Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Epicurus



The ad reads: "There probably is no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life"

I was heartened to read recently that the buses in London are displaying advertisements to contravene the many religious advertisements that are flaunted everywhere.

As I'm down with a nasty virus this week and have had to cancel all commitments and appointments, it leaves me with time, the most precious commodity on this little planet. I know that I, for one, hate being around a honking, snorfling, coughing, streaming wet-tissued bag of pseudo-humanity and as a result never inflict myself on others.

It gives one time to think, this unplanned downtime. And having read about the buses, I thought Epicurus. Anyone remember learning about him?

He's the one who said:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to

Then he is not omnipotent.

If he is able, but not willing

Then he is malevolent.

If he is both able and willing

Then whence cometh evil?

If he is neither able nor willing

Then why call him God?



And sure enough I found a wiki entry on him.

A teacher who lived in Greece from 341 BC to 270 BC he was so far ahead of his time that he makes modern governments look like the dark ages.

He treated women and slaves as equals and they were admitted to all his classes. Not much of his teachings survive, unfortunately, but what does survive is incredibly modern. An extraordinary philosopher.

12 comments:

  1. Well you can see why they never taught us about him, in holy catlick Ireland ... women as equals? Get up the yard with you!

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  2. Tessa:
    Exactly. But they also didn't teach us anything about the cult of the goddess in Ireland (pre Christianity, natch).
    Sadly lacking our education: except in matters servile.
    XO
    WWW

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  3. The atheist buses are now all over England - the campaign for funding, which was expected to raise enough for a few buses in London raised many times that :-D Which means that I had one drive past me the other day in Bristol :-D

    I studied Epicurus at university (along with a number of other philosophers), and he was by far and away my favourite. Aside from the quote you gave, one of the ideas that he set out is a very useful one to live by:

    We need certain things to be happy. These are: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Friends (and possibly one other thing - I don't have my texts with me at work ;-) ) If we are lacking in any of these things, then we will be unhappy.

    However, we need to make sure that we do not want something so badly that it makes us unhappy, even though our needs are fulfilled. For example, we can satisfy our need for food with bread and water; however, if we have had our heart set on fish, and we have decided that we only want fish, then we are not going to be happy with just bread.

    So therefore, we need to be able to be sanguine with what we have, rather than always looking for something which we might not be able to attain.

    Whilst it is good to strive to improve what you have, and to have dreams, you should not pursue these to the point where you are unhappy with what you already have.

    I think this is a brilliant way of looking at today's life - rather than wanting the latest gadget, fashion or fad right now, we can take a step back and ask "do I really need this?" If you don't need it, but would still like it, then you can save and work for it, but not be unhappy in the meantime that you don't have it.

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  4. It's not hard to find any number of historical figures who were more enlightened and principled than the bunch of scheming rogues who run the world today.

    The atheistic buses are great, nice to see an alternative to all that God-gazing. Unfortunately faith schools are still on the rise in the UK.

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  5. Jo:
    Oh he was extraordinary for his time and place and it would have been wonderful if more of his philosophy had survived.
    Thanks for the other quotes, I do remember them now.
    XO
    WWW

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  6. Nick:
    But maybe the end is in sight for the schemers, I sure hope so. The world is changing, maybe we will enter an age of enlightenment and enough for all.
    I know, I know. Pollyanna me.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. Poor you - this year's viruses are a particularly virulent strain, I think. I hope you soon feel better, WWW.

    Epicurus sounds like my kinda guy!
    It's a pity his name has mainly survived in common use only in connection with food and luxurious living.

    Keep warm!

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  8. Thank you T. This is one of the worst bugs as you said.
    Yes his name was distorted into a fine food and living adjective. Missing his great messages.
    XO
    WWW

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  9. The 'probably' is the key. If it's only probable there is no God, then it is possible there is. So does that mean we might have cause for anxiety and not enjoy ourselves?
    I guess the 'probably' was added so as not to contravene the Trades Descriptions Act - otherwise there could be no proof of its accuracy.
    OF

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  10. Please can I hit my head very hard against a brick wall?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/7832647.stm

    I actually feel very sorry for him, if he is that insecure in his religion - it must be worse than having no faith at all...

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  11. Jo:
    Thanks for the link, I did a post on it with h/t to you.
    It is so incredibly hard to believe, I think there is some fundie church behind it.
    XO
    WWW

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