Lisa Layera

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Notes on the Epicurean soul:

The Epicurean Soul: Material and Mortal/Physicalist

Epicurus combined the project of explaining human psychology with a commitment to the claim that ‘totality of things is body and void.’ • What he says about psuche is directly intended to show that his atomic theory is capable of explaining such complex phenomena as perception, thought and action. • What he says about psuche directly supports his psychological theory and Ethics tradition.

Soul diffused thru the whole body a. resembles wind with a blend of heat b. individuated part of the body c. spatially identifiable and has a distinctive material constitution

Soul consists of four things: a. fire-like b. air-like c. wind-like d. something which lacks a name=responsible for perception

  • explained the heat and breath of a living organism/mysterious agent to describe sense-perception/note he didn't invent a new agent for intellectual reasoning...

Soul is a composite of two parts: a. one rational: the mind (animus) 1. origin of emotion and impulse

               2.	concepts applied, beliefs formed (involves memory/’stored’ universals)

3. evidence assessed, inferences made b. one non-rational: distributed throughout the body (anima)

               1. 	receives sense-impressions (all are true/error derives from rational   side/misinterpretation)
               2. 	transmits impulses 

Soul’s functions: 1. capable of maintaining life in a living body 2. of forming beliefs 3. of deciding how to act

Linkage of Soul theory to chief doctrines: 1. Denial of immortality means present life becomes concentration of all values/concrete soul

        a.	Absence of pain=no fear of death/life of tranquility
        b.	Located soul at the heart: nod to sensory evidence being paramount


2. Soul cannot have or cause life/soul needs body=Soul is mortal

        a.	complete and permanent loss of consciousness at death
        b.	proof linked to sensation: events which took place before we were born did not disturb us for we did not feel them
        c.	therefore no fear of death necessary

3. Soul must be material

        a. soul/body interact therefore must be material ‘something can’t be made or acted upon out of nothing”
        b. epicurean theory of optics further proof about interdependence of soul/body


“mind and spirit are firmly interlinked and constitute a single nature: but the deliberative element which we call the mind is, at it were, the chief, and holds sway throughout the body. It is firmly located in the central part of the chest. For that is where fear and dread leap up, and where joy scares us: therefore, it is where the mind is. The remaining part of the spirit, which is distributed throughout the body, obeys the mind and moves at its beck and call.”

Diogenes of Oenoanda: “It is true that the number of its (psuche’s) constituent atoms….does not equal that of the body; yet it girdles the whole man, and while being itself confined, binds him in turn, just as the minutest quantity of acid juice binds a huge quantity of milk.”

-it is impossible to think of the incorporeal per se except as void. And void can neither act nor be acted upon, but merely provides bodies with motion through itself.

Philosophy was mens sana incorpore sana Healthy mind/healthy body

“When we say that pleasure is the goal we do not mean the pleasures of the dissipated and those which consist in the process of enjoyment…but freedom from pain in the body and from disturbances in the mind.” (Ep. Men. 131-2)