Epicurean Philosophy

Epicurus, Aristippus, and Lucretius: History of Epicurean Philosophy

Was Epicureanism a cult? Or perhaps we should ask, was Epicureanism like a philosophical fraternity? One prominent scholar, AA Long, suggests that Epicurus’ school of philosophy was more a philosophical community centering on personal friendship than it was a formal school of philosophy. Many ancient philosophers wrote about the virtues of friendship, but the virtues of friendship are core to the Epicurean experience, and the Epicureans sought pleasure through their friendships. This community was egalitarian, it was one of the few in ancient world that admitted women and slaves, and in his letters, Epicurus expresses deep affection for his friends and followers. AA Long says this, “those who committed themselves to Epicurus we not so much students ‘reading for a course’ as men and women dedicated to a certain style of life.” […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho the Jew on Circumcision and Jesus

When the debate begins, the first question Trypho asks is about circumcision, which was a major stumbling block for Christian converts in the early days of the Church, when many converts were confused on whether they first needed to convert to Judaism before becoming Christian.  Converting to Judaism meant you had to be circumcised.  St Paul in his Epistles famously reassures his Gentile converts that they only needed to be circumcised in their heart.  Not only did Christian converts not need to be circumcised; it was wrong to require that converts be circumcised, and he is quite strident in his exhortations in Galatians in particular. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

St Augustine on Catechizing the Uninstructed, Blog 2

If you seek to become a Christian for social or temporal reasons you may backslide from the faith when you see “wicked and impious men” who are more prosperous than you are.  You may ask yourself, How is this faith helping me?  This is the wrong question, for the true Christian seeks “everlasting blessedness and the perpetual rest of the saints so he may not pass into eternal fire with the devil but rather enter into the Eternal Kingdom together with Christ.  He will be on his guard in every temptation, so we will neither be corrupted by prosperity nor be utterly broken in spirit by adversity, but remain modest and temperate during good times, and be brave and patient during times of tribulation.”  Then this Christian will “Love God more than he fears hell,” and he will recoil from evil thoughts and temptations. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

St Augustine on Catechizing the Uninstructed, Blog 1

In all his writings St Augustine reminds us that the core of our faith is the commands to Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In this work on catechesis St Augustine teaches that the vice that ruins love, the vice that is the enemy of love is envy, and that the mother of envy is pride.  This section is referenced in the Catholic Catechism teaching on the Commandment, Do Not Covet. […]

Catholic Catechism

Catholic Catechism, Do Not Covet, CCC 2514-2516

Surprisingly, the Catholic Catechism discusses concupiscence not when reflecting on the commandment prohibiting adultery but on the commandment forbidding coveting your neighbor’s wife.  Concupiscence is not itself a sin, and although it is commonly thought of as a sexual sin, it can “refer to any intense form of human desire.”  “Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin.  It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.” The Catholic Catechism footnotes the decrees of the Council of Trent, which teaches that “concupiscence or the tinder of sin remains in the baptized.  Since it is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.”  This decree of Trent then confirms that concupiscence is not sin itself, but inclines us to sin. […]

Catholic Catechism

Do Not Covet, Do Not Envy, Early Church Fathers and Others

St Gregory Palamas teaches us that the command not to covet is not only a negative THOU SHALT NOT command but is more a SHALL positive command, that we shall be generous and show charity and lend to our less fortunate neighbor, and to watch after our neighbor’s interests, returning to him lost items you may find.  “Covetousness, conceived in the soul, produces sin; and sin, when committed, results in death (James 1:5).  Refrain from coveting what belongs to others and avoid filching things out of greediness.  Rather you should give from what you possess to whoever asks of you, and you should, as much as you can, be charitable to whoever is in need of charity, and you should not refuse whoever wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42).  Should you find some lost article, you should keep it for its owner, even if the owner is hostile towards you, perhaps your kindness will change him and your kindness will overcome evil, as Christ commands.” […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Slaves in Ancient Greece and Rome, Blog 2

Slavery in the ancient world was not based solely on race like in the Confederate South. Slavery in the ancient world happened to you when your city was conquered or when you were kidnapped by pirates. When a city was defeated the women and children were often enslaved, the men were often slaughtered, though sometimes they were enslaved to work in the mines. Or if you could not pay your bills you could be sold into slavery. […]

Plato

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Sentencing and Execution of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 2

In the end of his speech to the jurors who will decide whether he will live or die, he says, “Judges, be of good cheer about death, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.” Socrates is forgiving. “I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm. Although the did not mean to do me any good; for this I gently blame them.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Trial of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 1

How do you encourage your neighbor to grow in wisdom without preaching to him? The Platonic method is the dialectic, the Socratic Dialogue, questions and answers to encourage the citizen to think. The method used by the Gospels is the parable, similar in function to the Delphic Oracle, that also entices the listener to think through questions of right and wrong, justice and virtue. Plato does not use parables as often, but he does use parables very effectively, the most famous parable in the history of philosophy is his Allegory of the Cave in the Republic. […]