Gosling & Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure.

  • I typed παθη Latin translation into Google and got "passio." Passions distinguishes from sensations but has its own set of problems.

    "Embodied cognition" is for me a very descriptive phrase for the prolepseis and perhaps for the entire Canon. But this apparently has woo woo connotations in some circles. Also if it can be used for both prolepseis and for the Canon then that isn't very helpful.

  • This is a thread I've been following casually but haven't had time to thoroughly digest.

    It seems to me that 'sensation' is meant to carry the meaning of something sensed objectively.

    I don't like beer. For many, drinking beer stimulates a feeling of pleasure. For me, it's a kind of mild revulsion—a type of pain. But in both cases the objective sensation is the same; my friend and I both sense that the beer is cold, slightly bitter, tasting of hops and alcohol, and so forth.

    But the thing is, with brain scans it is possible to notice objectively the experience of pleasure and pain. So I'm not certain where that leaves us.

  • Excellent point, JJElbert ! Your beer analogy finally lit a light bulb for me.

    This reminds me that my wife and I are watching the Netflix doc series Babies. I have found it fascinating and keep seeing the learning and "pre-wiring" of the babies and toddlers as echoing the idea of innate prolepses. I was also listening to apodcast with Alan Alda and Cori Bargmann that talked about the innate chemical receptors in the brain that also reminded me of prolepses.

  • something sensed objectively.

    I think you are going in the right direction but the word "objectively" is probably a dead end. I think Epicurus is using pain and pleasure as totally subjective and we alone are the judge of it -- if it feels good, it is pleasurable, if it feels bad it is painful. If there were an "objective" standard then we would have something absolute higher than our own pain and pleasure and I think the physics / cosmology rules that out.

    And oh yes, "passions" is definitely another word that needs to be considered. And yes that word has been corrupted even more so than pleasure. But passions is probably most directly related to Pathe and so part of the heritage of the words.

  • That's actually the very distinction I was trying to draw with the beer analogy!

    Sensation (ie 'cold, hot, sweet, sour'): objective

    Feeling (pleasure or pain): subjective

    There's certainly nothing objective about pleasure. Even with my brain-scan thought experiment, the obvious objection to make is that the feeling of pleasure remains subjective. The visual sense that detects an image of a brain experiencing pleasure is objective.

  • I think I see where JJElbert is coming from with the "objective." Please correct me, JJElbert , if I misinterpret!

    He's not saying it's an objective abstract standard. It's a visible, objective reaction in the brain if you're looking at a fMRI scan. You can literally see the "pleasure" or "pain" centers lighting up in the brain. The pathē of pleasure or pain can be objectively observed by science now. It is the "subjective" assessment of those pathē that determine our choices and rejections.

    According to that one program I listened to, animals are wired to find sweet pleasurable and bitterness painful. Scientists know the chemical and neural pathways. But some people can learn to choose bitter coffee or beer and eventually find pleasure in it.

  • Cassius brought up earlier the three-legged Canon, so I went back to see the three original words:

    αἰσθήσις (aisthēsis), Latin sensus. sense-perception, sensation, perception from the senses (incidentally, the source of "aesthetic")

    προλήψις (prolepsis) preconception, mental picture, anticipation

    πάθη (pathē) that which happens to someone, one definition is also sensation, passion, emotion

    From this, it appears that the pathē are not apprehended through the five (or more) senses but are experienced directly. The senses are covered under aisthēsis, so why would you need two of only three Canonic criteria that deal with the senses. I'm not sure how this would work (How else do you experience something?) But it takes me back to my earlier posts about "We experience the world in one of two ways: pleasure or pain." It's a direct hard-wired experience that we feel viscerally.

    Is the order important here? This may be basic stuff, but I'm just coming to this realization as I type:

    1. The senses directly receive stimuli from objective reality. (aisthēsis)

    2. The stimuli are automatically processed by means of preexisting patterns in your brain from both heredity/genes and learning (prolepsis)

    3. The processed stimuli then trigger either pleasure or pain and you experience one or the other "feeling" (pathē)

    Finally, you assess those two "feelings" using your practical wisdom to make choices and rejections.

  • As to Cassius' earlier objection to calling it "objective" reality, maybe "material" reality is more accurate.

    According to EP as I understand it, this also allows for eidola (dreams, visions of the gods; also thoughts? Not sure about thoughts...) to be received by the senses. It seems like evaluative thinking would follow this sequence as well, with thoughts replacing sensations. I'm not sure what contemporary neuroscience has to say about that, though.

  • I think that again we need to keep in mind how important "images" seem to have been to the Epicureans, and maybe we don't appreciate how they were understanding them.

    I also need to reread the DeWitt chapter(s) on the canon. He wrestles with all this and if I recall correctly seems to have had some productive things to say about how the three categories work together.

  • As I wake up today on June 30, I am thinking that the word "passion" probably has the best potential as having a combination of these factors:

    1 - Derives (probably/possibly) from the original core pathe. Or at least it easily evokes the original word.

    2 - Indicates intensity and is incompatible with the common understanding of "absence of pain"

    3- Easily understandable and gripping in a way that "pleasure" does not convey today.

    4- Although I don't have any cites at the moment, "passion" is used in the way we are using it in some of the english literature.

    5 - Is guaranteed to drive the Platonists and Stoics wild, as indicated in this clip from FLOURISHsandiego (I am just attaching the picture rather than the article. The standard Socratics/Platonists/Arisotelians LOVE "flourishing" and HATE "passion." ;)

    I need to make some posts on this topic but I know for myself in addition to the deep discussions we are pursuing I need to budget my time to make more graphics with pithy summaries of the core points which we can use to post different places and hopefully drive more traffic to us, which is motivational for the reasons we have been discussing (we're not just disembodied minds - that's the Platonist/Stoics).

    We have a stable of them now, but it's always motivational to produce more: https://www.epicureanfriends.c…-image-list/207-outreach/

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Gosling & Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure. (Notes up to but not including Epicurus)” to “Gosling & Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure.”.