Bad Customs and Pretend Wisdom, Some Sayings of Epicurus

Extracts from Hermann Usener’s Epicurea [“Vatican Sayings“]

7. “It’s not hard to get away with an injustice; but it is impossible to be certain that you did.”

ἀδικοῦντα λαθεῖν μὲν δύσκολον, πίστιν δὲ λαβεῖν ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαθεῖν ἀδύνατον.

11. “Being at rest makes most people feel dead, but action makes them crazy.”

τῶν πλείστων ἀνθρώπων τὸ μὲν ἡσυχάζον ναρκᾷ, τὸ δὲ κινούμενον λυττᾷ.

16. “No one chooses evil when they recognize it, but they are deceived into believing it is good compared to a greater evil and get trapped.”

οὐδεὶς βλέπων τὸ κακὸν αἱρεῖται αὐτό, ἀλλὰ δελεασθεὶς ὡς ἀγαθῷ πρὸς τὸ μεῖζον αὐτοῦ κακὸν ἐθηρεύθη.

19. “Whoever disregards yesterday’s good has grown old today.”

τοῦ γεγονότος ἀμνήμων ἀγαθοῦ γέρων τήμερον γεγένηται.

23. “Each friendship is a virtue on its own, although it began from seeking advantage.”

πᾶσα φιλία διʼ ἑαυτὴν ἀρετή· ἀρχὴν δὲ εἴληφεν ἀπὸ τῆς ὠφελείας.

33. “Our body begs not to be hungry, not to be thirsty, not to be cold. Someone who receives these things and expects to keep them could challenge god in happiness.”

σαρκὸς φωνὴ τὸ μὴ πεινῆν, τὸ μὴ διψῆν, τὸ μὴ ῥιγοῦν· ταῦτα γὰρ ἔχων τις καὶ ἐλπίζων ἕξειν κἂν <διὶ> ὑπὲρ εὐδαιμονίας μαχέσαιτο.

34. “Our benefit from friends is not how useful they are but that we can rely on them to be useful.”

οὐκ οὕτως χρείαν ἔχομεν τῆς χρείας <τῆς> παρὰ τῶν φίλων ὡς τῆς πίστεως τῆς περὶ τῆς χρείας.

35. “We must not sully what we have with longing for what we don’t: remember that we prayed for these things too”

οὐ δεῖ λυμαίνεσθαι τὰ παρόντα τῶν ἀπόντων ἐπιθυμίᾳ, ἀλλʼ ἐπιλογίζεσθαι ὅτι καὶ ταῦτα τῶν εὐκταίων ἦν.

37. “Nature is weak when faced with evil not good: for we are preserved by pleasures and ruined by pains.”

ἀσθενὴς ἡ φύσις ἐστὶ πρὸς τὸ κακὸν οὐ πρὸς τὸ ἀγαθόν· ἡδοναῖς μὲν γὰρ σῴζεται, ἀλγηδόσι δὲ διαλύεται.

46. “Let’s get rid of bad customs just as we should wicked men who have been harming us for a long time.”

τὰς φαύλας συνηθείας ὥσπερ ἄνδρας πονηροὺς πολὺν χρόνον μέγα βλάψαντες τελείως ἐκδιώκομεν.

52. “Friendship dances all over the inhabited world, telling everyone that we need to wake up to happiness.”

ἡ φιλία περιχορεύει τὴν οἰκουμένην κηρύττουσα δὴ πᾶσιν ἡμῖν ἐγείρεσθαι ἐπὶ τὸν μακαρισμόν.

54. “Do not pretend to pursue wisdom, but do it for real! We don’t need to merely seem to be healthy, but we need to get healthy in truth.”

οὐ προσποιεῖσθαι δεῖ φιλοσοφεῖν, ἀλλʼ ὄντως φιλοσοφεῖν· οὐ γὰρ προσδεόμεθα τοῦ δοκεῖν ὑγιαίνειν, ἀλλὰ τοῦ κατʼ ἀλήθειαν ὑγιαίνειν.

Sweetness and the Joy of Life

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers: Epicurus 125-6

“Just as people choose not just the greater amount of food but the better quality, so too they enjoy the amount of time not for being the longest but for its sweetness. The person who orders the young to live happily and the old to make a good end of it is simple-minded not just because of the joy life brings but also because the same worry should teach one to live well and die well.

Even worse is someone [like Theognis] who says that it is good not to be born and “if born to cross Hades’ threshold as fast as possible” [425/427]. If he says what he believes, why doesn’t he stop living? There are methods at the ready for him, if he is so firm in his conviction. If he speaks in jest, he speaks pointlessly for those who do not trust him.”

ὥσπερ δὲ τὸ σιτίον οὐ τὸ πλεῖον πάντως ἀλλὰ τὸ ἥδιστον αἱρεῖται, οὕτω καὶ χρόνον οὐ τὸν μήκιστον ἀλλὰ τὸν ἥδιστον καρπίζεται. ὁ δὲ παραγγέλλων τὸν μὲν νέον καλῶς ζῆν, τὸν δὲ γέροντα καλῶς καταστρέφειν εὐήθης ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον διὰ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς ἀσπαστόν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὸ τὴν αὐτὴν εἶναι μελέτην τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν καὶ τοῦ καλῶς ἀποθνήσκειν. πολὺ δὲ χεῖρον καὶ ὁ λέγων, καλὸν μὲν μὴ φῦναι, “φύντα δ᾿ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀΐδαο περῆσαι”
εἰ μὲν γὰρ πεποιθὼς τοῦτό φησι, πῶς οὐκ ἀπέρχεται τοῦ ζῆν; ἐν ἑτοίμῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν, εἴπερ ἦν βεβουλευμένον αὐτῷ βεβαίως· εἰ δὲ μωκώμενος, μάταιος ἐν τοῖς οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένοις.

Our man with a plan

Don’t Worry, As Long As We’re Alive, Death Is Not Here!

Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus 125-6

“Get used to believing that death is nothing to us since all good and evil reside in perception and death is the removal of perception. For this reason, a correct belief holding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life appreciable not because it adds a boundless amount of time but because it removes desire for immortality.

This is because there is nothing frightening in life when someone has fully understood that there is nothing frightening in not being alive. It is, therefore, foolish when someone says they will fear death not because it will cause harm when it is present but because its approach causes pain. Whatever does not annoy when it is present causes pointless pain in its expectation.

As the most frightening of evils, then, death is nothing to us since, whenever we are alive, death is not there. But when death is there, we are not! And it is nothing at all to either the living or the dead since it is nothing for the living and the dead are nothing too. But many people flee death as if it is the greatest of evils and then later choose it as a release from the evils in life. The wise person neither condemns life nor fears its end. Living does not bother them nor does not living seem to be an evil.”

“Συνέθιζε δὲ ἐν τῷ νομίζειν μηδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἶναι τὸν θάνατον· ἐπεὶ πᾶν ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακὸν ἐν αἰσθήσει· στέρησις δέ ἐστιν αἰσθήσεως ὁ θάνατος. ὅθεν γνῶσις ὀρθὴ τοῦ μηθὲν εἶναι πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸν θάνατον ἀπολαυστὸν ποιεῖ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς θνητόν, οὐκ ἄπειρον προστιθεῖσα χρόνον ἀλλὰ τὸν τῆς ἀθανασίας ἀφελομένη πόθον. οὐθὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ζῆν δεινὸν τῷ κατειληφότι γνησίως τὸ μηθὲν ὑπάρχειν ἐν τῷ μὴ ζῆν δεινόν. ὥστε μάταιος ὁ λέγων δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον οὐχ ὅτι λυπήσει παρών, ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι λυπεῖ μέλλων. ὃ γὰρ παρὸν οὐκ ἐνοχλεῖ, προσδοκώμενον κενῶς λυπεῖ. τὸ φρικωδέστατον οὖν τῶν κακῶν ὁ θάνατος οὐθὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ἐπειδή περ ὅταν μὲν ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, ὁ θάνατος οὐ πάρεστιν· ὅταν δ᾿ ὁ θάνατος παρῇ, τόθ᾿ ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἐσμέν. οὔτε οὖν πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντάς ἐστιν οὔτε πρὸς τοὺς τετελευτηκότας, ἐπειδήπερ περὶ οὓς μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν, οἱ δ᾿ οὐκέτι εἰσίν. ἀλλ᾿ οἱ πολλοὶ τὸν θάνατον ὁτὲ μὲν ὡς μέγιστον τῶν κακῶν φεύγουσιν, ὁτὲ δὲ ὡς ἀνάπαυσιν τῶν ἐν τῷ ζῆν <κακῶ> αἱροῦνται. ὁ δὲ σοφὸς οὔτε παραιτεῖται τὸ ζῆν> οὔτε φοβεῖται τὸ μὴ ζῆν

Death and the Miser, Hieronymus Bosch 1494

Necessity, Birth and Arguments: Some Words of Epicurus

Epicurus some fragments, from Usener’s 1887 Epicurea

Fr. 14

“We are born once. It is not possible to be born twice. And life must no longer continue. You put off joy even though you have no control over tomorrow. Everyone’s life is undone by delay and because of that each of us dies without any time for ourselves at all.”

Γεγόναμεν ἅπαξ, δὶς οὐκ ἔστι γενέσθαι· δεῖ δὲ τὸν αἰῶνα μηκέτ’ εἶναι. σὺ δὲ τῆς αὔριον οὐκ ὢν κύριος ἀναβάλλῃ τὸν χαῖρόν· ὁ δὲ πάντων βίος μελλησμῷ παραπόλλυται καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἕκαστος ἡμῶν ἀσχολούμενος ἀποθνῄσκει.

 

Fr. 74

“In an academic argument, the loser gains more because they have learned something new”

ἐν φιλολόγῳ συζητήσει πλεῖον ἤνυσεν ὁ ἡττηθεὶς καθʼ ὃ προσέμαθεν.

 

Fr. 66

“We show sympathy with friends not by mourning with them but by paying attention”

συμπαθῶμεν τοῖς φίλοις οὐ θρηνοῦντες ἀλλὰ φροντίζοντες.

 

Fr. 40

“Someone who insists that everything happens by necessity cannot object when someone else says that not everything does. For they say that thing too thanks to necessity.”

ὁ λέγων πάντα κατʼ ἀνάγκην γίνεσθαι οὐδὲν ἐγκαλεῖν ἔχει τῷ λέγοντι μὴ πάντα κατʼ ἀνάγκην γίνεσθαι· ἀυτὸ γὰρ τοῦτό φησι κατʼ ἀνάγκην γίνεσθαι.

 

Fr. 26

“You need to understand that a long argument and a short one have the same outcome.”

δεῖ διαλαβεῖν ὅτι καὶ ὁ πολὺς λόγος καὶ ὁ βραχὺς εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ συντείνει.

 

Raphael’s Epicurus from “School of Athens”

How Many Pieces for the Soul?

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus [=Diogenes Laertius 10.65]

“For this reason, because the soul is embodied, it never loses perception even if some part of it is removed. So, even if parts of the soul perish along with the container when it is destroyed completely or partially, should the soul in fact persist it retains perception. But the rest of the body that remains either whole or in parts does not have perception when this thing has been removed, that number of atoms requisite for the nature of the soul.

So, really, when the whole mass is destroyed, the soul scatters and no longer has the same abilities and can no longer move, just as if it never even obtained perception.”

“Διὸ δὴ καὶ ἐνυπάρχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδέποτε ἄλλου τινὸς μέρους ἀπηλλαγμένου ἀναισθητεῖ· ἀλλ᾿ ἃ ἂν καὶ ταύτης ξυναπόληται τοῦ στεγάζοντος λυθέντος εἴθ᾿ ὅλου εἴτε καὶ μέρους τινός, ἐάν περ διαμένῃ, ἕξει τὴν αἴσθησιν. τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἄθροισμα διαμένον καὶ ὅλον καὶ κατὰ μέρος οὐκ ἔχει τὴν αἴσθησιν κείνου ἀπηλλαγμένου, ὅσον ποτέ ἐστι τὸ συντεῖνον τῶν ἀτόμων πλῆθος εἰς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς φύσιν. καὶ μὴν καὶ λυομένου τοῦ ὅλου ἀθροίσματος ἡ ψυχὴ διασπείρεται καὶ οὐκέτι ἔχει τὰς αὐτὰς δυνάμεις οὐδὲ κινεῖται, ὥσπερ οὐδ᾿ αἴσθησιν κέκτηται.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail | Return to the 80s

Eternal Beauty or Sensory Truths? Epictetus and Epicurus on the Real

Here’s a recent piece on Greek concepts of the truth from The Conversation.

Epictetus, fr. 36

“The truth is an eternal thing and unseen—it does not provide us a beauty which deteriorates with time nor a freedom of speech which is vulnerable to the law. Instead, it provides us with the just and the lawful by separating and refuting injustice from them.”

Ἀθάνατον χρῆμα ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἀΐδιον, παρέχει δὲ ἡμῖν οὐ κάλλος χρόνῳ μαραινόμενον οὔτε παρρησίαν ἀφαιρετὴν ὑπὸ δίκης, ἀλλὰ τὰ δίκαια καὶ τὰ νόμιμα διακρίνουσα ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν τὰ ἄδικα καὶ ἀπελέγχουσα.

Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus 31

“[Epicureans] dismiss dialectic as being uneccessary—they believe that it is enough for natural scientists to employ the normal words for things. In his Canon, Epicurus asserts that our sensory perceptions and prior experiences and conceptions are the criteria of the truth; and Epicureans also believe that the imagined movements of thoughts are the same. He articulates his own beliefs in his Brief to Herodotus and in his Kurian Beliefs. He says, “Every perception is free of thought and receptive to no memory. Because does not move under its own power or another’s, it cannot add anything or take it away. And there is nothing capable of refuting the senses. For one related perception cannot countermand another because of their equal power nor can inequivalent senses undermine those of a different capacity, since they are not judging the same domains.

Reason depends entirely on perceptions. Different kinds of senses cannot undermine each other, since we use them all. The interdependence of the senses ensures the truth of what we perceive. Our ability to see and hear is just like our ability to feel pain. This is why we must strive to make meaning about unclear things from what actually appears before us.”

Τὴν διαλεκτικὴν ὡς παρέλκουσαν ἀποδοκιμάζουσιν· ἀρκεῖν γὰρ τοὺς φυσικοὺς χωρεῖν κατὰ τοὺς τῶν πραγμάτων φθόγγους. ἐν τοίνυν τῷ Κανόνι λέγων ἐστὶν ὁ Ἐπίκουρος κριτήρια τῆς ἀληθείας εἶναι τὰς αἰσθήσεις καὶ προλήψεις καὶ τὰ πάθη, οἱ δ᾿ Ἐπικούρειοι καὶ τὰς φανταστικὰς ἐπιβολὰς τῆς διανοίας. λέγει δὲ καὶ ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ἡρόδοτον ἐπιτομῇ καὶ ἐν ταῖς Κυρίαις δόξαις. “πᾶσα γάρ,” φησίν, “αἴσθησις ἄλογός ἐστι καὶ μνήμης οὐδεμιᾶς δεκτική· οὔτε γὰρ ὑφ᾿ αὑτῆς οὔτε ὑφ᾿ ἑτέρου κινηθεῖσα δύναταί τι προσθεῖναι ἢ ἀφελεῖν· οὐδὲ ἔστι τὸ δυνάμενον αὐτὰς διελέγξαι. οὔτε γὰρ ἡ ὁμογένεια αἴσθησις τὴν ὁμογενῆ διὰ τὴν ἰσοσθένειαν, οὔθ᾿ ἡ ἀνομογένεια τὴν ἀνομογένειαν, οὐ γὰρ τῶν αὐτῶν εἰσι κριτικαί· οὔτε μὴν λόγος, πᾶς γὰρ λόγος ἀπὸ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἤρτηται. οὔθ᾿ ἡ ἑτέρα τὴν ἑτέραν, πάσαις γὰρ προσέχομεν. καὶ τὸ τὰ ἐπαισθήματα δ᾿ ὑφεστάναι πιστοῦται τὴν τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀλήθειαν. ὑφέστηκε δὲ τό τε ὁρᾶν ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀκούειν, ὥσπερ τὸ ἀλγεῖν· ὅθεν καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀδήλων ἀπὸ τῶν φαινομένων χρὴ σημειοῦσθαι.

File:Epicteti Enchiridion Latinis versibus adumbratum (Oxford 1715) frontispiece.jpg
Epictetus in 1715

It’s Thursday: An Eternal Death Awaits, No Matter What

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1076-1094

“Finally, what great and vile desire for life compels us
To quake so much amidst doubts and dangers?
Mortals have an absolute end to our lives:
Death cannot be evaded—we must leave.

Nevertheless, we move again and still persist—
No new pleasure is procured by living;
But while what we desire is absent, that seems to overcome
All other things; but later, when we have gained it, we want something else—

An endless thirst for life grips us as we gasp for it.
It remains unclear what fortune life will offer,
What chance may bring us and what end awaits.
But by extending life we do not subtract a moment
Of time from death nor can we shorten it
So that we may somehow have less time after our ends.

Therefore, you may continue as living as many generations as you want,
But that everlasting death will wait for you still,
And he will be there for no less a long time, the man who
Has found the end of life with today’s light, than the man who died
Many months and many years before.”

Denique tanto opere in dubiis trepidare periclis
quae mala nos subigit vitai tanta cupido?
certe equidem finis vitae mortalibus adstat
nec devitari letum pote, quin obeamus.
praeterea versamur ibidem atque insumus usque
nec nova vivendo procuditur ulla voluptas;
sed dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
cetera; post aliud, cum contigit illud, avemus
et sitis aequa tenet vitai semper hiantis.
posteraque in dubiost fortunam quam vehat aetas,
quidve ferat nobis casus quive exitus instet.
nec prorsum vitam ducendo demimus hilum
tempore de mortis nec delibare valemus,
quo minus esse diu possimus forte perempti.
proinde licet quod vis vivendo condere saecla,
mors aeterna tamen nihilo minus illa manebit,
nec minus ille diu iam non erit, ex hodierno
lumine qui finem vitai fecit, et ille,
mensibus atque annis qui multis occidit ante.

Illustration for article titled Ancient Roman funeral masks made from wax were freakishly lifelike
Ancient Roman Funeral Masks

Chance, Wealth and the Wise Man: More Maxims

More of Epicurus’ Maxims from Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

“Chance only briefly impedes the wise man—reason has selected for him what is most important, it guides him throughout his life and will guide him.”

XVI. Βραχέα σοφῷ τύχη παρεμπίπτει, τὰ δὲ μέγιστα καὶ κυριώτατα ὁ λογισμὸς διῴκηκε καὶ κατὰ τὸν συνεχῆ χρόνον τοῦ βίου διοικεῖ καὶ διοικήσει.

“The just man is the least agitated; the unjust full of the most trouble.”

XVII. ῾Ο δίκαιος ἀταρακτότατος, ὁ δ’ ἄδικος πλείστης ταραχῆς γέμων.

“Pleasure for the flesh will not increase once pain from want has been removed, but it can only be varied. The contemplation of these things [which bring pleasure] and their concomitants, however, produces the limit of pleasure for the mind, insofar as it is those very things that also bring the mind the greatest fears.”

XVIII. Οὐκ ἐπαύξεται ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ ἡ ἡδονὴ ἐπειδὰν ἅπαξ τὸ κατ’ ἔνδειαν ἀλγοῦν ἐξαιρεθῇ, ἀλλὰ μόνον ποικίλλεται. τῆς δὲ διανοίας τὸ πέρας τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀπεγέννησεν ἥ τε τούτων αὐτῶν ἐκλόγισις καὶ τῶν ὁμογενῶν τούτοις ὅσα τοὺς μεγίστους φόβους παρεσκεύαζε τῇ διανοίᾳ.

“It is not possible that the man who has transgressed one of the laws we have in common—not harming or being harmed—to believe that he will get away with it, even if he already has ten thousand times to the present day. It will be unclear whether or not he will escape right up until he dies.”

XXXV. Οὐκ ἔστι τὸν λάθρᾳ τι ποιοῦντα ὧν συνέθεντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους εἰς τὸ μὴ βλάπτειν μηδὲ βλάπτεσθαι πιστεύειν ὅτι λήσει, κἂν μυριάκις ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος λανθάνῃ. μέχρι μὲν καταστροφῆς ἄδηλον εἰ καὶ λήσει.

Image result for Ancient Greek Epicurus fear

Diogenes Laertius 10.2

“Apollodorus the Epicurian writes in his first book of On the Life of Epicurus that the philosopher turned to the study of philosophy when he noted that his teachers could not explain to him the meaning of Chaos in Hesiod.”

᾿Απολλόδωρος δ’ ὁ ᾿Επικούρειος ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ περὶ τοῦ ᾿Επικούρου βίου φησὶν ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν καταγνόντα τῶν γραμματιστῶν ἐπειδὴ μὴ ἐδυνήθησαν ἑρμηνεῦσαι αὐτῷ τὰ περὶ τοῦ παρ’ ῾Ησιόδῳ χάους.

10.6

“I cannot conceive what the good is if I separate it from the pleasures of taste, from the pleasures of sex, from the pleasures of sound, or those of beautiful bodies.”

Οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε ἔχω τί νοήσω τἀγαθόν, ἀφαιρῶν μὲν τὰς διὰ χυλῶν ἡδονάς, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι᾽ ἀφροδισίων καὶ τὰς δι᾽ ἀκροαμάτων καὶ τὰς διὰ μορφῆς.

Peril Shows A Person’s True Nature

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.41-58

“For men often claim that disease and a life
of a bad reputation should be feared more than Tartaros.
And they claim they know that the nature of the soul is like blood
Or even air, if that fits their current desire.

And they claim that they do not need our arguments.
But what follows will make you see these things as a matter of boasting
rather than because the matter itself has been proved.

The same men, out of their homeland and in a long exile
From the sight of others, charged with some foul crime,
live as they do, even afflicted with all possible troubles.
But, still, wherever they go the outcasts minister to their ancestors
and slaughter dark cattle and make their offerings
to the departed ghosts and when things get worse
they focus more sharply on religion.

For this reason it is better to examine a man in doubt or danger:
Adverse circumstances make it easier to know who a man is,
for then true words finally rise from his deepest heart;
when the mask is removed, the thing itself remains.”

nam quod saepe homines morbos magis esse timendos
infamemque ferunt vitam quam Tartara leti
et se scire animi naturam sanguinis esse,
aut etiam venti, si fert ita forte voluntas,
nec prosum quicquam nostrae rationis egere,
hinc licet advertas animum magis omnia laudis
iactari causa quam quod res ipsa probetur.
extorres idem patria longeque fugati
conspectu ex hominum, foedati crimine turpi,
omnibus aerumnis adfecti denique vivunt,
et quo cumque tamen miseri venere parentant
et nigras mactant pecudes et manibus divis
inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
acrius advertunt animos ad religionem.
quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
eliciuntur [et] eripitur persona manet res.

 

Related image
Demons From The Livre de la vigne nostre Seigneur, 1450 – 70

#BuyNothingDay: Read Some More Lucretius

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Epicureanism doesn’t do it for you? Here’s something else;

Epictetus, Encheiridion 44

“These statements are illogical: “I am richer than you and therefore better than you. I am more articulate than you and therefore better than you.” But these conclusions are more fitting: “I am wealthier than you, therefore my possessions are greater than yours. I am more articulate than you, therefore my speech is better than yours.” You are neither your property nor your speech.”

c. 44. Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀσύνακτοι· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων” ἐκεῖνοι δὲ μᾶλλον συνακτικοί· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα κτῆσις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα λέξις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων.” σὺ δὲ γε οὔτε κτῆσις εἶ οὔτε λέξις.

Some Approving Words from Cicero,

Cicero, Paradoxa Stoicorum 7-8

“Can something good be bad for anyone, or is it possible for someone not to be good in the abundance of goods? But indeed, we see that all of those things we mentioned are of such a sort that the wicked have them, but the good do not. For that reason, anyone at all may laugh at me if they wish, but true reasoning will possess more power with me than the opinion of the common mob. Nor will I ever say that someone has lost their goods if they should lose their cattle or furniture. I will always praise the wise man Bias who, as I think, is numbered among the seven sages. When the enemy had seized his fatherland of Priene, and the other citizens were fleeing while carrying many of their possessions with them, Bias was advised by another to do them same himself. Bias responded, ‘I am doing just that – I carry everything I own with me.’”

Potestne bonum cuiquam malo esse, aut potest quisquam in abundantia bonorum ipse esse non bonus? Atqui ista omnia talia videmus, ut et inprobi habeant et absint probis. Quam ob rem licet inrideat, si qui vult, plus apud me tamen vera ratio valebit quam vulgi opinio; neque ego umquam bona perdidisse dicam, si quis pecus aut supellectilem amiserit, nec non saepe laudabo sapientem illum, Biantem, ut opinor, qui numeratur in septem; cuius quom patriam Prienam cepisset hostis ceterique ita fugerent, ut multa de suis rebus asportarent, cum esset admonitus a quodam, ut idem ipse faceret, ‘Ego vero’, inquit, ‘facio; nam omnia mecum porto mea.’

Image result for medieval manuscript marketplace scene
Market scene, 15th century, Manuscript, Bibliothèque Municipale, Rouen