Glossary - What is the Epicurean Definition of "Pleasure?"

  • Yes Mike I think that removal of pain is one description of producing pleasure, but not the only way, as illustrated by the smelling of the rose example. There was no real pain present with the rose was smelled, or that was relieved by smelling the rose.


    This issue (pleasure obtained by filling a need / healing a pain) is closely related to the "replenishment" theory of pleasure discussed at length in the Gosling and Taylor book as one of the theories of pleasure, but I recall that the book discusses how the Greeks abandoned this as a complete discussion of the process. I will see if I can point to some excerpts but it may take me as while...


    OK a few clips:


    1 - Illustrating Plato using replenishment as the basis of his theory of pleasure, which allows him to categorize it as inferior to philosophic pursuit:


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  • OK here Gosling and Taylor begin to discuss how Platon and other Greeks recognized the deficiency of the replenishment model (and with this I think Epicurus would have agreed). I may paste some more clips if I find some particularly good ones, but I'll probably have to drop and come back to this later. The point for now is the there are inherent problems with the "replenishment model of pleasure" which we need to keep in mind as we discuss it. (Gosling and Taylor's paragraphs are alls sequentially numbered so 6.7.3 is all the page cite we really need)


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    Here, stating that the replenishment argument is used in support of how pleasure cannot be the good:


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  • Gosling and Taylor are being academically polite in describing current interpretations of the kinetic / katastematic distinction as having some "oddities," and they are being tongue-in-cheek by suggesting that the confusion may have been on the part of Epicurus. That is because, in my own words, it is the modern commentators who are confused, and the prevailing kinetic / katastematic interpretation of Epicurus' views is nothing other than BS!


    I will break here from posting clips and truthfully the details of this discussion from here below in another subforum set up two years ago. No doubt we'll bounce back and forth between subforums, but if someone wants to start a substantive detailed analysis of this please try to use the main location: Kinetic and Katastematic Pleasure


    This and succeeding sections of the Gosling & Taylor book are what spurred Nikolsky to write "Epicurus On Pleasure."


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    Norman DeWitt comments on the K / K distinction (or lack thereof) in "Epicurus and His Philosophy" -- "It makes no difference that some pleasures are static and others kinetic."


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  • This issue (pleasure obtained by filling a need / healing a pain) is closely related to the "replenishment" theory of pleasure discussed at length in the Gosling and Taylor book as one of the theories of pleasure,

    That's pleasure.

    Yes Mike I think that removal of pain is one description of producing pleasure, but not the only way, as illustrated by the smelling of the rose example.

    Perhaps what you mean is a description of pleasure in relation to removal of pain. Actually, I do not see the removal of pain to be a description of pleasure as I expressed in my comments. Pain is pain. Pleasure is pleasure. Both words are straightforward.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • I think we are together you and I Mike, but I see a great potential for confusion on this issue, and indeed I think it is the main potential confusion that Cicero used to erect his main attack on Epicurus' theory. And it's the main "attack" used today to pigeonhole Epicurus into irrelevancy. Any normal healthy young person who comes to think that "pleasure" is the exact equivalent of "absence of pain" is going to close the book on Epicurus before reading any further. And indeed that's exactly what I think Cicero and most of the modern commentators who obsess on this point intend to happen.


    Even setting up an elaborate explanation based on terminology is often going to be too late for most people who don't have the desire to become professional philosophers. It's my view that this issue needs to be hit, early, hard, and unrelentingly! ;-) Given that it is the focus of much modern discussion, it's already too late for 98% of the people who come here for them to postpone the issue and undertake a longer study of Epicurus over time -- they have already been persuaded by the academic phalanx of a deep error here, and they aren't going to make any progress beyond it until it is dealt with firmly and clearly. If they don't get past this immediately they are just going to join the "old crotchety men club" looking to Epicurus for another method of anesthesia to sooth the pain of their wasted time. :-)

  • The removal of pain comes in the way only because Torquatus describes the highest pleasure. He describes it by saying "when a man is free from every sort of pain, is not only pleasure, but the highest sort of pleasure." Therefore, let us not forget that what we define here is pleasure, not the highest pleasure.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • only because Torquatus describes the highest pleasure

    Exactly! CICERO is the culprit (not Torquatus the real person, who was evidently a good Epicurean). [Edit: Or at least Cicero was one of the first culprits, or the most effective culprits, or the most relevant culprit, because it is HIS work which survived.]


    I've always been very sympathetic to Cicero but when I consider his writings in this context my sympathy for his eventually "losing his head" is somewhat diminished. ;-)


    Edit 2: There are also troublesome passages in the letter to Menoeceus, but those can be explained away by reference to context. Epicurus himself certainly was not intending to confuse. Cicero definitely WAS intending to confuse.

  • I've always been very sympathetic to Cicero but when I consider his writings in this context my sympathy for his eventually "losing his head" is somewhat diminished. ;-)

    This is why I am also worried about which translation displays more fidelity to Epicurus' message. I don't know how to gauge it and which to trust.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • That is something I should consider, too. On the other hand, I'm not used to Ad Hominem. I care less about the intention. Rather, I am more interested in the context and condition.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • This is why I am also worried about which translation displays more fidelity to Epicurus' message. I don't know how to gauge it and which to trust.

    Absolutely correct in my view Mike. It is impossible to place blanket trust in any of them, and I think the only way to do that is to follow what Lucretius (Epicurus) recommends in book one of the poem: start with the physics and basic epistemology principles, and never accept any interpretation / translation of Epicurus that conflicts with those basic principles. And since the universe and human nature have not changed in 2000 years in respect to fundamentals, we ought to be able ourselves to recreate both the methodology and the general conclusions -- just like the hunting dogs sniffing out prey under the leaves, in Lucretius' analogy, also with one step illuminating the next.


    That is a huge reason why I think so many people go so far wrong, they do NOT start with the basics and hold to that standard for deciding how to understand the rest. If they would, most all of this confusion would be dissipated, even with the relatively small number of texts that we have left.

  • And since the universe and human nature have not changed in 2000 years in respect to fundamentals, we ought to be able ourselves to recreate both the methodology and the general conclusions

    This is what I am trying to.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • That is something I should consider, too. On the other hand, I'm not used to Ad Hominem. I care less about the intention. Rather, I am more interested in the context and condition.

    I think it is generally admirable to take that attitude, but unfortunately a deadly mistake, because many people (not all) do twist and turn and misrepresent the "truth" to suit their own purposes. Many people are honestly mistaken, but many are not, and those seem to be the ones who exert the most energy in manipulating other people. Even Epicurean philosophy, if you don't keep the fundamentals of the nature of the universe in mind, can be used to argue that ethics position X, Y, or Z is what "everyone" should adopt.


    Personally, Mike, some years ago I came to the conclusion that virtually EVERYTHING I was ever taught from birth until graduating from college about religion, ethics, philosophy, economics, and much of the rest was somewhere between largely inaccurate and downright lie. But I am not a cynical or pessimistic person, and I don't think it had to be that way in the past, or has to be that way in the future. There HAVE BEEN people like Epicurus who seem truly benevolent and committed to being truthful. But such people have not written the history books, they haven't written the school textbooks, they haven't written most of the philosophy books, and they don't control the media or the government or any other institution of modern society.


    The ultimate battleground so far is going to prove to be the internet, where the orthodox academic establishment does not currently have total control of the flow of information. But they are working on that, and it's important for "dissenters" to take advantage of this opportunity while it is available.

  • I think it is generally admirable to take that attitude, but unfortunately a deadly mistake, because people DO twist and turn and misrepresent the "truth" to suit their own purposes. Many people are honestly mistaken, but many are not, and those seem to be the ones who exert the most energy in manipulating other people.

    This is the reason why I do not simply take or swallow the whole package of a philosopher's thought according to merit since it is difficult to trust his or her authenticity. What I do is to scrutinize the whole body and retain every good meat.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • For instance, I did not believe Schopenhauer for asking us to live in solitude. Although he died being alone, that does not mean he practiced what he taught. I had no clue whether or not he was happy with his situation or he simply wanted us to be like him in similar misery. Meanwhile, Epicurus was very happy practicing what he was teaching. I shouldn't doubt when he talks about practicing something. Therefore, happiness is somehow a helpful measurement of an author's authenticity. I just don't know how happy or sad was Cicero

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • I know I have seen one or more of the commentators suggest that Cicero really swung into anti-Epicurean mode after his daughter died, with the implication being that he just wasn't able to handle that.

    I know how hostile Cicero was to Epicureanism. But since I also know he was a skeptic, I'm confident he presented basic Epicurean philosophy using authority information from Epicureans represented by Torquatus. This is not different from the way we attack a particular philosophy today. Before we do the attack, we get information from authority sources so that our criticism is valid and not based on opinion or supposed understanding of that philosophy. But if Cicero were not a skeptic, it would be a different story. Like for instance, I would think twice if I should learn what Christianity is based on what Nietzsche was trying to tell the world.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • I would not have believed in Epicurus if I hadn't put him in my scrutiny before. If had believed the false teachings of others about Epicurus without prudence and justice, I would have still been thinking of Epicurus to be either a hermit or a happy-go-lucky guy. Therefore, I think it proper to get rid of Ad Hominem so as not to be unfairly influenced by inauthentic teachings.

    "It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth."

  • Quote

    Mike Anyayahan

    Perhaps what you mean is a description of pleasure in relation to removal of pain. Actually, I do not see the removal of pain to be a description of pleasure as I expressed in my comments. Pain is pain. Pleasure is pleasure. Both words are straightforward.

    I have the impression that Epicurus was right when he said : The removal of pain is an unsurpassed joy i.e. pleasure. :) if we read medical articles on molecules of bliss and happiness we realize that. So, when you have free time please read again the work that was done by Elayne who is a doctor ! On Pain, Pleasure, and Happiness (Version 2)



    4. Endorphin: “The Pain-Killing Molecule”


    The name endorphin comes from the words "endogenous," which means "from the body," and "morphine," which is an opioid pain reliever. The name Endorphin translates into “self-produced morphine." Endorphins resemble opiates in their chemical structure and have analgesic properties. Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during strenuous physical exertion, sexual intercourse, and orgasm. Make these pursuits a part of your regular life to keep the endorphins pumping.


    Endorphins are linked less to "runner's high" now than endocannabinoids, but are connected to the "feeling no pain" aspect of aerobic exercise and are produced in larger quantities during high intensity "anaerobic" cardio and strength training. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. They work similarly to a class of drugs called opioids.


    In the 1980s, scientists were studying how and why opioids worked. They found that the body has special receptors that bind to opioids to block pain signals.


    The scientists then realized that some chemicals in the body acted similarly to natural opioid medications, binding to these same receptors. These chemicals were endorphins.


    In 1999, clinical researchers reported that inserting acupuncture needles into specific body points triggers the production of endorphins. In another study, higher levels of endorphins were found in cerebrospinal fluid after patients underwent acupuncture. Acupuncture is a terrific way to stimulate the release of endorphins.


    You can read more for molecules on happiness and bliss on this link :


    https://www.psychologytoday.co…-neurochemicals-happiness


    and on this link : https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320839.php

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!