Welcome to Episode Forty-Four of Lucretius Today. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. Be aware that none of us are professional philosophers, and everyone here is a self-taught Epicurean. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.
For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any question about that, please be sure to contact us at Epicureanfriends.com for more information.
In today’s episode, we will cover roughly lines 548-633 from Book 3 of the Latin Text. The topic will be how additional evidence from which we conclude that the mind cannot continue to exist separate from the body after death.
Now let’s join the discussion with Elayne reading today’s text.
And since the mind is a part of man fixed in one certain place, as the ears, eyes, and other senses that preside over life, and as the hands, and eyes, and nose, when separated from the body, are incapable of sense, or even to be, but must in a very short time corrupt and putrefy; for the Mind cannot subsist of itself without the body, (or even be in the man) which is as it were a vessel to the soul, or anything else you can conceive more closely united to it; for it sticks inseparably to the body, and cannot be divided from it.
Further, the vital powers of the body and mind exert themselves together, and live united by the strongest bonds; neither can the nature of the Mind alone dispense the vital motions of itself without the body, nor can the body, void of soul, continue or use the faculties of sense. For as the eye, torn out by the roots and separated from the body, can see nothing, so the soul and mind cannot act of themselves, because they are spread over all the body by the veins, the bowels, the nerves, and bones. Nor could the seeds of the soul exercise those vibrations that produce sense, were they disposed at wide intervals, and enclosed by no solid body. They show those sensible motions because they are shut up close, which they cannot exert when they are forced out of the body into the wide air after death, because they are not under the same restraint as they are within the enclosure of the body; for the air would be an animal, if the soul could be confined within it, and maintain those motions of sense which before it exercised in the nerves and through the limbs.
You must confess therefore, over and over, that the mind and soul (for they both make up but one substance) must needs be dissolved, as soon as they are stripped of the covering of the body, and their vital powers thrown out into the thin air. Again, since the body cannot bear the separation of the soul, but it soon putrifies and stinks, how can you doubt but that the principles of the soul diffused through the whole body, and raised from the very inmost parts of it, flow out like smoke, and therefore the rotten body thus changed falls to pieces in so ruinous a manner, because the seeds of the soul, which preserved the whole, are moved widely from their place, and flow through the limbs, and all the winding passages of the body. And hence you are fully satisfied that the nature of the soul is spread over all the limbs, and is first broken and divided in the body itself, before it flies out into the air abroad.
Nay more! whilst the man is still living, the soul seems often to receive a violent shock, so that the limbs are dissolving all over, the face looking pale, as if it were real death, and all the members of the body wan and ghastly, falling to pieces. This happens in a swooning fit, when the soul is going, and trembles upon the verge of life, and all the faculties strive to hold fast the chain that binds up soul and body together. The mind and all the powers of the soul are then shaken, and are so staggered with the body, that a force a little stronger would drive it to utter dissolution. Do you doubt now whether this soul thrown out of the body, abroad, destitute, into the open air, stripped naked, be so far from remaining entire to eternal ages, that it cannot subsist so much as for the least moment? And then no dying man ever perceived his soul go out whole from all parts of the body at once, nor felt it first creeping up his throat, and then rising up to his jaws; but he finds it fail in that part of the body wherein it is placed, as he knows that every sense expires in its proper organ. But if this mind were immortal, it would not, when dying, complain of its being dissolved, but rather rejoice that it was going freely abroad, that it had thrown off his coat as a snake, or as an old stag that casts his heavy antlers.
And why is not the mind, with all its reason and conduct, produced in the head, the feet, the hands, but that every part is fixed to one place, and to a certain situation? If proper places were not appointed to all beings in which to be born, and when produced where they might abide, and where every member might be so conveniently disposed, that there might be no preposterous order of the limbs throughout the whole? So regularly does one thing follow another that fire is never raised from water, nor cold from heat. Besides, if the nature of the soul be immortal, and enjoys the power of sense when separated from the body, you must, as I conceive, supply her with the use of the five senses, nor can we imagine how without them the soul can live in the shades below. The painters and the poets, many ages ago, have represented the souls indued with sense, but neither eyes nor nose, nor hands nor tongue nor ears can be separately in the soul, nor can they separately retain any sense nor even be, without it.