Do Pigs Value Katastematic Pleasure? ( Summer 2022 K / K Discussion)

  • That is a great find and an important paper to take note of, Don, thanks. Lots of good information in it - it even discusses the Nikolsky paper.

    But after scanning through it what strikes me is it is almost a debate with himself, and notes that he has changed his own views over the years. I doubt a general reader is going to be able to read that and be anything but confused over the point he is making.

    To me this one is probably an illustration of how you can talk yourself into a circle if you get obsessed over trying to decide what katastematic pleasure is and whether it is somehow "highest" and whether you should somehow care about it rather than the joy and delight and even cheerfulness which Konstan admits are KINETIC pleasures.

    This is definitely one I will be using in the future as it is someone who specifically wrestles with Nikolsky and Gosling and Taylor without, in my view, scoring any points against them.

    Good find.

  • One thing more - as to a conclusion from all this.

    After reading that, my view remains with Nikolsky that the kinetic-katastematic distinction, to the extent it was of significance to Epicurus at all (which is very unclear) arose as a response (as Konstan says) to positions taken by Plato about the nature of pleasure, and needs to be viewed primarily in that context.

    Most all of us agree that pleasure is a sweeping word that contains every form of good feeling anyone can describe, and that it isn't possible to rate any kind of pleasure "objectively" as always better than another. If we try to do that (rank one type of pleasure as absolutely better than another, or "best") then we're going to involve ourselves in logical inconsistencies with the rest of Epicurean philosophy that go all the way back to its physics and epistemological bases.

    So while I think this is a useful advanced topic to know about so as to navigate the logical debates of Greek philosophy wars, the suggestion that in real life we should deprecate joy and delight and mental pleasures (all of which are KINETIC) in favor of something which arguably is not even an "experience" does not provide a lot of help for us in developing therapies or practices for living real life.

    It's really fascinating how this debate arose and why it perpetuates itself, and that's precisely where the Nikolsky article is essential reading.

  • Gosh one more comment. I think this issue HAS to be considered in context of PD18 and PD19, which we hardly ever see discussed.

    How can a finite life contain as much pleasure as one that is not time limited? To me the answer to that clearly derives from a way of looking at pleasures ("by reason!") that indicates that we are engaged in a logical battle (presumably with Plato et al) at an abstract level, rather than taking a pure "feeling" comparison of the pleasures of one against the other as we normally think of pleasure.

    Everyone would intuitively want the longer portion, so what Epicurus is doing is showing a way of looking at the issue that satisfies us that we are not missing anything new and categorically different by not having the longer time. It to worry about the lack of time. But a way of looking at something does not change what we are looking at - pleasures are pleasures and unless we feel them then we are essentially dead and they are nothing to us.

    Bottom line : before someone comes to a resting point on what they think about katastematic pleasure I would suggest they consider how their viewpoint relates to 18 and 19.

    This is something that a pig cannot do, but also something that does not appear (to us) to bother the pig. We have the need for the analysis only because it bothers us if we don't.

  • Everyone would intuitively want the longer portion, so what Epicurus is doing is showing a way of looking at the issue that satisfies us that we are not missing anything new and categorically different by not having the longer time....

    ...This is something that a pig cannot do, but also something that does not appear (to us) to bother the pig. We have the need for the analysis only because it bothers us if we don't.

    This to me points to some deeper ideas that I would love to get into, however I am short on time today so will have to come back to this later. I would say that if anyone closely observes the nature and experience of pleasure over time, then it will make sense.

  • Maybe one of the most productive ways to grapple with this involves being very clear what kinetic(active) and katastematic(static) really means, using examples.

    What Kalosyni said is part of the problem: unless you take the time to study what the Greeks were saying, as Gosling and Taylor do in detail, it is natural to think that "katastematic/static/ataraxia" translates into something like:

    "I'm sitting on my porch meditating and clearing my mind and just feeling good without any troubles at all."

    I am convinced that if you read Gosling and Taylor's description of the words and the history, you will conclude that even THAT example is an example of a "kinetic" pleasure. It is difficult or impossible to express in normal terms how a human being can experience anything that is unchanging and therefore "katastematic." That is because the Greeks were rigorously defining kinetic to include anything which involves any experience over time at all. Therefore ANY experience over time falls under "kinetic." As a result anything that you want to call "katastematic" loses that title if you can actually "experience" it. (I don't see this in the discussions but presumably you would need to divide PAINS into kinetic and katastematic as well as pleasures, which would also be an interesting way to get at the issues.)

    To be katastematic/static under the definitions G&T pull out of Plato et al would involve true and absolute "rest" -- a state of no change whatsoever. That might almost be like a "freeze-frame" in a video -- where a particular set of circumstances exists in totally unchanging form. But such "states" do not exist in an Epicurean universe: everything is a combination of atoms whirling through space, and nothing is ever exactly the same for more than a moment in time.

    All this would take a lot of work and study to document adequately, and this is too short an explanation without cites. But I know I remember G&T spending a lot of time on this, and if I recall correctly this aspect -- whether katastematic pleasure can be experienced - is a focus of Wenham's paper we have online here: On Cicero's Interpretation of Katastematic Pleasure In Epicurus

    Wenham's abstract from that article:


    The standard interpretation of the concept of katastematic pleasure in Epicurus has it referring to “static” states from which feeling is absent. We owe the prevalence of this interpretation to Cicero’s account of Epicureanism in his De Finibus Bonorum Et Malorum. Cicero’s account, in turn, is based on the Platonic theory of pleasure. The standard interpretation, when applied to principles of Epicurean hedonism, leads to fundamental contradictions in his theory. I claim that it is not Epicurus, but the standard interpretation that generates these errors because the latter construes pleasure in Epicurus according to an attitudinal theoretical framework, whilst the account of pleasure that emerges from Epicurean epistemology sees it as experiential.

  • As I recall from a while ago, one of my conclusions from reading The Greeks On Pleasure was that the considered katastematic pleasure to be obtained when you absorb and understand the conclusions from natural science that we need not fear the gods or death.

    PD18: As soon as the pain produced by the lack of something is removed, pleasure in the flesh is not increased but only embellished. Yet the limit of enjoyment in the mind is produced by thinking through these very things and similar things, which once provoked the greatest fears in the mind.

    PD19: Finite time and infinite time contain the same amount of joy, if its limits are measured out through reasoning.


    PD11: If our suspicions about astronomical phenomena and about death were nothing to us and troubled us not at all, and if this were also the case regarding our ignorance about the limits of our pains and desires, then we would have no need for studying what is natural. PD12: It is impossible for someone who is completely ignorant about nature to wash away his fears about the most important matters if he retains some suspicions about the myths. So it is impossible to experience undiluted enjoyment without studying what is natural.

    To me, these describe how to achieve katastematic pleasure: by studying nature and achieving a correct worldview. This worldview provides a pleasure which is unchanging, unaffected by the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune. It doesn't mean that we've left behind the myriad of other pleasures and pains, but that they are embellishments to the pleasure of a correct worldview. We've built a stable base on which to make choices and avoidances regarding all other pleasures, all of which are constantly changing.

  • I think I agree with you, Godfrey . My position is that katastematic pleasures - namely aponia and ataraxia - are what we feel in homeostasis when the body and mind are in proper working order and our minds are not troubled (especially by those existential fears of "the gods" and death). Then we can more readily experience other pleasures that give us variety of pleasure.

    I need to go back and review Nikolsky et al.

  • Godfrey's suggestion makes sense as a particular type of feeling of pleasure, and may be workable IF katastematic pleasure can indeed be "felt" under the authorities that talked about these issues.

    The real rub is getting a consensus on whether it can be felt and then clearly delineating it from any other type of mental pleasure.

    This is one of those areas where I think we just have to be flexible and realize that talking about it rather casually is one thing, but wrestling with the "experts" who have a lot more firepower in their citations is something else.

    That's why for me it's a lot easier to take a position in what it is "not" (some special "higher" type of pleasure that is the "true goal" of life) than what it "is."

  • Here are some of my notes from TGOP which reinforce Don 's post above:

    19.2.3 Ataraxia and aponia are considered conditions of life, not particular pleasures.

    19.2.4 Since aponia is just a condition of painless perception it does not mean that Epicurus thought of a non-perceiving state as pleasurable.

    19.3.2 Katastematic pleasures refer to "the well-established katastema (condition) of the flesh. Not to replenishment, movement, or katastasis eis phusin (restoration to the natural state). The latter was an argument against pleasure, on the basis that what was being returned to was the good, not pleasure. When the organism is operating properly it will be in a state of pleasure, and pain is a matter of unnatural operation.

    19.3.3 Therefore kinetic pleasures are not a different kind than katastematic ones: they too are sensory and a matter of some part of the organism operating properly. Due to this most of Cicero can be discounted in this regard.

    19.4.27 Ataraxia is achieved by the removal of superstitious fear and false beliefs, the constant memory of the truth, and attention to present experience and perception. Now the mind is free of disturbance and so memory and expectation operate without anxiety. Similarly when physical pain is removed the body operates without pain and that will mean that always some pleasurable and painless perception is occurring, a condition of good cheer.

    19.4.30 When the organism is functioning harmoniously it is always having some form of perception; since the operation is harmonious the perception is pleasant and without pain; that is just what aponia is. Ataraxia is the condition when, because of correct views, our expectations are undisturbed by fear, our desires do not pursue empty objectives and our memories are pleasant: this leaves us to enjoy our pleasures unanxiously.

    Related to this are these notes:

    18.3.15 A wise man needs to know certain basic facts about man and nature, convince himself of them and acquire certain habits of life. These will ensure that pleasure predominates. No daily hedonic calculus is necessary; the calculation is all at the stage of working out the facts, the effects of belief in them, and the proper regimen. From

    time to time one will have to review one's knowledge and confirm one's attitudes and practices. Once one is convinced of the truth of Epicurus' doctrines and has incorporated his teachings into one's life, one ceases to worry and lives a life as near to ataraxia and aponia as is possible for one. To achieve the best life possible, conviction and good habits are enough. One's wisdom shows in the acquisition and development of those

    characteristics that will keep his life as pleasant as it can be, and that being so he will not be deluded into thinking that it will improve if only it lasts a little longer.

    18.3.19 Ataraxia consists in a condition of correct belief, and aponia in a condition free of bodily lack. The distinction between wisdom and ataraxia is therefore verbal rather than real. Since absence of wisdom is equivalent to the absence of ataraxia and therefore of mental pleasure, and its presence to the presence of mental pleasure, using it or mental pleasure as a criterion of worth amount to the same thing.

    Before reviewing my notes I had been thinking of these last two notes as references to katastematic pleasure, but now I see that wasn't what Gosling and Taylor were saying at all.

  • IF katastematic pleasure can indeed be "felt" under the authorities that talked about these issues

    By "authorities," are you referring to ancient texts or current academics?

    whether {katastematic pleasure} can be felt

    Isn't all pleasure a sensation by Epicurean definition? Πάθη is something that happens to you, something that is experienced. LSJ: "what is done or happens to a person or thing, opp. πρᾶξις"

    clearly delineating it from any other type of mental pleasure

    That's my position in defining it as the two components of homeostasis: mental and physical. It can be maintained over time while "kinetic" pleasure is momentary and provides variety, with "katastematic pleasure" providing a ground or background or foundation so to speak.

    wrestling with the "experts" who have a lot more firepower in their citations is something else

    Bah! "Experts" can cherry pick just like anyone else. It's building a case using the texts that counts. We shouldn't wrestle in their ring. We should return to the texts and build our own. Always return to the books, to paraphrase Philodemus.

    PS. That doesn't mean we can't use academics who've done some leg work. It is notoriously hard to access some of the ancient texts for numerous reasons. But leaning on translations is one thing. Accepting their commentary is another.

    That's why for me it's a lot easier to take a position in what it is "not" (some special "higher" type of pleasure that is the "true goal" of life) than what it "is."

    The easy (painless) easy isn't always to be chosen, to paraphrase a certain ancient philosopher. ;)

  • Isn't all pleasure a sensation by Epicurean definition?

    Yes and that is definitely the starting point of the analysis, and why most of the academic statements strike me as wrong.

    What I am really talking about are these articles, for existence the Konstan articles you've cited. I know what these recent writers are saying, and mainly I am trying to figure how to deal with the fact that what they are saying appears wrong, and yet we don't want to be a "ghetto" here where we talk only to ourselves and therefore appear "stupid" to people on the outside who say that the "experts" say something else.

    The constant situation is that people are going to read here things that (hopefully) makes sense, but then they go to the current academic articles and read a lot of spaghetti-like speculations that seem to lead nowhere (and ultimately contradict your basic observation that all pleasure is "felt").

    That's the point of the Wenham article - Wenham is on our side and he fights that - and also the point of Nikolsky. But they are the minority, so it's a matter of developing the best way to articulate things here while also preparing other readers to recognize that when they go "outside" they will read something else, so that they know what the issues are and why on side makes sense and the other doesn't.

  • IT's this kind of thing that is the problem:

    Reading Epicurus: Pleasure and pain
    For Epicurus, pleasure is nothing but the absence of pain. Pain can further be subdivided into pain of the body and trouble in the soul. This negative…

    Another example which implies that katastematic pleasureis the real objective above Kinetic:

    Pleasure and the Absence of Pain: Reading Epicurus' HedonismThrough Plato's Philebus Open Access

    Arenson, Kelly E. (2009)

    Permanent URL:…/etds/1r66j156t?locale=en



    Abstract Pleasure and the Absence of Pain: Reading Epicurus' Hedonism Through Plato's Philebus By Kelly E. Arenson

    Epicurus made a name for himself in the ancient world when he identified pleasure with the absence of pain and proceeded to distinguish it from a second, seemingly different variety of pleasure--that found `in motion' (kinetic). I interpret Epicurus' distinction through the lens of Plato's Philebus and the ancient debates concerning that dialogue. At issue in these debates and the theories that arise from them is whether pleasure is a process or an end and how pleasure ought to be conceived in terms of the harmonious functioning of a living organism. I argue that Plato identifies pleasure with the perceived process of restoration of an organism's natural harmony and that he uses this description to deny that pleasure is the good. Aristotle, rebuking the Platonic position, counters that pleasures are not processes of replenishment but are associated with the activity of an organism's unimpeded functioning. In the Epicurean development of these ideas, kinetic pleasure is the perceived restoration of the natural functioning of a living organism, and katastematic pleasure is painless, natural functioning itself, or health. On this reading, Epicurus considers any perceived affection that does not involve pain to be katastematic and thus the highest pleasure, including everyday sensory pleasures, such as taste. I show that Epicurus' distinction between pleasures serves as a dialectical response to the Philebus and bears the marks of Aristotle's response to the dialogue as well.

  • All of which leads to this kind of statement at wikipedia: that Epicurus "idiosyncraticlly defined pleasure as absenced of suffering and that the goal of life is not "pleasure" but "atraxia meaning untroubledness.....' No real statement of PLEASURE as the goal either here or in the opening paragraphs of the wikipedia article on epicurus himself.

    Plus THIS which identifies katastematic pleasures "as the focal ones to Epicurus."

  • So what we face here as people interested not only in understanding Epicurus ourselves but popularizing it for others is that out there in the wide world anyone who reads about Epicurus is going to conclude that katastematic pleasure (which DL has mentioned to tell us only that Epicurus held it to be just one type of pleasure) should be considered to be the equivalent of "absence of pain" (which implies nothingness unless you define it much further) and thus that some counterintuitive and ephemeral concept of "nothingness.". Rather than keeping the focus on pleasure as Epicurus always did, people are being given the idea that rather than pleasurable living as ordinary people like you and me understand the term, the real focus and goal of Epicurean Philosophy is some form of nothingness. That may please the Buddhists and Stoics but is 180 degrees from what the clear bulk of the texts teach.

    That is what casual readers have been doing for years and thereby ghettoizing is into a community only of those who fancy the idea of living in caves and running from all pain as the real goal of life.

    That not only has a bad result, but more important there is good reason to think it is a total misreading of Epicurus, which sets us up for the task of straightening the whole thing out.

  • Thanks, Cassius !! All good points and sources. Some random thoughts:

    • So, we're setting up a David v Goliath scenario.
    • The majority isn't always correct (ex, geocentrism anyone?)
    • We got some Wikipedia editing to do, backed up with sources.
    • The fact that that author reads all of Epicurus through the Philebus lens is problematic and frustrating.
    • "Epicurus does not think there are any positive pleasures". By Zeus, What an ignorant statement!.. ;( ^^ None except for sex and pleasing sights and joy and....

    That's enough for now.

  • Epicurus made a name for himself in the ancient world when he identified pleasure with the absence of pain and proceeded to distinguish it from a second, seemingly different variety of pleasure--that found `in motion' (kinetic).

    As I've been struggling to express above, I'm beginning to have what I think is an answer to this argument. FWIW I'll try to clarify it here.

    1. Pleasure and pain are, first and foremost, feelings.

    2. Pleasure and pain are opposing feelings, so absence of either of them implies the maximum quantity of the other by definition.

    3. Properly understanding natural science results in an abiding absence of pains which are due to fears of the gods, fears of death, and other fears caused by common myths. It also gives us knowledge of how to best live our lives in our particular circumstances, through prudent choices and avoiding of desires to pursue.

    4. This abiding absence of pain due to understanding natural science is the only pleasure that could be properly considered katastematic. All other pleasures and pains come and go. Being pleasantly full for two or three hours is not, to my current thinking, katastematic. However living in a situation in which you will never have to worry about hunger, due to your reasoning about pleasures and pains concerning food, could be considered katastematic regarding hunger.

    5. This abiding absence of pain is a pleasure which is properly referred to as wisdom and is also called ataraxia. If Epicurus indeed ever used the term "katastematic pleasure", which is debatable, I propose that this is what he was referring to. By this interpretation katastematic pleasure isn’t meant to refer to being replenished, or to any specific part of the neurological process of experiencing pleasure. It's simply a background condition that we've created for ourselves through correct study and correct reasoning.

    Could this be a valid counterargument to the above quote? Or am I misinterpreting something?

  • [136] Διαφέρεται δὲ πρὸς τοὺς Κυρηναϊκοὺς περὶ τῆς ἡδονῆς: οἱ μὲν γὰρ τὴν καταστηματικὴν οὐκ ἐγκρίνουσι, μόνην δὲ τὴν ἐν κινήσει: ὁ δὲ ἀμφοτέραν : : ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος, ὥς φησιν ἐν τῷ Περὶ αἱρέσεως καὶ φυγῆς καὶ ἐν τῷ Περὶ τέλους καὶ ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ Περὶ βίων καὶ ἐν τῇ πρὸς τοὺς ἐν Μυτιλήνῃ φιλοσόφους ἐπιστολῇ. ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Διογένης ἐν τῇ ἑπτακαιδεκάτῃ τῶν Ἐπιλέκτων καὶ Μητρόδωρος ἐν τῷ Τιμοκράτει λέγουσιν οὕτω: νοουμένης δὲ ἡδονῆς τῆς τε κατὰ κίνησιν καὶ τῆς καταστηματικῆς. ὁ δ᾽ Ἐπίκουρος ἐν τῷ Περὶ αἱρέσεων οὕτω λέγει: "ἡ μὲν γὰρ ἀταραξία καὶ ἀπονία καταστηματικαί εἰσιν ἡδοναί: ἡ δὲ χαρὰ καὶ ἡ εὐφροσύνη κατὰ κίνησιν ἐνεργείᾳ βλέπονται."

    136] He differs from the Cyrenaics with regard to pleasure. They do not include under the term the pleasure which is a state of rest, but only that which consists in motion. Epicurus admits both ; also pleasure of mind as well as of body, as he states in his work On Choice and Avoidance and in that On the Ethical End, and in the first book of his work On Human Life and in the epistle to his philosopher friends in Mytilene. So also Diogenes in the seventeenth book of his Epilecta, and Metrodorus in his Timocrates, whose actual words are : "Thus pleasure being conceived both as that species which consists in motion and that which is a state of rest." The words of Epicurus in his work On Choice are : "Peace of mind and freedom from pain are pleasures which imply a state of rest ; joy and delight are seen to consist in motion and activity."

    This is the section in Diogenes Laertius referencing katastematic pleasures (underlined).

    The quote from Epicurus at the end of Fragment 2.

  • Godfrey I very much like the direction you are going in, but I unfortunately have to demur on "abiding.". I know some people who like that word ( :) ) but I do not think it adds anything to the discussion. If all it means is "long lasting" then that would be simply the time element that is a part of every pleasure - some last longer than others.

    But I detect that it is being suggested as a good word (not tagging you personally) because it has a sort of Biblical flavor to it that implies it means something other and "higher" than "long lasting.". I will deflect from being more specific by saying it is almost the type word Dewitt would use to try to stretch a parallel with Christianity (I don't remember right now but maybe in fact Dewitt *did* use the word - I know others use it today).

    But the end result problem is that I don't see any difference in kind from any other pleasure that comes from the confidence we get from studying natural science and understanding the Epicurean worldview (e.g what is said at the end of the letter to Herodotus about these studies making us much stronger than other people).

    I would not have any real problem with saying that ALL such pleasures that come from the Epicurean worldview are "abiding" because in fact I do think they are long lasting - that reference to how you can't make a Stoic out of an Epicurean applies.

    But the reason I would say away from doing that is that I don't think the texts really support carving out longer-lasting pleasures and calling them "abiding" or anything else, especially since Epicurus warns in the letter to Menoceaus that it makes sense to seek not the pleasures that are longest, but the ones that are most pleasant.

    But to repeat I find your direction generally makes sense, other than that it is not likely to help equip Don's "David" to meet the Academic Establishment's "Goliath."

    (And though I am not fond of Biblical analogies I think Don is correct in suggesting that it is a very good analogy for the position we are in.)

  • So to keep harping on what I think is probably the key point - it is the modern commentators who are equating "pleasures of rest" with "absence of pain" and that is how they are arguing that this "absence of pain /katastematic pleasure" is not what we should consider to be a "real pleasure" at all, but in fact as Elayne says in her article a "fancy pleasure" which is very difficult for normal people to understand, but which is in fact the "true goal" of life rather than pleasure itself.

    That linkeage is pretty much a core part of what has to be broken to get back to an understandable theory of pleasure as something we all feel and understand without explanation, which is the real heart and soul of the philosophy - something we don't need "expert academics" to explain to us.