Here’s a link to a new and very good essay by Hiram at the International Society of Epicurus: “Why Materialism Matters.” I am in the middle of some reading that tracks closely what he is saying, and I want to add a few words.
It is easy to get preoccupied with words and arguments and lose track of the fact that regardless of them all, there’s a reality that we simply have no choice but to live in. The words “atomism” and “materialism” may be out of fashion, and they may be derided as hopelessly out of date and the laughable ideas of a bygone world, but in truth they represent an approach to reality that remains valid today. Epicurus didn’t claim to have an electron microscope that could see the details of subatomic particles. All he knew, and said very clearly, is that at some level there is a solidity of reality that provides a base that is true and that we can count on to live our lives.
People who play mind games about infinite divisibility can convince themselves, and the weak minded, that it is impossible to walk across a room. But there is a solid reality that exists, and we must count on it. Epicurus provides that rallying point for people of common sense who understand that reality has to be reckoned with, and that they need a framework in which to approach it.
People can argue endlessly about capitalism and socialism and any number of theories for a utopian society, but at the end of the day we’re in the same place we started. There’s a reality our consciousness cannot ignore. Our consciousness depends on that reality for its existence. And it is possible, using the senses, to be confident of basic principles. These include such foundational observations as nothing comes from nothing, nothing goes to nothing, that our souls, like all else formed of combinations, have both a birth a death, and that perfect gods are not in the business of causing us trouble now or sentencing us to hell after death.
These are ideas that matter. They are not rocket science that only eggheads can understand. Everyone needs a solid confidence that they live in a real world, and an organizational approach by which to tackle that world and achieve happiness during their own lifetimes. Epicurus gives us that, and few if any others come close with nearly as comprehensive an outlook.
I am having a lot of fun working on these subjects, and I appreciate and applaud the work Hiram and others in our core group are doing. We’re a Motley Crew indeed, but it’s a great pleasure to observe that Epicurus left a rallying point by which so many people from so many backgrounds and geographies can profit from his guidance!
A happy holiday season to us all!