PD24 - Alternate Translations

  • Well if she is saying that "fear" is a word and that the definition of a word is contextual (with different words in different languages) then I have no problem with that.


    If she is saying that the emotion that we call fear in English but which all animals and all humans appear to share - because we feel it prerationally -does not exist until a word is put to it after thinking about it, then that would be something else entirely.

  • That's the point: We don't "think" about it. It's not "Well, I'm experiencing fear now." Your brain takes in all its sensory input, compares it to past experiences, and pairs this input with a "concept" of "fear." The process is entirely pre-rational. You can look at your fear post facto and realize that wasn't a snake, just a branch on the ground.

    This is how people become over sensitive to certain stimuli and jump at everything. Their brains become conditioned to see threats around every corner. Everything is paired with their "fear concept."

    Her and others' research showed that those photos of paradigmatic "emotions" we can "read on people's faces" are without merit. Those paradigms do not exist. So I would be careful with phrases like " all animals and all humans appear to share" especially when it comes to anthropomorphizing animals.

    Godfrey is welcomed to fact check me in my interpretation here! It's been awhile since I read the book now.

  • OK I am trying to keep not only the big picture but also just the thread title in focus as we go forward. The issue under discussion is broadly speaking (I think) whether "concepts" as that word is commonly used are a part of the Epicurean canon of truth.


    Some translators seem to take that position (that "concepts" are part of the canon of truth), but I think it is fair to say the majority (and those I personally find most persuasive) do not take that position. They think Epicurus was referring to something pre-rational, potentially "intuitive," that functions in parallel (and analogously, I think it is fair to say, as pre-rational) with the five senses and with the pleasure/pain mechanism.


    So I think I am reading the Feldman-Barrett comments to say that she also agrees that there is a pre-rational mechanism going on that pre-exists in the sequence of things before the arisal of what we might call "the concept of fear."


    If I am reading that correctly that that makes FB a useful data point in supporting Epicurus' contentions and explaining them as part of Epicurean philosophy.


    (?)

  • what we might call "the concept of fear."

    Exactly. LFB (I like Godfrey 's initialism) would probably call that ("what we might call") something like the ideation or idea or realization of fear and the pre-rational instance the "concept."

  • Exactly. LFB (I like Godfrey 's initialism) would probably call that ("what we might call") something like the ideation or idea or realization of fear and the pre-rational instance the "concept."

    Ok very good. If she is doing that then her terminology would appear to be not in accord with general use of the word concept, so we'll need to be careful to take that into account in discussing that aspect of her work.

  • I note in her abstract that she starts off by saying that psychological states are "real."


    I didn't read any further than the abstract but that is one of the key issues that we answer philosophically rather than through science. What does "real" mean really mean?


    I think that is what Epicurus was focusing on in major aspects of the canon of truth. There are all sorts of ways to think about what it means to be real to us, but ultimately I think he was seeing the canonical faculties as that ultimate testing ground of reality. Whatever they report to us is ultimately something we feel to be real at that moment. That doesn't mean that our opinion about the perception and the ideas / concepts we process from it are going to be accurate in all respects to wider reality, but whatever these faculties are reporting to us at any particular moment is something that our nature tells us to process as real at that moment. And that is all we as human beings can ever have as the raw data with which to judge for ourselves what is "real" to us.


    And so while she may be interested in reducing the question to a matter or neurons or other bioiogical processes, that's a reduction that may lead to many medical or other practical benefits, but on the philosophical war level the focus remains on the philosophical question of the nature or truth and reality.

  • I didn't read any further than the abstract but that is one of the key issues that we answer philosophically rather than through science. What does "real" mean really mean?

    She defines two definitions of what she means by "real":

    Quote from Barrett

    Natural sciences like physics deal with scientific categories that are assumed to be observer independent (they are real in the natural sense and can be discovered by humans)

    Social sciences like sociology or economics deal with categories that are observer dependent (and are real because they are invented and shared by humans).

    I think those are good basic definitions of how we use "real" in conversation. And Epicurus advised using definitions that could be agreed on by the average person. Photosynthesis - a natural process discoverable by science - is "real" in the first sense. Money - a culturally agreed-upon system of commerce - is "real" in the second sense.


    I think your premise that philosophy is the arbiter of what's "real" is a tad restrictive unless you read her definitions as broadly "philosophical."

  • Yes i do think her responses there are pretty philosophical. She's listing at least two kinds of meaning for "real" that have significantly different definitions, and even those I think probably bear a lot more scrutiny. In the first she uses the word "discoverable" -- Does that mean that they are discoverable to the five senses, or discoverable some other way?


    In the second she says "real because they are invented and shared by humans. Does that also mean subject to verification through the senses? In fact I am not at all sure this whole second category is consistent with a common sense view of "real." Are economics and sociology "real"? I am pretty well prepared to say that they are great time-wasters ;) but does that mean they are "real"?


    I am afraid now I am getting too far down a rabbit hole that I was warning myself against, because the answers to these questions may or may not help us toward a better understanding of Epicurean philosophy. I guess they do, in the sense that these are questions that Epicurus would probably have asked himself.

  • In the first she uses the word "discoverable" -- Does that mean that they are discoverable to the five senses,

    Yes, because they are "observer independent" in her words. They exist and *can* be observed, and they exist whether being observed or not. The sun is real in this sense. It's going to exist whether humans are observing it or not.

    In the second she says "real because they are invented and shared by humans. Does that also mean subject to verification through the senses? In fact I am not at all sure this whole second category is consistent with a common sense view of "real." Are economics and sociology "real"? I am pretty well prepared to say that they are great time-wasters ;) but does that mean they are "real"?

    Justice is real in this sense, "real because they are invented and shared by humans)." Humans can agree to a contract and talk about "justice" in relation to that contract, but it's not"real" like the sun is real. Without humans (I'm sticking to Earth-based examples), the "observers", there is no such thing as justice. The agreed-upon general idea is "observer dependent." Epicurus obviously thought justice was important, he devoted several Principal Doctrines to it, so it is a "real" concept with which to grapple, it "exists" in the real world but it is contextual and cultural. It doesn't exist like the sun or atoms and void, but there is a thing we name "justice."


    That's how I'd characterize her two categories of real.