Monday, 30 May 2011

Unwelcome ideas - part VI


The previous post briefly introduced Epicurus and his philosophy via the modern word 'epicure'. His argument in the above video is of course an old one, but it serves to illustrate just how ancient it is and why his ideas were unwelcome.

3 comments:

James Higham said...

The debate can't be defined in terms of Epicurus though. It needs to be defined in terms of Free Will, which is the mark of homo sapiens and the very underpinning of the later Christianity.

He is, according to the literature, going to eliminate bad things but only upon supplication. In my 3rd book, this is done as a dialogue:

‘It’s all … horrible,’ cried out Emma but in her heart, she knew there was far more to come.

‘That man had the chance, the choice, it was offered to him and he might have been saved. He refused.’

‘You should have made him!’

Gabriella looked at her and she knew the answer already. ‘To make us no better than them, Emma?’

‘Is their no vengeance?’

‘Oh yes, there is vengeance and it is at hand.’


Some things happen then:

Every one of those people you see had the chance to make the choice you have made. Everyone made his choice, her choice, in the fullness of that knowledge. They hardened their hearts.’

‘So you punished them.’

‘They were not told, ‘Believe or you will be punished.’ It was explained, ‘Believe so that you can escape a terrible fate. They were told that we can only rescue those who believe they can be rescued.’

‘Why can’t you help them - just because they don’t believe?’ This time it was Hugh.

‘We are intertemporal. Inside both of you is … let me find a word you would understand in human terms … let’s call it a code … and this code alerts us, enables us to assist you, keeps you alive, even now. Without that code, we cannot.’

‘The enemy do that with the chipping.’

‘They do but this chip is intertemporal, it opens portals to your spirit, to a complex drive mechanism in your DNA. It is entirely dependent on you believing – it is automatic, it opens a portal. Think of it as switching on a radio.’

‘I see.’


There follows a fair amount of slaughter and the angel is quizzed again:

‘You could stop them if you wished,’ cried Emma, her anger kindled.

‘No,’ and Gabriella’s voice was harsher than they could remember. ‘No, we have not the power to interfere, if they have not the code. You still haven’t grasped that another dimension does not mean anything mystical but just what it says – it’s just another dimension, another physical dimension. We could help them if they wanted our help and would let us encode them, as you did but they would not accept it.’

Emma realized she was going round in circles.


The way I see it, as in anything else - blogging, Facebook, Twitter, car insurance, you [generic use of the personal pronoun] only get the benefits if you sign up and pay your dues.

You can't have it both ways with a deity. Either He exists, in which case to believe is to be protected or you don't believe, in which case you can hardly blame him when things go wrong.

The only position which can't be taken, because it is illogical is to not believe and also blame that which you don't believe in.

A K Haart said...

Hi James,
Another interesting comment. My main concern here is to highlight unwelcome ideas which have been suppressed, attacked or ignored because they raise problems for commonly-held beliefs.

I’m interested in beliefs as frames of reference and the way in which incompatible ideas are excluded from a frame of reference rather than resolved within it. I think this comes back to your point - you have to be a believer to solve the problem.

Epicurus did believe in God (Zeus), but he believed Zeus could take no conceivable interest in human affairs. That is what his argument amounts to – Zeus as a remote, disinterested being. It isn’t clear from what we have of his philosophy, but I think he was intent on undermining the mediating role of priests which he may have seen as a denial of an individual’s right to personal piety.

James Higham said...

I've a post on why He doesn't take that interest at 10:30 p.m. Just a theory, of course.