Elayne Level 03
  • Member since Dec 5th 2018
  • Last Activity:

Posts by Elayne

    Don I think you are running into the same issue here, and I have the same objections. Justice is no more absolute than virtue is.

    But I want to get back to your original statement to see if/how you have modified it before I respond further.

    You said: "People who take pleasure in what the average human would find morally or ethically repugnant aren't living according to Epicurean principles and so we would have reason to intervene and attempt to get them to change. Just because they are feeling pleasure doesn't make their life choice-worthy. I wrestle with this, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming to these conclusions."

    When I gave an example of a known issue where "average humans" find certain harmless acts repugnant and questioned if that would make you declare the action automatically not Epicurean, you couldn't go there, so you started talking about justice.

    Is your new assertion "People who take pleasure in what a just human would find unjust aren't living according to Epicurean principles and so we would have reason to intervene and attempt to get them to change. Just because they are feeling pleasure doesn't make their life choice-worthy. I wrestle with this, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming to these conclusions."

    Have you substituted "just" for "average", and "unjust" for "repugnant"?

    If so, as Cassius has explained, there is the same issue. People have some commonalities in what they consider just, but there are also significant differences. Lol, contract negotiations would be so much easier otherwise! There are no absolutes.

    I would also say it's not correct to label someone taking pleasure in _anything_ as not Epicurean. Remember that for me, taking pleasure means including all the consequences including future effects. However, if their pleasure impedes mine, I'll certainly make an effort to stop them!

    Btw, it's 100% natural for humans to establish taboos, unjust or not. These happen even without religion. It's not supernatural-- it's a real phenomenon we have evolved to enact. I notice that people tend to label things they don't like as unnatural, but there's no grounds for that here. Also, Epicurus doesn't appear to use the word "natural" to mean innate.

    I can see it makes you very uncomfortable to confront the lack of definite moral standards apart from individual pleasure. I think that's what makes this discussion relevant to where it started, because that's exactly why people cling to the fixed virtues in Stoicism rather than to pleasure.

    They do not want to say they endorse a philosophy that could conceivably lead to a person making choices for their own pleasure which harm others-- but this is in fact _inescapable_ in a reality-based philosophy. The moment they start putting their preferential behavioral constraints on others as if there is something magical about their own morality that will make their choices work for everyone, they have left the material realm for wishful thinking.

    "Epicurus clearly tried to break sharply away from "virtue for virtue's sake." Virtue, he taught, was instrumental to pleasure and thus to leading a pleasurable life. So, it seems to me that Epicureans are still going to act virtuously to the outside observer. The inner motivation is going to be far different than the Stoic or Aristotelian, but the visible form/action is going to be similar."

    and very importantly, you said:

    "People who take pleasure in what the average human would find morally or ethically repugnant aren't living according to Epicurean principles and so we would have reason to intervene and attempt to get them to change. Just because they are feeling pleasure doesn't make their life choice-worthy. I wrestle with this, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming to these conclusions."

    Don I initially entered this conversation replying to Joshua, and you made these assertions above in your first response to me. Later, you also said there were actions that would lead to pleasurable lives for "any" organism, I disagreed, and you modified your statement to apply to "almost all"-- and that I agreed with.

    For the first quote above, I would make that same adjustment-- that "almost all" Epicureans are still going to act in ways that most outside observers would label as virtuous.

    And for the second paragraph, I think you are incorrect. If these people are truly taking pleasure in what most others would find repugnant (and when I say this, please be assured that I am _always_ referring to the overall pleasure/pain consequences of decisions, not only the immediate ones), then they _are_ living according to Epicurean principles if they make these choices. Our reason to intervene is on our own behalf. And if as a group we contribute consequences to their actions which then change their pain/pleasure outcomes, they may be wise to change their decision. However in some cases, their pleasure will outweigh any painful consequence others can devise, in the same way that I doubt any amount of torture could cause me to betray one of my children. Their lives can be choice-worthy to them and not to others.

    Here I am not only speaking about psychopaths. There are people who take great pleasure in actions which their current majority culture labels repugnant but who cause no actual harm to anyone-- and this is definitely a common human social situation, especially in association with religions, not a rare or hypothetical event. For instance, in some cultures, anything other than heteroromantic love and sex is treated with disgust and in some cases still today with the death penalty. Would you say that a consenting adult same-sex couple in such a culture was not Epicurean to have a relationship even at risk of death? I certainly would not.

    A majority reaction of repugnance is not a ruler to measure individual pleasure or Epicurean wisdom.

    That second comment was what initiated my whole train of objections. If you no longer agree with what you said, then we have no disagreement!

    Don Adding "almost" anyone to your assertion is fine. Low empathy humans are a small percentage of the population.

    I'm on the other end of atypical-- I can't even stand to watch fake violence in movies, lol. So my decisions regarding potential harm to strangers need to take my atypical responses into account. This is more useful than trying to make myself become typical. It's also helpful to my pleasure to remember that the majority of others are likely not being consciously cruel when they do things to each other that make me cringe. Most likely, their empathy settings are more in the center. If I failed to keep this in mind, I would think I was surrounded by psychopaths on all sides.

    It's not a virtue of mine, relative to them, that I avoid doing things they do-- it's only a virtue in regards to my own pleasure. They wouldn't be happier changing to be like me, either, so far as I can tell.

    As far as the limits of pleasure, maximum pleasure, I think we have discussed this before, and I have not changed my position from what I outlined in my article here 😃: On Pain, Pleasure, and Happiness

    What I mean by pleasure occurring or not is that it depends on material causes, not on people's opinions about what ought to happen. Like that quote about facts not caring about someone's opinions. A person may think folks ought not get pleasure from someone else's suffering, but that has no bearing on whether or not such a thing happens in real life. For instance, my opinion does not affect the reality of schadenfreude, a "normal" phenomenon I don't experience.

    Maximum pleasure is exactly what an ordinary person would say it is-- total filling of one's mind and body with wonderful bliss-- and it occurs when all pain is absent. When one has achieved maximum blissfulness, it's unmistakable. One will not want anything more at that time, as Epicurus noted. Contrary to rumor, regular humans can experience this.

    The maximum possible pleasure over a lifetime is realistically not likely going to involve continuous total bliss, because we don't have the power to prevent every pain, including pains that can stand in the path to pleasures--- but we can obtain a lot more ongoing pleasure than most people realize. And to do so requires dropping Stoicism and usual virtue ethics completely! We must evaluate all decisions and virtues in light of pleasure as our sole guide and goal. Yes, of course, it's smart to take into account both our past experiences and the experiences of other humans in similar situations. That's basic physics.

    Cassius yes, I agree that it's an important starting place. It's the same in medicine-- there's almost no treatment that works for 100% of patients. But we obviously want to start with the thing having the highest success rate for most people! And move on to something else if it doesn't work.

    I am arguing that the exceptions don't prove the rule so much as they demonstrate the scope of the rule, including its limits. Part of that is because of the current discussion ... and part of it is because I am myself highly atypical in several areas. Without understanding my atypical characteristics, I would be looking for pleasure in the wrong places.

    Don which means morality itself depends on the pleasure of the specific perceiver, since it isn't ideal. Yet you argued above that there are behaviors that will consistently and verifiably lead to a pleasurable life for "any organism." That isn't true.

    The strongest true statement is that there are behaviors which are highly likely to lead to a pleasurable life for most typical members of a species. Those things are useful to know as a starting place, but for maximum life pleasure, an individual must learn if and how they are atypical-- and 100% typical humans are, in my experience, nonexistent. In medicine, every person I've met has at least one feature that is not within 2 std deviations on a Bell curve. It would be surprising if that weren't the case considering the huge number of features we have. It's why docs should be very careful about ordering unnecessary tests, because every extra lab we get increases the chance of finding a meaningless out of range result.

    Why wouldn't we expect the same to be true of pleasure, and thus of virtue?

    When you said honesty wasn't the most important virtue in my hypothetical but protecting the friend was, that is exactly the kind of thing virtue ethicists say-- while failing to acknowledge that the actual deciding factor is pleasure, not protection of another.

    Don No, a descriptor is not the same as a qualifier. A qualifier, as you accurately say, limits or modifies -- and I am doing neither. If my description were a qualifier, it would mean that I am _not_ only doing as I please but am limiting or modifying my scope of action beyond doing as I please. And that's not the case.

    In PD5, Epicurus does not idealize the words prudently, morally, and justly. He doesn't put forth a concept of prudence that would result in the same action for every human in every situation. This is an example of why it's important to recall the context of the entire philosophy, which is without such absolutes.

    We actually do have evidence that psychopaths lack vicarious pain and can even feel pleasure instead. I stand by my assertion that for feeling, only the person actually experiencing the feeling knows what it is, exactly. But we do have supportive research. It's important not to extrapolate feelings you or I might have to those of psychopaths. I think that leads to errors in predicting their behavior towards us. https://www.webmd.com/brain/ne…paths-dont-feel-your-pain

    I am going to be bold and say that for any specific behavior/virtue you want to name as universally leading to a maximally pleasurable human life, I can name an exception. Virtues depend on pleasure for their very definition-- but feeling is a direct experience and can't be defined away. This is central to understanding Epicurus.

    In fact, this issue is key to the differences between us and Stoics, and in the difficulties we face in attracting as much interest. People resist understanding that nothing defines pleasure other than the direct experience. Maximum pleasure is not modified or limited by definitions or concepts-- it simply occurs or does not.

    I think it's our culture having integrated so much Stoic and Platonic thought that makes people resist this reality-- even here, on an Epicurean platform! But it's possible there is some evolved neuro-developmental barrier as well.

    Cassius yes, I agree. In regards to the "others", this varies widely between individuals. I have an unusual degree of feeling based empathy, to the point that observing violence causes my body to hurt at the site of another person's injury. So I actually get pain even at the pain of others who are strangers or enemies. I refrain from causing harm because of that.

    It's not completely symmetric on the vicarious pleasure end. I do get strong pleasure at knowledge or witnessing pleasure of strangers, very close to as strong as for those I love but not quite. However, I get no pleasure from the pleasure of those I dislike, and the reason is partly that I dislike them due to what they get pleasure from. If they get pleasure from cruelty to others, then their pleasures are directly counter to mine, and I feel no joy when they get their way.

    Don that's not a qualifier-- it's just a description of what I like to do, not a restraint separate from my pleasure. And yes, it's in the spirit of PD5. Because virtues have no meaning other than as tools for pleasure. It would be weird to remove my awareness of future consequences from actions in the present-- that seems much more convoluted and unnatural to try and live purely for the present moment, at least for me, lol. So that's not a qualifier either. What I like to do is always in the context of my regular brain. Whether my brain is normal or not, I can't say 😂.

    I disagree strongly about any implied absolute meaning for virtue common to all humans. If Epicurus was saying that, and I don't think he was, he would have been wrong. There can't biologically be one set of behaviors leading to a pleasurable life for every single human. And even for a single human, it's not wise to make any fixed virtue that could override pleasure-- there can be extenuating circumstances, such as the classic murderer asking for your friend's whereabouts. So no virtue like honesty is fixed. Everything is relative to pleasure.

    For most of us, natural empathy provides the pro-social pleasure motive. For some, fear of consequences provides the reason to abstain from harming others, which Epicurus mentioned multiple times. However, it is easy to observe that some high functioning low empathy humans have enough financial resources to protect themselves from at least some degree of asocial if not downright anti-social living. And _if_ they have pleasurable lives that way, free from both anxiety and painful punishment, only they can give testimony. It's definitely risky to live outside the typical human virtue preferences, but it can be done. Those are the folks I try to avoid strenuously!

    The reason we try to talk them out of it is for our own benefit. As Epicurus said, laws are for the protection of the wise.

    Well... I do exactly plan on doing as I please, with no qualifiers! It's just that what I please involves taking pleasure in the pleasure of others, not that I'm trying to avoid causing trouble or disrupting my schedule for reasons unrelated to pleasure.

    Person B needs to know what kind of person I am-- that my pleasure includes empathy-- and that I care about them. Then they should want me to be selfish for their own sake!

    I just got back from a 2 hr round trip to take my son for his first COVID19 vaccine. They are hard to get in my county, so I took him out of state, because he is high risk. I didn't do that bc of an obligation or virtue or trying to balance things out-- I did it only bc I love my son, and I enjoy doing things for him.

    Yes, rhyme and rhythm makes it challenging! I write poetry but mine is usually free verse... very different mental process. Feels more like solving a puzzle!

    I had an "earworm" today of "O For a Thousand Tongues to SIng"-- I love the tune, but ack, the words not so much! Because I seemed to be stuck with it, I decided it needed new words. Here is my draft-- feel free to make suggestions for changes. I recorded it for people who don't know the melody, and I need to give the caveat, like Dr. McCoy-- I'm a doctor, not a singer, lol! The tuning's not perfect. But you'll get the idea.


    O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

    --adapted from Charles Wesley, 1740

    O for a thousand tongues to sing Great Epicurus’ praise,

    The glories ever echoing, the triumphs of his ways!

    He hosted monthly physics feasts, his observations keen,

    he taught materiality, no fearful fates unseen.

    No supernatural designs, no torments after death,

    no absolutes, no ideal realms, but what a universe!

    Eternal, indivisible, with motion never ceased,

    the atoms in the void combine to form each plant and beast.

    Without an interfering god, without an abstract guide,

    the path is clear: in pleasure our desires satisfied!

    Honor to Epicurus, let us shout his teachings wide,

    the pleasures of this life abound, with dear friends by our side!

    And really, if you try to define "natural" in any other way besides some relationship to "real", then what is natural cannot be applied to all of us. If something is real, it has existence independently of us-- if the unnatural is the unreal, it's unreal for everyone. Nobody can have omniscience, for instance.

    If you make natural something an organism is innately disposed to want, then natural will vary between organisms, because no two are identical. Even clones are affected by epigenetics/environment. I think in that case natural would be indistinguishable from personal preference, and he's clearly talking about something different.

    I consider unnatural desires to be desires for things which do not exist, because everything in nature, whatever has existence, is natural.

    Desire for unlimited power, idealistic freedom, absolute beauty, immortality, omniscience -- these are desires for the unreal which cannot ever be satisfied.

    Since everything real is by definition natural, I am only left with deciding whether my decision to pursue a desire will likely lead to more pleasure than pain, or not.

    If desire for a particular item or experience going unfulfilled will not affect my ability to enjoy life one way or another, then it's obviously not strictly necessary-- but if pursuing it won't cause me more pain than pleasure, it's also not necessary to skip it. I am free to decide based on my preferences.

    I think this perspective keeps the focus on both materiality and pleasure rather than introducing extra unnecessary factors.

    Besides that, when he explains visualizing (imagination) of an actual type of thing as images re-entering, that whole process relies on memory! If I want to think of a cow, how would I do it without memory of what a cow looks like? And he said that is a process of deciding to see the thing and that image is instantly available. Not that the memory of what a cow looks like comes from inside a storage in the mind!

    I am objecting to attributing ideas to Epicurus that he didn't state, especially when those ideas are wrong! He clearly describes visual images as being made of particles and imagined images as being made of even finer particles, both thrown off as films from objects. He never says we store those particles in our minds, and that whole idea is even wilder than having them available to re-enter.

    When we remember images, we are not pulling particles of what we saw back out of storage to view. Visual memory involves neural transmission from the parietal lobe to the visual cortex (as well as widespread network neural activation in the brain), whereas in the initial seeing, the neural transmission is from the visual cortex to those other parts. But it's not image particles (the modern analogous thing being photons, which stimulate our retinas) being sent around again in the brain.

    Epicurus was very literal about his images being made of films of particles, and he has never said they are stored. He very concretely describes a re-entry process for visual imagination and dreams that is images re-entering, and he has not said memory is getting its images a different way. And although we do have a lot to learn about memory and imagination still today, it's very safe to say we are not storing photons in the brain! So why attribute such a notion of storing the actual _images_ to him, when he never said it?

    I'm confused as to why you would want Epicurus to have included image storage in his model when he hasn't said it _and_ it wouldn't square with our observations of the brain? Considering he thought of images as these physical film structures, they would have to get crammed into the brain like a filing cabinet, and nothing of that sort happens-- no sheets of photons are being stored in the brain. He said they were very fine so there was room for them in the air... but the images of a lifetime all stuck into the skull would be an even odder idea.

    Both the external images floating through the pores and your idea of a stored image film are not happening, but I wouldn't propose adding an extra incorrect idea to his model without strong proof that he believed it!

    Cassius that's a bad headline on the laser article, lol. It is not talking about extrasensory transmission of ideas but about a way to cause sound waves to occur at a specific distant place, using lasers. Ears would be necessary for the message to be heard! 😉

    There's nothing in those references to memory that says internal images are involved-- and that's partly why I linked to the article on aphantasia. Memory and remembered images are not inseparable-- a person can remember events even if unable to reconstruct an image. So I don't think that's an argument for special memory images so much as that an awake person remembers the person they dreamed about is dead!

    It also doesn't really make sense for Lucretius to say the memory is asleep, though. Bc how would the dreamer recognize the image as someone they knew, without the pattern recognition of memory? It would just look like a random person-- we would not recognize anyone in dreams without memory. It's a gap in his model. It would make more sense to say memory is not functioning the same in sleep as awake, but it's obviously not totally offline-- we can observe that ourselves with our own dreams.

    Here is a description of research on aphantasia-- where people can't generate internal imagery, including for memories https://theconversation.com/bl…n-their-imagination-86849 -- I bring this up because we were wondering what the process would be whereby people would decide which images they wanted to see, in Epicurus' model. The folks with aphantasia do have memories but the images don't show up for them.

    And they mention how internally generated images are thought to occur-- by a network which attempts to recreate pattern from prior activation of the pattern, for memory (different for imagination of things never seen). Rather than a specific area of the brain where a sort of pixel-like photograph is stored. The visual cortex is involved but it is stimulated by other parts of the brain-- it isn't the first area to be involved the way it is in receipt of images through the eyes.

    Visual memory is being described as computational https://www.sciencedirect.com/…abs/pii/S1364661320303053 -- the point being that it seems to be a re-creation of an image, not a direct storing of the image itself.