Happy Twentieth of August to Epicureans everywhere! Here are some updates from the last 30 days.
This month we learned of the passing of educator Yaakov Malkin, who was the author of the book Epicurus & Apikorsim: The Influence of the Greek Epicurus and Jewish Apikorsim on Judaism. I had written a book review of this work back in 2016; in recent years he had received death threats for his work advancing secular values and his outspoken atheism. He once narrated that for his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, he helped to stage a trial against the biblical god for crimes against humanity. Malkin once gave a lecture titled Epicurus, Apikorsim and Sherwin Wine–where he discussed the intersection between atheistic Judaism and Epicureanism. Sherwin Wine is the founder of the Secular Humanist denomination of Judaism.
The El Paso Shooting
I read the racist manifesto by the El Paso shooter in order to write a piece for my column in El Nuevo Día, and noticed the lack of empathy / humanity, as well as how he made an appeal to cold, calculated LOGIC. He said it was only “logical” that genocide / a major loss in population needs to happen in order for the US to continue having its way of life.
This reminded me of Winds of Dune, a novel whose main character was also a sociopath who was unable to properly mourn her dead son as a result of her stoic Bene Gesserit training. Her moral compass was only fixed when she allowed herself the ability to feel normal EMOTIONS.
The key take-away is that feelings are an important component of our moral compass, and we can’t carry out our choices and avoidances successfully without healthy, normal feelings.
- How The Christians Wiped Out Epicureanism – a video
- Epicureanism and the Enjoyment of True Pleasures, by Fleur Southam-Hemmings, was uploaded to academia.edu. It has a few grammatical errors, And she might have benefited from reading John Thrasher’s essay on Epicurean contractarianism.
- Epicurean education and the rhetoric of concern by Sean McConnell is available at academia.edu
- Epicurean Text References To Life Beyond Earth
- Metrodorus On The Importance of A “Strong Constitution of Body”
- The Ethical Significance of Gratitude in Epicureanism, by Benjamin Rider.
- The Continuing Challenge of Epicureanism, by Michael Wilson, was written clearly from a hostile, Stoic perspective and, from the onset, uses Stoic figures and ideas as points of reference. There are also shocking errors–like the claim that Marcus Aurelius was Epicurean. While the essay is NOT written from an Epicurean perspective, it helps the critical student of philosophy to understand Stoic biased interpretations and criticism of Epicurus.
- Epicurus on Justice and the Virtues, by Phillip Mitsis, was uploaded on academia.
- Herculaneum Day is August 24. On this date in the year 79 of Common Era, Mount Vesuvius erupted and the library in Herculaneum was covered in volcanic ash. The scrolls from the library of Herculaneum are mostly works by Philodemus, but also by Polystratus and by Epicurus himself–and we know that the Epicurean poet Horace was also involved in the cultural activities there. Essays on Epicurus’ lectures / books On Nature (Books 1-9, 11-14, and 25 and 28) have been uploaded at Society of Epicurus. They are part summaries of key concepts and part commentaries.
- Animum nodis exsolvere: Unknotting the Mind and Freeing the Self from Self-Imposed Bonds, Part I, Part II, and Part III are an exploration by a Satanist blogger of Lucretius’ passage in De Rerum Natura which links religion with binding / knotting the mind.
Speaking of the devil: after a recent Black Mass was celebrated in Canada and a local Catholic archbishop likened it to hate speech, the spokesperson of The Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, replied saying:
Members of The Satanic Temple, and participants in the Black Mass, are, in the overwhelmingly large majority, individuals who grew up steeped in Judeo-Christian indoctrination and Abrahamic mythology. They are the inquisitive minority who saw in the story of Satan the spirit of rebellion against a petty and vengeful dictator, a liberator who encourages freedom through knowledge, in preference to servitude through dogmatism. They were, for the most part, subjected to religious conditioning at a young age, against any credible standards of consent, and now that very religious conditioning — and the symbols made relevant by its imposition — set the context for the affirmative values they have developed after rejecting the authority of “sacred” scriptures. One may not impose such a framework upon children and cry foul when some of them grow up to use those symbols as raw artistic cultural materials to express their evolution from superstition to rationalism. We are not invaders from beyond the gates, pillaging, stealing, and defacing the iconography of a foreign culture — we are products of the culture from which the symbols we have re-purposed hold deep metaphorical power, even as we reject their alleged supernatural effects.
Having been raised Catholic and having had that particular color of lies perpetrated against me when I was a child, I found Greaves’ reply most eloquent and accurate. This controversy reminds me of Norman DeWitt’s book St Paul and Epicurus, where he details the many ways in which early Christianity appropriated Epicurean literary and communal traditions in order to advance doctrines that are about as anti-Epicurean as Satanism is anti-Catholic. It’s possible that some Epicureans experienced Paul’s writings as hate speech, but were most likely willing to use humor or dismiss his small cult as irrelevant. Either way, it is interesting that the Christians, who once appropriated so much of Pagan cultures, claim to be indignant now that the symbols of their declining faith are being similarly appropriated against them.
For the earthquake- it choketh up many wells, it causeth much languishing: but it bringeth also to light inner powers and secrets. The earthquake discloseth new fountains. In the earthquake of old peoples new fountains burst forth. – Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra
Epicurean Friends Newsletter – April 2019