Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some quotes from Epicurus related to Epicurean Aesthetics

Epicurus and his disciple Metrodorus, 150-200 A.D., Roman

These quotes are taken from Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings tr. Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997)

"For I at least do not even know what I should conceive the good to be, if I eliminate the pleasures of taste, and eliminate the pleasures of sex, and eliminate the pleasures of listening, and eliminate the pleasant motions caused in our vision of a visible form." (75) This is taken from Athenaeus Deipnosophists.

"I summon you to constant pleasures, and not to virtues, which provide [only] empty, pointless, and disturbing expectations of rewards." (76) a letter to Anarchus from Plutarch Against Colotes.

"I revel in the pleasure of my poor body, employing water and bread, and I spit upon the pleasures of extravagance, not for their own sake, but because of the difficulties which follow from them." (79) from Stobaeus Anthology.

"As they say, remembering previous goods is the most important factor contributing to a pleasant life." (99) Plutarch A Pleasant Life.

He said that the wise person is a "lover of sights and enjoys hearing and seeing Dionysiac performances as much as anyone." Plutarch A Pleasant Life (this taken from Elizabeth Asmis, "Hellenistic Aesthetics: Philosophers and Literary Critics," Encyclopedia of Aesthetics vol. 2. pg. 391. Monroe Beardsley observes that he continues this quote by saying "yet he will not allow musical discussion and the learned inquiries of critics at parties." Aesthetics: From Classical Greece to the Present. 1975. (72)

“It is only the wise man who will be able to converse properly of music and poetry—but not engaging in composing poems as a serious activity.” This is recorded by Diogenes Laertius.

Interestingly, his Roman period follower Philodemus held that music is useful simply for pleasure and that poems give pleasure through the thoughts expressed as well as the sounds produced, this in contrast to the Stoics who thought poetry had to be useful. Asmis is also my reference on this.

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