Simulacra, gods and the dead

  • Susan could you clarify this? One does see these things, so are you saying that that makes spirituality innate? I would say that attraction to mystery is innate and possibly part of the process of "pattern recognition" or "anticipations," and that for some people that attraction can motivate them toward attentiveness to certain patterns. But to me, "spirituality" is quite a broad and somewhat vague term and that makes it difficult for me to wrap my head around.

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    ...I would probably use words like a "faculty" that "disposes us to organize what we perceive" in ways that are helpful to our forming of mental images that we then store in our memories and use as operators for further analysis.

    Cassius, that's a good description to me, if we could just find a nice, concise way of saying that! But as you say it is just a start. That's one reason that I think that grappling with the gods (as it were) is a fruitful exercise.

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    I keep going back to those experiments with infants and toddlers on fair play, "justice", etc. We humans seem too have an innate sense of justice and fair play as well as awe and amazement. That's where my analysis of the prolepses starts.

    Don, that is a good place to start. Taking the viewpoint of prolepses as a "faculty that disposes us organize what we perceive..." then justice and fair play seem to be a way of connecting our sensations with our feelings. An infant sees someone do something and then feels good, this is "organized" as a perception of justice.


    Awe seems more complex I think.... Is it a strong emotion? This brings up two points: aren't emotions "components" of pleasure and pain? Also emotions can diminish over time (one can get jaded to what once caused a strong reaction) but it seems like prolepses tend to sharpen over time.

  • I would agree awe is more complex. Looking at the babies in studies, their rapt attention certainly appears like awe from the outside. But the sustained nature of it makes it appear to me more than an emotion. I was going to say just an emotion. But my jury is out on awe.

    I also think we have to distinguish among feeling (for which I personally am reserving only pleasure or pain and equating to reaction for purposes of Epicureanism) and emotion and prolepses. I think some or all 3 are connected but they're not equivalent. I personally equate "feeling" as in our other thread on "facts don't care..." with emotions. I "feel" emotions are more cognitive as in "I feel angry" "I feel sad" etc. and we can think about how we "feel." Whereas the pathē "feelings" of pleasure and pain are immediate. We don't get to "feel" whether we react with pleasure or pain. We react! It's immediate. There are no mitigating factors. Nothing between us and the reaction. We are repelled or attracted. We sense pleasure or pain. No in between.

  • From the article that Susan linked to in #18:

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    But we know that young babies are also busy little scientists scanning, analyzing, and making sense of their environment.

    This could explain babies' sustained rapt attention.


    Regarding awe, as they say at least once in every TV show, "it's complicated." Feelings and emotions are slippery terms, which is why "reactions" might be a good translation of pathe (Don, did you suggest that?) There is definitely a reactive element to emotions: what you feel (there's that word :/) right away in response to sensations. I'd say that the pathe are the reactive parts of emotions, and that they are felt as either pleasure or pain. A particular emotion can be either painful or pleasant. So emotions and pathe are intertwined in some way it seems, but putting it into words gets confusing.

  • A review of the literature regarding innate leanings towards spirituality/religion is frustrating because, although books and articles like "The God Gene" start off by saying, yes, there is a genetic and innate neurological proclivity towards spiritual seeking/belief, they then descend into scientism.


    The narrative goes "There is a gene (or brain state) that can be correlated with spiritual proclivity; all religious experience is false; therefore, these delusional experiences must be evolutionarily adaptive in some way, like pro-social, as an encouragement to breed in the face of death (!), or because of anti-depressive qualities." Arrg...


    Substitute in other words for things that you find meaningful and real and see how you feel about the conclusion. Instead of spirituality/religion, how about "love", or music or mathematics or science!


    "There is a gene (or brain state) that can be correlated with an attraction to science; all scientific reasoning is based on false premises; therefore, these tendencies must be evolutionarily adaptive in some way, like pro-social, as an encouragement to breed in the face of death (!), or because of anti-depressive qualities." Lol.


    Regarding Cassius' "...I would probably use words like a "faculty" that "disposes us to organize what we perceive" in ways that are helpful to our forming of mental images that we then store in our memories and use as operators for further analysis."


    I'm wondering if this were the definition of a prolepsis/anticipation, how would it be different from simple "learning ability" or "the faculty of cognition", or "knowledge creation ability"?

  • Some comments on a number of posts:


    so are you saying that that makes spirituality innate?

    I singled that out as a good example of the need for a definition of spirituality. What is "spirituality"? Have we made any progress in defining what we mean there?


    grappling with the gods

    I like that phrase!


    justice and fair play seem to be a way of connecting our sensations with our feelings.

    Yes I am thinking in that direction too. Maybe more generally, "anticipations are a way of connecting our sensations with our feelings." Or at the very least, "anticipations and sensations and feelings are all connected closely" which I think is a point that DeWitt emphasizes.


    there is a genetic and innate neurological proclivity towards spiritual seeking/belief,

    That's another sentence that cries out for clarity in "what does spiritual mean?"

    I'm wondering if this were the definition of a prolepsis/anticipation, how would it be different from simple "learning ability" or "the faculty of cognition", or "knowledge creation ability"?

    Right Susan. That's where I think the issue is with the Diogenese Laetrius section on anticipations, and the standard position on anticipations today. Clearly there is a process of "conceptual reasoning" that coincides with your terms "leaning ability" and "faculty of cognition" and "knowledge creation ability." Clearly all normal people go through life seeing new things (cell phones for example) and forming new pictures/conceptions of groups of cell phones until they have a mental image/definition of a cell phone that they then apply to new experiences. There's no doubt that conceptual reasoning exists. The big question is whether there is any "etching" of mental operations that plants the seeds so to speak as to how that process is going to occur or the directions it is going to pursue. Even if we agree (I think most of us do) that there are no innate "ideas," there do seem to be innate "principles of operation" that will end up disposing us in certain directions.


    I think a decent analogy here is that of how we distinguish a computer operating system from application software. The operating system sets the basis limits and bounds of what a computer can do to interface with the real world (including printers and hard disks and monitors) while the application program is where true "data" is dumped in over time and the conceptual assembly process gets working to do advanced calculatiing.


    So think the big problem is that the standard commentators are caught in the "blank slate" Aristotelian position and they focus exclusively on conceptual reasoning, which is part of the process, but they exclude the "etching" aspect which is clearly stated in Velleius because they think that conflicts with their blank slate starting point.

  • What does "spiritual" mean..... Well, I don't think we are going to get a clear definition on that one, and yet we do all have an idea of what it means...


    From Wikipedia: "There is no single, widely agreed-upon definition of spirituality. Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions with limited overlap. A survey of reviews by McCarroll each dealing with the topic of spirituality gave twenty-seven explicit definitions, among which "there was little agreement." This impedes the systematic study of spirituality and the capacity to communicate findings meaningfully..... In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience and the "deepest values and meanings by which people live," incorporating personal growth or transformation, usually in a context separate from organized religious institutions."


    I was thinking along the lines of "spiritual" meaning relating to the numinous or divine, but that turns out to be circular since "numinous" is defined as relating to the spiritual! "Spiritual," "divine", "God".... I'm afraid there really is a point at which language breaks down. There are a few extra words to describe it in Greek, and quite a few more in Sanskrit, but often it is described in terms of what it is NOT - it is the ineffable. And yet we do manage to talk about it, even without a dictionary definition.

  • And yet we do manage to talk about it, even without a dictionary definition.

    I definitely think we need to work on at least a "working" definition for our use here, which we will eventually want to add to the Lexicon and/or the FAQ. That's pretty much exactly what we have to do with "Gods" "Virtue" "Pleasure" "Truth" and probably many other words.


    In this case it doesn't help much but whatever working definition probably needs to include the "not supernatural" qualifier, but obviously that's not a satisfactory start. "Divinity" is a term that presumably exists whether we recognize it or not, because "the Epicurean gods" are held to exist whether or not we know it. I presume "spirit" is also a term that is used so thoroughly that we can say that it exists whether we recognize it or not, but it's closely tied in to "mind" and "soul" and has be better articulated.


    It's entirely unclear to me whether "spirit" in the Epicurean sense has any real connection with "the Epicurean gods" or what that connection would be. From the point of view of the surviving texts, we could probably have reverence for "the gods" and profit from that presumably even if we never had a "spiritual" experience.


    Probably it is first necessary to define "spirit" before we define "spiritual experience." If the spirit is different from the mind, then presumably it has its own "experiences" which are different from mental or "physical" experiences. But of course there is the premise that nothing exists except "matter" and void, so whatever experiences are going on presumably have a "material" aspect to them.


    I think the place to start is more the question of separating the terms "mind" "soul" and 'spirit" and determining whether they are separate entities from the Epicurean viewpoint.


    NOTE: Again, I think it's best we start "from the Epicurean viewpoint" rather than "what we ourselves think is the case" because we can't really be sure whether we agree or disagree with Epicurus unless we know what HIS viewpoint was.

  • I think the place to start is more the question of separating the terms "mind" "soul" and 'spirit" and determining whether they are separate entities from the Epicurean viewpoint.

    Yes, I'm unsure that spirituality, in our case, would actually have anything to do with our "spirit" or "soul", since these are not seen as supernatural or immortal, or as part of God...


    I'm not at all confident of my ability to come up with a definition that would satisfy many, but here is very tentative attempt:


    I begin with a quote from Carl Sagan:


    ‘Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual … The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.’


    I like his words "profound, immense, intricate, beautiful, subtle, elating, humbling..." But for the theist, these things are seen to have their origin in the divine (God).


    Epicurus observed certain religious practices as part of his spirituality, and he did this by way of cultivating appreciation for, and connectedness with, the gods.


    So perhaps Epicurean spirituality is the recognition of the profound, intricate, beautiful, blissful, subtle, elating, humbling and tranquil nature of the gods, and the practice of attuning our own nature to that god-like state.


    Now this is not a definition that would appeal to the atheist or secular Buddhist, who claim a spirituality without any gods, but a spirituality without any gods is a very modern innovation, and I think it would be unrecognizable to Epicurus.


    Thoughts?

  • So perhaps Epicurean spirituality is the recognition of the profound, intricate, beautiful, blissful, subtle, elating, humbling and tranquil nature of the gods, and the practice of attuning our own nature to that god-like state.

    I think in response here that I would say that probably either as a part of anticipations, of pleasure-recognition, or of both, that there is a disposition to recognize the profound, intricate, beautiful, blissful, subtle, elating, humbling and tranquil nature of anything which we would expect to find the highest manifestation thereof in the highest level of beings which we would expect to exist within the universe.


    So those characteristics you list are all things that exist in varying degrees in the things we come into contact with here on earth and would experience as part of those interactions, so we have a faculty of recognizing those characteristics which does process data received through the eyes/ears/tongue/nose/skin, but that faculty of recognition is probably not itself a part of the eyes/ears/tongue/nose/skin.


    So the question that is probably on the table is how this faculty of recognition operates, and whether it can receive stimulus that is not strictly part of the eyes/ears/tongue/nose/skin.


    1. Is this faculty purely operating in accord with the "etching" that it has at birth?


    2. Is this faculty operating purely in accord with its etching plus its influences by the things we see/hear/taste/touch/smell during our lifetime after birth?


    3. Is this faculty operating in accord with its etching, plus what we see/hear/taste/touch/smell during our lifetime after birth, plus something else that is perceivable by the brain through mechanisms not currently understood by science, but understandable by science after additional study through techniques not yet invented? (For a gross example, attempts to study claims of "ESP" or "gravity waves" or "cosmic rays" or similar claims of repeatable phenomena, all of which - if proved to exist through repeated observation - we will presume due to our prior conclusions to be the work of a "natural" and not the work of a "universe-creating-supernatural-being" phenomena? I suppose even "contact with a UFO" or "contact with an alien race" would fit in this category if they actually landed in Central Park and said "We are here to serve men" and gave us what we thought at first was a table of profound natural laws but which turned out to be a cookbook. )

  • >>So the question that is probably on the table is how this faculty of recognition operates, and whether it can receive stimulus that is not strictly part of the eyes/ears/tongue/nose/skin.


    I think the answer to that is presently as elusive to science as the question of how consciousness arises. Some even say consciousness is an illusion, therefore.


    >>1. Is this faculty purely operating in accord with the "etching" that it has at birth?


    Perhaps the recognition of divine intelligence, blissful and immortal, but not a dram more.


    >>2. Is this faculty operating purely in accord with its etching plus its influences by the things we see/hear/taste/touch/smell during our lifetime after birth?


    Going on the other things I have read discussed herein and written elsewhere, the faculty can mature and be educated by repeated exposure, yes. However, great care must be taken in controlling rampant speculation about things that we cannot possibly have rational or sensory evidence of.


    >>>3. Is this faculty operating in accord with its etching, plus what we see/hear/taste/touch/smell during our lifetime after birth, plus something else that is perceivable by the brain through mechanisms not currently understood by science, but understandable by science after additional study through techniques not yet invented? (For a gross example, attempts to study claims of "ESP" or "gravity waves" or "cosmic rays" or similar claims of repeatable phenomena, all of which - if proved to exist through repeated observation - we will presume due to our prior conclusions to be the work of a "natural" and not the work of a "universe-creating-supernatural-being" phenomena? I suppose even "contact with a UFO" or "contact with an alien race" would fit in this category if they actually landed in Central Park and said "We are here to serve men" and gave us what we thought at first was a table of profound natural laws but which turned out to be a cookbook. )


    Yes.

  • Yes.

    HA!


    I think the answer to that is presently as elusive to science as the question of how consciousness arises. Some even say consciousness is an illusion, therefore.

    I think the first sentence is well taken, but as for those who say consciousness is an illusion, I think we're going to find that Epicurus took consciousness to be one of those primaries (like the senses) that must be accepted and not looked behind, so therefore NOT an illusion. I'm thinking that this is one of those areas that leads down the slippery slope to nihiism in practical terms, but it's also something that is probably part of the "logic" debate that I think Epicurus was also having with the other schools. So we probably have two separate issues (1) the physics of the operation of the brain, and (2) our correctness in considering the senses as primary contacts with reality, with consciousness too being subject to all types of error, but not an "illusion" as if we could one day wake up from it. I presume it's more correct to say that consciousness "is" us like saying Toys'RUs - ConsciousnessIsUs.


    I reserve the right to revise, extend, or retract all those statements! But that is where I currently am thinking makes the most sense trying to reconcile the state of modern science plus what Epicurus was saying.


    It's easy for us to go to google and dig out observations on "What modern science says" even though of course there are lots of unresolved questions there.


    I think it's our particular challenge here to also ask "What was Epicurus thinking?" because he was immersed in the high-level logical arguments of ancient Greek philosophy, and I sometimes think (as in the "absence of pain" formulation) that he was so far ahead of us in the terms of his discussion that we don't recognize what he was saying. Probably the same can be said for his statements on divinity.

  • >>I sometimes think (as in the "absence of pain" formulation) that he was so far ahead of us in the terms of his discussion that we don't recognize what he was saying. Probably the same can be said for his statements on divinity


    That’s quite possible. He could have done something really profound in realizing a theology that did not become tied up with strict asceticism. It would be so sad if there is not enough to reconstruct it. It is incredibly unique.

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    (For a gross example, attempts to study claims of "ESP" or "gravity waves" or "cosmic rays"

    I would not under any circumstances include ESP with gravity waves and cosmic rays.

    ESP is repeatedly debunked, including failure of anyone to win the $1,000,000 prize from the Randi Foundation. If you're using this as shorthand for intuition, then maybe. But not ESP as a parapsychology phenomenon.

    Gravity waves and cosmic rays are verifiable and verified physical phenomena. In fact, cosmic rays can be viewed in a homemade cloud chamber.

  • Yes I don't mean to be taking the position that I am a "believer" in ESP. My dividing line is in my view strictly pragmatic - I am not sure exactly how I would define that, but my attitude is something like "if it can be shown to be a repeatable phenomena that can be observed by more than one observer over time and under conditions that eliminate subterfuge, then I don't care how many "scientists" have previously said it "can't happen." The "proof is in the pudding" and all sorts of other cliches that focus on the actual results rather than on prior predictions of what is possible.


    On the other hand, the question is "Do we have to suspend judgment and accept any alleged theory where someone says 'it hasn't been proved yet, but it will be?" My answer would be "no" to that too.