Peace and Safety to the Epicureans among us, no matter where you might be!
As we remember Epicurus and the original pathfinders of Epicureanism, today’s focus is on Principle Doctrine No. 2, and today’s quote is from an eighteenth century scholar — and close friend of Thomas Jefferson — whose name is little remembered today, but who wrote almost as if he were taking dictation from Lucretius:
Those truths which we derive from the evidence of our senses, carefully observed and sufficiently repeated, are more weighty than such as are mere deductions of reason and argument. If I feel that by beating a large stone with my fist I shall hurt my knuckles, I cannot doubt of that after a sufficient number of trials. If I find that a large quantity of strong wine will render me intoxicated, I cannot disbelieve the result of experience. I see that the mental phenomena are in fact connected with the organization of the human body by means of the nervous system which is a part of it. I know by observation and experience that if you destroy that part of the nervous system which supplies any one of the organs of sense, as the optic nerve of the eye, the organs of that sense no longer supply me with the same feelings as before. All this is a matter of fact ascertainable in the same way that we ascertain the effect of a bottle of Madeira, by the use of our senses. About all this we can no more doubt than about our existence. But what evidence can we possibly have of the existence of the Soul? It is not cognizable by any of our senses – by any of the common inlets of knowledge – it is, by the hypothesis, immaterial, it hath no relation to matter. By the very nature of it, we can have no sensible proof of its existence. It is an hypothesis, a supposed being, introduced to account for appearances manifestly connected with our bodily organs, which so far as we know cannot take place without them, whether there be a soul or not. This connection we see, hear, feel, and know to exist, though we do not exactly know how to trace it. But the Soul has no existence for our senses – it is a being whose existence is assumed because the present state of knowledge does not enable us (perhaps) to account for the precise mode of connection between intelligence and our nervous system. I shall by and by show that we are just as much at a loss to account for the growth of a blade of grass, or the life of a tree, as for the reasoning of an animal.
These forceful words stand on their own, but I will shortly release a new ebook with many more such passages from the same author. In the meantime, Peace and Safety!
As Seneca recorded: Sic fac omnia tamquam spectet Epicurus! So do all things as though watching were Epicurus!
And as Philodemus wrote: “I will be faithful to Epicurus, according to whom it has been my choice to live.“