Lucretius on Love

Titus Lucretius Carus was an epicurean poet writing in the first century BC. His six-book Latin hexameter poem De rerum natura (DRN for short), variously translated On the nature of things and On the nature of the universe, survives virtually intact. In this book he extensively discusses love and sex from the epicurean vantage point. He offers his reader not just cosmological understanding but the full recipe for happiness, as a complete Epicurean. Book 4’s treatment of sex (1037-1287) includes denouncing and deriding the folly of enslavement to sexual passion (1121-1191).

Lucretius begins his narrative on love and sex with puberty, describing it as “The stirring of the seed within us takes place… when adolescence is just beginning to strengthen our limbs. ” He continues to explain that humans can be aroused by different things, but “human seed can be elicited from the human body only by the influence of a human being. ” His reasoning of an orgasm is the seed travels from multiple parts of the body and culminates at the genitals. The genitals are then enticed to “emit the seed toward the object of our dire craving. ” He explains ejaculation by the mind being “wounded with love.

He furthers the violent analogy by stating that whenever one is wounded, he would fall towards same direction from which the wound was given. This is a direct comparision to one wishing to ejaculate towards the enticer that has caused such a love-struck wound. Lucretius’ explanation of sex and sexual desire is obviously Epicurean in its nature because it is very technically written and emotionally lacking. Although his moral philosophy was hedonism, Lucretius did not over indulge in the Epicurean system,which is based on the pursuit of pleasure (1040-1060).

Epicureanism elevated intellectual pleasure and tranquility of mind, while dimming the view of the world of social strife and physical pleasure. Lucretius is almost preaching to beware of lust and sexual encounters, because one might get harmed from the encounter. Epicurus considered sexuality in itself as overindulgence, so it is only logic that Lucretius wrote on the subject very precisely. Sex, according to Epicureanism, is “natural-but unnecessary. ” One must beware of the pain that can be easily acquired along with the physical pleasure, especially when in excess (1040-1060).

The defensive acts to rid oneself of love according to Lucretius, are “to abstain from all that feeds you love, and to turn your attention elsewhere: you should ejaculate the accumulated fluid into any woman’s body rather than reserve it for a single lover. ” Lucretius is therefore advocating casual, loveless sex. He continues on about if one waits for his respective loved one to have sex, then “inevitable anguish and anxiety” will befall him. He attempts to attest that love, if given means to flourish and grow, will ultimately cause one’s mental saneness to perish.

He states this in 1069-1037: “day by day the frenzy grows and the misery is intensified. ” Furthermore, he instructs the unfortunate love-smitten to find the nearest woman and have unbinding intercourse with her, as well as others, as to rid himself of the fallacies of love. Another option is to “divert the motions of you mind into some other channel. ” These Epicurean details can be explained by much greater emphasis on the avoidance of pain, rather the purely the pursuit of happiness. Epicurus tended to favor intellectual, more so than physical, pleasures because of the long lasting and never cloying benefits.

Physical pleasures offered short-lived satisfaction and could often lead to excess (1037-1087). Lucretius does not oppose pure sex in any form. He does, however, oppose one getting too infatuated with a lover. He explains in his statement: “For it is undeniable that the pleasure of intercourse is purer for the healthy-minded than for the lovesick. ” The lovesick attempt to cure the burning passion by physical appeasement. Unfortunately, as Lucretius states, the opposite happens, and the stricken end up wanting more physical appeasement. “The more of it we have, the more fiercely our breast burns with dire craving,” Lucretius explains.

This thought on self-indulgence can be traced to the Epicurean belief that it is better to abstain from coarse or trivial pleasures if they prevent the enjoyment of richer, more satisfying ones (1074-1090). Lucretius goes on to describe woes of love and the effects on man from love. He explains man drinks to quench thirst- not by simply dreaming of water. When man is able to drink water, he gains the water throughout his body. With love, however, man simply tantalizes himself to no end; he cannot obtain anything from his lover in return for his angst (1110-1121).

A man who is in love allows it to, according to Lucretius, consume his strength and leaves him exhausted by the strain. He is to always remember that his life is ruled by another (1122-1126). ” Lucretius continues to remind the reader that even perfect, “steadfast” love still is accompanied with woes. If one has found a woman he loves, then to remember that “there are others like her; we have lived without her until now. ” He writes that women attempt to seduce men and make themselves available for men by using makeup, perfumes, et cetera. Even the lovesick, when sexual pleasure is shared, long to separate (1200-1209).

Lucretius explains the appearance of dominant traits of children through the overpowering of one of the lovers engaging in sexual intercourse. He also goes on to educate the reader about impotence among men and women. He states “sterility is either the excessive thickness of their semen, or its undue fluidity and thinness. ” He explains the compatibility of partners determine conception and different positions and moments that can induce and prevent pregnancy. Lucretius ends by explaining that it is not divine intervention that causes love, but rather behavior, way, and “neatness of her person.

Utmost, he finishes with saying that love can be generated by habit (1250-1287). Lucretius’ view on love is rather empathic of human emotion and lacking of the care and trust that goes along with consummation. Epicurus viewed emotional entanglement as a horrible type of pleasure; thus, emotion that was sexual was an enormous threat to the mental stability of a man. Lucretius followed Epicurean ways in believing that sex did nothing for an individual other then foster the yearning for more sexual pleasures. Relationships were not encouraged, but friendships that could benefit one were encouraged by Epicurean ethics.

Perhaps the reasoning behind this was intellectual pleasure was held higher than physical pleasure and Lucretius followed Epicurus in believing love with fog the logical thinking of a man. The entire writing I felt was overly simple. Lucretius tried to put the entire nature of the sexual man into black and white circles, which is very hard for me to understand considering the variables that can effect different situations. Lucretius’ writings are very atypical for a philosopher. Philosophers ponder about ideas as their job; therefore there is always sometime greater to learn.

For Plato, The Divided Line Theory demonstrated the levels of knowledge. The highest being the Form of Good. Once the former prisoner of the cave has grasped the Form of the Good, he has reached the highest stage of cognition: understanding. He no longer has any need for images or unproven assumptions to aid in his reasoning. Lucretius, rather, just gives a recipe for a clear-minded state of being, but the only thing one must do to obtain it is being simple in his pleasures. Plato challenges the reader to look beyond the ignorance of the material world and simple understand the cause of the Forms.

Lucretius, rather, is telling the reader the answer has been there all along, but man has not followed the simple lifestyle. Since humans are not indulgent in nature, Lucretius wants man to be simple without the unneeded excess of the overindulgent lifestyle he now lives. Lucretius’ writings, in their demanding nature, are almost insulting to the reader and can be taken to be damning if not followed. Plato describes the lower levels of understanding as ignorant, but Lucretius explains the lower levels of understanding as selfish and excessive.

That is the main differences in Plato’s Divided Line Theory and Lucretius’ The Nature of Things. I did not find any passage to be particularly convincing or even stimulating in Lucretius’ writings. The paragraphs were more of demanding rather than intriguing and most of the theories Lucretius used to explain his various dilemmas were ludicrous. With the constant advisories about painful and hopeless love, he sounds more like a burned lover writing a diary of advice for self-help. His comments are very critical and pessimistic about love as a whole.

Lucretius never would be able to withstand a conversation with Socrates, because Lucretius dances around the matter of what love truly is to a man. He rather explains its woes and suffering the temptations of love causes, rather than its true meaning. Lucretius writes as love is just a means to tempt man, like excessive drinking or eating. He completely ignores the obvious benefits of love such as a family, children, stability, happiness, and a sense of completeness one feels with in a healthy relationship. Lucretius attempts to cover too many subjects on love, such as physical ejaculation, stimuli, conception, sterility, and genetic traits.

Using such a wide range to write on a topic attests that Lucretius is very sure of all his knowledge and leaves no room for errs. Lucretius attempts to explain genetic traits in a small paragraph; in lines 1210 – 1220 of The Nature of Things he jumps from mutual love to genetics. He does not have any real reasoning or proof to serve as premises for his conclusion and commits the argumentive fault of petitio principii. He simply preaches rather than question and contemplate ideas and theories. He creates the illusion of adequate premises and then moves onto another very complex subject very quickly.

The formerly mention detail leaves the reader jaded and asking questions. Overall, I felt that Lucretius was a great poet and writer. He had a very different thinking process from the mainstream classical philosophers. He facilitated Epicurus’ ideals and theories, yet failed to make them appealing. He was harsh and critical on emotions, especially dealing with love. His writing, I felt, were more of a spurred lover that had been bitten by infatuation, and he was then wronged. Thus, he felt the need to obliterate the whole love process all together.

What was left was sex, which be all means he did not object to, but rather the passion and infatuation that often leads to the pain that accompany sexual emotions. Nothing in the passage was explaining the exact nature and proceeding of love, but rather how to avoid love and its fallacies. I cannot see many people actually empasizing with the de-glamorization of love and passion to the extent to which Lucretius pushed it. I cannot see him actually holding a normal family and was quite disturbed by his interpretation of women as sexual temptresses- particularly his explanation of anal sex.

Such as whores preferring it, because men like it more and it decreases the chances of the woman getting pregnant. He counteracts this comment by stating wives have no need for this use, because the love should be mutual and they should not mind to get pregnant. The vulgarities of the former statements alone make the entire commentary about love invalid. Love has nothing to do with whores, but rather relationships and the physical aspects of emotions dealing with love. In his passage he explains sex, urges and lust rather than love.