I'm back.....:-)

  • hi folks,


    I hope this finds everyone happy and healthy.


    I was quite active on this forum 2 years ago and then went dormant with no notice.


    Essentially, I got sucked back into the Stoic mindset. I struggled with how to apply EP to my life (surely it can't be as simple as maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain) and fell back into the very readily available and easy to apply Stoic mental exercises.


    I won't bore you with the details of my life, but Jules Evan's wrote a short biography of me in his book about Stoicism (and other life philosophies) and how it has helped people. So, falling back into Stoicism was easy to do.


    What brought me back? Well, two things:


    1. I got tired of working my ass off to minimize my desires and live as unemotional life as I could muster. I know this is a gross oversimplification of Stoicism, but it goes without saying that the Stoic's response to challenges in life is to retreat into the 'inner citadel' and fortify oneself from the external dangers. I can only deny my own emotions and desires for so long. Especially in this pandemic, it's easy to retreat into oneself and close off from the challenges around us.


    2. I started a journey of physical fitness about a year an a half ago. Since then I've changed my eating, begun an exercise program, and have lost 60 lbs and fell the best I have in life. I've struggled with how a Stoic would justify physical fitness. All I could reasonably come up with is that one takes care of one's body out of a sense of duty. What I have been experiencing over the last year is an amazing boost in pleasure at the changes in my body. I've come to revel in the feeling of accomplishment and pleasure when I finish a workout and when I step on the scale and I'm a lb lighter.


    I know none of this is a repudiation of Stoicism per se, but as I've been really thinking about this over the last few months I've realized that the perfect philosophy to explain how I want to live my life is Epicureanism. I hopped over a few days ago and read Elayne's essay and Garden Dweller's piece and it reminded me how much I really enjoyed EP. I think the separation and time to contemplate has allowed my mind to open to the truth that eP is not about living in a 'neutral state' between pain and pleasure: the goal truly is to maximize pleasure. That's a life worth living.


    Anyway, I felt the urge to write about this. Not sure it all makes sense but here you go....:-)


    Brett

  • I was quite active on this forum 2 years ago and then went dormant with no notice.

    THAT's what I remember! One day Brett was here with us, participating if I recall correctly even in some of our online chats (on Discord at the time), and then POOF one day he was gone! ;-)


    So first of all I am glad you are doing well and that you felt free to come back, cause certainly you're welcome!


    I was quite active on this forum 2 years ago and then went dormant with no notice.

    Wow this sounds interesting -- I'll have to start googling to check the full significance of that but the full story sounds a lot like we've heard recently from Susan Hill .....


    What was it that attracted you back to Stoicism -- was it pretty much the call to meaningfulness, or "virtue," or what do you think. I continue to think one of our biggest challenges is communicating that "pleasure" is a lot more profound a choice than just the sex/drugs/rocknroll viewpoint, but it's a real challenge to come up with new and better ideas for explaining it so if you have any ideas....


    Because in the end we really need to articulate that vision -- that it's not a matter of "Settling" for pleasure as the guide of life, as if it's a "guilty pleasure," but that the philosophy as a whole in the end just makes more sense, and in a way is in fact living "naturally" which ought to be synonymous with the best choice.

  • Cassius


    that’s a very interesting question you pose:


    What was it that attracted you back to Stoicism -- was it pretty much the call to meaningfulness, or "virtue," or what do you think. I continue to think one of our biggest challenges is communicating that "pleasure" is a lot more profound a choice than just the sex/drugs/rocknroll viewpoint, but it's a real challenge to come up with new and better ideas for explaining it so if you have any ideas....


    I have given a lot of thought to this and I think a big part is this: Stoics have cornered the market on short, simple, effective slogans and practices that serve as a short term analgesic to pain.


    for example: my boss gets upset at me and tells me he thinks I should find another job. A stoic would use the notion of the dichotomy of control to conclude: I have no control over my boss so I can’t worry about it.


    or another person might use the premeditatio malorum to fortify themselves against bad news.


    the examples could be multipled many times over. stoicism has myriad techniques and practices that are effective in this manner. Read massimo or holiday or Robertson and they lay them out simply and convincingly.


    nevermind that the aim of these techniques is to reduce pain and maximize pleasure by their use, the stoics have convinced others that living by their principles is a holistic and ‘correct’ approach to the vicissitudes of life by striving for ‘virtue’ and living in accord with our fate.


    in my opinion, if we could develop/articulate simple practices that folks could use in similar fashion when faced with challenges, EP would be seen as a competitor in the search for a life philosophy.

    In short, Stoics have convinced folks that it’s a practical philosophy for everyday life. EP needs a similar reputation.


    hope this makes some sense.


    brett

  • Hi Brett. I fell in with the Stoic crowd myself for some time. For me, ultimately, I found that any philosophy that focused on combating pain ended up leaving no room for pleasure. It is like if you are in a dark room, and you want to see, you get nowhere by pushing at the darkness - you just have to turn on the light. I am so used to trying to “figure out” suffering, that it is a big change being led by nature/pleasure instead, but good things are happening due to that change of orientation.

  • Hi Brett. I fell in with the Stoic crowd myself for some time. For me, ultimately, I found that any philosophy that focused on combating pain ended up leaving no room for pleasure. It is like if you are in a dark room, and you want to see, you get nowhere by pushing at the darkness - you just have to turn on the light. I am so used to trying to “figure out” suffering, that it is a big change being led by nature/pleasure instead, but good things are happening due to that change of orientation.

    that’s a great way to put it. Ultimately I decided that I couldn’t embrace any philosophy that focused on deadening my senses and urging me to treat the death of my lovely wife the same as a broken cup (my wife did not pass thankfully. It’s a reference to a passage in Epictetus)


    thanks for your response.


    brett

    Edited once, last by bdws ().

  • Wow, yes.. And then on top of the suffering, you get to feel like a failed philosopher for grieving... I think there is a reason why there were next to no “sages” in Stoicism.

  • Wow, yes.. And then on top of the suffering, you get to feel like a failed philosopher for grieving... I think there is a reason why there were next to no “sages” in Stoicism.

    OH, well put and insightful.


    What I do appreciate in stoicism, and this is part of what drew me back here after I realized it recently, is that there is wisdom in knowing what you can control. But not for the stated stoic reason. For a stoic you don’t focus on what you can’t control because it’s your fate and you shouldn’t struggle against it. For an epicurean, you don’t struggle against what you truly can’t change because it brings you pain and takes your focus off the things that can bring you pleasure.

  • Yes, I like that angle much better. And it has helped me, too. I still have a soft spot for Seneca, (as he did for Epicureanism), because I love his style of writing, but I always thought Epictetus was such an old sourpuss. ;)

  • I have given a lot of thought to this and I think a big part is this: Stoics have cornered the market on short, simple, effective slogans and practices that serve as a short term analgesic to pain.

    This is a very interesting thread for me and comes at a good time.


    (1) So the way you phrase that indicates to me that it wasn't the positive attraction of "virtue" that was the prime motivating factor, but the "analgesic" aspect that was the driving force.


    (2) For the greater part of my study of Epicurean philosophy and its relationship to Stoicism I have been mostly concerned that I wanted to "get it right" and make sure I understood the issues and the choices. Not that by any means I have it all figured out now, but I am much more comfortable now that the Epicurean approach not only "feels right" but also "makes sense" for the right reasons. I think I now have a better handle on the limits of how far any philosophy can go, and where the lines exist where you just have to "make a decision and go with it."


    I think most of us here (at least the regular posters) are in pretty much the same position. Most of us have a pretty good grip on what the most important issues are, and while there are definitely details that need to be improved, we have enough grasp of the big picture to be confident that we aren't likely to conclude next month or next year that somehow we've been horribly mistaken and that everything needs to be reevaluated from the ground up.


    I am convinced now too that the personal interaction aspect is far more important than just writing essays and the like. Consciously or not that is probably the reason I've devoted most all my Epicurean time in the last years to this forum and other interaction rather than just to writing essays.


    We have a lot more work to do to in the direction Brett is saying -- we have the general structure in place to expand our interaction with each other, but I am sure all of us need more "local" friendship and connections that the online mechanisms can help with but not solve completely. And to make progress in expanding our local friendship networks, we need more attention to those "short, simple, effective slogans and practices."

  • hi Cassius,


    1. Correct. i was never really attracted to the 'virtue' thing nor their belief in fate. As a long-time atheist, I have no interest in the supernatural. What attracted me was the analgesic aspect. You won't remember but I actually asked you when I first joined if there were any practices, etc. like the stoic mental practices.


    2. The more I've thought about my departure from EP two years ago the more I'm convinced it was because of this point I'm making.


    For better or for worse, I'm a person who by my disposition is easily stressed out by anxiety about the future. Not clinically so....but it's easy for me to worry about things. The Stoic practices are SO effective at fortifying one against those worries. What I've discovered, unfortunately, is that while they are effective, they are only truly effective if you buy into the metaphysics. And I just don't and I can't pretend any longer that I do.


    So, that leaves me with what I truly believe is the aim of life: maximizing pleasure and thus achieving happiness. It's so clear and simple to me now that I've seen through the Stoic fascade.


    Thanks for the conversation. I'd welcome more discussion about coming up with or articulating these practices and methods specific to EP.


    Thanks,


    Brett

  • Yes, I like that angle much better. And it has helped me, too. I still have a soft spot for Seneca, (as he did for Epicureanism), because I love his style of writing, but I always thought Epictetus was such an old sourpuss. ;)

    TOO FUNNY! I was just thinking this AM how I still love Seneca. I also still appreciate some of Marcus's meditations for the human aspect it reveals.

  • This topic of practices and slogans seems to come up fairly regularly.... For some time now I've been compiling a list of "Epicurean pleasure slogans" to delineate the philosophy and have 50+ at this point. I haven't posted them as they'd need a LOT of work to really be legit, but maybe I'll clean up what I've got and post them sometime soon if that would be of some value.

  • This topic of practices and slogans seems to come up fairly regularly.... For some time now I've been compiling a list of "Epicurean pleasure slogans" to delineate the philosophy and have 50+ at this point. I haven't posted them as they'd need a LOT of work to really be legit, but maybe I'll clean up what I've got and post them sometime soon if that would be of some value.

    I would love to see this! I’ve been pondering this intensely since I posted it.

  • I mentioned it in passing a while back. It has lots of possibilities but also is a can of worms; I'll post it in a day or two and we'll see where it goes!

  • The practices do not need to be necessarily traceable to Epicurus or be logically derived from EP. If they work and are compatible, that is good enough. Not each of them will work for every Epicurean.

    Here are some suggestions:

    For me, occasional meditation for up to one hour guided by a Buddhist monk works fine, whether on radio, from CD or live. For some Epicureans, it might be counterproductive.

    Occasional daydreaming as the simplest form of meditation is fine, too.

    Running several kilometers at least twice a week boosts motivation to take action toward pleasure.

    Doing something together with friends increases pleasure compared to only doing my own things.

  • I completely agree that they don't need to tie to Epicurus. I like some of the ones you mentioned.


    A couple thoughts:


    1. One approach could be to personalize the tricks and tips and have each person write up a 140 synopsis of their technique and create a compendium of these.

    2. Some of the most popular stoic techniques are EASILY framed as epicurean. for example, the dichotomy of control is a very helpful mental technique to minimize pain and clear space for some one to then pivot to a pleasurable experience. For example: If I recognize that I can't control the fact that my boss is mad at me, I can relax myself and pivot to finding a pleasurable activity to maximize my pleasure and hence happiness.


    I really think this topic could help in outreach and general 'effectiveness' of EP for the daily lives of normal people. End of the day, all the 'smart' people in the world can believe something but unless it's effective for others and seen as relevant, it won't be adopted.

  • Brett and Susan Hill


    What do you think is the current state of the art in the Stoic world that is most effective in keeping people motivated?


    I gather that they have live conferences, which we're just not ready for, but are there other pathways that you guys think is particularly effective?


    I'm thinking in terms of what keeps people "plugged in"? I am thinking that regular contact with each other using a forum such as this is probably one of the most important things to do, but I wonder what other offerings you guys might think were particularly helpful to you.


    Are they having regular Zoom/Skype meetings? Or just relying on Facebook/Telegram/Twitter or something else? Writing articles and books and the like is one thing but seems to me regular personal participation is something for which there is no substitute.


    Any comments on what you found effective in Stoic World?