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Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:33 pm

I believe that those who are nice to others tend to live better lives. With more friends, etc.

The closest thing that happened to me involving Karma happened recently. I don't want to go into too many details but a friend of mine was suppose to get on instant message with me but for three days I waited and they kept making up willy-nilly excuses. Although I probably shouldn't have, I blocked them.

Then a completely different friend, I was talking to, and they fibbed to me and I called them out on it without knowing it at the time, and I was blocked.

That being said, I don't believe that Karma caused this, I believe that it was just a coincidence. But I do believe that to be happy in life... at the end of the day, you typically have to be pretty nice to others.

I don't like making short threads all the time though, so let's take this into another discussion as well.

I am Agnostic. Religious programs on TV drive me nuts because I see them as brainwashing people into things that aren't true. A religious program has my mom convinced that whenever I get on the computer, I look at hardcore stuff. I'm not. I'm talking to people.

That being said, I do believe in a God. Maybe. But one that He Himself would laugh at all this religious BS.

One question though - Do you think I will still go to heaven (assuming it's real?)

I don't know about you, but I also consider it more believable that there was a Creator of the universe than that the Creator of the universe lived on this Earth as a man (Jesus) and did miracles.

If you try to answer my question with Bible verses, that's fine and all, I will review them, but expect a "First, you must prove the Bible before you can use the Bible" response.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Synchronicity » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:51 pm

fyi that's a very Western interpretation of karma and doesn't actually have any semblance to the actual concept found in Eastern religions. I'm only (moderately) familiar with Buddhism but if I remember it correctly karma is simply the summation of your intentional actions and the explanation for cause and effect. Your past actions influence who you currently are and who you currently are will influence who you will be. It's not some cosmic force that keeps things in balance or hands out rewards and punishments according to video game notions of morality. Your karma is supposed to be unknowable until the time of your death/rebirth such is its inherent complexity. There are probably different nuances to it in Hinduism and several other Eastern religions but I'm hardly learned on it.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:58 pm

Synchronicity wrote:fyi that's a very Western interpretation of karma and doesn't actually have any semblance to the actual concept found in Eastern religions. I'm only (moderately) familiar with Buddhism but if I remember it correctly karma is simply the summation of your intentional actions and the explanation for cause and effect. Your past actions influence who you currently are and who you currently are will influence who you will be. It's not some cosmic force that keeps things in balance or hands out rewards and punishments according to video game notions of morality. Your karma is supposed to be unknowable until the time of your death/rebirth such is its inherent complexity. There are probably different nuances to it in Hinduism and several other Eastern religions but I'm hardly learned on it.


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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:11 pm

I should probably comment other than just in pictures. You are correct. I wasn't taking the Eastern. I was taking a sort of pseudo, Christian view I picked up from some people awhile back.

You kind of got my karma question out of the way, then, I guess. But others can still comment on it if they have anything to add.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Ellsworth » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:40 pm

Woohoo! It's almost philosophy! My degree is paying off already. :P
This is gonna get real nerdy, and I'm gonna ramble on and on, so if y'all bail now I'll understand.

Sync's on to it.

I took an Eastern Philosophy class a couple of years ago. This by no means makes me an expert. It's not easy stuff. The primary source readings were incredibly difficult reads. However, I'll do what I can to shed some light on the idea of karma.

The notion of karma is shared by all the major Indian religions, but they all have their own take on what it is and how it works. Western people generally think that Hindu is one religion. It is not. There are six major schools: Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Mimamsa, and Vendata. These are the orthodox traditions that take their cue from the Vedas. The unorthodox traditions are Buddhism, Jainism, and Lokayata.

I'm not going to go into all the different views of the different traditions, but I think it would helpful to explain the origin of the notion of karma. The doctrine of karmic rebirth was an accepted cultural belief in ancient India. It's simply the belief that we are born, die, and are reborn over and over again until we learn how to break this cycle. All of the aforementioned religions (except for Lokayata, which rejects the notion of karmic rebirth and believes that the material world is all there is) came along with their own beliefs on what karma is and how one breaks the cycle of karmic rebirth. The arguments for karmic rebirth get really in-depth and complicated, so I'm gonna skip that stuff and go straight to what karma is for the Buddhist, since that's the most popular Eastern religion here in the West. There's various schools of Buddhism that arose out of debates regarding the true teachings of the Buddha, but this is the gist of it.

Here's some stuff from my class notes. It takes a bit of setting up, so bear with me. I'll throw in some extra stuff in [brackets] in order to make better sense of it, I hope - maybe not. :P

Buddhist Analysis of Personal Identity:

Synchronic identity - identity at a time
Diachronic identity - identity at different times

[Synchronic and diachronic identities are historically a huge topic within philosophy of mind. The following is just the Buddhists' take on it, aka The No-Self Doctrine.]

For Buddhists, synchronic identity is explained in terms of dependent origination. There is no substantial self: there is nothing that is the exclusive or real conferrer of identity on a person at some particular time. Rather, what is appropriately identified as a person at a time is a dependently originated phenomenon.

[There is no such thing as “self”. Who we are is entirely determined by, or dependent on, when and where we exist.]

Diachronic identity is supposed to be explained in the same general way. The conditions upon which a person depends at one time carry over to a later time, and it is in virtue of this continuity of conditions that it is appropriate to say that the same person exists at the later time as at the earlier time.

[This is basically saying that there are necessary conditions under which a person at one time can be the same person at another time. This is the Buddhist view, kind of. They do not claim that a judgment of diachronic identity is true because in order to make such a claim there would have to exist an invariant being (a substantial self) to observe diachronic identities. Since they believe there is no such thing as a substantial self, they do not make the claim that the notion of diachronic identity is true. However, they claim it is appropriate to make a judgment of diachronic identity due to the continuity of conditions that give rise to what we call a particular person from one time to another; e.g, the continuity of substance (body), the continuity of consciousness, etc. However, the Buddhist do not subscribe to the continuity of substance with regard to karmic rebirth because we are not reborn into the same body.]

So... How does karmic rebirth happen? [This is the Buddhist argument in the form of a syllogism]

  1. Karmic rebirth does not happen by any substantial thing carrying over from one lifetime to the next.
  2. Just as diachronic identity within a lifetime is to be accounted for by continuity of conditions, so to is karmic rebirth.
  3. But the material conditions are not sufficiently continuous.
  4. Therefore, it must be continuity of psychological conditions that accounts for karmic rebirth.

[Since the Buddhist does not believe in the existence of a substantial self, it would appear that the Buddhist path to break the cycle of karmic rebirth is to have no objective. Which leads us (finally) to what karma is for the Buddhist. For the sake of brevity, in the following text, 'D' = 'every individual'.]

Karmic rebirth: Every individual (D) is normally situated in a cycle such that:

  1. Whether or not D is reborn is a function of D's karma.
  2. Unless D's karma is properly managed, D will be reborn.
  3. Proper management of karma is very difficult.
  4. It requires proper knowledge to avoid being reborn.
  5. Karma is a law of moral cause and effect. Both the fact and the manner of D's rebirth are related to the moral qualities of D's actions, thoughts, etc.
  6. Karma has an internal dimension: D's psychological characteristics at birth are related to D's karma.
  7. Karma has an external dimension: Circumstances and events in D's environment both at birth and after birth are related to D's karma.
  8. Karmic influence carries over from one life to another both at and after birth.
  9. When D is reborn, it may be at a spatial or a temporal distance from D's death.

[My professor presented a possible flaw in this line of reasoning which I can dig:]

Without any account of a substantive self [which, as I mentioned before, the Buddhist denies] that carries over from one lifetime to the next, there appears to be no coherent or plausible account of karma that satisfies all these points.

[D'oh!]

I won't go into the specific Buddhist approaches to how we can break the karmic cycle; i.e., have no objective. That would take way too long, and I've gone on long enough.

In the end, in my opinion, this isn't philosophy. It's religion. However, it's really interesting stuff. Eastern religions have loads of insights on human consciousness that are worth exploring.

Anyway... Supercharge, the title of your post presented a question. I'll answer it now: No. :crazy:

SuperCharge wrote: I do believe that to be happy in life... at the end of the day, you typically have to be pretty nice to others.

Damn straight.

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:57 pm

Thanks Ellsworth. That went a little over my head though. Really anything besides Synchronicity's answer and general Wikipedia information goes over my head. But I think I get the idea.

Maybe you and Synchronicity should discuss it if you were looking for someone to talk about the Eastern with. All I knew up until today was a Western pseudodefinition.

But I will use what knowledge I have to present a challenge!

Okay, so the mostly unwritten/unsaid Western view is that if you aren't nice to people for example, bad things will happen to you, caused by God. However, some argue that no amount of works make one great in the eyes of God. Therefore, the Western view is moot, as according to most we are saved by grace. And we are all bad people.

However, works still play a role, don't they? So which is it? Meaning if a God exists, does he cause bad things to happen to bad people? Or is it just all in our heads?

Remember I'm an Agnostic these days, so I could be playing a little bit of devil's advocate in this post to get my point across. I was once a devout Christian but after seeing all the troubles religion has caused me growing up in a fundamentalist family, and seeing the other ideologies, and through my own experiences, I actually kind of changed my mind. To being agnostic.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby ZeroGuardian » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:43 pm

SuperCharge, you're post made me think of one of my favorite quotes from history (granted there is some question on whether this was actually spoken by Epicurus, but the qoute speaks for itself in my opinion):

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Granted, this really only refutes the "all powerful, all knowing, absolutely good" god, but considering how many Christians actually believe in that I feel it still has merit.

Anyways, just thought I would bring it up, to spice up the conversation. :)
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Ellsworth » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:47 pm

^ Epicurus did not say that. That's David Hume, kind of. I'll post the quote later.

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby ZeroGuardian » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:53 pm

Ellsworth (as I stated there is a good reason to state this quote isn't precisely attributable to Epicurus), but there is some evidence he said something very similar:

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Epicurus#Disputed

Just take it for what it is worth. Either way, the quote is still a good one, regardless of whomever said it first.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:22 am

I'm not sure what makes me hang onto the idea that there IS a God. Maybe the feeling I get when I used to "pray to God". Though science can pretty much explain that away - the brain is very complex. Maybe that there is one single ghost story I have that I can't explain as a figment of my mind, which would point to there being a supernatural perhaps. Perhaps.

In any case, I think what makes me hold onto the idea of a God as a possibility is that Religion has gotten me so scared of the idea of a terrible, fiery afterlife. But who says Agnostics go to heaven either?

In any case, I'd better stop talking before I muck something up.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby quietenigma » Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:47 am

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby ZeroGuardian » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:32 pm

I have to say I completely disagree with that statement. If you remain "content" then you will never progress. The want to have something you don't creates the drive to better yourself and those around you. If Humanity acted that way, we never would have progressed beyond basic animal instincts.

Just my two cents.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby quietenigma » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:57 pm

Yeah you're right ^-^ I just practice stoicism when it comes to karma I guess.

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Ellsworth » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:30 pm

quietenigma: Are you gonna give Seneca props for that quote or what? ;)

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Ellsworth » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:02 pm

Here's a bit of what Epicurus had to say about god(s) and people's beliefs regarding their nature:

“I think of god as an imperishable and blessed creature, as the common idea of god is in outline, and attach to him nothing alien to imperishability or inappropriate to blessedness, but believe about him everything that can preserve his combination of blessedness and imperishability. For there are gods – the knowledge of them is self-evident. But they are not such as the many believe them to be. For by their beliefs as to their nature the many do not preserve them. The impious man is not he who denies the gods of the many, but he who attaches to the gods the beliefs of the many about them. For they are not preconceptions but false suppositions, the assertions of the many about gods. It is through these that the greatest harms, the ones affecting bad men, stem from gods, and the greatest benefits too. For having a total affinity for their own virtues, they are receptive to those who are like them, and consider alien all that is not of that kind.” - Letter to Menoeceus

SuperCharge wrote:In any case, I think what makes me hold onto the idea of a God as a possibility is that Religion has gotten me so scared of the idea of a terrible, fiery afterlife.

Supercharge, I think the passage above may be helpful to you. In the last few sentences, Epicurus is basically saying that humans assign qualities they deem as virtuous to god. We think X is good, therefore god must have X! The consequence of this way of thinking is that if people have the opposite quality of X, they must be bad or evil. Naturally, humans want people they deem as evil to be punished. Therefore, they think god must want people to be punished too, and then they construct the idea of eternal punishment. A supernatural being, call him god if you like, is not instilling in you the fear of an afterlife in hell. Human beliefs are doing that. Disregard them.

ZeroGuardian wrote:Ellsworth (as I stated there is a good reason to state this quote isn't precisely attributable to Epicurus), but there is some evidence he said something very similar:
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Epicurus#Disputed.

That's not evidence. No citations were provided for those quotes, nor is there anything in Epicurus' writings remotely like that. They're confusing Epicurus with Sextus Empiricus. The following is from Sextus' Outlines of Pyrrhonism. I think you'll like this as well, parts of it anyway:

“Further, this too should be said. Anyone who asserts that god exists either says that god takes care of the things in the cosmos or that he does not, and, if he does take care, that it is either of all things or of some. Now if he takes care of everything, there would be no particular evil thing and no evil in general in the cosmos; but the Dogmatists say that everything is full of evil; therefore god shall not be said to take care of everything. On the other hand, if he takes care of only some things, why does he take care of these and not of those? For either he wishes but is not able, or be is able but does not wish, or he neither wishes nor is able. If he both wished and was able, he would have taken care of everything; but, for the reasons stated above, he does not take care of everything; therefore, it is not the case that he both wishes and is able to take care of everything. But if he wishes and is not able, he is weaker than the cause on account of which he is not able to take care of the things of which he does not take care; but it is contrary to the concept of god that he should be weaker than anything. Again, if he is able to take care of everything but does not wish to do so, he will be considered malevolent, and if be neither wishes nor is able, he is both malevolent and weak; but to say that about god is impious. Therefore, god does not take care of the things in the cosmos.

Further, if god does not take care of anything and there is no work or product of his, nobody will be able to say from whence be apprehends that god exists, if indeed god neither appears of himself nor is apprehended through his products. And thus, whether god exists is not apprehensible. From these considerations we conclude that most likely those who firmly maintain that god exists will be forced into impiety; for if they say that he takes care of everything, they will be saying that god is the cause of evils, while if they say that he takes care of some things only or even of nothing, they will be forced to say that be is either malevolent or weak, and manifestly these are impious conclusions.”

There are obvious similarities between that text and the so-called Epicurus quote.

David Hume incorrectly quotes Epicurus as well. This is where most people (who read philosophy anyway) who haven't read Epicurus get their info regarding his notions of god. I'm guessing it's how the so-called Epicurus quote began to spread all over the Internet:

“Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered.

Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

ZeroGuardian wrote:Just take it for what it is worth. Either way, the quote is still a good one, regardless of whomever said it first.

Epicurus didn't say it at all. Given the text I posted from Epicurus at the beginning of this post, this quote doesn't represent his views on god(s). But yeah, it's a good quote. It refers to the age-old philosophical quandary of 'the problem of evil', which is one of the reasons I'm agnostic.

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby ZeroGuardian » Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:34 pm

Down the rabbit hole we go...... :P

Again Ellsworth, I agree the quote above is a paraphrase of a version that is attributed to Epicurus. The exact phrasing attributed to Epicurus is more along these lines (roughly translated):

Either God wishes to take away evils and is unable; or He is able, and unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able; or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and unable, then He is weak, which is not in accordance with the nature of God. If He is able and unwilling, then He is envious, which is also in-congruent with the nature of God. If He is neither willing nor able, He is both weak and envious, and therefore not God; and if He is both willing and able, then why do evils exist?


You can see this attributed to Epicurus in De Ira Dei by Lactantius. A copy of which we have available here:
https://books.google.com/books?id=rs47A ... &q&f=false

This was originally written in the early fourth century AD, the copy above is from a reprinting in the 1500s. Now, if they attributed this to Empiricus, then the name appearing on the page would not be "Epicuri".

Now, once again I want to reiterate, I don't see this as hard evidence. There is any number of reasons that this could be mis-attributed to Epicurus. But, it provides some evidence that he could (and emphasis on could) be the source of this paraphrased quote.

As for Ellsworth comment, about Epicurus believing in God(s). You are correct. The evidence supports the fact that he did. The difference for him was he did not believe that God(s) interacted with Humans or affected our daily lives. Which is why he brought up the argument. Because if God(s) interacted then you run into the problem of Evil or at least run into an issue where the God(s) are not worth worshiping.

To expand on that further, how about another qoute from Sextus' Outlines of Pyrrhonism:

Custom is also opposed to dogmatic opinion when with us it is the custom to pray to the gods for good things, whereas Epicurus says that the divinity does not care about us; and when Aristippus thinks it amatter of indifference whether one wears women's clothing, while we think this shameful.


This shows two things... 1. Empiricus was familiar with Epicurus so its possible the quote could have originated earlier and 2. He was aware that Epicurus believed the gods would not interact with us.

Anyways, it really doesn't matter that much in the long run. Could the quote have been made by Empiricus? Absolutely. Could Empiricus have just reiterated an argument that Epicurus made? I think that is also a possibility. Unfortunately, we don't have enough data from that time period to say for sure.
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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby quietenigma » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:32 pm

quietenigma wrote:True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.



-Seneca

--Ellsworth

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby SuperCharge » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:50 pm

"SuperCharge, I think the passage above may be helpful to you" - Ellsworth

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Re: Does anyone believe in Karma?

Postby Ellsworth » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:34 am

ZeroGuardian wrote:Down the rabbit hole we go...... :P

You love the rabbit hole, Zero. :P

For clarity and brevity's sake, I'm gonna used "IG" to refer to the disputed Epicurus quote in your first post.

ZeroGuardian wrote:You can see this attributed to Epicurus in De Ira Dei by Lactantius. A copy of which we have available here:
https://books.google.com/books?id=rs47A ... &q&f=false

This was originally written in the early fourth century AD, the copy above is from a reprinting in the 1500s. Now, if they attributed this to Empiricus, then the name appearing on the page would not be "Epicuri".

Well, yeah. I read that from the Wiki link you sent when you posted it. My point is not that they didn't attribute the quote to Epicurus. My point is that that their quotation of Epicurus is incorrect.

ZeroGuardian wrote:Now, once again I want to reiterate, I don't see this as hard evidence. There is any number of reasons that this could be mis-attributed to Epicurus. But, it provides some evidence that he could (and emphasis on could) be the source of this paraphrased quote.

It would provide evidence that he could have been the source of the quote, but we know that the quote does not exist anywhere in the writings of Epicurus. So, it doesn't provide any evidence. ;)

ZeroGuardian wrote:As for Ellsworth comment, about Epicurus believing in God(s). You are correct. The evidence supports the fact that he did. The difference for him was he did not believe that God(s) interacted with Humans or affected our daily lives. Which is why he brought up the argument. Because if God(s) interacted then you run into the problem of Evil or at least run into an issue where the God(s) are not worth worshiping.

But he (Epicurus) didn't bring up the argument. That's my point. :P And technically, the IG passage is not an argument. It's a series of conditional statements (if this then that) followed by a question. Sorry, I had to throw that in there.

I've read Epicurus' beliefs on the nature of the gods. I included part of it in my post. He didn't think the gods interacted with humans because he thought the interaction would be troublesome work, and the gods were blessed things that lived in tranquility. You included a quote from Sextus that mentions this. There are others who did as well. Cicero writing about Epicurus through the voice of an Epicurean character...

"We can rightly call this god of ours blessed, and yours [the Stoics] overworked. For if the world itself is god*, what can be less tranquil than rotating about on an axis without a moment's break at the heaven's amazing speed? Yet nothing is blessed if not tranquil. Or if god is some being in the world, there to rule, to control, to maintain the orbits of the heavenly bodies, the succession of the seasons, and the variations and regularities of things, to watch over land and sea and guard men's well-being and lives, he is surely involved in a troublesome and laborious task. We, [the Epicureans] place the blessed life in peace of mind and in freedom from all duties." - On the Nature of the Gods

*The Stoics we're basically pantheists.

This idea is much closer to what Epicurus wrote concerning the gods than the IG quote.

ZeroGuardian wrote:To expand on that further, how about another qoute from Sextus' Outlines of Pyrrhonism:

Custom is also opposed to dogmatic opinion when with us it is the custom to pray to the gods for good things, whereas Epicurus says that the divinity does not care about us; and when Aristippus thinks it amatter of indifference whether one wears women's clothing, while we think this shameful.


This shows two things... 1. Empiricus was familiar with Epicurus so its possible the quote could have originated earlier and 2. He was aware that Epicurus believed the gods would not interact with us.

(1) Because Sextus was aware of Epicurus does not mean it is possible that Sextus' "if God..." passage I included in my post could have originated earlier or that it could have been written by Epicurus. It simply means that Sextus was aware of Epicurus. Most people in Greece were aware of Epicurus, and strong evidence points to Sextus being Greek; e.g., he wrote in Greek with a command of the language that suggests he was Greek.

(2) Sextus' awareness of this belief of Epicurus does not substantiate the claim that Epicurus wrote, or could have wrote, the IG passage. It just means that Sextus was aware of Epicurus' particular belief that the gods weren't concerned with the affairs of humans.

I think it's worth noting that the above quote you posted from Sextus occurs early in Outlines of Pyrrhonism. It's part of "16. The Ten Modes" of suspension of judgment in Book 1. Sextus' "if God..." passage appears much later, in "3. On God" in Book 3. One point does not follow the other.

ZeroGuardian wrote:Anyways, it really doesn't matter that much in the long run. Could the quote have been made by Empiricus? Absolutely. Could Empiricus have just reiterated an argument that Epicurus made? I think that is also a possibility. Unfortunately, we don't have enough data from that time period to say for sure.

As I have argued in this post, the evidence is not strong enough to say that Sextus was reiterating an argument that Epicurus made. Taking someone's ideas and running with them is not the same as reiterating their ideas.

It's not beyond me that most people find this kind of stuff tedious. :P However, I do think it matters in the long run. Historical accuracy is always important, especially when considering positions and arguments of philosophers.

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