Epicurean philosophy vs. Stoicism in public popularity

  • In other words I don't think any of us have a problem with saying that "in general" we can use the past to point the right direction in the future, but we certainly can't do that all the time, and we have to understand that the universe isn't mechanistic or determined or fated or guided by divinity and so walk and chew gum at the same time.

    One of the few things we can use to make choices and rejections in the present is whether we reacted with pleasure or pain to a specific action in a specific situation in the past. Is the current situation similar enough to the past situation to warrant one decision or another? Barring that, have we observed others taking actions that had painful or pleasurable outcomes *from our perspective* in similar circumstances to this? We don't have to accept a mechanistic or divine universe to use observation and perceived causes and effects to make prudent decisions.

  • Don Adding "almost" anyone to your assertion is fine. Low empathy humans are a small percentage of the population.


    I'm on the other end of atypical-- I can't even stand to watch fake violence in movies, lol. So my decisions regarding potential harm to strangers need to take my atypical responses into account. This is more useful than trying to make myself become typical. It's also helpful to my pleasure to remember that the majority of others are likely not being consciously cruel when they do things to each other that make me cringe. Most likely, their empathy settings are more in the center. If I failed to keep this in mind, I would think I was surrounded by psychopaths on all sides.


    It's not a virtue of mine, relative to them, that I avoid doing things they do-- it's only a virtue in regards to my own pleasure. They wouldn't be happier changing to be like me, either, so far as I can tell.


    As far as the limits of pleasure, maximum pleasure, I think we have discussed this before, and I have not changed my position from what I outlined in my article here 😃: On Pain, Pleasure, and Happiness


    What I mean by pleasure occurring or not is that it depends on material causes, not on people's opinions about what ought to happen. Like that quote about facts not caring about someone's opinions. A person may think folks ought not get pleasure from someone else's suffering, but that has no bearing on whether or not such a thing happens in real life. For instance, my opinion does not affect the reality of schadenfreude, a "normal" phenomenon I don't experience.


    Maximum pleasure is exactly what an ordinary person would say it is-- total filling of one's mind and body with wonderful bliss-- and it occurs when all pain is absent. When one has achieved maximum blissfulness, it's unmistakable. One will not want anything more at that time, as Epicurus noted. Contrary to rumor, regular humans can experience this.


    The maximum possible pleasure over a lifetime is realistically not likely going to involve continuous total bliss, because we don't have the power to prevent every pain, including pains that can stand in the path to pleasures--- but we can obtain a lot more ongoing pleasure than most people realize. And to do so requires dropping Stoicism and usual virtue ethics completely! We must evaluate all decisions and virtues in light of pleasure as our sole guide and goal. Yes, of course, it's smart to take into account both our past experiences and the experiences of other humans in similar situations. That's basic physics.

  • It's not a virtue of mine, relative to them, that I avoid doing things they do-- it's only a virtue in regards to my own pleasure. They wouldn't be happier changing to be like me, either, so far as I can tell.

    Ah, that's my point. Someone observing your behavior may attribute it to your "virtue." You know that's an erroneous interpretation, but you're not responsible for correcting their mistaken opinion. [Unless you want to engage in some Epicurean evangelism, of course. That's up to you.] You know you're doing it because it brings you pleasure.


    I have not changed my position from what I outlined in my article

    Thanks for the link. I'll take a look at that.


    What I mean by pleasure occurring or not is that it depends on material causes, not on people's opinions about what ought to happen.

    Okay, I have no problem with this then. Your previous phrasing read to me like you were advocating some kind of sui generis arising. I interpreted it to mean you were implying something different. As long as we're clear the work needs to be done and choices and rejections need to be made to bring it about, we're in agreement.


    Maximum pleasure is exactly what an ordinary person would say it is-- total filling of one's mind and body with wonderful bliss-- and it occurs when all pain is absent. When one has achieved maximum blissfulness, it's unmistakable. One will not want anything more at that time, as Epicurus noted. Contrary to rumor, regular humans can experience this.

    :thumbup:


    The maximum possible pleasure over a lifetime is realistically not likely going to involve continuous total bliss, because we don't have the power to prevent every pain, including pains that can stand in the path to pleasures--- but we can obtain a lot more ongoing pleasure than most people realize.

    :thumbup::thumbup:


    We must evaluate all decisions and virtues in light of pleasure as our sole guide and goal. Yes, of course, it's smart to take into account both our past experiences and the experiences of other humans in similar situations. That's basic physics.

    Yep, I agree with this statement, too.


    So.... Do we disagree somewhere then that I'm missing? Is there anything I've stated that you take issue with? Or that I've implied that you don't agree with? I'm sincere and not being mean, sarcastic, or flippant here. I'm genuinely curious to dig into details.

  • "Epicurus clearly tried to break sharply away from "virtue for virtue's sake." Virtue, he taught, was instrumental to pleasure and thus to leading a pleasurable life. So, it seems to me that Epicureans are still going to act virtuously to the outside observer. The inner motivation is going to be far different than the Stoic or Aristotelian, but the visible form/action is going to be similar."


    and very importantly, you said:


    "People who take pleasure in what the average human would find morally or ethically repugnant aren't living according to Epicurean principles and so we would have reason to intervene and attempt to get them to change. Just because they are feeling pleasure doesn't make their life choice-worthy. I wrestle with this, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming to these conclusions."

    Don I initially entered this conversation replying to Joshua, and you made these assertions above in your first response to me. Later, you also said there were actions that would lead to pleasurable lives for "any" organism, I disagreed, and you modified your statement to apply to "almost all"-- and that I agreed with.

    For the first quote above, I would make that same adjustment-- that "almost all" Epicureans are still going to act in ways that most outside observers would label as virtuous.

    And for the second paragraph, I think you are incorrect. If these people are truly taking pleasure in what most others would find repugnant (and when I say this, please be assured that I am _always_ referring to the overall pleasure/pain consequences of decisions, not only the immediate ones), then they _are_ living according to Epicurean principles if they make these choices. Our reason to intervene is on our own behalf. And if as a group we contribute consequences to their actions which then change their pain/pleasure outcomes, they may be wise to change their decision. However in some cases, their pleasure will outweigh any painful consequence others can devise, in the same way that I doubt any amount of torture could cause me to betray one of my children. Their lives can be choice-worthy to them and not to others.


    Here I am not only speaking about psychopaths. There are people who take great pleasure in actions which their current majority culture labels repugnant but who cause no actual harm to anyone-- and this is definitely a common human social situation, especially in association with religions, not a rare or hypothetical event. For instance, in some cultures, anything other than heteroromantic love and sex is treated with disgust and in some cases still today with the death penalty. Would you say that a consenting adult same-sex couple in such a culture was not Epicurean to have a relationship even at risk of death? I certainly would not.


    A majority reaction of repugnance is not a ruler to measure individual pleasure or Epicurean wisdom.

    That second comment was what initiated my whole train of objections. If you no longer agree with what you said, then we have no disagreement!

  • ADMIN NOTE: At this point in the conversation, Don wrote a post which launches a discussion more oriented toward "justice" than the original point of this thread. Here is a screen-clip of the post and you can find it and the ensuing discussion here. Please pursue the "justice" discussion there, and pursue the main point of this thread continue here.