Reasonings on Community, Part II: Community Vs. Polis

If one wanted to inquire into what is most opposite to friendship, and the most fruitful of aversions, we would see simply that it is politics. – Philodemus

Las Indias argues that community exists for its own sake, and not for the sake of some other ideal (communism, socialism, monasticism, nation, etc.).

This is not exactly in opposition to Epicurus’ teaching that the natural end for an individual is pleasure. On the contrary, it seems aligned with the contractarian theories that call for a hedonic covenant: the maximizing of pleasure and minimizing of pain to be expanded into the communal realm. In their words, it’s for the sake of the individuals in the community that the community exists, and these individuals have names, faces, and their own personal histories, and it does not exist for the sake of ideals that may be served by the community.

Every instrumentalization of a community and of the people who form it is destructive.

The Epicureans were right: we’re not “political animals.” It’s not majority decisions or power games that make us more fully ourselves, but personal freedom based on responsibility, belonging, and learning with those with whom we have decided to live.

The Epicureans (knew that that a community must protect itself against many of the partisan battles of the polis … They) also created an overwhelming defense against the great theological stories. Today these gods have evolved into “imagined communities”: homeland, class, gender … But the effect is the same: to force the individual to show loyalty to imaginary beings with whom conversation and negotiation is impossible. And since conversation is impossible with a divinity, a country, or a social class, all of them are replaced with magical-symbolic objects ….

We return to the theme discussed in our reasonings on natural community, where it is contrasted against Platonic community, which is said to be “imagined”.

Lathe biosas–the “Live unknown” maxim taught by our founders that is often interpreted as a call for being apolitical–, is meant to render the state and political power, powerless in terms of it being unable to provide a useful philosophical narrative. Epicurus makes political theories irrelevant. In the community-centered interpretation of Epicurus, what we see is a new nuance in the hostility between the philosophers of the Garden and the philosophers of the polis, of the state.

Anarcho-capitalists, both of the left and right, might resonate with our reasonings about natural community and against the imagined community, as they are concerned with the premise that the state is perhaps unnecessary or irrelevant, perhaps a burden, and always an ideological threat to the continuity of communal experiments.

To accept nationalism means sooner or later accepting the subordination of the real community of work, life and affections to the imagined community of the nation.

The same is said of other meta-narratives like universalism, or the religious imperialism of the monotheistic faiths.

Further Reading:

Epicurean Arguments Against Racism

The Book of Community: A practical guide to working and living in community

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014), 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and Epicurus of Samos – His Philosophy and Life: All the principal Classical texts Compiled and Introduced by Hiram Crespo (Ukemi Audiobooks, 2020). He's the founder of, and has written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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15 Responses to Reasonings on Community, Part II: Community Vs. Polis

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