry forward as choosing Jews, and can also serve to explore the nature of egalitarian friendship in clear terms. It would be an opportunity to philosophize around the pleasures of friendship. What could be more Epicurean?

Epicurus & Apikorsim is an important contribution to the history of Epicurean ideas, and unfortunately also the history of the persecution and violence that these ideas have encountered by the religious authorities. It’s also a proud affirmation of their value, and even reaffirms the theory that Epicureanism is, indeed, a kind of religious identity on par with Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the rest. And like all identities, it is reinforced when for its sake people experience violence and abuse from others, as has been the case with the Apikorsim.

Finally, the book is also an affirmation of Jewishness, and of Jewish resilience and survival. Ataraxia here becomes Shalom, and natural philosophy syncretizes with cultural traditions unique to one people, seeking to reconcile the unending tension between nature and culture.

Judaism is unique in that it’s not just a religious tradition: it’s also ethnic and cultural, the product of a complicated history. Non-religious Jews have frequently felt like strangers in a strange land governed by superstition and religion, oftentimes hated by their religious peers. In fact, the author of Epicurus & Apikorsim recently received threats as a result of his work promoting secularism in Israel. In the end, Malkin’s work and the work of the SHJ denomination is meant to preserve the culturally-Jewish identity of secular Jews, whom the orthodox Jewish authorities oftentimes scare away. Apikorsim is, after all, part of the Jewish experience.

Further Reading:

Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed

Tending the Garden

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Ĉefaj Doktrinoj

1. Sankta kaj nedetruebla estaĵo ne havas malfacilaĵojn nek kreas problemojn por aliaj estaĵoj; do ĝi liberas je kolero kaj partieco, tio implikas malforton.

2. Morto estas nenio al ni; ĉar tio, kio estis solvita en ties elementoj ne spertas sentojn, kaj tio kio ne havas sentojn estas nenio al ni.

3. La grando de plezuro atingas sian limon kiam ĉia doloro estas forigita. Kiam tia plezuro ĉeestas, kiam ajn sen interrompo, neniu doloro ekzistas korpe aŭ mense.

4. Kontinua korpa doloro ne daŭras longe. Kontraŭe, doloro, se ekstrema, daŭras mallongan tempon, kaj eĉ tia nivelo de doloro kiu surkreskas ete la korpan plezuron ne daŭras multajn tagojn. La longtempaj malsanoj permesas troon de korpa plezuro super doloro.

5. Estas neeble vivi agrablan vivon sen vivi saĝe, honore kaj juste, kaj estas neeble vivi saĝe, noble kaj juste sen vivi agrable. Kiam ajn unu el tiuj mankas–ekzemple, se homo ne povas vivi saĝe kvankam li vivas noble aŭ juste–, estas neeble vivi agrablan vivon.

6. Ajna metodo serĉata por protekti sin de aliaj homoj, estas natura bonaĵo.

7. Kelkaj homoj volas famon kaj rangon, pensante ke tiel ili sekuriĝos kontraŭ aliaj homoj. Se la vivo de tiaj homoj vere sekuras, ili akiris naturan bonaĵon. Tamen, se ĝi ne sekuras, ili ne akiris la celon ke la naturo mem origine faris ilin serĉi.

8. Neniu plezuro estas malbona afero en si mem, sed aferoj produktitaj de iaj plezuroj enhavas tumultojn multfoje pligrandajn ol la plezuroj mem.

9. Se ĉia plezuro estus amasigebla, ne nur tratempe sed tra la tuta korpo aŭ almenaŭ tra la plej gravaj partoj de nia naturo, tiam la plezuroj neniam diferencus inter ili.

10. Se la aferoj kiuj plezurigas la homojn senregajn vere liberigus ilin el la mensaj timoj pri la ĉielaj kaj atmosferaj fenomenoj, la timo de morto kaj la timo de doloro; ja, se plue ili instruus al tiuj homoj pri kiel limigi siajn dezirojn, ni neniam devus trovi erarojn en tiaj homoj, ĉar ili tiam estus plezurplenaj el ĉiu fonto kaj neniam havus doloron korpan aŭ mensan, kiu estas la malbonaĵoj.

11. Se ni neniam ĝeniĝus pri la ĉielaj kaj atmosferaj fenomenoj, nek pri’l timo de morto aŭ pri nia nescio de’l limoj de doloroj kaj deziroj, ni ne bezonus sciencon naturan.

12. Estas neeble forigi la timojn pri la plej gravaj aferoj se oni ne konas la naturon de’l aĵoj, sed ankoraŭ donas ian krediton al la mitoj. Do sen studi la naturon ne ekzistas ĝuo de’l pura plezuro.

13. Ne ekzistas avantaĝo en akiri protekton kontraŭ aliaj homoj dum ni alarmiĝas pri la okazaĵoj sub kaj sur la tero, aŭ ĝenerale per ia ajn okazaĵo en la senfina universo.

14. La protekto kontraŭ aliaj homoj, atingitaj iagrade per la povo forpeli kaj per materiala prospero, en ĝia plej pura formo devenas el trankvila vivo for de la homamaso.

15. La riĉeco nature bezonata estas limigita kaj facile havebla; sed la riĉeco volata per vantaj idealoj etendas senfine.

16. Sorto malofte sin intermetas kun la saĝulo; liaj plej grandaj kaj plej altaj interesoj estis, estas kaj estos direktitaj per la rezono dum sia tuta vivo.

17. La justulo estas la plej senĝena, dum la maljustulo esta la plej ĝenplena.

18. La korpa plezuro ne pliiĝas kiam oni forigas mankodoloron; poste ĝi nur subtenas variadon. La limo de la mensplezuro tamen atingeblas kiam oni pripensas tiajn korpajn plezurojn kaj siajn rilatajn emociojn, kiuj kutimis kaŭzi al la menso la plej egajn alarmojn.

19. La tempoj limigita kaj senlima ambaŭ donas egalan kvanton de plezuro, se oni mezuras la limojn de’l plezuro rezone.

20. La karno ricevas kiel senlimaj la limojn de’l plezuro; kaj por ilin postuli oni bezonas senliman tempon. Sed la menso, komprenante la celon kaj limon de la karno, kaj forigante la terurojn pri’l estonteco, havendas kompletan kaj perfektan vivon, kaj oni ne plu bezonas senliman tempon. Tamen, la menso ne rifuzas la plezuron, kaj eĉ kiam cirkonstancoj faras la morton tuja, la menso ne mankas ĝuon de’l plejbonvivo.

21. Tiu kiu komprenas la limojn de’l vivo scias ke estas facile atingi kion forigas la mankodoloron, kaj kompletigas kaj perfektigas la tutan vivon. Tiel oni ne plu necesas l’aĵojn kiuj postulas lukton.

22. Ni devas konsideri la finfinan celon kaj repacigi ĉiujn niajn opiniojn kun la klara sensa evidenteco; alie ĉio estos plena je necerteco kaj konfuzo.

23. Se oni luktas kontraŭ siaj sentoj, oni ne havas normon al kiu rilati, kaj do neniel povas juĝi eĉ tion, kion asertas esti falsa.

24. Se oni malakceptas ajnan percepton sen halti por distingi inter siaj opinioj sur tio, kio jam estis konfirmita kiel ĉeestanta ĉu en emocioj aŭ sentoj aŭ ajna alia apliko de’l intelekto al la prezentoj, oni konfuzas la reston de siaj perceptoj kaŭze de opinioj sen fundamento kaj malakceptas ĉian normon de vero. Se oni rapide konkludas, ke estas konfirmataj la ideoj bazataj je opinio, ĉu oni atendas konfirmon aŭ ne, oni eraros, ĉar oni daŭrigos ĉian kialon por dubo en ĉia juĝo inter la prava kaj malprava opinioj.

25. Se oni ne ĉiam rilatas ĉiajn siajn agojn al la finfina celo establita de’l naturo, sed en siaj decidoj kaj nefaroj elektas alian celon, siaj agoj ne estos konsekvencaj kun siaj teorioj.

26. Ĉiuj deziroj kiuj ne kondukas al doloro kiam ili restas nesataj estas nenecesaj, sed la deziro estas facile forigebla kiam la afero dezirata estas malfacile akirebla aŭ kiam la deziroj ŝajnas kunporti la eblon damaĝi.

27. El ĉiuj rimedoj kiujn akiras la saĝeco por feliĉon certe havi tra la vivo, senkompare la plej grava estas la amikeco.

28. La sama konvinko kiu inspiras konfidon, ke nenio timenda estas eterna aŭ eĉ longdaŭra, ankaŭ montras al ni, ke el la limigitaj malbonoj de tiu ĉi vivo, nenio pli sekurigas nin ol la amikeco.

29. El niaj deziroj, kelkaj estas naturaj kaj necesaj, aliaj estas naturaj sed nenecesaj; kaj aliaj estas nek naturaj nek necesaj, sed estas pro senbazaj opinioj.

30. Tiaj naturaj deziroj kiuj alportas neniun doloron se oni ne satigas ilin, malgraŭ esti serĉataj intenspene, ankaŭ kaŭzatas pro senbazaj opinioj; kaj homoj malsukcesas forigi ilin, ne pernature sed per la opinioj senbazaj de’l homamasoj.

31. Natura justeco estas reciproke utila interkonsento por eviti ke oni estu damaĝata aŭ ke oni damaĝu la aliajn.

32. Tiuj estaĵoj kiuj estas nekapablaj fari interkonsentojn kun aliaj por ne kaŭzi suferadon nek vundiĝi konas nek justecon nek maljustecon; kaj la sama por tiuj kiuj estis nekapablaj aŭ nevolaj eniri en ĉi tiujn interkonsentojn.

33. Neniam ekzistis ia absoluta justeco, nur reciprokaj interkonsentoj inter homoj de malsamaj lokoj kaj tempoj kiuj evitis esti damaĝataj aŭ damaĝi la aliajn.

34. Maljusteco ne estas malbono en si mem, sed nur en konsekvenco de la timo asociita kun esti eltrovota per administrantoj por puni tiajn agojn.

35. Estas neeble por homo kiu sekrete malobservas la kondiĉojn de interkonsento ne damaĝi aŭ esti damaĝitaj, ke li sentu certecon ke li restos neeltrovota, eĉ se li jam eskapis dekmil fojojn; sed eĉ ĝis sia morto oni neniam certiĝos ke oni ne estos detektata.

36. Ĝenerale, la justeco estas la sama por ĉiuj, ĉar ĝi estas bazita sur reciproka avantaĝo en homaj aferoj, sed en sia apliko al apartaj lokoj aŭ cirkonstancoj, la justeco ne nepre estas la sama por ĉiuj.

37. Inter la aĵoj kiujn la leĝo konsideras justaj, ĉio kio estas pruvita avantaĝa en la homaferoj havas la stampon de justeco, ĉu tio estas la sama por ĉiuj; sed se homo faras leĝon kaj ne pruvas ke ĝi reciproke profitas, ĝi ne plu estas justa. Kaj se tio, kio reciproke avantaĝas, varias kaj nur mallonge samas al nia koncepto de justeco, tamen dum tiu tempo estas justa laŭ tiuj kiuj ne sin koncernas kun malplenaj vortoj sed nur rigardas la faktojn.

38. Kie, sen ekzisti ŝanĝo de cirkonstancoj, aperas ke aferoj konsideritaj justaj per la leĝo ne samas al la koncepto de justeco en praktiko, tie tiaj leĝoj ne vere justas; sed kie ajn la leĝoj ĉesis esti avantaĝaj pro ŝanĝo de cirkonstancoj, tiukaze la leĝoj estis justaj dum la tempo ke ili estis reciproke utilaj por la civitanoj, kaj ĉesis esti justaj kiam ili ne plu estis avantaĝaj.

39. La homo kiu plej bone scias alfronti eksterajn minacojn faras familion el ĉiu ajn kiun li eblas familiigi; kaj tiuj, kiuj oni ne povas unuigi al si, oni tamen ne ilin havu kiel fremduloj; kaj kiam oni trovas ke eĉ tio neeblas, oni evitu ĉian kontakton kun ili, kaj dum la tempo kiam tio avantaĝos, ekskludas ilin el sia vivo.

40. Tiuj kiuj havas la povon defendi sin kontraŭ minacoj de siaj najbaroj, havante la plej certan garantion de sekureco, vivas la plej agrablan vivon unu kun aliaj; kaj tia estas sia ĝuo kompleta de intimeco, ke se unu el ili mortas antaŭtempe, la aliaj ne lamentos sian morton kvazaŭ tio postulus domaĝon.

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Cosma Raimondi: The Rebirth of Epicurean Fervor

In a letter written in 1429, Cosma Raimondi–a native of Cremona in Lombardy, Italy who later migrated to France to teach–was one of the early Renaissance humanists who defended Epicurus against the Stoics, Platonists, and Aristotelians in an early epistolary treatise in defense of Epicurus and of virtuous pleasure. His letter–a translation of which is available from New Epicurean–and the fervor with which it was written, stand out as symptoms of the dawn of the Enlightenment. It’s titled A Letter to Ambrogio Tignosi in Defence of Epicurus against the Stoics, Academics and Peripatetics, and it was intended for an apostate who had at one point been Epicurean but had abandoned the Epicurean camp.

This indicates that they belonged to a circle of friends in the Italy of the early 15th Century that had an intellectually rich life and, in fact, he was a pupil of the well-known humanist teacher Gasparino Barzizza.

It is not just a dispute between ourselves, for all the ancient philosophers, principally the three sects of Academics, Stoics and Aristotelians, declared war to the death against this one man who was the master of them all. Their onslaught sought to leave no place for him in philosophy and to declare all his opinions invalid in my view, because they were envious at seeing so many more pupils taking themselves to the school of Epicurus than to their own.

Immediately, one feature stands out which reminds us of Jefferson’s epistle to William Short: his fervor for the doctrine. Jefferson refers to Epicurus as his Master and to himself as a pupil, and a true and passionate one who must defend the Master. In Jefferson’s letter, we find the author arguing in favor of the true, not the imputed teachings of Epicurus.

Cosma begins his arguments by ridiculing the Stoic view that virtue is the source of human happiness, and that even if a man is being tortured by the cruellest butchers, that he can still be happy.  The author calls this view absurd and dismisses it as obviously and self-evidently false.

How again could you be further from any sort of happiness than to lack all or most of the things that themselves make up happiness? The Stoics think that someone who is starving and lame and afflicted with all the other disadvantages of health or external circumstances is nonetheless in a state of perfect felicity as long as he can display his virtue.

He then goes on to question the neglect of the flesh, of the body, which goes along with the rejection of pleasure and the exaltation of virtue, as problematic.

Why do they consider only the mind and neglect the body, when the body houses the mind and is the other half of what man is?

And in the same way that the body is not to be thought healthy when some part of it is sick, so man himself cannot be thought happy if he is suffering in some part of himself. As for their assigning happiness to the mind alone on the grounds that it is in some sense the master and ruler of mans body, it is quite absurd to disregard the body when the mind itself often depends on the state and condition the body and indeed can do nothing without it. Should we not deride someone we saw sitting on a throne and calling himself a king when he had no courtiers or servants? Should we think someone a fine prince whose servants were slovenly and misshapen?

The Stoics’ lack of concern for bodily integrity, which comes adorned with an air of fortitude and nobility, constitutes to a great extent lack of compassion on the one hand, and on the other hand it produces, in its practical effects, indifference towards injustices and evils that may be committed against innocent persons. Together with the arbitrary and unqualified elevation of apathy and resignation to the status of virtues, this leads to a lifestyle that impedes the addressing of grievances and is in huge contrast with the approach that we see in Philodemus’ scroll On Anger, which calls for the compassionate treatment of anger and indignation as a source of insight and as an excuse for reformation and change.

By requiring the silence and consent of our emotions, Stoicism holds its victims hostage to fate even when things might be done to address grievances and to challenge evil, dangerous and harmful paradigms. Without finding useful and pragmatic outlets for anger, there would have been no civil rights movement, no Stonewall riots, no possibility of redemption from injustices.

The rationalizing of dangerous, cruel and irrelevant so-called moral views divorced from the study of nature also produces a kind of alienation from nature. Or perhaps this rationalizing is produced by alienation? Cosma makes the observation:

I find it surprising that these clever Stoics did not remember when investigating the subject that they themselves were men. Their conclusions came not from what human nature demanded but from what they could contrive in argument.

Cosma then visits all the senses and comments on how they like to dwell on the sensory objects that are aesthetically pleasing. He takes a moment to notice the self-evident truths of hedonistic naturalism. He does not rationalize these pleasures, or link them to theories such as natural selection. He also does not deny mental pleasures, in fact he includes them in his contemplation. He then concludes:

Epicurus was right, then, to call pleasure the supreme good, since we are so constituted as almost to seem designed for that purpose. We also have a certain inherent mental disposition to seek and attain pleasure: as far as we can, we try to be happy and not sad.

Cosma also makes indirect mention of the doctrine of confident expectation, which indicates that we derive ataraxia not only from friends, philosophy, and other pleasures, but from the confident expectation that our friends will be there if we need them, that the necessary and natural goods are easy to attain, etc. This, together with his indication that virtue derives its value from the pleasure it brings, indicates the author’s deep insight into Epicurean ethics.

If virtue brings no pleasure or delight, why should we want it or make much of it? But if it does, why not concede that the greatest of all goods what should seek above all is that for the sake of which virtue itself is desirable

Since Epicurus does not suppose that life should be lived without virtue, I do not think he leads the life of animals. So he is not to be shunned like some traitor who would overthrow or pervert human society. He does not corrupt public morals; his whole doctrine is instead directed at making us as happy as we can be.

The epistle closes with an invitation to return back to the philosophy that Ambrogio had once, like Cosma, embraced and defended, and with a regretful declaration that, due to limited time, he was unable to cover more points.

Further Reading:

A Letter to Ambrogio Tignosi in Defence of Epicurus against the Stoics, Academics and Peripatetics, translated by Martin Davies

Review of The Book of Community

The following five reasonings comprise, together, a long and in-depth review of The Book of Community, by the collective of bloggers known as Los Indianos.

The members of Las Indias make up a coop whose communal experiments have been inspired, in part, by Epicurus’ Garden, and who have written in the past about Epicurean philosophy. In my exchanges with them, many new insights have emerged that expand our understanding of key Epicurean concepts.

One of the most fruitful conversations has been the natural community discourse, which differentiates between Platonic, imagined communities versus real, inter-subjective and interpersonal communities. This distinction is much more crucial than we may initially think. Indianos argue against involvement in politics based on the view that it replaces natural community with Platonic, imagined identities that do not necessarily constitute real communal life, real conversation and interaction. They even argue that Epicurean cosmopolitanism was a reaction again the citizen identity conferred by the polis–city-state–and that the early Gardens constituted communal experiments timidly suggestive of the ideals of statelessness. While reading the book, further insights emerged on the subject of natural community. Here is a quote from the review:

The Book of Community, among other things, expands on a conversation that inspired me to blog about natural community based on some of the insights that the Indianos have shared on their blog … Indianos interestingly cite how in 1993, Robin Dunbar published a study that predicted “the maximum size of a human group” to be 147.8. This is known as the Dunbar number, interpreted as “the cognitive limit in the number of individuals with whom any person can maintain stable relationships“. This seems to not only vindicate the doctrine on natural community which was initially formulated as a result of my exchange with the Indianos, but also attaches a specific number of individuals to the size of a natural community.

In the book, they explain in detail the lathe biosas teaching on why political involvement is bad for organic communities because manufactured narratives tend to compete with communal ones, they call for the use of ceremony in order to strengthen community, they celebrate autarchy and criticize the narrative of the “common good”. Please enjoy the five-part series of articles on community.

Part I: Book Review
Part II: Community Vs. Polis
Part III: Ceremony
Part IV: On Productive Autonomy
Part V: Learning in Community

Further Reading:

The Book of Community: A practical guide to working and living in community, by Los Indianos (Author), English translation by Steve Herrick

Fraternity, Subversion, Pigs, and Asparagus

Las Indias’ Review of Tending the Epicurean Garden (in Spanish)

The Epicurean Wise Man

Epicurus, on the qualities of a Wise Man, as cited by Diogenes Laertius in Lives of Eminent Philosophers

Before quoting his words, however, let me go into the views of Epicurus himself and his school concerning the wise man.

There are three motives to injurious acts among men–hatred, envy, and contempt ; and these the wise man overcomes by reason. Moreover, he who has once become wise never more assumes the opposite habit, not even in semblance, if he can help it. He will be more susceptible of emotion than other men : that will be no hindrance to his wisdom. However, not every bodily constitution nor every nationality would permit a man to become wise.

[118] Even on the rack the wise man is happy. He alone will feel gratitude towards friends, present and absent alike, and show it by word and deed. When on the rack, however, he will give vent to cries and groans. As regards women he will submit to the restrictions imposed by the law, as Diogenes says in his epitome of Epicurus’ ethical doctrines. Nor will he punish his servants ; rather he will pity them and make allowance on occasion for those who are of good character. The Epicureans do not suffer the wise man to fall in love ; nor will he trouble himself about funeral rites; according to them love does not come by divine inspiration : so Diogenes in his twelfth book. The wise man will not make fine speeches. No one was ever the better for sexual indulgence, and it is well if he be not the worse.

[119] Nor, again, will the wise man marry and rear a family : so Epicurus says in the Problems and in the De Natura. Occasionally he may marry owing to special circumstances in his life. Some too will turn aside from their purpose. Nor will he drivel, when drunken : so Epicurus says in the Symposium. Nor will he take part in politics, as is stated in the first book On Life ; nor will he make himself a tyrant ; nor will he turn Cynic (so the second book On Life tells us) ; nor will he be a mendicant. But even when he has lost his sight, he will not withdraw himself from life : this is stated in the same book. The wise man will also feel grief, according to Diogenes in the fifth book of his Epilecta. And he will take a suit into court. [120] He will leave written words behind him, but will not compose panegyric. He will have regard to his property and to the future.

He will be fond of the country. He will be armed against fortune and will never give up a friend. He will pay just so much regard to his reputation as not to be looked down upon. He will take more delight than other men in state festivals.

The wise man will set up votive images. Whether he is well off or not will be matter of indifference to him. Only the wise man will be able to converse correctly about music and poetry, without however actually writing poems himself. One wise man does not move more wisely than another. And he will make money, but only by his wisdom, if he should be in poverty, and he will pay court to a king, if need be. He will be grateful to anyone when he is corrected. He will found a school, but not in such a manner as to draw the crowd after him ; and will give readings in public, but only by request. He will be a dogmatist but not a mere sceptic ; and he will be like himself even when asleep. And he will on occasion die for a friend.

The school holds that sins are not all equal ; that health is in some cases a good, in others a thing indifferent ; that courage is not a natural gift but comes from calculation of expediency ; and that friendship is prompted by our needs. One of the friends, however, must make the first advances (just as we have to cast seed into the earth), but it is maintained by a partnership in the enjoyment of life’s pleasures.

[121] Two sorts of happiness can be conceived, the one the highest possible, such as the gods enjoy, which cannot be augmented, the other admitting addition and subtraction of pleasures.