Episode Fifty-Five - Reason Is Dependent On The Senses (Part 2)

  • I question how this term can be reconciled with the "all pleasure is desirable" foundation,

    "While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is choiceworthy, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned."

    Note that he doesn't say all pleasure is desirable. He says all pleasure is a good (αγαθόν agathon) not that every pleasure is desirable. Pleasure is the good toward which all our actions point, but that doesn't mean *every* pleasure is desirable or choiceworthy.

  • Well yes that last comment goes to the heart of the issue -- the word "empty" in English at least to me is indicating that it is not in actuality what it represents itself to be, and that is not my understanding of what Epicurus is saying as to pleasure. No pleasure, no matter how much pain the choice may later bring, is devoid of pleasure, and that would be what I would infer from use of the term "empty." Yes a particular pleasure may be unchoiceworthy in that it brings excessive pain in a myriad of ways, and that kind of analysis is core Epicurean thought, but a pleasure would NOT be labeled "empty" because the pleasure does not bring pleasure, because if that choice or action were not pleasurable then it would not be pleasure.


    If the meaning to be conveyed is "don't choose it because it doesn't bring net pleasure" or anything that means something similar, then I am all ok. But that is not what the word "empty" conveys to me ,or to what I would wager would be a large number of people in common understanding. That's why I recoil from it.

  • Pleasure is the good toward which all our actions point, but that doesn't mean *every* pleasure is desirable or choiceworthy.

    We are totally in agreement as to this result, but I do sense that the way the point is made is very important and can be confusing if the phrasing is unclear enough to imply in some way that pleasure is not pleasure, and that is where I think "empty" is uncomfortably close to implying that the pleasure is not in fact a pleasure, but only a "shell" of pleasure without any substance. Pleasure in fact presumably has no substance other than pleasure itself.

  • t a pleasure would NOT be labeled "empty" because the pleasure does not bring pleasure, because if that choice or action were not pleasurable then it would not be pleasure.

    It's not the pleasure itself that's "empty." It's the desire for specific pleasures that lead to pain that is "empty." Desires and "pleasure as the good" are two very different things.

  • That distinction could in fact be a very good one when used very clearly like that. An "empty" pleasure makes no sense to me. An "empty desire" might make sense, but even then I can't see "empty" being the best word to describe the problem. Why use a word like "empty" when it is pretty darn easy to be clear that the issue is that the decision may lead to more pain than pleasure, and that THAT is the issue.....?


    Maybe I will chase that rabbit next, but maybe not ;-)


    Ha - I don't mean to be argumentative here -- just thinking that this is one of those areas where I've seen in the past (not YOU!) use of the word "empty" in ways that made me uncomfortable, so I think it's good to think through the issues involved.

  • It's not argumentative by any means! These are important issues. Besides, there's pleasure in the intellectual pursuit so that's (a) good :)

    The reason people like to use empty in translations is because that's the literal meaning of the Greek word. But as we know, literal doesn't always mean best. When used in this sense, I think of it as an excuse with no real argument behind it - empty space behind the excuse. Colloquially as in "That's no excuse!" Colloquially again, an empty desire uses a rationalization. A valid desire uses the Canon.

    (P.S: I should say "uses the Canon along with phronesis (to choose that desire).")

  • Are you quoting Epicurus by using "empty" pleasure, Don ? Which text, if so?


    Today I think most people would interpret an "empty pleasure" as being one without meaningfulness (a source of pleasure). If someone was experiencing pain from a sense of meaninglessness unrelieved by their choices for pleasures, it would be analogous to the profligate hedonists-- leaving some of their pleasures on the table instead of choosing the maximum pleasure.


    But it reminds me of where Epicurus has been translated talking about "vain desires", which means "in vain" rather than prideful-- desires for imaginary pleasures, idealism-- infinite power and such. The desires wouldn't be in vain if they were for real, obtainable pleasures, so that's the problem. Futility. Idk if there's any correlation to what you are talking about with "empty."

  • Quote

    KD 29: Τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν αἱ μέν εἰσι φυσικαὶ <καὶ ἀναγκαῖαι· αἱ δὲ φυσικαὶ> καὶ οὐκ ἀναγκαῖαι, αἱ δὲ οὔτε φυσικαὶ οὔτε ἀναγκαῖαι ἀλλὰ παρὰ κενὴν δόξαν γινόμεναι.

    κενὴν δόξαν (kenēn doxan) "empty/groundless beliefs/opinions/doctrines"

    κενὴν is the empty

    δόξαν is the same word used for the Principal Doctrines.


    If I typed earlier "empty pleasures" I was referring to pleasures chosen due to empty desires founded on empty beliefs.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  • Κενός empty was a popular word. I thought some additional context might help. These are not exhaustive by any means but I thought it might be interesting to see where empty is used.


    KD 30:

    Quote

    30: Ἐν αἷς τῶν φυσικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν (physikōn epithymiōn "natural desires"), μὴ ἐπ’ ἀλγοῦν δὲ ἐπαναγουσῶν ἐὰν μὴ συντελεσθῶσιν, ὑπάρχει ἡ σπουδὴ σύντονος, παρὰ κενὴν δόξαν αὗται γίνονται, καὶ οὐ παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτῶν φύσιν οὐ διαχέονται ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν.

    τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κενοδοξίαν tēn tou anthrōpou kenodoxian "the 'empty beliefs' (one word) of humans/humanity/'mankind'"


    The word also occurs in KD 37:

    Quote

    37: Whatever in conventional law is attested to be expedient in the needs arising out of mutual intercourse is by its nature just, whether the same for all or not, and in case any law is made and does not prove suitable to the expediency of mutual intercourse, then this is no longer just. And should the expediency which is expressed by the law vary and only for a time correspond with the notion of justice, nevertheless, for the time being, it was just, so long as we do not trouble ourselves about empty terms (φωναῖς κεναῖς phōnais kenais "empty sounds, empty speech") but look broadly at facts.

    Quote

    And Fragments:116. I summon you to sustained enjoyment and not to empty and trifling virtues, which destroy your confidence in the fruits of what you have. ἐγὼ δʼ ἐφʼ ἡδονὰς συνεχεῖς παρακαλῶ καὶ οὐκ ἐπʼ ἀρετὰς κενὰς καὶ ματαίας καὶ ταραχώδεις ἐχούσας τῶν καρπῶν ἐλπίδας.

    And 202, here translated groundless:

    Quote

    202. He who follows nature and not groundless opinions is completely self-reliant. With regard to what is enough by nature, everything he owns is a source of wealth; whereas with regard to unlimited desires, even the greatest wealth is poverty.

    ὁ οὖν τῇ φύσει παρακολουθῶν καὶ μὴ ταῖς κεναῖς δόξαις ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτάρκης· πρὸς γὰρ τὸ τῇ φύσει ἀρκοῦν πᾶσα κτῆσίς ἐστι πλοῦτος, πρὸς δὲ τὰς ἀορίστους ὀρέξεις καὶ ὁ μέγιστος πλοῦτός ἐστι πενία.


    (Note: This is the same phrase as in KD 29 and 30)

  • Here are some passages from Tsouna's The Ethics of Philodemus (pages 38-40 in the Kindle version):


    "Like the vices, the emotions consist of cognitive and non-cognitive or extra-cognitive elements. This applies to all kinds of emotions, healthy or destructive, passionate as well as mild. Assuming that they all comprise desires, and that Epicurus classifies desires into natural and empty according to the kinds of beliefs on which they depend (KD 29), we may infer that he would classify emotions in a similar manner. In any event, Philodemus suggests that, e.g., anger and the fear of death belong to the category of unnatural or empty emotions, since both are related to empty (i.e., both false and harmful) beliefs or presumptions about their objects. What kinds of empty beliefs and judgements are involved in harmful emotions? Philodemus’ analyses of anger and the fear of death might suggest that he concentrates on the issues of whether there is evil at hand and whether one reacts in an appropriate manner..."


    "Philodemus says that all emotions, including anger, are ‘consequent upon our own entertainment of false opinion’ (ψυδοδοξ[ίαν]: De ir. VI. 14–15); in other words, upon empty beliefs. In the case of anger, such beliefs chiefly concern the intentions of the offender, the magnitude of the offence, and the value and appropriateness of revenge."


    In the chapter on anger she refers to "orge" and "thymos" which she interprets as natural and empty anger. It's a bit confusing though, since apparently Philodemus and his rivals had opposite definitions of the two terms. Possibly examining the original Greek meaning of these two words would provide more to chew on?

  • In the chapter on anger she refers to "orge" and "thymos" which she interprets as natural and empty anger. It's a bit confusing though, since apparently Philodemus and his rivals had opposite definitions of the two terms. Possibly examining the original Greek meaning of these two words would provide more to chew on?

    οργή orgē

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/h…1999.04.0057:entry=o)rgh/


    θυμός thymos

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/h…1999.04.0057:entry=qumo/s

    (Directly related to επιθυμία epithymia "desire, yearning, longing" which shows up in KD 29 & 30)

  • Ok that's what gets translated as vain opinion also. In context to me it sounds like it's basically false opinions. Unreal ideals. Empty of facts, empty of reality 😂. Because it's contrasted with nature, which includes everything that actually exists. People today contrast natural with artificial/manmade, but Epicurus is contrasting it with unreal.

  • Interestingly enough, κενός is also the word translated as "void" in "atoms and void." Ex., Περὶ ἀτόμων καὶ κενοῦ*. Peri atomōn kai kenou Concerning atoms and void/emptiness (The title of Epicurus's work on the topic).

    *κενοῦ = genitive singular of κενός

  • Thsnks for all the references on empty. After reading them I am still left with the feeling that it is easy to misuse the word except in a context that is pretty clear like for example the void. - now there "empty" rings true, or in discussing "virtue" detached from a specific goal. Maybe its just that the English has a different connotation but in combining it with words that have a more positive connotation it smacks to me as being more moralistic and judgmental than helpful (again maybe just in English). Even the phrase "empty desire" sounds more like something s Buddhist or even stoic would say.


    But anyway now we're probably reaching the point where this tangent is empty of additional benefit!

  • But anyway now we're probably reaching the point where this tangent is empty of additional benefit!

    Point taken :) but one last response to your comment...

    Even the phrase "empty desire" sounds more like something s Buddhist or even stoic would say.

    Even if it "sounds" Buddhist or Stoic, we can't deny that that's the word Epicurus liked to use to convey these concepts. He obviously had a reason for doing it, so I wouldn't want us to obfuscate *his* meaning for the sake of our being uncomfortable or wanting to put a different slant on it.