Welcome to Episode 67 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. 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 this Episode 67 we continue our discussion of Book 5 with Charles reading today’s text, starting with approximately Latin Line 146:
Nor are you to believe that the sacred mansions of the gods are placed in any parts of this world of ours, for the nature of the gods is so subtle, and at so remote a distance from our senses, that it can scarce be apprehended by the mind. Since therefore it cannot be touched or felt by our hands, it can touch nothing that it is the object of our senses, for nothing has a power to touch that is incapable of being touched itself. For this reason the abodes of the gods must be far different from ours; they must be subtle, and answerable to their own nature. But the truth of this I shall more fully prove in another place. And then, to say that the gods designed this noble fabric of the world for the sake of man, and therefore we are to speak honorably of this excellent work, and conceive it to be eternal, and shall remain forever; and that it is impious to prove that this frame of the world, contrived by the gods to continue forever for the use of man, shall fall to ruin; or to offer to disturb its duration by words or arguments, and so overturn things from their very foundations – to pretend and enlarge upon this, and more such stuff, my Memmius, is all madness; for what advantage can any acknowledgements of ours bestow upon divinities happy and immortal, that they should give themselves any trouble upon our account?
Or what new pleasure could prevail upon the gods, who lived at rest for so many ages before, to desire to change their former state of ease and tranquility? Those generally rejoice in a new condition who have been unhappy in the last, but the man who has felt no misfortunes in his former state, but has lived pleasantly and undisturbed, what could excite the love of novelty in such a one as this? Was the life of the gods spent in darkness and melancholy till the structure of the World shone out and cleared their spirits? Or what evil had we suffered if we had never been created? Indeed, when we are once born, we should strive (whoever he be) to preserve our life, so long as we find an engaging pleasure in our being, but he who never tasted the love of life, nor was enrolled among the living, what harm could he complain of if he had never been? Besides, what model had the gods to work by, when they set about the creation of the world? From whence had they any previous knowledge of man to inform them, and give their mind an idea of what they proposed to make? How could they become acquainted with the powers and force of the atoms, and with what they were able to effect by the changes of their site and order, if Nature herself had not afforded them first a specimen of creation? For the seeds of bodies were from all eternity so variously agitated by blows from without, and driven so about by their own weight, and tried every way to unite, and attempted all sorts of motion that might end at last in the formation of things, that no wonder they at last fell into such dispositions, and so decent order, as to produce the universe, and continually preserve and renew it.