An Opening Conversation With A Committed Modern Stoic - Prelude to "Eight Stoic Challenges to Epicurean Philosophy" - Part 2

  • Mish Taylor



    Mish Taylor Personally, I find no fault in having, adopting or acquiring a positive mental attitude, this to me is one of the main things that comes across in the philosophy of Epicurus. Most forms of 'talking therapy', self help & etc are simply old ideas dressed up in modern language.
    Unlike · Reply · 4 · March 6 at 1:45pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson I'd say that's half-true. Modern therapy recycles many old ideas. However, it's definitely not true that no progress occurs. To pick the cliched example... It used to be believed that panic disorders were biologically determined and virtually untreatable by talking therapy. (For several reasons.) However, in the mid 1980s a huge advance was made by David Clark in the UK, which took the therapy for this condition from "zero to hero" and it is now shown to have one of the highest success rates of any form of psychological therapy.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:21pm

    Cassius Amicus

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    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Donald Robertson Your are kindly requested to not call Epicurean Philosophy as Epicurean-ISM. Epicurean philosophy has nothing to do with ideologies or obsessions like Communism-Nazism-Capitalism, Christianism, Budhism, Islamism etc,. Because Epicurean philosophy is a philosophy that is confirmed by the the science and has the suffix "Y" as we say PsychologY, PsychiatrY, NeurologY, EndocrinologY, PathologY etc, we say the SAME the Epicurean PhilosophY. Thanks in advance for your understanding. 1f642.png:)



    If someone would like to find a list with -isms he will find here in this link :http://phrontistery.info/isms.html



    As we realize there is not at that list the Epicurean Philosophy as Epicurean-ism.

    but there is the "stoicism" and is explained as "a belief in indifference to pleasure or pain" !!



    Word List: Isms


    Definition of words for belief systems and isms


    PHRONTISTERY.INFO

    Like · Reply · March 6 at 2:41pm

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    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick This is hypersensitive, methinks.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 2:46pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa No, this was not any hypersesitive thing Mr. Ron Warrick. It is after analysis, after examination on the words. After some written articles and works by our epicurean friends. And finally after many hours of conversations made among our epicurean friends in the greek Gardens and the Symposia.Thanks.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 2:59pm · Edited

    Shana HT



    Shana HT but where is the science, then?
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 3:03pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Shana HT In the usage of the Epicurean Canon is the whole science my dear.

    Do you know how to use this epistemic tool ?? Did you read something for this method ?
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 3:07pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Well, I don't want to offend anyone but to be honest, I don't really share your beliefs about the connotations of those words. As I understand it most authors still use the term "Epicureanism", and find that accepable, so I think eliminating it would be a bit cumbersome and seems unnecessary. But what do others think? Is this a common feeling among your group?
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 3:19pm

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick Donald Robertson This is the first I have heard of the complaint, but it is something we can take up in the group later. No need to involve you just now.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 3:43pm

    Jason Baker



    Jason Baker Why not just shorten it to E-ism and Epicurus to Mr. E? 1f609.png;)



    Looking at the late date that -ism entered the English language, it likely doesn't have the same connotation when we use it as when our Greek friends use -ismos in their own language. Given our wholesale appropriation of Greek morphology, I'm happy to defer to the original understanding and use the preferred Greek form Epicurean philosophy instead of Epicureanism when discussing it here amongst friends.



    Perhaps if there ever were an incorporated Epicurean Church, using the -ism form in reference to it would be appropriate. In the meantime, does shortening it to Epicureanism save us so much time that it serves our purposes to be so imprecise? Precise language is one of the things that differentiates the ancient Epicurean school from the rest, one of the main complaints against the Garden by its detractors even, iirc.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 4:12pm · Edited

    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus I see Elli posted more on this at the link below, so I will add my comment there - https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/1251189141596710/Elli Pensato Epicurean PhilosophyMarch 6 at 4:34pm ·

    For my epicurean friends of here I translated into the English language some pages of the article entitled “Epicurean philosophy or Epicureanism”, by Dimitris A...

    See More

    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 1 · March 6 at 4:40pm

    Hiram Crespo



    Hiram Crespo I don't feel strongly about 'isms', but I understand that some others do. It may have to do with the Platonizing influence of language in the abstract of in the singular instead of plural. It helps to more accurately describe nature.
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 7:07pm · Edited

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Platonizing yes, but also it has to do with the masses Hiram.and our philososphy has first priniciples to start from the PERSON and his uniqueness.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 6:39pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa As we read in Liantinis’ book entitled : “STOA & ROME”, we see that the suffix –ism has its origin from the Latins !



    Here we are...



    from a remarkable excerpt of Dimitris Liantinis book "STOA AND ROME":

    [...“ The big difference at the spiritual attitude of the Greeks and the Romans”.

    This difference is indicating at the type of the linguistic fossils of the two cultures that survived in the modern world. The Global Greek words like music, philosophy, theater, geometry, mathematics, physics, astronomy, political, architecture, demos-democracy, words that they declare a youth's shininess and a weight of quality towards to the conditions that the Latin language has saved. Under the conventional shape of : “ismus” the rescue to the terms of the Latin language expresses : the team, the indiscriminate, the unexceptional. But the enviable uniqueness is missing. Eg rationalism (ratio), potentialism (potentia), Imperialism (imperium), socialism (socius), Pacifism (pax), militarism (miles), Realism (res), pessimism (malus), optimism (bonus) etc...]

    --------------------------------------

    According to the above excerpt of Dimitris Liantinis, when we say epicurean-ISM we are missing this “enviable uniqueness of the person”. And the epicurean philosophy, has for first principles the uniqueness of the PERSON and not to the impersonal of the MASSES. Thus, for our proper thinking if we use epicureanism and not epicurean philosophy in our terminology and in our reference... our view for the Epicurean Philosophy collapses...and collapses (to use one of his own Liantini's words ) συγκορμοδεντρόριζη “syngormodentrorizi”(=tree trunk with its roots). 1f642.png:) Thank you !



    «I was never anxious to please the mob. For what pleased them, I did not know, and what I dο know, was far removed from their comprehension (Epicurus). All the above was in one of my comments as stated from 23 of July 2014.
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 7:00pm

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick I think it is a category error to conflate a philosophy and its adherents. The adherents may be individuals while the philosophy is uniform.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 8:46pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Who said that we the epicureans are adherents or followers? We are students and we study the specific, genuine, and true hellenic philosophy that was given by Epicurus and his friends who are studied the Nature. The epicureans keep their first principles, and among other pupils of other philosophies were, are and will be the only persons who keep the scientific method all of their written works to be based on sources and making reference to these sources.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 8:59pm

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick Elli Pensa Fine. Change the word to "students" and I still stand by my point.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 9:03pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa I do not understand your point on the issue of our epicurean first principles. As we say our first principles start from the person, Epicurus addressed to the person and not TO the masses. He had not a willing to be a leader. He was a philosopher and every individual studies his philosophy which is based on the observation of Nature.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 9:09pm

    Jason Baker



    Jason Baker This reminds me so much of the arguments about collective vs. individual rights in Con Law.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 9:30pm

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick Elli Pensa I don't think an "-ism" implies anything about whether the ideas are for the individual or for the masses.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:01pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson It seems to me that in modern English -ism is just a generic suffix that's commonly used to denote a cluster of ideas related to the root word. And it's commonly used precisely to avoid any specific connotations about the sort of thing being referred ...See More
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:26pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Donald Robertson I explained further with an article that I already posted what means ISMS and where they lead...TO THE IDEOLOGIES. As it is well known the Epicurean philosophy is not an ideology and is not addressed to the masses but in the person. As...See More
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:56pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa And here is another book by an outstanding scientist who wrote for Epicurus these words : .Image may contain: text

    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:59pm · Edited

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Elli Pensa Sure but I disagree with your claim about what the suffix ISM means. As I understand it, the English suffix doesn't necessarily refer to an "ideology" but is broader in scope than you're suggesting.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 11:20pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Elli Pensa Sure but that doesn't make Epicurean philosophy itself a "science" does it? It would be more accurate to say Epicureans have a philosophy or set of doctrines that has some historical links with science or can potentially be supported with f...See More
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 11:22pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Donald Robertson Right. The epicurean philosophy is not a science itself. But where I did say that ? I copy paste here of what I commented to you exactly :"You are kindly requested to not call Epicurean Philosophy as Epicurean-ISM. Epicurean philosoph...See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:50am

    Cassius Amicus

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    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson I do have a question for Donald, I'm not well read in Stoicism. But I have a pretty strong background in Neoplatonic philosophy. I was wondering how Stoic thought might relate to Neoplatonic concepts of virtue? Is there a commonality or a big difference?



    http://sacred-texts.com/cla/plotenn/enn018.htm
    The Enneads of Plotinus: THE FIRST ENNEAD: SECOND TRACTATE: Section 1
    The Enneads of Plotinus, at sacred-texts.com
    SACRED-TEXTS.COM

    Unlike · Reply · Remove Preview · 3 · March 6 at 2:53pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Ok. As I understand it the admins are happy for me to answer these questions here. I'm no expert on Plotinus but it seems to me that his Platonic concept of virtue is more abstract than what the Stoics have in mind. Stoic virtue is knowledge, which consists in applying preconceptions correctly to specific situations in life. I think Plotinus probably means something more like a mystical participation in the Divine. There's bound to be overlap and similarity depending on who you ask and how they interpret the two philosophies, though. On the face of it, Stoic Ethics appears less mystical, but then on closer inspection it does have a sort of mystical quality as well. Virtue is a sort of harmony between the individual and the universe as a whole, or the cosmic Logos, at least from one perspective.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:34pm

    Cassius Amicus

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    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Virtue, like Beauty and other positive qualities are emanations of the One, they bring about a Likeness to the Divine Principle. Is there any commonality of thought in Stoicism? To Plotinus and others like Proclus, the One is the source of the Good in this world. Is there anything in Stoicism that mirrors that? Is there a "God" principle in Stoicism?
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · March 6 at 4:11pm · Edited

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Yes, this isn't as much the focus of Stoic Ethics as it is in Plotinus but the Stoics believed in Zeus, whom they equate with the Logos, and virtue is an imitation of the Mind of Zeus by mortals, and also consists in piety and harmony with the cosmos taken as a whole, which as pantheists (or panentheists) they basically equate with Zeus. (That's not usually the aspect of Stoicism that's at the fore in writers like Seneca or in modern approaches to it, though.)
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 10:37pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Awesome, thank you for the reply. It sounds in some way very similar in some respects to Plotinian thought, though there is some different terminology. What would you equate the Cosmic logos to? Like the Tao? Or the Dharma? Not really a sentient Cosmic Nous?
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:41pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson The Neoplatonists had the idea that the Nous was a creative element in the Universe, it was an active mind. Is the Logos something similar? Or impersonal like the Tao?
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:43pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Getting these answers will really help me "grasp" Stoic thought. So i thank you.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:44pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Matt Jackson The Stoic Logos is equated with the Mind of Zeus, who is a rational animal that encompasses the whole universe. I don't think I'd describe it as "personal", though, it's a bit more of a philosophers' god than that, although it's probably more pantheistic than Plotinus' philosophy. It's ultimately drawn to a large extent from Heraclitus.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 11:14pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Yes it seems like Zeus or the Logos is a whole that is fragmented into "us." Like a organism with individual parts. So in that way it seems that virtues are derived from human reason not a divine hypostasis.
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 11:32pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Plotinus was far more panentheistic in the sense that the 3 main hypostasis are separate, though immanent in all things. Therefore, the Cosmic Nous is separate from Man, yet man takes part in it.
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 11:34pm

    Matt Jackson



    Matt Jackson Virtue trickles down from the perfection of the One, into the contemplating and creative mind of the Nous down to the Animate Soul. Would it be fair to say in Stoic thought that the "reasoning" aspect is not in a divine Mind but rather in each individual taking part in the greater whole?
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 11:43pm

    Cassius Amicus

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    Mish Taylor



    Mish Taylor Donald Robertson What improvements to my life can Stoicism bring that the philosophy of Epicurus can't?
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · March 6 at 3:23pm

    Shana HT



    Shana HT to cope with difficulty.. maybe its just a personality thing... but thinking of good and pleasure when im in trouble does nothing for me



    what stoic philosophy does for me, is it makes me mindful of what my hardship is and how i can overcome and surpass it. i feel like practicing it makes me stronger, richer, happier and more confident



    but i have to say, when life isnt so burdensome, some aspects of Epicurian philosophy brings much joy





    i just dont understand this animosity towards stoic philosophy and feel alone in trying to find a way to utilize both philosophies
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 5:19pm

    Jason Baker



    Jason Baker You're not alone, Seneca led the way for you. He couldn't reconcile them either. 1f609.png;)
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 5:31pm

    Mish Taylor



    Mish Taylor Shana HT I find it more helpful not to focus on the negative. Things that are beyond your control or influence, will be what they will be. Anything else can usually be overcome with a bit of humour, creative thinking and a bit of support if needed. Whe...See More
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 5:54pm

    Hiram Crespo



    Hiram Crespo Shana HT it seems like you default to Stoicism when you're down and to Epicurus when you're not down. Might it be that you lack Epicurean friends to support you in those times? Friendship is a huge boost to our confidence.
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 6:31pm · Edited

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Well one way of answering that question would just be to say that the Stoics offer a wider variety of psychological strategies than the Epicureans, many of which have been assimilated into modern research-based psychotherapy and resilience training, wh...See More
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:40pm

    Mish Taylor



    Mish Taylor I don't see any conflict between Epicurean philosophy and modern research-based psychotherapy, they both promote the removal of anxiety, can you state any conflicts between the two? Whereas the impression I get from Stoic philosophy (the little I know ...See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 2:53am

    Cassius Amicus

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    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Well, to be honest, I was hoping to ask you guys some questions about Epicurean philosophy. I didn't plan to talk about it, although I feel a bit obliged to respond to some of the comments and questions about Stoicism in the thread. (The comparison with Epicurus and the Stoics came up in the article that was shared with me.) Would the admins prefer discussions about Stoicism itself to take place somewhere else, though?
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 4:54pm · Edited

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick Anything requiring a lengthy reply re stoicism should be taken to the stoicism group I think.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 5:00pm

    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus We need the other admins to weigh in too; my comment is underneath......
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 5:02pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Mr. Ron Warrick We did not have the desire to visit the stoicism Group.from the starting point. Donald Robertson had the desire to visit us. We are here and we discuss with him what was, is and would be the goal according to the stoicism !! He said Virtue. Would you like to comment this goal ??
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 5:09pm

    Ron Warrick



    Ron Warrick Well, there are many virtues, and I am in favor of any that will lead to a pleasant life!. But intellectual honesty and humility make me hesitant to call such an outlook Stoic. I believe it is Epicurean.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 5:25pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Elli Pensa I've commented on it in some of my responses above.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:41pm

    Cassius Amicus

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    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus Donald I understand why Ron said what he said, and the other admins may feel differently, but as far as I am concerned you are a special case and this thread is fine for most anything you want to talk about that is even tangentially related. Your work is well known and as long as we keep it largely within this thread where it doesn't keep popping up as new material I am fine with it. I don't think we want a series of separate posts about stoicism though, as Ron says.
    Like · Reply · 5 · March 6 at 5:01pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Donald I remind you what was the post of this thread : "Here you will do well to tarry. Here, we are Epicureans, our highest good is PLEASURE and we achieve it through the criteria of truth set forth in the Epicurean Canon. Please tell us clearly and specifically what is your highest good, and how you seek to achieve that goal for your students and in your own life. Thanks"
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 5:05pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Okay. See above.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:42pm

    Cassius Amicus

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    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson I'm happy to answer questions about Stoicism to the best of my ability in this thread, if both admins are okay with that. Or people can private message me any comments they don't think are appropriate for this group. You might need to wait a few hours for my replies, though. I'm busy working on something else right now, but I'll check back in later. 1f609.png;)
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · March 6 at 5:26pm

    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus Minor point but FWIW there are four admins... More importantly, before we get too far afield I know several of us really what to hear you on your commentary on virtue and happiness and the highest good, as several posts have raised.
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 5:38pm

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson I believe that virtue is a form of mental health in that it consists in the good or healthy functioning of our ability to reason about life. I believe that healthy and pleasant feelings follow as a consequence of that, sometimes but not always. So it's more reliable to focus our efforts on the underlying healthy functioning than on the supervening feelings, although when those occur they're like an added bonus. To put it crudely, it's more important to be good than to feel good. Or as modern therapists often put it, there's an important difference between "getting better" and merely "feeling better".
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 10:47pm

    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus "To put it crudely, it's more important to be good than to feel good." Well stated Stoicly - So WHY should we want to be good?
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 6 at 10:48pm · Edited

    Donald Robertson



    Donald Robertson Cassius Amicus Because our moral preconceptions are such that its more consistent for us to view virtue as an end in itself than to view it as a means to an end. So then we'd need to go through various examples to illustrate that, such as the one I mentioned earlier about what we praise in others, and also things like our intuitions about what happens in unusual situations where virtue would not be the most expedient way to achieve pleasure, or where virtue might be strongly valued despite being divorced from the possibility of experiencing pleasure as a consequence, etc.
    Like · Reply · March 6 at 11:17pm

    Cassius Amicus



    Cassius Amicus But how do we know what is virtuous in any particular situation?
    Like · Reply · 2 · March 6 at 11:19pm

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Cassius Amicus Because you are doing your duty. It is a duty to be virtuous. Experience : once I've heard a parent who was a good stoic saying that in his child that was 17 years old : It was my duty and the fate to bring you in life and paying for all your expenses until now. Thus, you have the duty and the fate to listen, without any objection, to all of my orders what is good and what is bad for you. The results ? A slight depression to all the members of that family. And if you asked that stoic on happiness, he would say to you that all the members of his family, including himself, that were happy. In the question what he would do if any member of his family will be lost and die. He said in fully Apathy that it is the fate and Eimarmeni to be given back to the giver that is Nature who created by the gods. Could someone say that this father of my experience it was not a good stoic, as he kept his principles : Virtue, Duty, Fate and Apathy ? I do not know what the modern stoics claim about for that specific school of philosophy. If they did not keep their principles of their school, and, if they do not keep the teachings of their teachers.... where the heck are they based on ?!
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:10am · Edited

    Elli Pensa



    Elli Pensa Dimitris Liantinis was a professor of the greek philosophy in the University of Athens. He wrote a book entitled "Stoa and Rome". Here is an excerpt about stoicism :Image may contain: 1 person, standing and text

    Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:15am

    Cassius Amicus

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    Kris Pliotis HAIRETE KAI YGIAINETE enjoy and be healthy to everybodyLike · Reply · 3 · March 6 at 6:55pm

    Donald Robertson There are so many nested comments now that I may miss some, and the nested threads are growing sometimes several comments at a time, so apologies if I don't reply to something. I've probably just not noticed it.Unlike · Reply · 4 · March 6 at 11:27pm


    Cassius Amicus Along the lines of that last general comment, it would be a shame if we do not get around to addressing several other issues that Epicurus considered critical, to contrast that with modern Stoicism, such as:1) What role, if any do gods play in human life?2) What happens to the individual consciousness at death?3) Do humans have any control over their affairs (any amount of free will) or is all life predetermined?Epicurus held these to be among the most vexing questions of life, and gave answers to them. Does modern Stoicism? If so, what are those answers? It is relatively easy to come up with answers from the classical stoics to most of these questions, but less so when I read the modern stoics.Like · Reply · 4 · March 6 at 11:40pm · EditedCassius Amicus Unfortunately I am going to be away from the computer for much of the day. In the meantime, to supplement the three topics I just mentioned (1-gods, 2-death, 3-free will) I also suggest that it will help to get to the heart of the matter if we consider not the stated reason, but the process by which Stoics conclude that they can justify holding virtue to be its own reward. Recall that Lucretius labeled Heraclitus as a muddy thinker who sought to impress with the obscurity of this thinking, When someone suggests that there is nous, or divine fire, or Zeus, or that there is some standard of excellence that we "just know" to be true, what is their process for determining that these things exist?The further out there and the more abstract and obscure the "reasoning" becomes, the more we should realize that it is divorced from commonly and easily available evidence of the senses to validate. And not only to validate - the assertion that there are supernatural gods, or idealistic standards of excellence contradicts other conclusions that ARE validated by the senses - first and foremost that nothing comes from nothing and nothing goes to nothing, at the whim of any god or for any other reason. And when we also validate through observation-based reasoning that the universe is composed of atoms and void in motion, and of that only, then all these theories about eternal absolutes and standards of excellence are seen to be impossible, and we are able to see that indeed only the faculties of pleasure and pain are given by nature for determining what is desirable and what is painful.I think this leads us to see clearly why it was so important that Epicurus did not hold "logic" or "reason" to be separate faculties and co-equal with the three categories of his canon of truth. Logic and reason have no separate and real existence any more than does nous or Zeus - logic and reason are simply names we give to mental processes that may or may not be consistent with the evidence provided by the three canonical faculties. Logic and reason cannot create evidence from nothing any more than atoms can be created from nothing, nor should they be allowed to contradict conclusions that ARE clearly supported by real evidence. But humans have free will, and the ability to imagine all sorts of things that are unsupported and contradicted by reality.So every assertion that there is a standard of excellence or virtue aside from the natural response of pleasure and pain has to be met with "What is the evidence for that proposition?" And when a stoic says that 'we just know" what excellence is, your personal sense of pain or pleasure may agree with that stoic's conclusion in a particular situation, and you may be tempted to think that the stoic might be on to something. But if you accept the stoic's contention that there is some other process besides the natural faculty of pain and pleasure which validates that conclusion, then you have accepted that it is valid to make an ethical assertion based on nothing but opinion. And when the stoic takes his next logical step, asserting that there is only one true virtue and one true excellence to which you should conform your life, you will find your confidence in the correctness of your own vision of happiness will be drained to nothing. Then like, Marcus Aurelius and stoic opinion leaders of today. as you find yourself watching your world disintegrate around you, rather than confronting hard realities and working to fix the problem, you will decide to "manage your emotions," "keep calm," "worry only about things that are under your control" and drift off into a never-never land where everyone "just gets along" and one mans' fantasy is as good as another's.Like · Reply · 4 · March 7 at 8:12am · EditedDonald Robertson I'll add a few more specific examples of the sort of arguments mentioned above. 1. Suppose some person attains a perfect state of pleasure. (I'll leave it for others to define, as it seems to me there's some disagreement among modern Epicureans about exactly how this should be defined, but that probably doesn't matter.) Compare that to another person who exhibits exceptional moral wisdom and courage. Let's suppose that (likely or not) they appear quite different in other regards: so the pleasure exemplar isn't known for virtue and the virtue exemplar isn't known for "pleasure". Does history not show that the majority of people tend to find the second type of person more admirable and praiseworthy? Is it not the case that those qualities better meet our preconception of what's supremely good in life? (Some people will undoubtedly disagree but I think most would agree with the above.) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that an Epicurean said that on reflection, he probably did find wisdom and courage, in themselves, more admirable than pleasure/contentment, or whatever. If his doctrine is that pleasure is the supreme good, that would appear to highlight a contradiction between his implicit moral values and his professed philosophy. That's the type of reductio argument, I would expect a Stoic to use with an individual Epicurean. (Again, there will be some individuals who simply reject the premises, but that's okay.) Someone else might admit they admire wisdom and courage (virtue) more than "pleasure" in other people, on reflection, but deny that's a problematic sort of contradiction. They might say they're happy admiring qualities in other people more than they desire them for themselves. The Stoics, though, would challenge that as hypocrisy and argue that we all should (and at some level do) desire to be consistent in our thinking, especially about such important matters as our moral values. I think they'd want to argue that there is a problem if we try to separate what we value most about the character of other people from what we value most for ourselves. They see that sort of conflict in our values as a sort of alienation from the rest of mankind. If what I actually admire most about other people is their wisdom and moral integrity then that sort of thing should be my priority for myself as well. On the other hand, if what I admire most about them is how pleasantly contented their life is, then that should probably be my own number one goal in life too. There aren't very many figures in history whom people admire for being like Epicurus in that respect, though. There are obviously many more examples of historical figures who are admired for what we call virtue, or strength of character. Now that's not intended as a proof, merely an illustration. The individual would need to reflect on their own moral preconceptions and determine whether they're being applied consistently or not, maybe by looking at the range of figures they most admire in life themselves (not merely the ones the rest of society admires).Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:50pm · EditedCassius Amicus A good and clear statement of your position - thank you.Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:54pmWrite a reply...Donald Robertson 2. Suppose someone is about to die in a moment (or just strongly believes that they are). They have a few seconds to make a decision about some important moral action. For instance, in the heat of battle they have the opportunity to give their life to save their comrades. For the sake of argument, lets suppose there's no possibility they're going to have an opportunity to actually notice any sensation of pleasure following this virtuous action. (This example is borrowed from Seneca, incidentally.) Would an Epicurean, based on his doctrines, choose to act "virtuously" in the conventional sense, by saving his comrades, despite the fact there's no opportunity for the consequent enjoyment of pleasure or contentment (or whatever)? The Stoics argue that many people's moral preconceptions would be that the right thing is to act courageously for the welfare of one's loved ones so a doctrine that potentially leads us to believe there's no point in doing so unless it contributes to a pleasant life, would leave them in a state of contradiction. Again, for some individuals, that would constitute a reductio ad absurdum. So I imagine some Epicureans might respond by arguing that they do still have a motive, based on Epicurean doctrine, for self-sacrifice in this case, but I've never seen a very clear articulation of that argument. So how would that actually work? On the other hand, I've known at least one modern Epicurean who took the opposite line and said he accepted that his doctrines would provide him with no motive for self-sacrifice in this scenario and that he found that morally acceptable. That's also fine, in a sense, although I think other people are more likely to see that as a kind of extreme morality and to struggle a bit more with the apparent contradiction there.Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:50pm · EditedMish Taylor Point 1/ Imagine, if you were a person who was wise, courageous & content, what a pleasure that would be! To top it all, you did not put A Nother on a pedestal to be admired or to measure yourself by.Like · Reply · March 7 at 5:43pmDonald Robertson 3. An example from Cicero, also mentioned by Epictetus. Suppose that an Epicurean sees someone they have reason to view as an enemy about to sit on a woodpile with a poisonous snake. They could easily say nothing, and nobody would ever know that they'd seen the snake and could have warned him. Or they could let him sit on it, be bitten, and die. Again, I've met Epicureans who said they'd be happy to do the latter. On the other hand, for many people that will conflict with their moral preconceptions. They'd think it's wrong. So the question for them would be why, as an Epicurean, should they avoid doing it, if there are no negative consequences for their own pleasure/contentment? One way around this would be to argue, as some ancient Epicureans did, that we're bound to be troubled by our conscience. However, that's a weak argument because we know now that "conscience" varies tremendously and many people have a negligible sense of distress in relation to things others consider unethical. (The extreme cases would be sociopaths, but many other people lack this sort of feeling or have it only to a slight degree, whereas other personality types are tortured by guilt over slight moral transgressions.) Again, this would constitute a reductio for some individuals, if they couldn't reconcile the argument that virtue is of value only as a means to "pleasure" with their moral intuition that allowing someone to die is wrong.Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:51pm · EditedElli Pensa Donald Robertson a friendly suggestion : If you want your text to be read by others, please put some enter/or paragraphs along the lines. It is very tiring to the eyes. ThanksLike · Reply · March 7 at 5:48pmAlexander Rios I believe that all of Donald's challenges listed above are handled in: Torquatus' Defense of Epicurus, plus the Epicurean Inscription of Diogenes of Oenoanda.Like · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 5:55pm · EditedDonald Robertson 4. Another thought-experiment that other schools used to question Epicurean ethics... Suppose you lived in a world populated by other Epicureans. Would that really be preferable to living in a world full of Platonists, Aristotelians, or Stoics? Would you, e.g., want other people to view your friendship as of value merely insofar as it contributes to their own "pleasure", in the Epicurean sense? (Some modern Epicureans dispute this claim about the instrumentality of friendship, whereas others strongly endorse it, as far as I can tell.) I've heard some people say, e.g., that what appeals to them most is being Epicurean, but for everyone else to be Stoic, i.e., to be virtuous toward them for its own sake. Again, that would arguably form the basis of another reductio. Although, as noted above, some people might say they're happy to accept that apparent contradiction, I think many others find it more troubling, on reflection.Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 5:55pm · EditedAlexander RiosUnlike · Reply · 3 · March 7 at 5:58pmAlexander RiosUnlike · Reply · 3 · March 7 at 6:00pmAlexander Rios I wish I lived in a world full of Epicureans.I'd rather put my life in the hands of my Epicurean friends, than any other people I have known in my entire life.Unlike · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 6:15pmWrite a reply...Cassius Amicus All four of these are well stated Donald. Thank you again! Nothing advances the ball like a clear statement of a position to which a clear response can be given. if you have more, please be sure to add them!Like · Reply · March 7 at 5:56pmDonald Robertson 5. The following thought-experiment was actually suggested to me by an Epicurean friend... What if there was a machine which could provide you with perfect pleasure. (Modern Epicureans seem to define "pleasure" in several different ways but just insert your definition here.) But it meant spending your life as a brain in a vat, i.e., in a way that many people's conventional moral intuitions would find troubling. Let's suppose there's no risk attached to this procedure -- it's pretty much guaranteed. Some Epicureans have told me that's fine and their doctrines would lead them to accept the procedure, and become a brain in a pleasure vat. I think other Epicureans would feel a conflict, once again, though. You could optionally add another criterion (version 2, let's call it) and make it that the procedure will half your IQ and reduce you to stupidity and a dreamlike state, but one in which you'll feel pleasure and contentment but lose all wisdom and intelligence. Some people may say that pleasure would only be worthwhile insofar as it's accompanied by something like wisdom or intelligence. Seneca points out that would mean pleasure is no longer the supreme good, though, but wisdom has supplanted it as more important, or at least a composite of them has become the supreme good. As Seneca points out, the Stoics value wisdom as the supreme good, upon which they claim joy and happiness are likely to supervene. So if that's what you want, that's actually more akin to the Stoic definition of the goal of life. Whereas the Epicureans, by contrast, generally appear to make wisdom of subordinate value to pleasure.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:09pm · EditedMish Taylor Donald, I find your comments quite assumptive, regarding the stance of Epicureans, the arguments are the same old, same old, again quoting Epictetus and now the ridiculous point 5. Wisdom is also a pleasure!Like · Reply · 1 · March 7 at 6:07pmCassius Amicus Donald are you finished? Please be sure to give us all you have, and then in order to make this manageable I think we should probably break this down into separate posts for each point.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:07pmCassius Amicus It might be logical to place a temporary hold on posts after you finish Donald, let me break them down into separate posts, and then unfreeze the thread (???)Like · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 6:08pmCassius Amicus Some people may post responses before I get these reorganized, or later on, but still each one deserves MUCH discussion, so I don't think Facebook will handle this without separating them. Please let me know when you are finished......Like · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 6:10pmCassius Amicus I am here and available to split these up as soon as you are finished Donald RobertsonLike · Reply · March 7 at 6:11pmDonald Robertson Sure, I can add another few arguments which are familiar from the Stoic literature and maybe Cicero, and try to phrase them in more modern language. I think these are the sort of arguments that ancient Epicureans obviously faced and their attempts to answer them quite probably shaped the evolution of their philosophy in some respects. (Just as the attempts to answer criticisms from Academic Skeptics and Epicureans apparently shaped the evolution of Stoicism.) So I think this is pretty much the sort of philosophy we should all be doing - considering these sort of thought experiments. Even if, as Epicureans, you reject them all, doing so will help many (if not all) of you sharpen your definitions and arguments and clarify your thinking about Epicurean ethics. We don't learn much just by talking to people who agree with us, but by trying to answer the common criticisms raised against our doctrines, I believe. That's why I think it's good, and very healthy, for Stoics and Epicureans to talk to one another.Unlike · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 6:13pmCassius Amicus Absolutely. Do you expect to finish soon or how much time do you need? I may start splitting now but it might be better to do them all at once when you finishLike · Reply · March 7 at 6:14pmDonald Robertson Well, it could go on, but let's say another half hour or so to give me time to look over some notes.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:15pmCassius Amicus Ok I will wait and repost them all at once so they appear together in the timelineLike · Reply · March 7 at 6:16pm · EditedWrite a reply...Cassius Amicus If anyone posts comments/responses in the meantime I don't see any problems with that. I will try to move at least some of them into the thread of the new post after it is set up (but it won't be movable except as a rough cut and paste)Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:19pm · EditedCassius Amicus Unless I hear from Donald Robertson otherwise I will wait about 30 minutes from his post above (which currently says it is 11 minutes old ... Sure, I can add another few arguments which are familiar from the Stoic literature and maybe Cicero, and try to phrase them in more modern language. ...) and then start repostingLike · Reply · March 7 at 6:25pmDonald Robertson 6. From Epictetus... Epicureans believe that pleasure is the highest good. (Again, some people have actually disputed this but I think it's safe to say most Epicureans will go along with that claim, with the usual caveats.) However, most (if not all) pleasures have "intensionality", meaning that they are "about" something, the thing we take pleasure in. In other words, rather than just going around having free-floating pleasures, we're usually enjoying music, or the company of friends, or admiring some idea, or something. If we take pleasure in something, does it not seem (to many people if not all) that it makes more sense to say the thing being enjoyed is good rather than the feeling of enjoyment? When we take pleasure in something, isn't it often because we're judging it to be good at some level? (For Stoics, joy and pleasure, the passions not sensations, are defined as the belief that something good is present, or being experienced by us.) We actually have a transcription of Epictetus employing this as a reductio with an Epicurean who visited his school, incidentally. (Some people might claim it's a fabrication, which is fair enough, although there's nothing to indicate that.) If we take pleasure in something bad, are we willing to say that the pleasure is still good? For example, is pleasure taken in torturing small children still good? Or would we need to qualify it and say that pleasure is only good if its object is also good? That seems to introduce a much stronger caveat than is implied in the Epicurean definition of pleasure as the highest good, though. Moreover, pleasure can be good or bad depending on whether its object is good or bad, that implies it's actually morally neutral, or "indifferent", as the Stoics put it. Pleasure in itself is neither good nor bad. Pleasure in bad things, like harming people for fun, is bad; pleasure in good things, like helping loved ones, is good. However, that seems to suggest that it's really the object that is good or bad, in itself, and the feeling of pleasure is only good or bad decoratively, i.e., its actually indifferent in itself. Some people will disagree with those intuitions but for those who accept them, like the Epicurean in the Discourses, it seems to create a contradiction between their professed doctrines and the implications of their moral preconceptions, on reflection.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:27pm · EditedDonald Robertson 7. Both Seneca and Epictetus argue that Epicurean philosophy encouraged its followers to view all friendships as fair-weather friendships, i.e., to value others only for their utility and not for their own sake, as means and not as ends in themselves. Again, it seems to me that some modern Epicureans actually agree that Epicurus taught this and are happy with it, whereas others dispute this interpretation of his teachings. "These are the so-called “fair-weather” friendships; one who is chosen for the sake of utility will be satisfactory only so long as he is useful. […] He who begins to be your friend because it pays will also cease because it pays." (Seneca). Again, reversing perspectives becomes problematic if we read Epicurus this way: you might want to view other people merely as a means to the end of "pleasure", or whatever, but would you want them to view you that way? This is also closely-related to the argument that it's problematic to imagine a whole state or a whole world of people following Epicurean philosophy, rather than an individual or a small community. Suppose you don't want other people to treat you merely as a fairweather friend, and to potentially abandon you as soon as they calculate that would be in their interest, in terms of pleasure. How do you reconcile that with the doctrine that friends are only of instrumental value? (Or do you reject that interpretation of Epicurus -- if so, what do you make of other Epicureans who do interpret the philosophy that way?)Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:35pm · EditedDonald Robertson 8. Seneca and others also object to the Epicurean doctrine that makes virtue of value only instrumentally, as a means to attaining pleasure, as follows. (Again, some modern Epicureans may dispute this interpretation of Epicurus, although others tell me they accept it and agree with it as a philosophy of life.) Someone who acts bravely for the sake of a reward, arguably isn't really brave at all. (Again, some people will accept this particular moral intuition, others will not.) To endure danger for money isn't real bravery, it's just greed. And the same would apply to rewards such as pleasure: acting bravely to win some reward as a consequence isn't really what we mean by bravery, on reflection. The same would apply to the virtue of temperance. Not snacking on chips for a week because someone's offered me a million dollars to do so, wouldn't, on the face of it, constitute praiseworthy (virtuous) self-mastery. It's the ability to control our desires in the *absence* of a strong reward for doing so that's actually required for the virtue of temperance. What about justice, kindness, and fairness? If I'm only treating other people kindly and fairly because I believe I'm going to gain some reward for so doing then arguably that's not really the virtue of justice at all. Doesn't the same apply if I see justice as indifferent in itself, and only of value as a means to obtaining "pleasure" (in the Epicurean sense)? So the Stoics, and others, argue that our preconceptions about virtue separate it from people acting in similar ways for personal gain, or pleasure. Someone who wants to preserve that conception of virtue but also professes to follow the Epicurean doctrine is arguably going to have to reconcile those two things somehow or accept that they're in contradiction.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:48pm · EditedDonald Robertson Here's a review of similar arguments in Seneca, if that's any help, including more quotations from Epicurus and references to his teachings than I could include above:http://donaldrobertson.name/what-seneca-really-said.../What Seneca Really Said about EpicureanismDONALDROBERTSON.NAMELike · Reply · Remove Preview · March 7 at 6:49pmDonald Robertson Likewise, here's a review of Epictetus' comments about Epicurus, including quotes (allegedly) from Epicurus' writings and a transcription of a dialogue with an Epicurean philosopher who visited his school:http://donaldrobertson.name/ep…cism-versus.../Epictetus: Stoicism versus EpicureanismArticle outlining the criticisms of Epicureanism made by the Stoic Epictetus.DONALDROBERTSON.NAMELike · Reply · Remove Preview · March 7 at 6:50pmCassius Amicus I will keep those last two separate but thanks very much for adding them. Do you think you are finished for the moment after posting eight questions? Of course if you come up with others of similar nature in the future we can do them too.Like · Reply · March 7 at 6:51pm · EditedDonald Robertson Sure, yes, I think that's enough for now. Thanks.Like · Reply · March 7 at 7:14pmWrite a reply...Matt Jackson Hi Donald, I'm interested to know more about the Stoic cosmology and theology and how it relates to Virtue. From what I've gathered there is a "pantheistic reasoning God" called Zeus that fills the role of a Divine Principle. It appears that this being is "fragmented" among the various minds in the universe. It also appears that this being is not a separate entity like a Divine Mind or Nous, but rather a holistic "whole" of separate reasoning minds. It is from these individual reasoning minds that Virtue is conceived. I'm wondering though, is it safe to call this passive being a God? Since the "being" has no external reasoning capability outside of the individual minds that are it's many parts. Objectively, it would appear that it is not a God at all but rather a poetic description of the multiplicity of Nature, and not in any way actually Divine. This would become somewhat problematic for virtue's sake since relativism is rampant among the varied minds in the world (which can readily be seen everywhere). If this God is not autonomous that means he is actually bound to the will of individual reasoning minds. Thus we have varied interpretations of what virtue might be across various individuals and cultures.It is clear that this theological idea is very important because it relates DIRECTLY to Stoic virtue. In fact, I'm not sure how to proceed any further with a discussion of virtue without clarifying this point. Is this Zeus/God really a "passive" being subject to the contemplation of man? Or do we say that it is actually autonomous and "it" contemplates a standard of Virtue and is a judge? It seems this theological concept is the genesis of Stoic Virtue.Unlike · Reply · 2 · March 7 at 9:34pmWrite a comment...