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Thursday, September 27, 2007 - 6:00pmSanction this postReply
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The Essential Stoics and Epicureans

The following recommended Loeb Classical Library Editions are excellent reproductions of the original Greek or Latin manuscripts, in those languages, with original text on the left and the English translation on the right. The volumes average about $20 each. Links point to the appropriate volume at Amazon, with the exception of the second volume of Diogenes Laertius for which I could find a listing only at Barnes & Noble.

Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Vol. I & Vol II

This Greek work, by the Epicurean historian, is the primary source for our knowledge of most philosophers up to the time of Epicurus, whose biography is the last and largest in the work. Other than fragments found elsewhere, Diogenes is the main source on Epicurus. The biographies often amount to mere sketches, but each philosopher's primary doctrines, original formulations, and remarkable sayings or accomplishments are given. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Diogenes' work is how it demonstrates that almost no modern issue in philosophy was not already known and debated over two millenia ago.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura "On the Nature of Things"

This work is considered one of the greatest literary accomplishments in Latin, as it is not only a treatise on natural history, but is set to classical Latin verseform, a sort of scientific primer in Shakespearean free verse. This work is the largest surviving Epicurean text. Lucretius' purpose was to provide a text which would help its readers understand nature enough not to suffer from suspicious fears. Given that experimental science was not a developed concept and that most of the work is based upon observation and speculation its sophistication is still striking. This text is not, however, essential in any ethical sense, and unless one is a devoté of Latin verse or the classics in general, this book might be better borrowed than bought.

Epictetus The Discourses, Vol. I & Vol. II, with Encheiridion

This Stoic work in Greek by a Roman Slave is perhaps the most impressive surviving ethical work of the Classic Era. Epictetus did not write the work, the lectures are recorded by Arrian from the school Epictetus founded after he had been freed and the expelled from Rome under the Emperor Domitian. At the end of the second volume is included the Encheiridion or literally handbook which contains as summary of the doctrines.

Marcus Aurelius The Meditations

This incredible work of one of the greatest and most tragic of Roman Emperors was written in his own hand, not in Latin, but in Greek. Containing much the same doctrines as Epictetus, the work is a shorter and more personal inspirational diary with brief remarks as well as longer passages. Marcus Aurelius has been fictionalized in movies such as Gladiator and Fall of the Roman Empire. Any student of history, philosophy or humanism should thrill to have this work in his own hands.

Ted Keer



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Friday, September 28, 2007 - 7:56amSanction this postReply
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At last, a non-speculative connection to the Objectivist literature.

I haven't read Marcus Aurelius and didn't attend the lectures in question, but NBI once sent out a brochure outlining one of Peikoff's history-of-philosophy courses.  He apparently considered M.A. poisonous, saying that he was the first to call self-sacrifice a primary virtue.  This isn't a knock-down refutation of the suggestion that Rand was a secret admirer (or plagiarist) of these authors, but it makes the burden of proof a few ounces heavier.

(Edited by Peter Reidy on 9/28, 9:02am)




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Friday, September 28, 2007 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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Stoic Ethical Egoism

So much for Peikoff's subtlety or ability to analyze a philosophical system in its full context.

The Stoics preached that all existence is bodily, that as such, men do not survive their deaths, although some held that the rational essence of the pneuma or breath might survive in some form or for a short while after death.

The held that the only thin truly under a man's control is his use of his own reason, and that therefore only moral choices could be truly good or evil, and that external circumstances could at best be preferable or unpreferable.

The right use of reason was to live in accordance with one's nature. Man is by nature a rational social being, so the good man chooses to take part in society and to pursue its good and his own, which are consonant. The good man may endure bodily pains and the loss of wealth in the pursuit of honor, because honor is a chosen internal virtue while wealth and pain are ultimately external circumstances.

To call this philosophy poison and a call to self-sacrifice is ludicrous. No man could be more selfish than he who submits to torture rather than to forgo his chosen moral values.

Ted Keer




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Friday, September 28, 2007 - 12:32pmSanction this postReply
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"This isn't a knock-down refutation of the suggestion that Rand was a secret admirer (or plagiarist) of these authors..." -Reidy

Let it be said that I have made neither of these assertions.

Ted Keer



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Friday, September 28, 2007 - 1:16pmSanction this postReply
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That is clearly the suggestion of your post #4 and Bridget's #17 in the Blogs > Doctrines of Epicurus thread, and perhaps of #10.



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Friday, September 28, 2007 - 2:46pmSanction this postReply
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From my notes on Ancient Philosophy, Lecture 8..... [these were from lectures given in the 60's...]

The next school was the Stoics.  They comprised an enduring school, lasting for centuries in Greece, and then in Rome.  The school started with Zeno [not the Zeno of the Paradoxes].  He lived from 340-265 BC.  Other stoics included Cleantes, his pupil, and then Crysipas.  In Rome, Cicero and Seneca were predominately stoics.  There were also the slave Epictetus, the emperor Marcus Aurelius, in the first century AD.  The latter two were the most famous stoics, and illustrated the wide appeal of this philosophy.  Zeno lectured on a porch, or "stois" - hence the name.  There were many variations of stoicism, so only their central tendencies can be discussed here.  There were early, central, late, Roman, etc. versions.

Their goal was salvation, peace of mind and serenity for an individual in a torn world.  The stoics said Epicurus wasn't independent enough.  They said to stop valuing anything in the world outside or anything dependent on the world.  Don't value pleasure, it's outside one's control, don't value friends, wealth, even life itself.  Even here, suicide would be the only 100% consistent way.  "Apathaia" or insensibislity was complete emotionlessness and the stoic goal.  One story was that the slave Epictetus was being tortured by a master.  He told his master that if he kept twisting his leg, the leg would break.  The master continued, however, and the leg broke.  Epictetus said, "See, I told you it would break."  How could you achieve this state?  If you're insensible, why will you act?  All previous ethical philosophies said there was an advantage at the end of the road.  But if we're insensible 100%, when we achieve this state, why would we act afterwards?  We'd need the wisdom of the world first, to achieve apathy.

Stoic metaphysics:  The stoics argued for the existence of god, using the argument from design.  They were fundamentally religious.  Their argument, which wasn't original, said to look around at the orderly, lawful, universe, the harmony of its acts, the design of the whole, everything obeying regular laws.  Since the world wasn't wildly erratic and mixed up, they said this could only be accounted for by a cosmic designer, who's running the universe for some purpose.  This cosmic intelligence, god, must exist.  This assumed that if the universe, or existence, was left to its own devices it would run wild, the Law of Causality would be suspended, and the world would be in cpmplete chaos.  They didn't understand that cuasality proceeds from identity, and that identity was inherent in existence, and was all that was needed for stability.  A is A is enough to keep the universe orderly.

The stoics didn't believe that god was a being who existed separately in a separate reality.  They took the relation of the soul to the body.  The soul didn't determine the behavior of the body outside of it.  Therefore, the world was a gigantic cosmic being.  This was a naturalistic parallel to religion, god was suffused throughout the universe.  This is called pantheism.  The universe, as a whole, was matter, infused with a semi-personal soul, a guiding living mind or soul, which guides for a purpose.  It's called god, nature, even Zeus, or reason.  But it is the creator.

For the stoics, god's pantheistic attributes included 1] All the world had a purpose, it's teleological.  All happened for the 'best', a purpose of god.  This was inherent in the argument from design for god.  The stoic teleology was cruder than Plato's, more anthropomorphic, not striving towards goodness.  The purpose of the universe wasn't the welfare of man.  Even diseases kept the population down, and served a useful purpose.  Even bedbugs curbed laziness.  2] The stoics were rigid determinists.  All that happened in the universe was inexorably destined.  They said this was implied in the Law of Cause and Effect, which they accepted.  Epicurus, on the other hand, had rejected the Law of Cause and Effect.  Everything was fixed from all eternity.  God has no choice either, which was a particular doctrine of their determinism.  They believed in 'eternal occurrence'.  The universe went on through repeated cycles, and every step in the cycle was the same as in the preceeding cycle.  They thought the universe once was a fire, then it went through stages of inexorable, immutable development.  Then the earth started to rarify again, as part of the eternal recurrence and became a hugh bonfire again.  In between was the 'great year'.  The universe was like a deck of cards.  Any one arrangement of cards determined the arrangem,ent of the next deck, etc.  These eternal cycles were going around, with every cycle identical.  This eternal recurrence emphasized their rule of destiny.  We all had this lecture an infinite number of times in the past, as we all will come to the same class an infinite number of times in the future.  Peikoff says he wonders 'when will you ever get it?'

How could there be ethics at all under such determinism?  This was the 'problem of freedom'.  How could you prescribe praise and blame to people for what they do?  All determinist philosophies were [are] faced with problem.

The stoic metaphysics was a materialist, teleological determinist pantheism.  How could they identify man's nature?  If god was the sum total of that which exists, man must be a part or piece of god.  Man was a 'fragment torn from god'.  His soul was a part of the world's soul.  Man 's not to be viewed as an autonomous  creature, in this view.  He wasn't on his own, and didn't metaphysically own himself.  He's part of the larger whole.  He owed his allegiance to god, not himself.  He had an assigned role and imposed obligations, due to this lack of metaphysical independence.  Man had a duty that had to be obeyed, for his role in the cosmic scheme.  This was to be done not for rewards, advantage, pleasure or gain, but because man was part of the whole.  This was the first avowed morality of duty.  Previous philosophies gave ma n some advantages that would accrue to them from following their philosophy and the virtues they put forth.  To the stoics, morality was doing right qua right.

Marcus Aurelius said "when you have done well to another, and another has done well at your hands, why go on to seek a third thing besides, why seek more?  It is like the eyes seeking a reward for their seeing."  The eyes were made for their special function.  Also, man, when acting in this way, had done that which he is built for.  The whole could ask "what's in it for me?" but not its parts.  Duty was an en d in itself, what's moral is whatever is one's duty.

In later Christianity, ethics was officially set up as obeying commandments, qua commandments.  The stoics thought you could discover this morality of duty and its duties rationally, not by revelation.  But for both philosophies, morality was, in all cases, separate from advantages, rewards, and self-interest.  Stoicism was still Greek, but the groundwork was laid for Christianity.

The stoics said dut ies were 1] the virtue of acceptance -- take whatever happens as it is, never want things to be different.  Never thirst for that which you don't have.  Follow events, don't try to lead them, accept and adapt to what comes.  Rebellion was impiety.  If you are a begger, cripple, it's for the best.  Whatever happens is for the best, the ultimate purpose.  It's inevitable, and it's recurring anyway.  It would make no sense to wish that things were or will be different.  Epictetus said "remember, you are an actor in a play, of the sort that the director chooses, whether long or short, cripple , or ruler.  Act the part assigned to you well."  If you achieve this, you'll remain tranquil.  The stoics said this constantly.

You must will down the passions and disciplin e yourself.  Remind yourself of the metaphysical nature of reality.  One day,  you'll reach a sudden conversion and you'll become insensible and invulnerable to pain.  Then you'll value only that which is in your power.  Your only value was willing down your passions, and your only valued virtue as an end in itself.  This was the source of 'virtue is its own reward'.  It's the same Epicurean line, advocating withdrawal, but a greater withdrawal.  The stoics withdrew into their own souls, not depending on a hostile world, or withdrawing into their own garden.  This was a greater renunciation of life.

The Duty of Altruism -  Up to now, only 100% passivity was needed to be a complete stoic.  But some of them, especially the orient-minded, adopted altruism.  It means to serve others, your duty was to the welfare of mankind, just like duties to god.  We're related to other parts of god, just as other men are.  Mankind was a much larger part of the whole than individual men.  Also, it's hopeless to gain personal advantage in this world, because the good stoics were insensible.  Therefore, so as not to vegetate, you must serve others.  Especially for the latter Roman stoicism, altruism was a cardinal virtue.  Epoctetus said "the character of a citizen should hold no private interest and deliberate of nothing as a separate individual, but like hands or feet that would never persue or desire anything but, with reference to the interest of the whole.  Even deaths and mutilation are part of the grand scheme.  The whole is superior to the part, and the city is superior to the citizen.....  a foot should be clean but as a foot and as a thing that does not stand by itself.  It must go in the mud or even be cut off for the good of the whole body".  You should conceive of yourself in the same way.  Why repine? You weren't a man, if detached from the city.  These were overtones from Plato's organic therory of the ideal state, although Plato merely made suggestions.  Also, Plato's goal was an individual healthy soul.  Now, religious metaphysics and a sense of futility for any individual achievement led to altruism as the cardinal duty, not justified in terms of any self-interest.

Well, it there's nothing good in itself but virtue, why should we try to do things for others and gain these things for them? Why is this a virtue?  Why give health, goods, wealth, and life to others, if these aren't of value?  But if these things are of value, why should we, ourselves, be apethetic, insensible and indifferent to them?  The stoics said it's true, these things such as health, etc. weren't good, but still weren't completely worthless.  They said you should differentiate between those things which were 'good' and 'advantageous', and the 'bad' and the 'disadvantageous'.   Only the 'good' was a virtue, only the 'bad' was a vice.  They wobbled through in differentiating 'good' from 'advantageous', and made untenable distinctions..........

[Peikoff then goes on to the Skeptics]




Post 6

Friday, September 28, 2007 - 9:02pmSanction this postReply
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Subject: The Learning of Greek and Latin

Ted, do you know -both- of these languages well enough to compare among the books in the Loeb Library?!! That is truly impressive!

I am Greekless and know enough Latin to teach an introductory Latin course, but nothing more advanced. I couldn't teach Latin II and I don't know enough to read any of the Loeb books.

As a teacher, let me ask you a question about how you learned Greek and Latin:

1. For Latin, was it taught in your school? And did you start with Wheelock's famous introductory text? I am finding Wheelock very difficult for students who have no Latin. You almost have to memorize tons of grammar before you can do anything. (I have used parts of another, supplementary text, "Lingua Latina", which is an 'immersion' text in which the declensions and conjugations are built up gradually.)

2. How many years of courses in Latin and Greek did you have before you were on the level that you could read entire volumes in the Loeb Classical Library?

I'm looking for ideas and feedback re teaching Latin -- I have gifted and bright students, but languages are hard for them.

(This year I'm teaching 5 courses - Latin along with Philosophy, AP Literature and Composition, AP Language and Composition --- all high school...AP courses are supposed to be on the level of a college intro course --- and one middle school General Science course).
....

Anyone other than Ted who studied Latin in school and has thoughts on the teaching they were exposed to, please feel free to comment as well!!!

Ideas and experiences gratefully appreciated!



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Saturday, September 29, 2007 - 1:29amSanction this postReply
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Latin, no - but took Greek as freshman at University of Wisconsin, because wanted to read Aristophenes in his own language...  ended reading Thucidedes [go figure, huh]....  still have the books, but admit no longer read Greek, for lack of material [at the time, never knew of Loeb - a real pity]...



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Saturday, September 29, 2007 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Since you ask: took both in college, kept up with Greek, which I can "read" as well as ever, with a translation, dictionary, commentary, verb directory and maybe grammar book to fall back on.  My ambition was to read Aristotle and the "Many the wonders" chorus from Antigone, and so I did.  One advantage to reading philosophy in Greek is that it contains no Latin derivatives; philosophers were still inventing the subject and its vocabulary, and the imagery and the everyday-language origins of the technical terms are there in front of you, requiring no knowledge of etymology.

Yes, Wheelock was the beginning text, Chase and Phillips for Greek.  I'm not familiar with any other textbooks, but an alternative way of teaching these languages is hard to imagine.  Conversational immersion, standard for modern languages these days, isn't an option.  Both high schools I attended offered Latin.

By the characterization of reading above, I read the Poetics in my first year.

Peck's Loeb editions of Aristotle's biological writings are classics (if you'll pardon the expression).  I once heard and academic say that you can tell that their Physics is a bad translation simply by observing how much denser the text is on the English side.

[Continued]  Some further thoughts about the questions in #6.  Conversational immersion isn't practical, but a form of reading immersion might be.  Find some interesting quote, not more than 5 sentences, that is beyond what the students know, and work throught it as slowly as you need to.  This is a dative of respect; you'll learn about that later.  This quotation uses both the perfect and the imperfect to express different kinds of past time.  The word order here is difficult, but it's an example of a flexibility that English doesn't give you.  Doing this now and then might give the students a preview of what they'll learn if they stay at it and keep them interested.  If this is successful, the trick would be to show what they can do in Latin that they can't do so economically in English.

(Edited by Peter Reidy on 9/29, 5:30pm)




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Saturday, September 29, 2007 - 8:54pmSanction this postReply
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Peikoff's Bias

I don't have time for a long refutation/correction at this point, But Robert's notes show that Peikoff purposefully emphasized the differences between Rand and the Stoa (not "stois") and he did not point out that there were many different schools of thought on different issues.

Perhaps the most important point is the doctrine of good & evil versus the doctrine of the preferable versus the unpreferable. Stoics did admit that wealth and family and friendship were preferable things, but since they lay outside the strictly volitional, they were unwilling to call them morally good in the way that they call rationality morally good. Indeed, in good circumstances, the good man would be expected to achieve pleasant externalities. If he could not, he should not despair, since ultimately only our own choice to adhere to reason is that which is under our direct control. This is hardly objectionable to an Objectivist. They chief difference is not ethical, but lies in the Stoic skepticism toward the Randian "benevolent universe premise" to which Robert alluded, if not in those terms.

The Stoic system lasted over five centuries. It is easy to pick out the bad parts, but there is also something called a generous reading of a text, and the invalidity of presenting your opponent's weakest arguments. For example, the Stoics are more properly described as physical monists than materialists like the atomistic Epicureans, who also lacked an acceptable explanation for free will. The Stoics did not deny mind, they considered it to be a property of the body.

I appreciate Robert's effort in typing his notes, and the concerns he raises are real, but the better Stoics were aware of those concerns, and there is 100 times as much of value to glean from them than there is grounds for suspicion in Peikoff's dismissal.

Ted Keer




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Saturday, September 29, 2007 - 9:57pmSanction this postReply
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"Play that Funky Music, White Boy*"

Phil, there are many issues. First, I lived as a child in Puerto Rico and was exposed to much Spanish at an early age. Also, my mother's side of the Family spoke Rusyn, (Ruthenian, an East Slavic dialect) at home as a secret language to prevent the kids from understanding. I did not become trilingual, or did not retain my knowledge once I went to school, but the exposure helped. Also, my paternal cousin with whom I share Danish blood is a PhD in linguistics. Holger Pederson and many pioneering linguists have been Danes. It seems to run among Danes. My high school required two years of instruction in Spanish French or German. I opted for French as a freshman since it was the language about which I knew least (My parents knowing a little Spanish, and my father his Basic German and a lot of songs and poems.) I then made the unprecedented step of taking first year German as well as a Junior, and was promoted to fourth-year status as a Senior, and I took second-year Spanish as a senior as well by fighting to drop my lunch period to make room. (I ate an apple between classes.)

As for my Greek and Latin, I only took the first two semesters of each in college. I cannot "read" a full lengthy text on its own without the aid of a dictionary, but I can tell, of course, if a word is a noun or a verb, and that's half the battle. With Loeb, the translation is right there, and I almost never need the dictionary. I do read some full original passages in Loeb simply for their beauty. I find the bilingual texts most valuable because you do not have to trust the interpreter if you have a familiarity with the tongue. Just as one can't translate "Play that funky music, white boy!" into any language but English, there are things one can say in Greek or even Spanish that one simply can't translate idiomatically into any other tongue. And the Loeb volumes compare in cost to the monolingual ones, so they are worth double their cost.

Finally, no one knows his own language until he learns another. A monolingual is liked a fish never out of water. Learning a third language is simple - you have (hopefully) integrated the principles.

I did indeed learn from Wheelock, and found it exactly to my tastes. The reason students fear grammar is that they have never learned English grammar or been forced to learn it by studying a contemporary tongue. I could see that teaching Latin to highschool students might be tough, but the problem is inherent in their prior learning, and the issues of emphasizing parsing in English and starting foreign language instruction earlier should be brought up to the school board.

I learned my Greek from an Evangelical Minister who taught at Rutgers. I forget the text. He, like my Latin teacher, wanted me to switch to a classics major. He had the good habit of making us learn to pronounce i-subscripts (a sound that was written but had become silent after the Hellenistic period) and we read Xenophon in the second lesson.

Oh, and I should emphasize that I took Greek as Summer course, and the intense immersion was helpful.

As for myself, I don't know Hungarian but I find that I can pick such things up now by osmosis. I got myself in trouble on the A Train one day. Sitting next to some girls speaking Hungarian, I absentmindedly said "A Magyar nyelv," which means "The Hungarian tongue." Since I am half Ruthene, which used to be part of the Galician province of Austro-Hungary, the girls would not believe I did not speak Hungarian until it occurred to me to utter some words in Slavic.

I can not strongly enough emphasize that all who can learn a second and even a third language should do so, and Children should learn one Western, one non-Western (Hindi, Arabic, Japanese...) and one Classical language if at all possible.

*From John McWhoorter's Doing our Own Thing

The map shows the Nazi puppet republic of Ruthenia torn from Czechoslovakia under occupation and annexed by Ukraine after the War. During the middle Ages, Ruthenia was a large kingdom covering most of what is now Western Ukraine, with Lviv (formerly Lvov, Lemberg) as its capital.

Ted Keer



Post 11

Sunday, September 30, 2007 - 1:02amSanction this postReply
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Mention was made of the lectures, so thought to provide the notes on them - nothing more....could even do the ones for Epicureans if is wanted.....



Post 12

Sunday, September 30, 2007 - 10:02amSanction this postReply
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> could even do the ones for Epicureans if is wanted..... [Robert]

Robert, that would be great. I benefitted greatly from your wonderful notes on the Stoics.

> Find some interesting quote, not more than 5 sentences, that is beyond what the students know, and work throught it as slowly as you need to....Doing this now and then might give the students a preview of what they'll learn if they stay at it and keep them interested. If this is successful, the trick would be to show what they can do in Latin that they can't do so economically in English. {Peter]

Peter, this is a great tip, thanks. The three texts I have (Wheelock, Lingua Latina, and Oxford English do this but only when they are ready to understand every word in the shortish quote. I think I may give them a 'preview' from time to time in the way you mention. Ted has also inspired me to get one or more of the Loeb "red books" (Red covers are Latin, Green are Greek).

> ... Finally, no one knows his own language until he learns another. [Ted]

Very true, Ted. Rand identified the principle in the following quote from, perhaps, ITOE: "It takes two concretes to make an abstraction." In this case knowing a second language helps you with a whole range of abstractions and thinking methods (including grammar as such) since you have two whole sets of examples to compare and contrast.

> With Loeb, the translation is right there, and I almost never need the dictionary.

And often, once you have been exposed to more than one (in this case, Romance) language, you can see from the context or the similarity to a latinate English word or the surrounding material what it means. I had a college roommate who had never had a foreign language and was struggling with Italian. I had had French and Latin and was better able to translate (simple) Italian poetry than he was, even though he had spent a term studying that language and I had not. The fact that Italian is so close to Latin helped, but my French actually helped a lot also, if I recall correctly.

> I can not strongly enough emphasize that all who can learn a second and even a third language should do so, and Children should learn one Western, one non-Western (Hindi, Arabic, Japanese...) and one Classical language if at all possible.

As you suggest, this is relatively easy when you are in elementary school and are simultaneously learning the structure of your own language. The Europeans, all of them, learn 2,3,4 languages throughout their school years, as my mother can testify.

I wish I'd gone to elementary school in Europe. It took me -decades- to overcome my American primary school education. Thank god for moving to New England schools and for parents who kept interesting books lying around.




Post 13

Sunday, September 30, 2007 - 11:41amSanction this postReply
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Epicureans/Wheelock

Yes Robert, please do post them, I second.

Phil, the most recent editions of Wheelock do give comparisons to the Romance languages, show borrowed words in English that give clues to the Latin meaning, and so forth. The sample sentences are graded in complexity. The problem with eschewing grammar is that besides vocabulary, there is not much else. And "Canem mordet homo" does not mean what it "looks" like.

Ted



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Post 14

Sunday, September 30, 2007 - 6:09pmSanction this postReply
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ok - second try - the first got wiped just as was finishing up on it...[grrrrrrr]

notes on Peikoff's Ancient Philosophy lecture #8, first part [second was the stoics, and thrid are the skeptics]....

Aristotle's philosophy espoused a fully real world, intelligible by scientific methods and objective knowledge was possible, the good life achievable on earth, and pride as something as good a man, a'great souled man' should have.  But by 500 - 600 years later, all the opposites were systematically preached, that knowledge depends on faith, and revelation, man lives in a shadowy semi-real world, life is a veil of tears.  These views paved the way for the Dark Ages.  What happened?  Why this drastic change from the Aristotlean heights to the depths of Christianity?  Mankind fell to its knees, to remain there for over 1,000 years.

Consider the post-Aristotlean or Hellenistic philosophy, exemplified by Epicurus, Stoic, and Skeptic stages.  The main concern of these three schools was in ethics and how to live.  For political reasons the Greek world was losing its autonomy and domination, and ultimately became a Roman province.  The Greeks felt they were living in a chaotic world, they could no longer control their fates.  Fear, anxiety, and insecurity were widespread.  The question concerning philosophers was how to get peace of mind in a trouble, insecure world, and how to get 'salvation' in an apparently impossible life on earth. These three were called the 'salvation philosophies'.  There's a streak of malevolence in all post-
Aristotlean philosophers, with their goal not to achieve  a full life in a rational world, but how to escape too much pain in a chaotic, hostile world. 

Epicurus lived from 342 - 270 BC, and started the Epicurean philosophy.  Other Epicureans wrote "De Rerum Natura", or 'On the Nature of Things'.  Epicurus' goal was happiness for the individual.  He said there were two fears impeding the individual's happiness... fear of the gods and fear of death.  These sources were interfering with man's happiness.  The gods were fickle creatures with arbitrary super powers to interfere with our lives.  This resulted only in anxiety and helplessness.  Religion was a curse, also interfering with human happiness, and it brings death because religion says death brings retribution, by an unknown standard.  He said the appropriate philosophical approach is to overcome these.  He had no original metaphysics which was typical of this period. He looked back on previous philosophical systems to find the one most congenial, and took the atomism of Democrites as to his liking.  Major independent interest in philosophical questions was past and there was a long period of philosophical decline with borrowing from and tinkering with the past.  The atomists had a billiard-ball metaphysics, projecting the world under mechanistic laws.  The soul was also graspable and  composed of tiny physical atoms.  All of existence was shifting.

To Epicurus the gods were impossible and superfluous.  He still accepted the existence of gods, but all, including the gods was composed of atoms with no super powers over our lives.  The atomic structure was transcending.  Gods were a super race living in outer space.  There was no immortality.  A person was a mixture of soul and body atoms.  Death was a dissolution of structure, a disintegration of the soul and body atoms.  There should be no fear of death, because where death is, you aren't - and vice versa.  This was an empty fear.  Death wasn't the concern of the living or the dead.  He said atomism brought in the problem of determinism.  Weren't we the pawns of the laws of mechanics?  Weren't we passively reacting robots, with no free will?  Wasn't there a tyranny of mechanics exchanged for the tyranny of the gods?  Epicurus wanted room for free will with atomism, which would have been a feat in materialism.

Epicurus' physics --  To explain the origin of the world he said atoms were falling down steadily, straight down in a straight line.  He had no knowledge of gravity, he thought each atom, having no weight, would fall down.  He wondered how atoms could have been made to come together, collide and bring about a world.  Epicurus said once in a while, some atoms moved sidewise a little, and these atoms started a chain of side motions and the formation of a world.  How could just some of them do this? He said occasionally, for absolutely no reason, a little atom lurches to one side, on an absolutely causeless basis, by sheer metaphysical chance.  These were 'atoms on a bender', and the process was called 'Epicurean swerves'.  He abandoned a strict Law of Cause and Effect, although most of the time, atoms did obey laws.

So, Epicurus thought there was free will and we're not pawns of absolute laws.  We're 'free' to defy causal laws, and we can control out behavior, through our little lurches.  To him, free will meant denying the Law od Cause and Effect, which he considered determinism.  This was actually indeterminism.  It's a hopeless position, which violated the Law of Cause and Effect, but not an uncommon one.  Kant and James and some existentialists took their cue and also tried to defend free will by the denial of the Law of Cause and Effect in some form.

If this view were actually true, we'd have no greater control over out causeless actions than over caused, determined actions.  A murderer could say his arm swerved and this is why he killed someone, and there would be no responsibility for actions.  This is a false alternative.  Epicurus was the first to equate free will with causeless action.  This put the concept of free will in disrepute among later philosophers.

His ethics --  Epicurus said the basic governing law of human behavior was acquiring pleasure and avoiding pain.  This was a 'necessary law', by virtue of men being men.  his position was psychological hedonism and was claimed to be a description of human psyvhology, not an evaluation, saying "That's the way people are."  He said that all men qua men pursue only one goal in all their actions, to gain a maximum pleasure and a minimum pain for themselves.  From this psychological doctrine his ethical code was based on this 'fact'.  This is ethical hedonism with pleasure and only pleasure as an end and a good in itself - and vice versa for pain.  He said to evaluate everything as good or bad in terms of these pleasure- pain standards.  He said that psychological hedonism was a factual basis and his ethical hedonism supposedly stemmed from this.  Epicurus didn't originate hedonism.  for a critique of psychological hedonism read Branden's "Isn't everyone selfish?" in the Objectivist newsletter.  John Hospers' "Introduction to Human Ethics" criticizes psychological hedonism.  Also Peikoff and Rand in the Objectivist criticize this.

However, Epicurus was original in the means ha advanced to achieve this.  He said in this world, the more you openly value and desire something, the more vulnerable you are to hurt and pain.  If you're indifferent to wealth, then when poverty , inflation or depression occur you will be hurt less.  In any event, you'll be hurt in proportion to your love of money, etc.  If you are indifferent to the opposite sex you are not open to being romantically hurt by someone betraying you.  The same reasoning applied to your appearance, love of good, etc.  He said there's nothing to count on in this world, because it opened the possibility of pain.  You should value only that which is dependent on yourself only, and directly within your own power, and be self-sufficient to achieve true happiness.  Epicurus said that independence is needed not just of human beings but of reality as such.  "Don't give hostages to fortune" in effect.  You could stop the world from affecting you although you couldn't stop the world.  Passions and desires were our enemies, they suck us back to the streams of life.  We should conquer our emotions, thought, and feelings and become emotionless.  This state was called 'ataraxy'.  This would make you imperturbable as the ideal.  there should be no life of achievement and actions and fighting for values.  Epicurus said that to live, withdraw from the world.  His philosophy in essence was "Nothing ventured, Nothing lost."  The sheltered garden of Epicurus was where he and a few friends lived and thought, within a little garden.  They lived ascetically and discoursed among themselves.

Happiness meant the absence of emotions, happiness was a negative with no hurt and pleasure was the absence of bodily pain, worry and anxiety.  His model for the concept of pleasure was like the pleasure of digestion.  When you enjoyed good digestion, youdidn't know of it, or bubble over with it.  You just didn't feel troubled and upset.  Epicurus may have suffered from acute indigestion and dyspepsia.  He was always thinking of unfortunate consequences from what's down.  To paraphrase another saying, "Don't eat, drink, or make merry, for tomorrow you diet."

Epicurus wasn't entirely consistent with this.  He allowed some positive pleasures as long as there wasn't any stirring up or excitement, like the pleasure of friendship or intellectual pursuit.  These didn't stir you up or ties you to the world in a physical sense.  Epicurus disapproved of sex, and advocated a simple, frugal life.

On the face of it he was a this-world materialist, a hedonist and almost an atheist.  He offered withdrawal from life and emotionlessness retirement from life.  The handwriting was on the wall here for future trends in philosophy.  But Epicurus still wanted things from life - his garden, good digestion, and friends.  He wanted these things and thus accepted the possibility of pain inherent in pursuing even these values.  The only real guarantee of no pain was suicide.  He tried to sneak out a certain amount of  pleasure.  Only dead men feel no pain.




Post 15

Sunday, September 30, 2007 - 11:18pmSanction this postReply
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> The problem with eschewing grammar is that besides vocabulary, there is not much else. [Theodorus]

Of the three texts I am using or will this year, Wheelock leads with grammar and requires you know entire declensions/conjugations and gives relatively short passages, Lingua Latina "Latin immersion" gives you very simple sentences and lots of Latin passages and stories you can infer the grammar from -- and learn after and inductively from the passages, and Oxford Latin is sort of in between.

> "Canem mordet homo" does not mean what it "looks" like.

Very funny. If this were ever to happen, you can be sure (as Bill Buckley pointed out) it would be quite newsworthy.

I must be pedantic, though, and point out that "Homo canem mordet" (subject-object-verb) is more likely to be the way the Romans would have organized the sentence.

(Philius Theodorum mordet.)


(Edited by Philip Coates on 10/01, 9:34am)




Post 16

Monday, October 1, 2007 - 9:55amSanction this postReply
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Robert, your notes are wonderful. They remind me of all the good things about the Peikoff course and how he could essentialize, give the main (simplified) contours of a philosopher's approach ... as is appropriate in a good intro course (as opposed to grad school or specialist type study, where nuance-parsing or exception-finding may sometimes be appropriate).



Post 17

Monday, October 1, 2007 - 9:58amSanction this postReply
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These notes, remember, come from the time before the break-up, so the more recent version may be somewhat different....



Post 18

Monday, October 1, 2007 - 5:36pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Robert, for the effort. I will simply note for now the strange use of the word "malevolent" when perhaps "pessimistic" might be a better way to describe certain aspects of the Hellenistic philosophies, if even that harsh a judgement be warranted, and leave this thread as unmarked for later comment at length.

Ted



Post 19

Monday, October 1, 2007 - 7:39pmSanction this postReply
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Of which speaking, Phil, all archaic Indo-European languages verb final were, as Japanese (a distant Altaic cousin) still is. A bit Yoda like me to it seems.

Deodatus Carus



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