Letter to Herodotus has 52 ratings and 1 review. Epicurus summarizes the key doctrines from “On Nature” (of which only a few fragments have been recovere. [Latest Updated MP3 Version here] [Vimeo Edition]Of all the original texts that are available from the ancient world, Epicurus’ Letter to Herodotus preserved by. EPICURUS’ LETTER TO HERODOTUS. SOME TEXTUAL NOTES. Luis Andr?s Bredlow Wenda. L ‘UP’ AND ‘DOWN’ IN INFINITE SPACE. 60 (,)1.

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It is from the infinite that the worlds are derived, and all the finite aggregates which present numerous analogies with the things which we observe under our own eyes. Nay, in every term we use we must hold fast to all the majesty which attaches to such notions as bliss and immortality, lest the terms should generate opinions inconsistent with this majesty. Error and false judgments always depend upon the supposition that a preconceived idea will be confirmed, or at all events will not be overturned, by evidence.

These heavenly phenomena admit of several explanations; they have no reason of a necessary character, and one may explain them in different manners. Hence these somethings capable of being diversely arranged must be indestructible, exempt from change, but possessed each of its own distinctive mass and configuration. He says, farther on, that they move with an equal rapidity from all eternity, since the void offers no more resistance to the lightest than it does to the heaviest.

This analogy applies to the atom, as far as we consider it as having the smallest dimensions possible. And this is shown by the mental faculties and feelings, by the ease with which the mind moves, and by thoughts, and by all those things the loss of which causes death. The union of all these perceptions forms the idea of the body.

If, on the other hand, the void were finite, the bodies being infinite, then the bodies clearly could never be contained in the void. We should be equally deceived if we were to suppose that they have a separate and independent existence; for that is true neither of them nor of the eternal attributes.

Diogenes Laertius : The Letter of Epicurus to Herodotus

The solidity which they possess causes them, while knocking against one another, to re-act the one upon the other; till at last the repeated shocks bring on the dissolution of the combined body; and for all this there is no external cause, the atoms and the void being the only causes. Moreover, when the whole frame is broken up, the soul is scattered and has no longer the same powers as before, nor the same notions; hence it does not possess sentience either.

Again, we must believe that smelling, like hearing, would produce no sensation, were there not particles conveyed from the object which are of the proper sort for exciting the organ of smelling, some of one sort, some of another, some exciting it confusedly and strangely, others quietly and agreeably. Further, we must hold that to arrive at accurate knowledge of the cause of things of most moment is the business of natural science, and that happiness depends on this viz.

Nor need we, as certain philosophers do, affirm any particular attribute of time, for that would be to suppose that its essence is the same as that of this attribute. Moreover, the sum total of things was always such as it is now, and such it will ever remain. Besides, their incessant effluence meets with no resistance or very little, although many atoms, not to say an unlimited number, do at once encounter resistance.


Historical Context for Letter to Herodotus by Epicurus

But to attribute any and every magnitude to the atoms does not help to explain the differences of quality in things; moreover, in that case atoms large enough to be seen ought to have reached us, which is never observed to occur; nor can we conceive how its occurrence should be possible, in other words that an atom should become visible.

We must recognize that this analogy also holds of the minimum in the atom; it is only in minuteness that it differs from that which is observed by sense, but it follows the same analogy.

But, again, there is the third part which exceeds the other two in the fineness of its particles and thereby keeps in closer touch with the rest of the frame. Each of these objects, great and small, has been separated from the infinite by a movement peculiar to itself. Epicurus is emphatic that friendship figures into the happy life as one of the chief goods.

There is therefore, no fact inconsistent with an infinity of worlds. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions. Letter to Herodotus by Epicurus. Here we cannot apply any more the method of examination to which we submit other objects, where we study with reference to a give subject; and which we refer to the preconceptions which exist in ourselves.

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus

For that which is finite has an extreme, and that which has an lwtter is looked at in relationship to something else. For the existence of bodies is everywhere attested by sense itself, and it is upon sensation that reason must rely when it attempts to infer the unknown from the known.

And here it is necessary for those who have made sufficient progress in their view of the general question, to recollect the principles laid down as elements of the whole discussion; for we have still greater need of a correct notion of the whole, than we have even of an accurate understanding of the details.

But we must respect the established notions on this subject, provided, nevertheless, that they do not all epicuruz the respect due to truth; for nothing is more calculated to trouble the soul than this strife of contradictory notions and principles.

And if there were no space which we call also void and place and intangible naturebodies would have nothing in which to be and through which to move, as they are plainly seen to move. Lilita Pudule rated it it was ok Nov 13, We must admit that the case of smelling is the same as that of hearing.

Again, if the void were finite, epicurua infinity of bodies would not have anywhere to be. For all these, whether small or great, have been separated off from special conglomerations of atoms; and all things are again dissolved, some faster, some slower, some through the action of one set of causes, others through the action of another.

Book 10 contains the life and doctrines of Epicurus.

The Lives of the Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertiusis the most comprehensive herodofus account of the lives of the early Greek philosophers. When, therefore, we investigate the causes of celestial and atmospheric phenomena, as of all that is unknown, we must take into account the variety of ways in which analogous occurrences happen within our experience; while as epicurua those who do not recognize the difference between what is or comes about from a single cause and that which may be the effect of any one of several causes, overlooking the fact that the objects are only seen at a distance, and are moreover ignorant of the conditions that render, or do not render, peace of mind impossible—all such persons we must treat with contempt.


Again, there are outlines or films, which are of the same shape as solid bodies, but of a thinness far exceeding that of any object that we see. If, then, we bring all these arguments concerning soul to the criterion of our feelings and perceptions, and if we keep in mind the proposition stated at the outset, we shall see that the subject has been adequately comprehended in outline: Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

Epicurus also adds some brilliant and daring insights of his own, notably in his explanation of mental function in terms of the movements of specialized herodoths atoms and his suggestion that the universe is filled with other worlds where extraterrestrial life is possible.

We must also admit, in epicurua for our guide the reasoning which discloses to us things which are invisible to the senses, that the most minute magnitudes, those which are not compound magnitudes, and which from the limit of sensible extent, are the first measure of the other magnitudes which are only called greater or less in their relation to the others. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

Diogenes Laertius: Letter of Epicurus to Herodotus

It follows that thought can only conceive that one single movement of transference, from low to high, ad infinitum ; and one single movement from high to low. But they constitute by their union, I repeat, epicurys eternal substance of the body.

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For particles are continually streaming off from the surface of bodies, though no diminution of the bodies is observed, because other particles take their place. We must not fancy either that these globes of fire, which roll on in space, enjoy a perfect happiness, and give herrodotus, with reflection and wisdom, the motions which they possess. Impressive understanding of the idea of atoms, considering how long ago it was written. Epicurus never married and had no known children.

He also says in other places, that the earth rests suspended in the air. Moreover, when we come to deal with composite bodies, one of them will travel faster than another, although their atoms have equal speed.