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

  • these discussions also remind me of what I think is (to me) the most clear and unmistakeable way of referring to pleasure -- as "the guide" of life more so than "the good."

    It's like that cliche we hear a lot today about how "the journey is more important than the destination."

    Pleasure is an experience --- I'd say that the goal of an Epicurean is to experience a pleasureable life.

    A non-Epicurean may be focused on the life goal of getting things and achievements, through the abstraction of "virtue" or "being (or striving to be) a good person" or "excellence" or "rising to the top". But this would not guarantee a happy life. So Epicurus says here is the path that he believes will guarantee a happy life. And also important to consider that virtue still does have a place within Epicureanism, as a tool which leads to a good experience --- to give an analogy: one properly tunes up one's car engine so that the car runs smoothly. And another anology: when playing a guitar one properly tunes the strings for the most pleasant sounds, avoiding over-tightening or under-tightening the strings -- so we "properly tune up our life" so that we don't go through life feeling tense, anxious or frought, or lethargic or sleeping all the time -- and this would be important for the experience of a pleasureable life.

  • I see pleasure as both the guide and the goal.

    We aim toward the goal of a pleasurable life. That's the "greatest good (thing)" to my understanding.

    We use the goal of pleasure as the guide in making our choices and rejections.

  • I *think* this is the place we get into the issue of what is a concept and what is a feeling.

    Pleasure can be thought of as a feeling which serves as a guide because it is ever-present in one form or another.

    As for what the "goal" is - is not the "goal" something more conceptual that is not presently with us and may never be reached?

    I don't profess an answer to that but we've seen a good many discussions about how "happiness" might be thought of as more of a concept.

  • Pleasure can be thought of as a feeling which serves as a guide because it is ever-present in one form or another.

    But pleasure isn't always being felt when making choices and rejections. True, we're either feeling pleasure or pain, but we're often extrapolating to future pleasure when making choices of actions.

    As for what the "goal" is - is not the "goal" something more conceptual that is not presently with us and may never be reached?

    So, in light of my comment above, the pleasure we're aiming for as our goal is "not presently with us" which makes that pleasure the/a goal.

  • I am kind of surprised that you take that position so I need to reflect on it, but given that we are positing that the healthy state of the body is itself pleasurable, and that some degree of pleasure is always available mentally (through memories at least) I would think it is true that "some" degree of pleasure is always available, even if it is drastically offset by a particular pain.

    We probably need to discuss PD03 in this context (The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body, nor of mind, nor of both at once.) but I think in past discussions most people have agreed that PD3 does not mean that different parts of the body and/or mind cannot be experiencing pleasure and pain at the same time, with the classic example being that of Epicurus taking pleasure in his friends and memories even though he was dying from a painful physical disease.

    I think this is also referenced in the "I call you to continuous pleasure" passage and perhaps others.

    EAHP Page 66:

    EAHP Page 226:

    EAHP Page 239:

  • This next section is directly relevant to what we have been discussing, and shows how DeWitt was on top of this issue and did not consider it a problem at all. He point out that Epicurus endorsed BOTH types of pleasure, and did not pursue one to the exclusion of the other. Instead of obsessing over the static/active issue like the modern commentators do, DeWitt never skips a beat: but simply incorporates the issue into the main body of the philosophy under "Pleasure" as the word is normally understood, and goes on down the road. This is well before Gosling & Taylor produced their analysis or Nikolsky produced his refinement. That's one of the reasons I continue to advocate that new people read this book first, even before they wade into Wikipedia or any of the other Cambridge or other "handbooks."

  • Ah! Got it. Mea culpa.

    I wasn't saying pleasure isn't or can't be present.

    But, by definition (I think), if we're making a choice about an action, the pleasure we will get as a result of that action is in the future. We have not felt *that* pleasure yet but are using past and present pleasure to extrapolate into the future that *choice* A will bring X amount of pleasure in the future; choice B will bring Y amount of pleasure and Z amount of pain. If predicted X is greater than Y pleasure, I should go with choice A for that pleasure. (I'm excluding pain in the equation for ease of argument, but that would factor in if I were to choose C pain for greater future pleasure).

    We're always weighing present pleasure being felt now or was in there past against future pleasure that will be felt then.

    That's what I mean by the present guide and the future goal.

  • I didn't think we disagreed on that - so very good.

    I keep coming back in my mind to one of the biggest challenges here being the over-restrictive definition of pleasure that we live under today.

    It's almost as if people today think that if you aren't presently engaged in sex or drinking bouts or massages then you aren't experiencing pleasure, and they INSIST on separating out what we might call "intellectual" or "emotional" feelings of satisfaction and other "background feelings" as something other than "Pleasure."

    I think that extended quote from DeWitt is right on point with this, and its something with which I think everyone here on the forum basically agrees: that if you feel ANYTHING at all (and we are constantly feeling lots of things as part of being alive) then those feelings are either (1) pleasure or (2) pain.

    This isn't psychological babble based on Epicurus having an "ebullient" personality like a child or a puppy or cat who is "easily amused."

    It's the foundational understanding about a universe in which there isn't a god to tell us what to do, and there aren't absolute ideal forms of right and wrong to go by. The only stop and go standard given us by nature is Feeling (pleasure and pain). All good and evil comes to us through sensation, meaning what we feel, and the realization that this is the true foundation of morality is such a huge "fight" to get people to understand and accept that all the rest can sort of fade into the background.

    As DeWitt points out, it was apparently argued in the ancient world (and still is today) that Feeling/Pleasure-pain can't serve as the guide of life because it isn't always available -- sometimes we're just numb -- and to what do we look when we are just feeling numb?

    That's a decent argument against looking to Pleasure as your ultimate guide, so Epicurus had to meet it. And I think it's a good argument to point out that there are an innumerable number of types of pleasures, and some or other are "always" available in life -- even if it's only closing your eyes and remembering good things from the past. But the "always" has to be put in quotes because there are times when pain becomes so sharp and overwhelming and with no hope of relief that you do in fact choose to "exit the stage" under those circumstances. Epicurean philosophy isn't magical and can't fix every problem - which is why you do work hard to plan ahead and set future goals (as you're saying) to work toward future pleasure even when you're in a lot of pain.

    And I feel confident that we should label that feeling that comes from looking ahead to future pleasure as - itself - a pleasure.

    Maybe in the end Cicero realized the importance of this argument and that's why he shot so many barrages at it and tried to make it look ridiculous.

  • I keep coming back in my mind to one of the biggest challenges here being the over-restrictive definition of pleasure that we live under today

    Agreed. There's a linkage of "pleasure" with "profligacy" or "indulgence" in modern parlance... And it seems Ancient parlance, too.

    that if you feel ANYTHING at all (and we are constantly feeling lots of things as part of being alive) then those feelings are either (1) pleasure or (2) pain.

    Agreed. I am coming around to feeling this and not just intellectually thinking it. I don't think there is a neutral state although I'm going to have to go back to Barrett and Lembke to think about this in light of their research. (Sent thoughts, Godfrey ?)

    On a related note, it seems Dewitt was fully on board with katastematic and kinetic pleasures in Epicurus's philosophy.

    To me, this is making more and more sense (in light especially of Metrodorus's book reference). We can be more sure of internal freedom from pain in the body and internal freedom from disturbances in the mind than we can of external sources of pleasure... Even if necessary pleasures are easy to come by. The katastematic pleasures of ataraxia and aponia are "states or conditions of being" generated from within ourselves. We free our minds from trouble and fear by internalizing Epicurus's principles on the gods, death, the nature of the universe, etc. - by mulling them over and accepting or rejecting their validity and veracity. We free our bodies from pain by healthy habits and prudent choices. *Ataraxia & aponia* allow for continuing pleasure regardless of external circumstances. If we have them, we have well-being (eudaimonia). Kinetic pleasures or pleasures of sight, sounds, touch, etc. vary the pleasure and we enjoy luxuries if and when they become available.

    Not an entirely thought out position, but this is where I'm heading.

  • I don't think there is a neutral state although I'm going to have to go back to Barrett and Lembke to think about this in light of their research. (Sent thoughts, Godfrey ?)

    Practically speaking I don't think there's a neutral state.

    Neurologically speaking I'm not qualified to answer that. But of course I'm happy to toss out an opinion. :) The affective circumplex and the teeter totter are both conceptual models or analogies and therefore it could be assumed that they don't fully represent the biological processes at work. They seem to imply a neutral state at 0,0 or at perfectly level, respectively. But it could be that these implied states are a failure of the analogies, or that they are so infinitesimal as to be meaningless.

  • Don I'm coming to the idea that the detailed discussions of types of pleasure, such as katastematic and kinetic, are a misunderstanding and obfuscation of what Epicurus was saying. The way I read the PDs and the letters, pleasure is pleasure. Sure there are varieties of pleasures, but they are of very minor concern.

    What I see as the problem is conflating pleasures and desires. It's very easy to do, and in conflating them, one can then imply that there are greater and lesser pleasures and hence pleasure can't be "the good". But the way I read Epicurus' works, he treats pleasure and desire very differently. He categorizes desires, but not pleasures. And in doing so he provides a way to understand and work with desires. A way that is intended to result in an abundance of pleasure. Worrying about what type of pleasure is best serves no purpose for living his philosophy. (Some of these thoughts were prompted by the Liebersohn article in which he tried to make a connection between katastematic-kinetic and necessary-unnecessary. In reviewing Epicurus' writings and giving it some thought, I think he totally missed the boat [if you will].)

    An interesting thing, though, is that Epicurus does mention desire and pain together. I only recently noticed this, and haven't yet given it adequate thought. But I don't believe that this leads to either an "absence of pain" or a "remove all desire" interpretation. He makes clear that we choose some pains for a greater pleasure. I think that he's doing something similar by ranking desires: he's giving us a practical framework to work with desires, just as we can use pain as a tool to increase pleasure.

  • I think Godfrey 's point that desires (επιθυμία ) and pleasure (ηδονή ) are two different things is a very important one, and conflating the two is part of the trouble in discussing this topic.

    In re-reading G&T I'm struck by their conclusion in 19.4.30:


    It seems simplest just to suppose that when the organism is functioning harmoniously it is always having some form of perception; that since the operation is harmonious the perception is pleasant and without pain; and 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.

    This seems in line with where I'm coming down, especially in light of Metrodorus 's fragment. G&T's "when the organism is functioning harmoniously it is always having some form of perception" seems to me to have parallels to the homeostasis and interoception of modern biology. Their "this leaves us to enjoy our pleasures unanxiously" seems again to bolster the points I was trying to make in post #92 above. Ataraxia and aponia become the condition (katastema) that is always available to us once we internalize Epicurus's teachings, freeing us to enjoy the pleasure that comes from our prudent choices of which desires will lead to a pleasurable life.

  • I think Godfrey 's point that desires (επιθυμία ) and pleasure (ηδονή ) are two different things is a very important one, and conflating the two is part of the trouble in discussing this topic.

    I think we had a good discussion about some of this last night.

    I think most people will have no problem understanding that pleasure and pain are feelings.

    But what are "desires"? I presume you are saying that they may generate feelings if met or unmet, but are not feelings themselves?

    So how in plain English do we suggest Epicurus was considering desires to be described? Are they goals? Opinions? Thoughts? Will?

    And how would this relate to the apparent use of the terms choices and avoidances?

  • Also -

    1 - we may need to split this out into its own topic.

    2 - Any ultimate wording on this will need to explain the statement to pythocles about limiting desires in a way that does not seem to launch the way down the slope to Buddhism and even nihilism.

    I agree it's an important issue because it is one of the lines of attack against Epicurus. Why not completely limit your desires and stay in your cave or even put a bullet in your brain?

  • Let's start with some definitions and we're going to focus on the word Epicurus uses not the translation for right now:

    Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ἐπιθυ_μ-ία

    I'm including the Blue Letter Bible entry to illustrate that the Christians took επιθυμία to be inherently bad. Mostly I think because any choice not sanctioned by the church was evil. Rememder that the Greek for choice is αίρεση hairesē whereby we get English heresy.

    G1939 - epithymia - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv)
    G1939 - ἐπιθυμία epithymía, ep-ee-thoo-mee'-ah; from ; a longing (especially for what is forbidden):—concupiscence, desire, lust (after).

    And finally, some translations for επιθυμία :

    Woodhouse, S. C. (1910) English–Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language‎, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited.

    appetite idem, page 35.

    aspiration idem, page 45.

    bent idem, page 74.

    caprice idem, page 112.

    concupiscence idem, page 156.

    craving idem, page 182.

    desire idem, page 215.

    hunger idem, page 410.

    inclination idem, page 428.

    itch idem, page 461.

    longing idem, page 498.

    lust idem, page 505.

    passion idem, page 597.

    predilection idem, page 634.

    proneness idem, page 653.

    vagary idem, page 942.

    want idem, page 961.

    whim idem, page 976.

    wish idem, page 983.

    So you can decide to fulfill an επιθυμία or not. It is an opportunity for a volitional and/or a cognitive act. It could also be a sensory stimulation as in realizing you're hungry or thirsty.

    You want something. You decide whether or not you pursue it, to fill that perceived need. So, sensation may be part of it.

    The feeling you experience by fulfilling that want, desire, passion, hunger, longing is either pleasurable or painful.

    Still thinking...

  • OK those are helpful. Here's one of the BIG quotes that is thrown out often, and we need to be able to put it in context of the global philosophy and especially VS63: "Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess."

    An obvious approach might be to note that money or wealth is specifically referred to, rather than all the "joy and delight" pleasures in general so perhaps there was a context in which this Pythocles was too interested in money in particular. I can't imagine Epicurus saying, for example, "If you wish to make Pythocles Happy, do not give him more happiness, but diminish his joy and delight."

    Does Philodemus in his "On Property Management" mention anything like this?

    It would be interesting if the sources that preserve this are not the core ancient Epicureans but Seneca the Stoic and Stobaues (Of whom Wikipedia says: "Of his life nothing is known.[2] He derived his surname apparently from being a native of Stobi in Macedonia Salutaris.[3] The age in which he lived cannot be fixed with accuracy.[3] He quotes no writer later than the early 5th century, and he probably lived around this time.[3] From his silence in regard to Christian authors, it has been inferred that he was not a Christian.[2] However, his name would probably indicate that he was a Christian, or at least the son of Christian parents.[3]")

    This is NOT in Diogenes Laertius or Diogenes of Oinoanda(???)


    Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 3.17.24: Again from Epicurus: “If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not give him more money, but diminish his desire.

    Cf. Ibid., 23 [Arsenius, Paroemiogr. Gotting. t. II p. 382, 11]: The precept of Epicurus... & Ibid. XVII.37: Epicurus, when asked how one can enrich oneself, responded: Not by accumulating extraneous goods, but rather by trimming one’s needs.

    Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 21.7: In order that Idomeneus may not be introduced free of charge into my letter, he shall make up the indebtedness form his own account. It was to him that Epicurus addressed his well-known saying, urging him to make Pythocles rich, but not rich in the vulgar and equivocal way. If you wish to make Pythocles rich,” said he, do not add to his store of money, but subtract from his desires.”