What Would An Epicurean Use In Their Toolkit For Making Their Hedonic Calculus?

  • What would an Epicurean use in their toolkit for the hedonistic calculus? I mean like the quotes you'd go by and nature and unnecessary desires, the virtues, etc. I am looking for ideas on making hedonistic calculus therapy worksheets. :)

  • Wouldn't it just be net pleasure minus net pain? I use natural and necessary or unnecessary as a first step to evaluate a given desire, then I think about whether the various costs involved (pain) will add up to more or less than the resultant pleasure.

    Pains to weigh include for example money (working overtime to earn extra money, spending savings, etc); prudent use of my time; prudent use of my energy; the effects on people and things that are important to me, and how that would affect my net pleasure.

    The quote that I keep in mind is:

    Ask this question of every desire: what will happen to me if the object of desire is achieved, and what if not? VS71

    There was a recent thread that had a really good example. I'll try to find it....

  • to link, just click on the #3 (as in your preceding post, at the top right of the post) and you get a permalink that you can copy and paste anywhere. The forum software translates forum links into the name of the post, but it's still just a normal link. If you have any trouble with it let me know.

    I see this works on desktop or phone.

  • These PD's and the middle portion of LMenoeceus:


    26. All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary, but the desire is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to obtain or the desires seem likely to produce harm.

    29. Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

    30. Those natural desires which entail no pain when unsatisfied, though pursued with an intense effort, are also due to groundless opinion; and it is not because of their own nature they are not got rid of but because of man's groundless opinions.


    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Michel Onfray frequently speaks of the mathematics of hedonic calculus. While reading a book recently on business planning, I found they recommend a spreadsheet with pros and cons of various business models, where a person may consider time involvement for each project and potential profitability.

    … it WOULD be interesting if Epicureans today developed a model / excel sheet that can be used for hedonic calculus. Even a simple pros / cons sheet, like the ones used by accountants where the red / left side represents debit and the green / right side represents credit, to have a visual representation of what one is calculating and to measure and compare what one values most.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Yes it would be interesting to think about how to rank the pleasures and pain. Each line on a spreadsheet could represent a particular pleasure or pain, but there would need to be multiple columns (or other method) to rank each one according to important factors such as duration, intensity, and ______???

    Exploring what those factors (what columns to include and how to quantify them) would be and thinking about how to quantify them would be helpful, even if in the end it's ultimately *impossible* to quantify them symbolically.

    I even wonder if in the end it is detrimental to try to quantify them. But working through the exercise of showing the *difficulty* of quantifying them would itself be useful, just to establish that point. (IE, If it is difficult of impossible for a single individual to quantify their own rankings, then it is certainly impossible for one person or group to prescribe the rankings for another person or group.)

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “What would an Epicurean use in their toolkit for the hedonistic calculus?” to “What Would An Epicurean Use In Their Toolkit For Making Their Hedonic Calculus?”.
  • A system of points: List them, and add (from 10 to 1, or from 5 to 1) according to order of priority, then add them. This is just to provide guidance and to systematize, to provide a graphic representation of what really matters.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • in the end the entire exercise is necessarily subjective, but it would stimulate thought for the possible favors in "priority" to be listed.

    What are some possibilities besides "duration" and "intensity" to describe the feeling?

  • For example, in listing any pleasure, such as for example 'dinner on the town' I would thinks someone would need to consider --

    - the duration of the pleasurable experience while it is ongoing

    - the expected future physical pleasure (or pain) from the experience

    - the expected future mental pleasure (or pain) from remembering the experience or from other longer-term ramifications of the dinner

    - the "intensity" of the pleasurable experience (some kind of personal ranking system of intensity)?

    - the repeatability of the experience (can it be done again in the future? how often?)

    but those are just general categories and each one breaks down much further. It's probably also not possible even to come up with firm categories. But by listing the possibilities it opens up the issue to visualization.

  • Godek could you also set up a "view only" link? I tried to view it but it is wanting me to sign in. I may be able to do that but not sure. If you set a view only link that should allow anyone in.

  • Okay cassius I changed the settings for being able to view it if you have the link. Let me know if you can edit it. I have another document that pertains to the worksheets which is the therapy book. I'll post it soon to the drafts section on here.

  • Thanks Godek. Are you good with Google docs and spreadsheets? Why don't we go ahead and actually setup a spreadsheet format as Hiram initially suggested? Your list of considerations is certainly a good start, but probably in terms of visualizing the final result setting up an actual spreadsheet divided into columns would be better.

    Maybe Hiram pictures it differently but I am picturing a spreadsheet generally divided into two columns. And it's important to decide whether we are making a spreadsheet to analyze a single activity, or a list of activities that would then be ranked according to score. I am thinking the obvious choice is a LIST of activities, ranked by score.

    Down the left in the margin would be column for the description of the activity. Then the left side would be taken up with a series of entries for ranking the elements. Sort of like this:

  • The trick will be somehow creating enough columns and labelling them sufficiently to accommodate all of the factors that you want someone to think about.

  • Besides the aspects of intensity, duration, etc-- perhaps add the "extent" or some word to describe whether the pleasure involves as many aspects for the person as possible? I'm thinking of PD 9, where he talks about if all pleasures could involve the entire person or the "principal parts"-- which suggests he was thinking of some pleasures only involving parts of us.

    An example of a widespread (?) pleasurable experience to me would be listening to some favorite music while eating a bowl of cut fresh tomatoes and reading a good book. I've got all my senses involved-- hearing, vision, smell, texture, taste... plus my cognitions on the book. Whereas some pleasures, even if intense, may not occupy very many senses or cognitive faculties. I personally find that experiences which involve more faculties seem heightened in a way that seems different from intensity.

  • EXCELLENT Point Elayne. That "might" be the same as intensity, but probably not.

    I think the "vessel" analogy is always useful so we're talking about something that indicates "how much of the vessel is occupied" by the activity.

  • Also Godek, I would keep in mind that if anyone were actually to use such a spreadsheet/diagram, the use would be a constantly moving target. A ranking would change from day to day or moment to moment.

    So if you were thinking of how to commit such a project to software, be sure to keep each activity on a single line, and hopefully incorporate some way to sort the lines "continuously."

    In other words make it easy to use the software to both sort and drag and drop to rearrange the lines. Because if you were trying to list all your daily activities on the chart in order to help choose from among them, (which is sort of a presumption of what we are doing? ) and keep them sorted to maximize pleasure, the sorting is going to change almost moment by moment.

    But just that kind of sorting is pretty much exactly what I think Epicurus was talking about doing - constantly.

  • Maybe some kind of "legend" at the bottom of the spreadsheet would be needed to highlight the nuances of the factors that are listed in the columns. Those are probably some of what Godek listed in his initial list. Another consideration that jumps out at me is that somehow the entries need to consider that your personal pleasure in each category also incorporates the reflected pleasure that you would take in observing your friends' take pleasure in the results of your activity.

    There are FAR too many considerations to list, but even starting the list (and making clear that the list is not complete) might be a good aide to thinking about the problem.