Democritus on Love, Shame and Philanthropy

In this post we present and analyze four excerpts of Democritus.


First excerpt: “Μάθε δε πολύ μάλλον των άλλων σεαυτόν αισχύνεσθαι”

Meaning: “Learn to feel shame much more for thyself rather than the others”

Second excerpt: “Κρείσσον τα οικήϊα ελέγχειν αμαρτήματα ή τα οθνεία”

Meaning: “It is better when someone examines his own sins/mistakes rather than the ones of others”

NovoScriptorium: the philosopher urges us to ‘learn’ firstly to feel ‘shame’ for ourselves and then feel shame for the others. He also urges us to examine our own sins/mistakes and not the others’. Since the word ‘learn’ is used, apparently it is meant that this is something which requires learning, education, ascesis. As it is always easier to observe other people around and judge them, while it is extremely more difficult to objectively observe our own self. Substantially what he asks from us here is to follow one of the very basic principles of Philosophy; ‘know thyself‘. He suggests that we should follow the road of Philosophy, with all that it includes. The sense of shame is very basic and dissuasive of sins/mistakes for any human that feels it. It is directly and unbreakably associated with Consciousness and the Soul, and, by extension, to God Himself.

Interestingly, we notice a similarity with Orthodox Christianity here. Democritus evidently rejected what Orthodoxy calls ‘κατάκριση‘ (katakrisis) – in English the word is close to ‘reprobation’, ‘unfavourable, ill-intended or unjust criticism’). He urges for self-criticism and self-control, as Orthodoxy does, too.

A Society where people harmonically live together is impossible to exist when everybody judges the others (in the way described) and very few (or even no one) criticise their own selves, so that they identify their mistakes/sins, then correct them, and eventually evolve in a much better hypostatic direction. When the majority of people -if not all- hypostatically ‘suffer’, then Society cannot exist for very long, as the centrifugal and dissolving forces will unavoidaby become the overwhelming majority.

Third excerpt: “Ουδ’ υφ’ ενός φιλέεσθαι δοκέει μοι ο φιλέων μηδένα”

Meaning: “I think that he who loves no one by not even one is loved”

Fourth excerpt: “Άξιον ανθρώπους όντας επ’ ανθρώπων συμφοραίς μή γελάν, αλλ’ ολοφύρεσθαι”

Meaning: “Since we are human, it is worthy not to laugh but to mourn about the disasters of people”

NovoScriptorium: For Democritus it is impossible for anyone to be considered as ‘human’ if they lack compassion for the fellow man. Only the philanthropist can be considered as humane. Regrettaby, the Polities/Societies we have created appear to be very far from this ideal model. Selfishness and lack of humanity rather seem to prevail. The prediction of a beastly Future (if we are not already there) would not be an exaggeration.

In an interesting parallel, in the Orthodox Tradition one of the epithets given to the devil is the word ‘misanthropist‘. Hence, those who have no philanthropy substantially ‘work with/for the devil’, on the contrary, the philanthropists ‘work with/for God’.

Democritus also believes in ‘Φιλότης‘ (‘Philotis’ means ‘the binding/coherence force’ or ‘Love’). He notices that ‘Love’ is something that is diffused and causes reciprocal benefits; return of Love! It is clear that if in a Society/Polity the ‘Men of Love’ increase in number, then the Society/Polity as a whole will increase in humanity and every other positive parameter. The reverse is also valid. An increase in Love is also an increase in Coherence for a Society/Polity.

In another interesting parallel with Orthodox Christianity, Apostle Paul wrote that ‘even if I have all the virtues, if I don’t have Love I am nothing’. Such is the importance of Love; it makes (and keeps) us humane. It brings us closer to each other and closer to the Creator, too.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: