The anti-authoritarian and liberal spirit in Democritus

In this post we present and analyze six quotes of the ancient philosopher Democritus.

αρχείο λήψης

Ancient Greek: “Ήν μή πολλών επιθυμέης, τα ολίγα τοι πολλά δόξει”

English: “If you do not desire much, the few will look a lot to you”

Ancient Greek: “Ευτυχής ο επί μετρίοισι χρήμασιν ευθυμεόμενος, δυστυχής δέ ο επί πολλοίσι δυσθυμεόμενος”

English: “Happy/Fortunate is the one who feels joy with few goods. Unhappy/Unfortunate the one who feels sorry with the many”

Ancient Greek: “Ει τις υπερβάλλοι το μέτριον, τα επιτερπέστατα ατερπέστατα άν γίγνοιτο”

English: “If one exceeds the measure, the most pleasant things will seem extremely unpleasant to him”

Ancient Greek: “Οι φειδωλοί τόν της μελίσσης οίτον έχουσιν εργαζόμενοι ως αεί βιωσόμενοι”

English: “The stingy have the luck of the bee, because they work as if they will live forever”

Ancient Greek: “Ανθρώποισι γάρ ευθυμίη γίνεται μετριότητι τέρψιος καί βίου συμμετρίας”

English: “Joy for people is accomplished with the measure in pleasures and symmetry of life”

Ancient Greek: “Ηδονήν ου πάσαν, αλλά τήν επί τω καλώ αιρείσθαι χρεών”

English: “Not every pleasure, but only the ones which lead to good one must pursue”

Analysis: Democritus clearly suggests that Man should live with Matter and not for Matter. As every genuine philosopher, he urges for the proper use of things; he urges for Measure. Self-sufficiency and self-restraint in the various Pleasures appear as prerequisites for achieving Happiness/Joy.

Let us now go a little deeper into this.

The passionate attachment to Matter (Materialism) and Pleasure (Hedonism) deprives Man of his Freedom; Man becomes enslaved to his Passions. Being in such a condition deprives Man of the most necessary tool of Logic. And this is because Passions have the tendency to ‘consume’ Man; they transform him to an obsessed being, focused only on specific aspects of living and therefore deteriorate his thinking and, consequently, his actions. In such a condition the Soul of Man is in a pemanent turmoil and confusion.

Philosophically and Theologically speaking, voluptuousness, avarice and ambition are considered as the three ‘nuclear Passions’. But, we must have in mind that every Passion always has its deepest roots in Egoism/Selfishness. All Passions are unbreakably connected to each other. One Passion never appears alone. On the contrary, one Passion ‘gives birth’ to a new one, and to a new one, etc. Hence, if Man allows one and only Passion to take over his existence, then almost immediately the number of Passions multipy, further enlarging his confusion.

Now let’s consider something else.

In our World, in order to acquire Pleasures or Glory (a vain and fake one) it is necessary to obtain the exchangeable means to do it first, i.e. ‘gold’. As a direct consequence of this, the voluptuous and ambitious Man will necessarily become an avarice, too, in order to satisfy his two other Passions. So, an endless circle of Malacity emerges.

Now let’s examine what Democritus proposes:

Man should be trained in frugality; should learn to seek only for the necessary; should learn to use but not misuse or abuse. He clearly supports continence and a self-restraint attitude in life.

The effects of misuse of Pleasure can be physical (bodily illness), mental (various disorders) and, most important, spiritual (soul damage). This Passion does not have an ‘end’; Man not only puts every effort to saturate his desire, but always seeks for more intense Pleasure. When captured by this Passion, Man is led to a complete loss of Pudency; he becomes capable of everything, without shame and inhibition; he’s only focused on acquiring the Pleasure he ‘lacks’.

Imagine now a Society where the majority of people are Pleasure-hunters.

Sooner or later, they will enter into conflict. Because the ‘pie’ is very specific. If almost everybody wants to have a bigger part of it, then everyone must fight the other for this. Unavoidably, violence, criminality and fraud will rise as well. Society will then become sicker and sicker before eventually collapsing. Being deprived of the possibility to access specific Pleasures can also lead many people to depression and even resignation, to the point of suicide.

When Man is consumed by his Passions, he loses the ability to think reasonably and act accordingly. This is exactly what the various systems of Power favor more. And this explains why they promote such a way of living with all possible means. Not coincidentally, wherever we look around, we notice an unceasing effort of ‘deification‘ of Man’s Ego.

Lack of Prudence implies lack of Logic. In the absence of Logic, it becomes impossible for Man to ‘control’ his soul. When consumed by Passions, Man becomes unable to ‘control’ his soul.

A system of Power that promotes such a way of living has the Soul of Man as a target. The terrifying thing is that such systems do not really aim at a ‘surface’ kind of control but rather, they pursue absolute, tyrannical control. Because they aim to take us from within.

Can we do anything against this realities? We have provided an answer here.

To conclude, Democritus’ stance, the same as every other genuine philosopher’s, towards life can be perceived as deeply Anti-authoritarian (against tyrannical Power) and Liberal (with the actual meaning of the word, which is ‘the Love for Freedom’).


Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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