Elemental Epicureanism by Cassius Amicus - Read Online
Elemental Epicureanism
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Summary

Against the Men of the Crowd, the title essay in this collection, presents a summary of the full frontal attack which Epicurus launched on the religions and the virtues of the leaders of the Men of the Crowd. I do not represent that any of the text in this essay is a direct translation of the ancient records. I do not represent that any of the ideas in this essay were arranged in the ancient texts in the same way they are arranged here. What I do represent is that each of the arguments and ideas presented here existed in substantially the same form in the works of Epicurus and his followers two thousand years ago. My goal in preparing this new essay has been to cut through the layers of misrepresentation, misunderstanding, and academic commentary and to present the ideas of Epicurus to the average man or woman of today in way that is at one and the same time relevant, understandable, and fully consistent with the vision of the ancient Epicureans.

The reader who is familiar with Epicurean literature will readily recognize the sources of the arguments that have been combined to make up Against the Men of the Crowd. Beginning with the theme presented in the opening of Book VI of Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things,” the essay then turns to the issue of how we know what it is we claim to know, as developed in other sections of Lucretius’ poem. Many of the details that follow are taken from the work known as “On Methods of Inference,” left to us by Philodemus of Gadara, and preserved for the modern world only due to the burial of Herculaneum in the eruption of Pompeii in 79 AD. After those details are presented, the urgency of the issues involved are emphasized with arguments taken from one of the many Epicurean letters of Seneca. The essay concludes with the summation delivered by Torquatus in his extensive “Defense of Epicurus” from Cicero’s “On Ends.”
The next five chapters which follow are my “Elemental Editions” of the several of the most authoritative Epicurean texts, included here for the first time in book form. These are: (2) Epicurus’ Letter to Herodotus on general principles of Nature, (3) Epicurus’ letter to Pythocles on Astronomy, (4) Epicurus’ Letter to Menoeceus on Ethics, (5) The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda, and (6) the “Defense of Epicurus” delivered by Torquatus as recorded by Cicero. Like the opening essay, the texts of these “Elemental Editions” are not literal translations, but modernized paraphrases tuned to the ear and the style of a modern audience.

With no apology let me emphasize that this book is not written for academic researchers, or for those whose interest in Epicurus is primarily historical. This book is written for those who wish to understand for themselves, so they can apply for themselves in their own lives, the wisdom of Epicurus.
In the words which Frances Wright gave to Epicurus in 1822,
Let us arise in our strength, examine, judge, and be free!

Peace and Safety!

Cassius Amicus, October, 2013

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Contents

Foreword

CHAPTER 1. AGAINST THE MEN OF THE CROWD

CHapter 2. EPICURUS’ LETTER TO HERODOTUS

Chapter 3. EPICURUs’ LETTER TO PYTHOCLES

Chapter 4. EPICURUS’ LETTER TO MENOECEUS

Chapter 5. THE INSCRIPTION OF DIOGENES OF OINOANDA

Chapter 6. The DEFENSE OF EPICURUS DELIVERED BY TORQUATUS

Chapter 7. SELECTIONS FROM LUCRETIUS’ ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

CHapter 8. ELEMENTAL EPICUREANISM – A RESTATEMENT

APPENDIX 1. The PRINCIPAL DOCTRINES OF EPICURUS

APPENDIX 2. THE VATICAN COLLECTION OF THE SAYINGS OF EPICURUS

APPENDIX 3. EPICURUS’ SAYINGS ABOUT THE WISE MAN

APPENDIX 4. THOMAS Jefferson – SELECTED LETTERS

Letter to William Short, October 31, 1819

Letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816

Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

Letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814

Letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

APPENDIX 5 – FRANCES WRIGHT – SELECTIONS FROM A FEW DAYS IN ATHENS

Epicurus v. Zeno

On The Proper Attitude Toward Those With Whom We Disagree

On Pride, Vanity, Ambition, And Cynicism

APPENDIX 6. LUCIUS SENECA – SELECTED REFERENCES TO EPICURUS

On the Urgent Need for Philosophy

On The Urgent Need for Action

On Living According to Nature Rather Than By The Opinion of the Crowd

On Sharing True Philosophy With Others

On the Proper Attitude Toward Life

On The Proper Attitude Toward Death

On Friendship and Assisting Others with Philosophy

APPENDIX 7. DIOGENES LAERTIUS – THE LIFE OF EPICURUS

The Will of Epicurus

Letter to Idomeneus

Letter to Herodotus

Letter to Pythocles

The Wise Man

Letter to Menoeceus

The Principal Doctrines

APPENDIX 8. MarCUS CICERO – SELECTED WORKS

On The Ends of Good and Evil

On the Nature of the Gods

APPENDIX 9. GAIUS CASSIUS LONGINUS – SELECTED LETTERS

Letter from Cassius to Cicero written from Syria, circa 46 B.C.

Letter from Cicero to Cassius, written from Rome, January of 45 B.C.

Letter from Cassius to Cicero, written from Brundisium, January, 45 B.C.

Excerpt From Plutarch’s Life of Brutus

ADDITIONAL READING

ENDNOTES

Foreword

In 1822, a young woman from Scotland by the name of Frances Wright published a book entitled "A Few Days In Athens. By the time of its publication, Wright had become a friend of the Marquis de Lafayette, and she ultimately traveled in his company to America to visit Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Jefferson described Wright’s book as a treat to me of the highest order," and made many notes of its content in his personal journals. What Wright had presented to Jefferson, and to the world, was a vigorous and enthusiastic defense of the philosophy of Epicurus.

Wright closed her book with Epicurus delivering these words:

We have considered the unsound fabric of religion. It remains to consider that, equally unsound, of morals. The virtue of man is false as his faith. What folly invented, knavery supports. Let us arise in our strength, examine, judge, and be free! The teacher here paused. The crowd stood, as if yet listening. "At a convenient season, my children, we will examine farther into the nature of man, and the science of life."

A convenient season has arrived.

This book has been prepared to assist in opening to a new generation of readers the philosophy of Epicurus, the man renowned in the ancient world as the Master-Builder of Human Happiness.

Against the Men of the Crowd, the title essay in this collection, presents a summary of the full frontal attack which Epicurus launched on the religions and the virtues of the leaders of the Men of the Crowd. I do not represent that any of the text in this essay is a direct translation of the ancient records. I do not represent that any of the ideas in this essay were arranged in the ancient texts in the same way they are arranged here. What I do represent is that each of the arguments and ideas presented here existed in substantially the same form in the works of Epicurus and his followers two thousand years ago. My goal in preparing this new essay has been to cut through the layers of misrepresentation, misunderstanding, and academic commentary and to present the ideas of Epicurus to the average man or woman of today in way that is at one and the same time relevant, understandable, and fully consistent with the vision of the ancient Epicureans.

The reader who is familiar with Epicurean literature will readily recognize the sources of the arguments that have been combined to make up Against the Men of the Crowd. Beginning with the theme presented in the opening of Book VI of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, the essay then turns to the issue of how we know what it is we claim to know, as developed in other sections of Lucretius’ poem. Many of the details that follow are taken from the work known as On Methods of Inference, left to us by Philodemus of Gadara, and preserved for the modern world only due to the burial of Herculaneum in the eruption of Pompeii in 79 AD. After those details are presented, the urgency of the issues involved are emphasized with arguments taken from one of the many Epicurean letters of Seneca. The essay concludes with the summation delivered by Torquatus in his extensive Defense of Epicurus from Cicero’s On Ends.

The next five chapters which follow are my Elemental Editions of the several of the most authoritative Epicurean texts, included here for the first time in book form. These are: (2) Epicurus’ Letter to Herodotus on general principles of Nature, (3) Epicurus’ letter to Pythocles on Astronomy, (4) Epicurus’ Letter to Menoeceus on Ethics, (5) The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda, and (6) the Defense of Epicurus delivered by Torquatus as recorded by Cicero. Like the opening essay, the texts of these Elemental Editions are not literal translations, but modernized paraphrases tuned to the ear and the style of a modern audience.

With no apology let me emphasize that this book is not written for academic researchers, or for those whose interest in Epicurus is primarily historical. This book is written for those who wish to understand for themselves, so they can apply for themselves in their own lives, the wisdom of Epicurus.

In the words which Frances Wright gave to Epicurus in 1822, Let us arise in our strength, examine, judge, and be free!

Peace and Safety!

Cassius Amicus, October, 2013

For additional information about Epicureanism, visit NewEpicurean.com, The International Society of Friends of Epicurus, Epicurus. info or Epicurus.net.

Chapter 1 – Against the Men of the Crowd

The City of Athens is renowned in history as the place where men learned a new model of life. It was here that they first lived according to the rule of law, and based their lives on the philosophies of men such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

But Athens also bestowed upon the world another man – a man far greater than these - who by his genius pulled down the walls that other philosophies and religions had erected, walls which separated men from the pursuit of the happiness to which Nature had called them. The glory of this man, his philosophy, and his name – Epicurus – spread far and wide, and even after his death his reputation reached as high as heaven itself.

For Epicurus had seen that Nature had provided all the things which men really need, and had thereby established human life on a sure footing.

But he also saw that even where men were great in riches and honor, and in glory and power, that these things did not calm their hearts, that constant troubles plagued their lives, and that men felt constrained to cry out to the gods for relief from their distress.

Seeing this before him, Epicurus perceived that the cause of the trouble was the manner of thinking which unhappy men had either been taught, or had adopted for themselves. He saw that the manner of thinking of a man is the vessel in which he places his life, but that this vessel had been corrupted by false teachings, and that this corruption spoiled all of the good things which Nature had provided.

Epicurus saw that the vessel men had chosen was leaky and full of holes, so that it could never by any means be filled full, and that it had been befouled with a nauseous flavor that contaminated everything placed within it.

Epicurus therefore cleansed the vessel, replacing bitter flavor with sweet, and filling its holes with precepts of truth. He showed men the error in their manner of thinking, the limits to their lusts and fears, the true goal to which Nature called them, and the direct course by which this goal may be reached.

He also showed men what true evils Nature allows to exist in mortal affairs, and how men must fortify their walls, and erect their gates, from which they may sally out to battle these evils.

And Epicurus showed men that – for the most part – the melancholy billows of care that plague their hearts need not arise at all!

For just as children are afraid, and dread all things in the darkness of night, so we, as adults in the daylight, fear things which are not a bit more awful than the imaginings of children!

And so Epicurus showed men how to dispel this terror and darkness of mind – not by the rays of the sun, but by studying and applying the laws of Nature.

The study of Nature requires that we understand clearly the meaning of our words, so that we may firmly refer to them as we proceed in testing our opinions. Unless we do this, our arguments will run on, untested, to infinity, based on terms that are empty of meaning. We must see clearly, and at the start, the primary meaning of every word, without need to prove the meaning further, so that we have a firm standard to which to refer to as we proceed.

In order to understand and prove our words, we must always hold fast to the present impressions we receive from the faculties given to us by Nature. These faculties are the five senses, the faculty of pain and pleasure, and the faculty we call preconceptions, or anticipations. It is these, working together, that provide us the means for distinguishing between that which is clear and that which is unclear. And this is what we call reasoning by the senses, or by analogy, for we look always to these faculties as our standard of truth. When we examine matters beyond our direct perception, we compare them to similar things that these faculties have already perceived clearly. We look for aspects that are similar, and aspects that are different, and from these we reason by analogy to separate true from false.

In Epicurus’ own day, teachers and preachers of false philosophies and religions were everywhere, both in the poetry about the gods and in the schools of Plato, and Aristotle, and many others. The false ideas they taught remain with us today, among Cynics, Skeptics, Stoics, and other Men of Logic, and among the Men of Religion who imitate them, and who add falsehoods of their own. A great multitude of people suffer from this disease, and their numbers increase as if in a plague, for as they emulate each other, men pass this disease among themselves like sheep.

And so it is necessary to warn you against both the Men of Logic, and the Men of Religion, who we shall refer to, together, as the Men of the Crowd. All these men will tell you that you cannot trust your senses. They will tell you that they possess means for determining a higher truth, that is open only to those who will renounce the faculties of Nature, and who will instead follow their school or their religion.

Plato, for example, in his Republic, taught that men who rely on the senses are no better than slaves who are shackled in chains, facing the wall in a cave, who can see only shadowy reflections of the truth behind them. Such men can never look directly on the truth, but Plato claims to have access to a higher truth, which he says is open to him through logic, and which is based on ideal concepts that exist beyond the reach of the senses.

Further, in his Phaedrus, Plato taught that true reason must be based on these ideal concepts, which he calls causes and forms, and that unless we base our reasoning on these ideal concepts, and give up our reliance on the senses, we can never hope to find the truth.

Likewise, Aristotle, in his Prior Analytics, taught that the senses alone can never reveal what he says are causes, or necessary connections, between objects. Aristotle taught that, in order to find these causes, including his imaginary first cause, men must look to what he calls indications, but that these indications are never reliable unless they can be stated in terms of logical formulas, called syllogisms.

In response to these Men of Logic, and against all Men of the Crowd, Epicurus told us that he would prefer to speak truthfully, and in his own terms, about Nature, and about what is of advantage to all men, even if no one understood him, rather than conform to popular opinion, and gain the praise that comes from holding the ideas of the Men of the Crowd.

And Epicurus also showed us that the study of Nature does not create men who are fond of boasting, and of clamoring to show off the education that impresses the crowd. Instead, the study of Nature produces men who are strong and self-sufficient, and who take pride in their own personal qualities, not in those circumstances that depend on the crowd.

And Epicurus told us that in order to live confidently, and in order to avoid doubt and confusion, we must seek the path of happy living set by Nature, and navigate that path by the senses, rather than follow the Crowd. For the Men of the Crowd will fight against our confidence in our senses, but we can defeat them when we see that despite what they say, such men in fact have no standard of their own to replace the senses. With no firm standard to guide them, the Men of the Crowd fail to distinguish between what is certain and what is uncertain; they confuse what their sensations truly report with their opinions of what they think they see; and they wander endlessly and hopelessly, having destroyed their only means of correcting their errors.

So Epicurus warned us to stand firm against all who seek to convince us that the senses cannot be trusted. He warned us that the Men of the Crowd will point to disagreements about what is true, and to difficulties in separating fact from illusion, and they will claim to possess something higher than the senses. Epicurus warned us that all these claims are lies, but that we must each learn for ourselves why they are false.

Many are the illusions and the arguments that the Men of the Crowd will cite to us to shake our confidence in the senses. These arguments are in vain, for you can defeat them when you see that illusions arise when our minds add false opinions, or mental suppositions, to what the senses report. Thus the fault, when we are fooled by illusions, is in our manner of thinking, and not in the senses themselves, in that we convince ourselves that we see things which in fact we have not seen.

For those who fail to study Nature, to study how the senses work, and to study proper methods of thinking, nothing is harder than separating facts which are clearly true from opinions which are doubtful. The manner of thinking of such men accustoms them to add unverified opinions to whatever their senses report, and without an understanding of proper reasoning based on the senses, they have no way to correct their errors.

The Men of the Crowd fail to see that true reasoning must be based on the senses, and so they argue, in their confusion, that therefore nothing can be known. These men speak falsely, for those who say that nothing can be known admit that they themselves know nothing. With such men you cannot argue, for they fail to use their head, and they might just as well be thinking with their feet.

Consider what these men are saying to you, and ask them this question: Since you are trying to tell me that there is no truth in anything, how do you know what true and false really are? What is it that in your own mind has produced your knowledge of the true and false?

As you think about this question, you will find that all you can know about what is true comes from the faculties that Nature gave you. When you see this, you will see that the senses cannot be refuted by any argument which is not based on the senses. Anything which might claim to be able to refute the senses must be more reliable than the senses. But what can fairly be accounted to be of higher certainty than the senses?

The Men of Religion will claim that their gods have revealed to them holy words that are higher than the senses. The Men of Logic will claim that their logic has allowed them access to ideal concepts that are higher than the senses. But neither of these Men of the Crowd can provide you any evidence from the senses to support their claims.

Can logic which is not based on the evidence of the senses contradict the senses? No – all true reasoning relies on the senses for verification. If the senses are unreliable, as the Men of the Crowd say, then their logic is also unreliable, as all reasoning based on unreliable things is also unreliable.

Can you rely on one sense to refute another? Can the ears contradict the eyes, or can the sense of touch contradict the ears? Can the sense of taste question the sense of touch, or the sense of smell question the eyes? No - each sense has its own distinct office, each its own power, and each rules in its own domain. No sense can contradict another, nor is any one sensation less trustworthy than another. The senses do not add their own opinion to what they report, so a sense is entitled to equal confidence at all times.

Because the senses report to us faithfully what they perceive, without adding opinion, Epicurus showed us that whatever a sense perceives to be true must be considered to be truly reported. Now this does not mean, of course, that a single sensation can reveal to us all the facts of a matter at any particular moment, regardless of the circumstances. A stick immersed in water is not really bent, even though it appears that way. The true meaning of Epicurus’ insight is that the way we check the straightness of the stick is to look at it again, this time when the stick is lifted from the water. Thus the sense of sight is our means for checking the things that we see, just as we check the things that we hear by listening again and again until the evidence is clear.

Epicurus taught us to deal in the same way with other illusions, such as the tower at a distance that appears round, but which on closer inspection appears square. When such illusions occur, evidence can appear to conflict, and we are sometimes unable explain the reason for the difference in observations. In those cases, we must acknowledge to ourselves that the difference exists, but the reason is unknown, and we must wait before we pronounce any conclusion. We must not jump to a conclusion that is arbitrary and not supported by the evidence, but even more, we must not let lack of knowledge of the difference shake our confidence in the senses.

The senses are the foundation of all knowledge of truth, and if we lose our confidence in senses, and in the truths they have established, we undermine the entire foundation of our life and our existence. Not only would we then lose the foundation for all reason, but we would then lose our very ability to live. We would be like those who, failing to use their eyes to see the cliff in front of them, step off to their deaths.

Again and again we will repeat this: we must always have the courage, and the nerve, to trust the senses.

All this would seem too simple, and too clear to cause any concern, but be warned: the Men of the Crowd will confront you with a host of words and arguments, all for the purpose of undermining your confidence in your senses.

As you consider the arguments of the Men of the Crowd, always remember this: If you were erecting a building, and your ruler was bent, your square edge was curved, and your level was tilted, there is no doubt but that all your construction would be faulty, crooked, without symmetry, and likely to fall at any time – ruined by the erroneous measurements of the false tools. In the same way, all arguments and reasoning that is based on any tools other than the faculties provided us by Nature will be distorted and false.

Now let us examine some of the most frequent arguments of the Men of the Crowd.

The Men of the Crowd argue that reasoning according to the senses is unreliable because the senses are not able to perceive the truth of the ideal concepts. By this they mean, as did Plato with his parable of the cave, and all who have come after him using similar arguments, that their gods or their logic are the real source of ultimate truth. They argue, for example, that some rich men are good, and some rich men are bad, and thus nothing can be determined about the goodness of a man by seeing that he is rich. So they say that the only way to tell whether a rich man is good is to compare him to their ideal concept of a good man, which the senses alone can never reveal.

In fact, the Men of the Crowd argue that we who reason based on the senses are in fact using their same ideal concepts. They say that whenever we judge that, since men which our senses have revealed to us have been mortal, all men are mortal, what we are doing is nothing more than referring to an ideal concept, and assuming that men we meet in the future will match the ideal concept the same as those we have previously seen. The Men of the Crowd allege that mortality is a part of the ideal concept of being a man, which has been established by the gods, or by their ideal forms. The Men of Religion say, It is by the will of Zeus, and not because all men in our experience are mortal, that any new race we encounter will also be mortal, and by this they mean that their god has established the ideal concept of what it means to be a man. The Men of Logic say that men are proved to be mortal by stating the conclusion as a syllogism, in which all their definitions are consistent with their ideal concepts. Both of these arguments of the Men of the Crowd ignore they evidence of the senses, and they are wrong.

As Epicurus has shown us, nothing exists in the universe except bodies and space. We conclude that bodies exist because it is the experience of all men, through our senses, that bodies exist. As we have already said, we must necessarily judge all things, even those things that the senses cannot perceive, by reasoning that is fully in accord with the evidence that the senses do perceive. We conclude that space exists because, if it did not, bodies would have nowhere to exist and nothing through which to move, as we see that bodies do move. Besides these two, bodies and space, and properties that are incidental to combinations of bodies and space, nothing else whatsoever exists, nor is there any evidence on which to speculate that anything else exists that does not have a foundation in bodies and space. Thus we conclude that there is no evidence whatsoever for any world of ideal concepts, or higher forms, in which exist the imaginary creations of the Men of Logic or the Men of Religion.

In addition, we know that in any world that does exist, the ultimate particles of the universe are in continual motion through all eternity. Some travel for long distances, while others bound and rebound in their movements because they are interlaced with others around them. We conclude this because the space around the particles offers them no resistance, and as the universe is boundless in all directions, there is no place for the particles to come to rest. Thus there is no quarter of the universe where ideal concepts could exist, unchanging, for eternity.

Those who say that truth must be found in ideal concepts are also wrong because they do not understand that qualities of bodies have no separate existence of their own, and they fail to see that the various qualities held by bodies, such as color, are different from the qualities of the particles that make up the body. For example, when particles of gold come together to form a body of gold visible to our sight, the body of gold appears to be a shade of yellow in color. Were we to observe the lump in the dark, however, we would see that the body of gold is colorless, and thus the color of the gold is incidental to its coming together in a body and the circumstances under which we view it.

We must not suppose that these qualities are independent existences with their own material parts or nature. But it is equally wrong to consider these qualities as not having any existence at all, or that they have some kind of incorporeal existence such as to exist as an ideal concept. The truth is that qualities of particles are unchanging over time, and qualities of bodies remain the same only for a time and under certain conditions, but in both cases, qualities are not separate existences which have been brought together from outside to form the body. It is through qualities that a body has its identity, but the quality itself does not exist apart from the particles and the bodies involved, so the qualities themselves have no separate existence which can be defined as ideal concepts. Thus there is, for example, no ideal concept of the color blue, any more than there is an ideal concept of a good man, or of the good itself.

The truth is that we must at all times use the faculties given us by Nature, observe the world around us, and decide what to choose and what to avoid based on the guidance of Nature, not by looking to ideal concepts for the answers to our questions. As Epicurus showed us, that which creates the highest pleasure in human life is the complete removal of the greatest pain. And such is the nature of what we call good, if one can once grasp it rightly, and then hold by it, and not walk about babbling idly about an ideal concept of the good.

Further, the Men of the Crowd argue that reasoning based only on the senses would require us to believe that all things are everywhere the same. For example, they say that reasoning based only on the senses would lead us to think that since we have found figs in our own country, figs exist everywhere in the world. They argue that the senses would also lead us to conclude that, because all types of plants do not exist here in our country, we should conclude that they do not exist anywhere. They argue that a method of thinking which reaches such conclusions is totally untrustworthy.

But we do not suppose that things are always the same! Whenever we sense that there is an iota or breath of evidence that circumstances are different, we honor that evidence, and we do not presume that new things will be the same as before.

Yes, we confidently look to experience as the basis for our reasoning. We see that all men die if they are beheaded, and they do not grow new heads, and so we conclude that all men everywhere who are decapitated will die. But no, we do not conclude that, because we see figs in our own fields, figs exist everywhere. The difference is that experience shows us that men are necessarily like men in respect to losing their heads, even in places we have not traveled. But plants are not the same, even in the same region and family, and often differ from one another in odor, color, form, size, and other characteristics. Thus we do not conclude that the same plants can exist everywhere.

In all cases we look for the similarities and differences that are involved. When we see differences we do not say that since hair and fingernails which are plucked out are seen to return and grow again, that eyeballs and heads may also do the same.

The Men of the Crowd also argue that reasoning cannot rely on the senses because some things are unique, and with unique things the senses have nothing to which to compare. For example, there is only one kind of stone that attracts iron, called a magnet, and only one kind of rectangle which has a perimeter equal to its area, called a square. The Men of the Crowd argue that because these unique things exist, cannot reveal to us how many other unique things might. Thus the Men of the Crowd argue that experience is not a sufficient basis to find the truth. They argue that even though all men in our experience whose hearts have been pierced have died, we cannot conclude that by necessity all men will die if their hearts are pierced. They argue that there are many unique men, such as the man in Alexandria who was half a cubit high, with a colossal head that could be beaten with a hammer. There was the person in Epidaurus who was a woman when he was married, and then later became a man. And there were pygmies shown in Acoris which were similar to those which Antony brought from Syria. The Men of the Crowd say that if all these men exist as exceptions to our general experience of men, does this not show that what we think to be common about men may not be common at all, and that experience is useless?

The truth is that no Epicurean denies that unique things exist, and method of reasoning based on the senses does not lose its validity because only one type of stone attracts iron. There is only one sun and one moon in our world; and there are unique attributes in every type of object. If a stone existed that was identical with a magnet, but it did not attract iron, then reasoning based on the senses would be undermined. But this does not happen! Among the many different types of stones, magnets have a unique quality that is evident to the senses. Likewise, the fact that a square is the only rectangle having a perimeter equal to its area does not undermine the senses. All squares tested by trial show this same distinction, and anyone who would deny this distinction would contradict the senses. When we follow the evidence that all squares in our experience have a perimeter equal to their area, we are justified in reasoning that all squares in the infinite universe have the same characteristic. This is because it is inconceivable that any square is different in that regard from those we have experienced.

Unique cases do not undercut reasoning based on the senses, because we pay attention to both similarities and differences, and we look to the substances, powers, attributes, dispositions, and numbers as the circumstances require. In some cases we dismiss many differences in things that are otherwise alike, and in some cases we dismiss few of these differences. Reasoning in this way, we judge that men everywhere are mortal, but that they are different in other respects. We confidently judge that there will not be a peculiarity of some kind such that a some men may be immortal, just as we conclude that we will never see any finite object which is not bounded by some other object. It is from our observations, not based on ideal concepts, that we confirm our conclusion that certain objects have certain qualities. Likewise, we conclude that no animal could reason on higher things, since animals are without reason. So we refer to men as mortal due to our having observed their quality of mortality, just as we refer to numerals as numbers because we observe their quality of being composed of units.

On the other hand, the soul is a unique thing, different from every other object, as is time itself. We acknowledge this uniqueness, so why should we consider unique things to be a barrier to our reasoning? Indeed, anyone looking at the manifold variety of things in our experience will judge also that similar variety exists among unperceived objects. Thus whether we deal with things that are identical, or merely similar, we reason appropriately based on the case. We look for the similarities and differences in the things that we observe, and we are corrected in our reasoning by the facts of the individual case.

Whether we are speaking in terms of universal propositions, or simply probabilities, both are derived from the evidence of the senses. It is by our senses that we establish when circumstances and relationships are important. In the case of drugs, for example, we have observed that some are deadly poison, some are purgatives, and some have other powers. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that there is great variation in whether a thing is nourishing. And so based on our experience, we do not admit that there are men who eat hay, easily digest it, and are nourished. Be warned that the Men of the Crowd often fabricate things according to their opinions, and create false records of the past. But in this they accomplish nothing, because anyone who misrepresents the evidence destroys the entire basis of reasoning by any method.

In respect to what food men can eat, the same principle applies. We reason by observing what follows necessarily from circumstances, be they common or unique. One who relies on the senses will not question the fact that it is the nature of the moon to wax and to wane, and it is the nature of men to die. On the other hand, not in every case should a thing be denied, even though much experience would lead us to deny it. Sometimes the evidence happens to come from qualities that are all incidental, and even though a large amount of incidental evidence has been gathered, the matter is still not established with certainty. An example of this is in regard to food, for no one affirms confidently that if a thing is similar to food in odor, color, and taste, it is nourishing. Many objects have incidental qualities that make them similar in appearance, color, and even taste to nourishing food, but in many cases they are not nourishing at all.

The Men of the Crowd go even further, and say that we Epicureans are inconsistent in how we reason based on the senses. They say that since all objects which we have seen in the past appear to have color, we should conclude that the atoms themselves must have color. They also say that since all bodies we have ever seen can be destroyed, we should conclude that the atoms themselves can be destroyed. They say that we are inconsistent when we conclude that atoms have no color, and that atoms cannot be destroyed. What they do not see is that we reach these conclusions based on the most firm of reasoning. Were we to conclude that atoms have color, or that atoms can be destroyed, we would in so doing be repudiating the truth that we have previously established through the senses.

When the Men of the Crowd accuse us of inconsistency, remember that their arguments in themselves, without evidence, have no weight against the probability of our doctrine. We do not in any way contradict ourselves so long as we have the evidence of the senses to confirm our statements. Indeed, we know that the gods and the first elements of things are indestructible and uncreated, not by argument alone, but because this is a condition of their being such as they are by reasoning from the senses. In the same way, living creatures are those that in our experience are nourished by certain food, and are born, and possess similar qualities, and by these characteristics we know them to be living creatures.

And the Men of the Crowd also ask us, "What kind of evidence from the senses are we to rely upon? Are we to judge men only by other men? What about judging men by looking to animals? Why should we judge living things only according to living things? Why should we not start with our ideal concepts, and judge men and animals based on those? What degree of similarity between things do we require before we can apply analogy to new things? Do not tell us that things must be identical before we can reason based on the similarity, for that would be ridiculous. If the thing we are attempting to judge is identical with the thing we already perceive, then no judgment is necessary, as they are obviously the same. So the Men of the Crowd argue that reasoning based on the senses can never be conclusive. They say we will always be comparing one thing to something else, in an infinite chain, never reaching anything final. And they say that the only way to establish the true nature of anything is by referring to ideal concepts, as those alone have certainty, by definition!

And the Men of the Crowd even argue that they can use our reasoning against us. They say that unless Epicureans are similar to those types of men they have already experienced, they shall deny that Epicureans exist, for they shall deny that they have ever seen an Epicurean by which they might recognize one! Not only that, they say that unless we define an ideal concept of an Epicurean, we will ourselves have no way to recognize each other!

Here again the Men of the Crowd fail to see that when we reason based on the senses, we search out similarities and differences carefully. We do not base our conclusions on evidence that has arisen incidentally, changing according to time or circumstance.

For example, we conclude that bodies, which are combinations of elements and void, are destructible. This is not because they are composed of elements, which we know cannot be destroyed, but because they are in part composed of void, which has no attribute but empty space. This is a conclusion that does not change according to time or place. On the other hand, we observe that bodies have color, not because they are elements, which we know do not have color, but because we observe color. We see that bodies in the dark have no color, and thus we know that color arises according to circumstance. Even in the dark, however, bodies retain their weight and shape. Therefore we do not reason from incidental qualities such as color to draw conclusions concerning all bodies. Instead, when we draw conclusions about all bodies, we look to similarities that remain the same under similar conditions, such as lightness and heaviness, which provide a proper basis of confidence for the use of analogy.

Thus as we reason we look to matters that appear most closely related and as similar as possible. We should not be over-broad in choosing what things are similar; we must look to those qualities which correspond most closely. Thus the most reliable conclusions come from observing men whose qualities are especially similar to each other, and from those qualities that follow the whole class of men, while we always watch for differences that would incline us the slightest bit to the contrary. Thus when we seek to identify Epicureans, we reason about Epicureans based on those men that are most like them, as we would for any class of things. And as we reason, we reach our conclusions about Epicureans just as we always reason, based on analogy to what we have perceived previously through the senses, not by looking to the non-existent ideal concepts of the Men of the Crowd.

The Men of the Crowd also argue that we are being illogical in referring to probabilities based on evidence we have observed in the past. When we say that it will probably be safe to sail in the summer, since past experience has shown that favorable winds occur in that season, they say that referring to probability is pointless. They refer us to our rule that a matter should be held to be true where evidence supports it, and where no evidence contradicts it. They say that if our method were valid, we ought to be certain that it will in fact be safe to sail in the summer. They say that, in fact, referring to the gods or to ideal concepts is the only reliable method for deciding anything with certainty.

The answer to these men, of course, is that there is a proper method for reasoning according to the senses. One who follows our method will not fail to see that we are justified in holding a conclusion to be true even if the similarity exists only in a large number of cases, so long as there is no evidence that contradicts the conclusion.

And so we shall continually, and always, say in defense of the senses: if reasoning based on the senses is not valid, then reasoning based on ideal concepts cannot possibly be valid either!

The Men of the Crowd also claim that so-called indications, by which they mean circumstances that tend to give evidence of other things, such as smoke indicating the presence of fire, cannot be trusted when they are based only on the senses, and that only indications based on ideal concepts are certain. The truth is that whenever an indication is always true, the evidence that it is true comes from the senses, and not from the claim that the indication represents a word of god, or an ideal concept. Only the senses can tell us whether a thing is conceivable or not, just as only the senses can tell us that it is impossible that Epicurus is a man and Metrodorus not a man.

Consider the argument, If there is motion, there is void. We cannot establish the truth of this other than by referring to the senses. We do so by proving that, by experience, we have seen that it is impossible for a thing to move without an empty space into which to move. We therefore establish, by observation, the conditions which are necessary for a thing to move in our experience. We then conclude, by analogy, that these same conditions are necessary in every case for motion to occur, as it is impossible for motion to occur without empty space. If our method of observation is not sufficient to establish this, surely any attempt to look to ideal concepts cannot possibly establish it either.

Even where the available evidence is