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

  • An excerpt from “The Fixation of Satisfaction: Epicurus and Peirce on the Goal” by David B. Suits:

    "The difference between kinetic and katastematic pleasure is mentioned without elaboration in Diogenes Laertius X.136. 'Kinetic' implies motion or change. Thus, kinetic pleasures are pleasurable changes. It is not that whenever there are changes, we take pleasure in them; rather, there is a kind of pleasure–kinetic pleasure–one of whose characteristics is that we experience a change of state. Whenever we undergo some pleasant change, such as satisfying a desire, the pleasure is of the kinetic type. If 'kinetic' refers to change, then 'katastematic' refers to non-change, or, we might say, a condition of satisfaction. Katastematic pleasure, then, is characterized by our remaining in a state. Or one could also say that kinetic pleasure are characterized by engagement in some activity, specifically some activity either away from something or towards something, either case implying a kind of struggle (although, as we will see later, the word 'struggle' is a bit too dramatic). Katastematic pleasure, on the other hand, are pleasures we take in, or because of, or during our relative inactivity–that is to say, in our not having to struggle away from anything or towards anything. I will elaborate on these ideas below. But we may as well admit at once that the distinction is vague.

    If I have a headache, I take some aspirin, and not long thereafter I feel the pain receding. Eventually I am no longer in pain. Now, it is one thing to experience the headache's going away, when I am still in some pain, and another thing to be in a state without a headache at all. There is, then, the kinetic pleasure of the headache's going away, and there is the katastematic pleasure of not having a headache.

    In addition, there are, I perceive, two kinds of katastematic pleasure. The distinction is hinted at now and again in the literature, but I want to make it explicit. (1) The headache has just now finally disappeared, an so I am in a state of relief from pain; I am in a state of having become satisfied. (2) It would usually be odd to say, some days later, that I am in a state of relief from the headache, and so katastematic pleasure of the second kind is a condition wherein I do not even consider the headache–I neither have a headache nor attend to the memory of it; I am in a state not unlike a person who never had a headache at all.

    So it is also with mental disturbances. Suppose I am troubled in mind; I am worried about something–my job performance, perhaps. Now my attitude begins to change, either on account of my awareness of some change in the world (perhaps my employer praises me or gives me a raise), or in some change in my desires (perhaps I no longer care to please my employer). In any case, my anxiety recedes. This is one kind of kinetic pleasure. Once the anxiety has vanished, I am in a state of relief from that anxiety. This is a katastematic pleasure of the first sort–a state of having been satisfied. And eventually not only am I not concerned about my job, I am not even attending to having been relieved of the former anxiety, and so I have attained a katastematic satisfaction of the second kind: a state of not being anxious, but also of not having just been relieved of anxiety.

    Epicurus's notions of pleasure in motion and pleasure in rest have their analogs in Peirce's concepts about doubt and belief. 'Thought in action [doubt] has for its only possible motive the attainment of thought at rest [belief]; and whatever does not refer to belief is no part of the thought itself' (5.396). To adopt Epicurean terminology, we might say that kinetic thought has for its sole motive katastematic thought. In addition, belief (katastematic thought) involved the creation of some habit–a readiness for action–such that there can be variations of a habit without changing its nature: 'If beliefs do not differ in this respect, if they appease the same doubt by producing the same rule of action, then no mere differences in the manner of consciousness of them can make them different beliefs, any more than playing a tune in different keys is playing different tunes' (5.398). Again, 'the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action; and ... whatever there is connected with a thought, but irrelevant to its purpose, is an accretion to it, but no part of it' (5.400). Those comments by Peirce are echoes of Epicurus: 'As soon as the feeling of pain produced by want it removed, pleasure in the flesh will not increase but is only varied'.

    I suggest, then, that Epicurean katastematic pleasure is analogous to Peircean belief as habit. When doubt and inquiry have come to an end, we have attained the calm state of belief. But this state of mind is not nothing. That is, it is not simply the absence of doubt (which might also describe a dead person). Rather, it is the undisturbed working of habit–our going through our activities without concern of question.

    I take Epicurus as claiming that our hedonistic goal is to attain the fixation of katastematic satisfaction of the second sort, in both body and mind. Satisfaction in the body is called aponia; satisfaction in the mind is called ataraxia. We are ideally to be like the gods, who are neither being relieved of pain, nor in a state of just having been relieved of pain. This is so, because the gods are not the sort to have been in pain in the first place." (Epicurus: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance 142-144)

    I recommend finding the full article and reading it. David Suits makes a compelling exploration of kinetic versus katastematic pleasure. Later in the book, several other authors make (unconvincing) arguments that katastematic pleasure is superior, that it is akin to tranquility, and that tranquility is synonymous with Stoical indifference, but this essay, in particular, seems to approach the distinction in a more reasonable light with respect to the source material.

  • But we may as well admit at once that the distinction is vague.

    Very much agreed on that point!

    That reasoning sounds about as a logical as any as an attempt to unravel things. But in my own view I can't get past he view that ......

    If 'kinetic' refers to change, then 'katastematic' refers to non-change,

    and it seems to me that in life there really is no such thing as "non-change." "Sustainability" is one thing, but if we are alive, then we are changing, and I have a hard time thinking that a characteristic ("non-change") which can't really apply to living things at all constitutes something that Epicurus would be seriously concerned about. It strikes me almost like a concept such as "omnipotence" or "omniscience" -- which are concepts that might arguably apply to divinities or something else that is non-human, but which doesn't ring true in discussing humans.

    Even as the article discusses, a condition of "satisfaction" (such as being full after a meal) does not truly last very long, and relatively quickly recedes into the background and becomes hard to distinguish from working up a new appetite. And in that sense to me, being "satisfied" (full after a meal) is just another pleasure, not some special state that is separate in kind from the whole hunger-eating-satisfaction-hunger cycle. One might as well look at any other part of that cycle as being just as important as any other.

    At any rate, I don't think there's a problem in Epicurus with all this -- the only problem is with living people today who try to turn the whole philosophy into a dissertation on "katastematism."

    Epicureanism as "Katastematicism" is not the right direction and doesn't add anything except more syllables ;)

    Thanks again Nate!

  • I will continue to soapbox the fact that katastematic and kinetic come directly from Epicurus in On Choices and Avoidances:


    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."

    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."

    I will continue to soapbox that Metrodorus stated there were pleasures of activity and those of "rest/states/stability":


    "Metrodorus, in his book On the Source of Happiness in Ourselves being greater than that which arises from Objects, says: 'What else is the good of the soul but the sound state of the flesh, and the sure hope of its continuance?'"

    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."

    Metrodorus's quote is: νοουμένης δὲ ἡδονῆς τῆς τε κατὰ κίνησιν καὶ τῆς καταστηματικῆς. Right there, again, is κίνησιν (kinēsin) and καταστηματικῆς (katastēmatikēs).

    This, to me, points to the "source" - "the sound state of the flesh" (to sarkos eustathes *katastema*) - being a more confident source -- according to Metrodorus himself -- of pleasure than "objects" (kinetic pleasure) outside of ourselves. It does NOT say the source "in ourselves" is "better (more value)" just that we can be more "sure" of its continuance because we have control over it.

    It's not change vs "non-change".

    It's pleasure taken in activity from outside ourselves and pleasure taken in states which originate only in our minds through recollection, contemplation, introspection, etc.

  • This, to me, points to the "source" - "the sound state of the flesh" (to sarkos eustathes *katastema*) - being a more confident source -- according to Metrodorus himself -- of pleasure than "objects" (kinetic pleasure) outside of ourselves. It does NOT say the source "in ourselves" is "better (more value)" just that we can be more "sure" of its continuance because we have control over it

    I completely agree with this paragraph. We need understanding through philosophy within ourselves to be confident of our situation and our happiness.

    It's not change vs "non-change".

    Unfortunately that point is where the great majority of commentary and the connotations of these wordings in English seem to be focusing. I don't know if they are right or wrong in doing so, but the implications of change vs non-change as being the distinguishing factor are causing all sorts of problems. Personally I don't have any problem considering "resting" to be an activity in and of itself, just like sleeping is necessary. But sleeping can't well be thought of as the purpose of life, nor can any way of living life that is not moving or changing over time (in contrast we do assign an unmoving and unchanging description to a concept or an abstraction, such as "happiness").

    I have been thinking recently about the map/territory and forest/trees examples lately. Only the territory and the trees have atomic structure (leaving aside the paper of a map) but we do consider that both forests and maps really exist. I don't have any problem with thinking that whatever is being described as pleasures of rest also exist for us, but perhaps in the same way as maps and forests, as mental sums or constructs, rather than in separate moment by moment experiences.

  • This description of kinetic and katastematic from The Faith of Epicurus by Benjamin Farrington (1967) is spot on from my perspective:

    I need to read this book. Only recently became aware of it. Does anyone else have a review?

    The key takeaway of Epicurus's and Metrodorus's mentioning of kinetic and katastematic pleasure is to drive home the all-encompassing spectrum of hedone, inadequately pinned merely to one English word "pleasure." Hedone encompasses the joy experienced through physical activities we engage in with the world and other people like eating, drinking, conversing, dancing, sex, singing, viewing theater performances, viewing beautiful natural vistas and artwork, and so on. But it also encompasses pleasure experienced from inside ourselves like contemplating philosophy, recollecting past pleasurable memories, anticipating future pleasure, experiencing tranquility of mind and freedom from anxiety. That's the significance of embracing both katastematic and kinetic pleasure. Yes, there are different kinds of pleasure, but it's important to allow both in your life for a maximum pleasurable existence. The Cyrenaics didn't admit katastemstic pleasure into their definition. Epicurus embraced all pleasure in his philosophy. That said, we have much more control over katastematic pleasure and so can be more assured of its continuance as a source of pleasure. It's not A OR B it's A AND B with an understanding that one is always available even when the other might not be. That's why Epicurus could say he was experiencing pleasure even in the midst of pain nearing death. He had ready access to katastematic pleasure from within himself even if his pain prevented him from partaking in physical activities that would bring him joy.

  • Epicurus embraced all pleasure in his philosophy.

    Yes agreed. And if I were looking for a text to quote for a potential example of mental thoughts and attitudes and processes (through a sound philosophy) bringing pleasure in the midst of difficult circumstances, in addition to the example of the last days of Epicurus I think I would cite the opening of book two of Lucretius, the start of which is:

    Quote from Lucretius Book Two

    'Tis pleasant, when a tempest drives the waves in the wide sea, to view the sad distress of others from the land; not that the pleasure is so sweet that others suffer, but the joy is this, to look upon the ills from which yourself are free. It likewise gives delight to view the bloody conflicts of a war, in battle ranged all over the plains, without a share of danger to yourself: But nothing is more sweet than to attain the serene 'tho lofty heights of true philosophy, well fortified by learning of the wise, and thence look down on others, and behold mankind wandering and roving every way, to find a path to happiness; they strive for wit, contend for nobility, labor nights and days with anxious care for heaps of wealth, and to be ministers of state.

    O wretched are the thoughts of men! How blind their souls! In what dark roads they grope their way, in what distress is this life spent, short as it is! Don't you see Nature requires no more than the body free from pain, that she may enjoy the mind easy and cheerful, removed from care and fear?

  • Quote from Lucretius

    Don't you see Nature requires no more than the body free from pain, that she may enjoy the mind easy and cheerful, removed from care and fear?

    :thumbup: That seems to me a good description of katastematic pleasure as defined above.

    My take on lines like this in the texts is that, if we have that - IF for some reason (medical, etc) that pleasure was all we had left to us - we could still have eudaimonia/happiness/ well-being. That does NOT mean that we LIMIT ourselves to that! When we are able, we have the entire spectrum of pleasure open to us.

  • I need to read this book. Only recently became aware of it. Does anyone else have a review?

    Definitely a good read with lots of good information, particularly concerning Epicurus' reworking of Aristotle as I recall. The major negative, for me, was that Farrington considers Epicurus to be a popularizer and an evangelist rather than an original thinker. Also, because of the title I was expecting the book to be about the Epicurean gods, but that's not the case.

    I highlighted a lot in the book, but haven't gotten around to digesting the ideas yet.