Can you seek happiness and be full of joy when there is a war in Europe? Wes Cecil podcast.

  • The "pleasure of relief" in my mind is not pleasure - it is just relief.


    Pleasure is for bodily sensations.


    Enjoyment is for mental sensations

    I would suggest "the feelings are two: pleasure and pain." Everything we feel is either pleasure or pain. It may be mild or intense, but it's either pleasure or pain. Relief is pleasure. Anxiety is pain. Enjoyment is pleasure. Happiness is pleasure. Aponia, ataraxia, khara (joy, exultation) , euphrosyne (mirth, good cheer, merriment), etc. are all pleasure. Take any "feeling" and it will fall somewhere on the scale of pleasure or pain. Even equilibrium or homeostasis is pleasure according to Epicurus. I personally am becoming more convinced that that is exactly what aponia and ataraxia are.

  • "but I wouldn't phrase it as happiness and joy are the "product of war."


    My main clarification in this point is that I would not say (and don't think I did) that they are ALWAYS the product of war but pleasure CAN BE the product of war and of many other things that we find generally disreputable.


    The test is always in the consequences, because if a thing in fact generates any degree of pleasure, it is pleasurable at least for that moment. Maybe not a wise idea at all, but the proof of whether any pleasure is generated is in the actual result for the time that pleasure is generated, rather than all the ultimate consequences of pain which may or may not occur later.

  • Hmm... I'm not sure I follow your reasoning, although it wouldn't be the first time we've talked past each other. So I'll prattle on myself.


    When I read "X is the product of war" I read that as "War is necessary for X."


    I yhink I understand what you're saying about ALWAYS and CAN BE, but I read that as making it possible to say, "I want to feel pleasure so I'll go to war." or "War gives me pleasure."


    Some people may feel pleasurable feelings while fighting a war, but, overall, I would have to posit that war is not a choice-worthy source of pleasure because you are putting yourself in danger of being killed and other - let's say - hazards. And, yes, I'm judging whether someone's pursuit of pleasure is choiceworthy or not in this case. I think I have precedent for that from Epicurus himself.


    Even on the side of the one who does not choose war but has war thrust upon them, war does not "produce" pleasure. Here's how I'm playing out that scenario in my head (Oh, save me Zeus! I'm going down the road of hypotheticals!!!)

    • Let's say my life is stable, comfortable, overall pleasurable with episodes now and again of pain.
    • Something happens and I have to defend my home and family from hostile forces... I'm now in a war.
    • My life is now unstable, dangerous, with an overall abundance of pain with small episodes of pleasure.
    • I am fighting a war to return peace and stability to my life so I can again have a life that is stable, comfortable, and has more pleasure than pain. I did not choose to fight this war, but I now have no choice but to engage in war.
    • My side wins the war. I can piece my life back together hopefully and find more pleasure than pain in my existence.

    So, given this scenario, I would not say the "pleasure" I feel after the war is a "product" of the war. I felt pleasure for fleeting moments while fighting the war. I will hopefully feel more pleasure as a result of the absence of conflict and a return to peace and stability. But the war did not "produce" pleasure. It may have created an environment conducive to experiencing feelings of pleasure more likely, but I'm just having problems with that phrasing of produce and product.


    PS. I reread Cassius 's post in the light of morning and pulled this out:

    Quote

    The test is always in the consequences, because if a thing in fact generates any degree of pleasure, it is pleasurable at least for that moment. Maybe not a wise idea at all, but the proof of whether any pleasure is generated is in the actual result for the time that pleasure is generated, rather than all the ultimate consequences of pain which may or may not occur later.

    I think we're saying similar things here and in my paragraph that starts "Some people may feel pleasurable feelings while fighting a war..." Here I'm thinking of mercenaries and those who feel pleasure in the sense of power (I'm assuming) they feel engaging in battle. Maybe even those who are "fighting for a cause" although this latter may fall in my bullet points. Although I still maintain that mercenary pleasure isn't choice worthy for the same reason endless strings of drinking parties are not choiceworthy.

  • A VERY ROUGH draft of the idea using a public domain image.

  • I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier.


    First Snow in Alsace

    by Richard Wilbur


    The snow came down last night like moths

    Burned on the moon; it fell till dawn,

    Covered the town with simple cloths.


    Absolute snow lies rumpled on

    What shellbursts scattered and deranged,

    Entangled railings, crevassed lawn.


    As if it did not know they'd changed,

    Snow smoothly clasps the roofs of homes

    Fear-gutted, trustless and estranged.


    The ration stacks are milky domes;

    Across the ammunition pile

    The snow has climbed in sparkling combs.


    You think: beyond the town a mile

    Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes

    Of soldiers dead a little while.


    Persons and persons in disguise,

    Walking the new air white and fine,

    Trade glances quick with shared surprise.


    At children's windows, heaped, benign,

    As always, winter shines the most,

    And frost makes marvelous designs.


    The night guard coming from his post,

    Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow

    And warms him with a boyish boast:


    He was the first to see the snow.

  • "I want to feel pleasure so I'll go to war." or "War gives me pleasure."

    I think we're pretty much on the same page after reading the recent posts.


    I think the issues that arise in discussing things like this is mainly a matter of keeping multiple contexts in mind.


    Those two statements of course as written without additional context would be highly unlikely to make sense in most cases.


    But since everything is a "case" more than a "rule" even those two could be tied to a context and make sense:


    "I want to continue to feel pleasure at living under the Roman Republic so I will participate in assassinating Julius Caesar and go to war against Anthony and Octavian." (That would be something I could easily hear Cassius Longinus saying, given his letters to Cicero justifying his Epicurean beliefs, but as always when discussing the Roman Civil War there seem to be a lot of things going on beneath the surface so I am not really sure whose side I would take if i had been there)


    "War against the Persians will lead to great pleasure if am able able to save Sparta and Greece." (I could hear Leonidas saying something like that prior to Themopalyae.)


    But really at this point there's probably nothing further to be accomplished in illustrating the point. As usual I think we're basically at the same position. The interesting point that we can file away for the future is the extent to which illustrations like this are helpful in the "teaching" aspect of Epicurean philosophy. For the same reason that we discussed it we probably do need good examples of the point that only "pleasure" itself is ALWAYS a desirable feeling (because our nature presents itself to us that way.


    That means everything else (even the **choice** to pursue a particular pleasure at a particular moment) has to be evaluated contextually.



    And I don't think we are just playing with words. I think the clear articulation of these issues has to come before we can clearly understand it or express the point to others.

  • As usual I think we're basically at the same position. The interesting point that we can file away for the future is the extent to which illustrations like this are helpful in the "teaching" aspect of Epicurean philosophy. For the same reason that we discussed it we probably do need good examples of the point that only "pleasure" itself is ALWAYS a desirable feeling (because our nature presents itself to us that way.


    That means everything else (even the **choice** to pursue a particular pleasure at a particular moment) has to be evaluated contextually.


    And I don't think we are just playing with words. I think the clear articulation of these issues has to come before we can clearly understand it or express the point to others.

    Cassius, I think you are opening it up to a wider vision which takes in account all of human history. If we come back to our present modern time, we now have democracy and it's accompanying military system. The common person doesn't consider these kinds of questions. As you have brought all this up, I find it to be helpful in that is has me thinking in a broader scope.


    Generally I don't think much on the ethics of these issues, war, etc, etc. (I do often find that I feel a certain resistence to the very topic of "war"). And also, thank you Marco for bringing up this topic and posting the podcast.


    For me, my main focus here on the forum is for simple choices in life. The Epicurean philosophy presents a way of paying attention to pleasure, and making enjoyment of life a meaningful and worthy focus -- because we believe that we have just this life and no after-life or reincarnation.


    For myself, I still need to spend more time with "unpacking" words and ideas dealing with "pleasure", "enjoyment", "happiness", "joy", especially because now our current modern cultural understanding of the word "pleasure" is very narrow. It think it will also continue to be an issue for others as well.

  • our current modern cultural understanding of the word "pleasure" is very narrow.

    I wonder if that's a problem with the word or with the current cultural understanding. Personally, I'd say the latter. For me, putting "pleasure" in the context of "pleasure/pain" is helpful in getting past the semantic baggage of conceiving "pleasure" as simply a "hedonistic" elated feeling. Pleasure encompasses everything we feel that isn't painful or causes us pain. "Simple" as that. ;) That's why Epicurus could claim (and rightly from my perspective) that homeostasis and equilibrium are pleasurable.

  • Here is the definition of the word "pleasure" that comes up at the top of the page with a Google search:


    noun

    a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.

    "she smiled with pleasure at being praised"

    synonyms: happiness, delight, joy, gladness, rapture, glee, satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment, contentment, contentedness, enjoyment, amusement, delectation


    adjective

    used or intended for entertainment rather than business.

    "pleasure boats"


    verb

    give sexual enjoyment or satisfaction to.

    "tell me what will pleasure you"

  • 1 - yes credit for this topic goes to Marco, not to me... I just added the pedantic word playing :)


    2 - Kalosynis view of the definition is the common one, yet to understand the philosophy we have to use the broader one that Epicurus was using. That makes it necessary to speak to both types of people and practice being understood to both.

  • view of the definition is the common one, yet to understand the philosophy we have to use the broader one that Epicurus was using

    I believe that given some time I can solve this "problem" :)

  • Kalosyni's post causes me to continue beating the poor dead horse by an image that Joshua's post evokes:


    The picture I now have in my mind to double down on the point is thinking of those poor devils in the trenches fighting WW1 (I'm not sure where Alsace is but I'll take it as close enough to the trench warfare area).


    Even if I were huddled down in a trench in miserable cold and wet conditions keeping my head down and listening to shellbursts exploding overhead, I submit an Epicurean in that position should still look at every moment by moment decision using the same criteria I would if I were at a banquet in Paris:


    Every decision every moment comes down to the same issue: By what standards do we make our decisions. Even in the trench an inch or a second away from possible death, the answer is the same: Every decision is weighed by the same question: "What will happen to me if I make this choice? Will this choice bring me greater pleasure or greater pain?"


    Or as stated in the Vatican Sayings:


    VS71. Every desire must be confronted by this question: What will happen to me if the object of my desire is accomplished, and what if it is not?


    I don't think that's limited to "every desire" in the sense of choosing from vanilla vs chocolate ice cream. It's the ultimate question that has to be automatized and used as rigorously as you can to optimize every second of your life.


    EDIT: .... the ultimate question.... as opposed to:

    "What would God want me to do?"

    "What would I do if I were a virtuous person?"

    "What would logic and reason alone (if I were a Vulcan like Mr Spock) tell me to do?"

  • Let's say my life is stable, comfortable, overall pleasurable with episodes now and again of pain.
    Something happens and I have to defend my home and family from hostile forces... I'm now in a war.
    My life is now unstable, dangerous, with an overall abundance of pain with small episodes of pleasure.
    I am fighting a war to return peace and stability to my life so I can again have a life that is stable, comfortable, and has more pleasure than pain. I did not choose to fight this war, but I now have no choice but to engage in war.
    My side wins the war. I can piece my life back together hopefully and find more pleasure than pain in my existence.

    In my mind survival does not equal pleasure. Survival does not guarantee pleasure. Don's quote is applicable even in other situations -- For example, someone getting into a career requiring long stressful hours of work, and then transitioning into a different line of work which is less stressful.


    The drive for survival is not the same as the pursuit of enjoyment in life. In survival we want to eliminate pain, in enjoyment we are adding in pleasure.


    These are all nuances, and interesting to talk about.

  • These are all nuances, and interesting to talk about.

    Yes, right, because we sometimes choose not to survive if the cost in pain in our view would be too great.


    Survival itself is valuable only to the extent that it would lead to more pleasure than pain.


    So I think we're agreeing that any goal to "survive" is a valuable goal only to the extent that we think it will lead to more pleasure than pain.


    I wonder if it was for reasons like this that Nietzsche went for a "will to power" rather than "will to survive." Of course I think there's lots of other opinion out there on how "survival" may be the automatic goal that kicks in instinctively, but that "survival for the sake of survival" isn't on many philosophers' list of good ideas, unless the survival lead to something else (in Epicurus' case pleasure).

  • If Pleasure and Pain are mutually exhaustive (ie all experiences are pleasure or pain) then the elimination of pain must be a pleasure.


    I'm not sure if there's anything in the text that spells this out explicitly, but this is how I understand the "limit" conversation. Once you eliminate all pain, that's the limit of pleasure because everything left over IS pleasure (if it's not pain it is by definition pleasure)


    I drew out a sketch to try to further understand this myself - similar to the concept of the vessel. If we think of life as pleasure, pain, and neutral, then just removing pain doesn't reach the limit of pleasure. But if you realize that there is pleasure in anything that is not pain (yes, even organizing a sock drawer), then there is no neutral, so what is left over when pain is removed is all pleasure


    In the picture, the bright pink represents more intense or active pleasures and the pale pink represents passive pleasures, with white representing "neutral." Which circle is the most pink? Except for the first one, they are all at the limit of pinkness. Darker pink is not more or less pink than lighter pink. They're both pleasure, the difference is just the shade.

  • Agree with Don - spot on, and a useful chart and description as well.


    I would add as further explanation that your description ("In the picture, the bright pink represents more intense or active pleasures and the pale pink represents passive pleasures, with white representing "neutral." Which circle is the most pink? Except for the first one, they are all at the limit of pinkness. Darker pink is not more or less pink than lighter pink. They're both pleasure, the difference is just the shade.") is necessary for understanding the point of the chart.


    I don't think that a person looking at the chart without explanation would conclude that "except for the first one, all are at the limit of pinkness." Without "explanation" (which comes through philosophy) I think most people would say that the top right circle is the "most pink" because they would be automatically be looking at the darkness (intensity) and fullness (purity) of the color in the circle as making it "most pink."


    However, with the explanation, which I agree makes sense by explaining that "pink" includes all shades of pink, the chart conveys exactly the point which is intended: that the "limit of pleasure" does not mean "the most intense pleasure possible" but in fact means a state in which pleasure cannot be increased BY DEFINITION.


    I would say that the essential point here is that you are showing the LOGIC of statements such as:


    PD03. The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body, nor of mind, nor of both at once.




    But even more importantly and helpfully, this helps with the explanation of 18, 19, and 20, because it is the logical /philosophical 'reasoned understanding" and the "measuring, by reason, the limits of pleasure," and "the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding" which enable us to understand the point. There's the other citation to the point that not everyone is capable of figuring out the problem, and this is the reason we need Epicurean philosophy, because we can't "feel" our way to a reasoned understanding that full life does not require an infinite time:




    PD18. The pleasure in the flesh is not increased when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied: and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures, and of the emotions akin to them, which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind.


    PD19. Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures, by reason, the limits of pleasure.


    PD20. The flesh perceives the limits of pleasure as unlimited, and unlimited time is required to supply it. But the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding of the ultimate good of the flesh and its limits, and having dissipated the fears concerning the time to come, supplies us with the complete life, and we have no further need of infinite time; but neither does the mind shun pleasure, nor, when circumstances begin to bring about the departure from life, does it approach its end as though it fell short, in any way, of the best life.


    So that takes us back to the point I will argue relentlessly, that PD3 and referring to the "limit of quantity of pleasure" the references in Menoeceus to pleasure being equal to absence of pain are not a call to asceticism.


    Instead, they are a call to a reasoned understanding of how in fact it does make sense to see "Pleasure" as the goal of life, in contrast to "virtue" or "piety" or "meaningfulness" or whatever else anyone wants to suggest. Unless those bring pleasure, they are worthless.

  • "pink" includes all shades of pink

    I like that, too.

    So, by definition: "Pleasure" includes all shades of pleasure in this analysis (which I think is the right one).

    Which then follows on that where there is pleasure, there is not pain.

    So, it's not the "removal of pain" that is the focus - as some commentators (and academics) want to do. The addition of pleasure *IS* the removal of pain ONLY because the two can't co-exist. Where there is pleasure, there is not pain. It is the addition of more pleasure - putting the focus on pleasure - that makes a statement the following possible...

    Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body, nor of mind, nor of both at once.

    Bah! I'm just prattling on like Epicurus at the end of Book 28! ^^  reneliza did a much better job and was much more succinct!

  • The addition of pleasure *IS* the removal of pain ONLY because the two can't co-exist. Where there is pleasure, there is not pain.

    Yes and I think that's pretty close to the intersection of the feeling / intellectual issue. We can feel that pleasure and pain can't co-exist, because we by experience feel only one of the other at a time.


    However unless we "think about" and "reason through" the issue, and identify by definition that there are only two feelings (all good feelings are "pleasure" and all bad feelings as "pain") and then we go forward and realize intellectually that this means that "pleasure and pain" can't co-exist, then we're not in a position to extend these findings to their logical conclusions.


    We (most of us) won't be able to identify that it is reasonable to say that "pleasure" can be "full" in the bottom left and bottom right circles that ReneLiza has identified as also fully pink/pleasure. We will think instead that in order to have a full life we have to go for the top right circle, or even to keep darkening that circle or changing its shades on and on and on, never stopping, when we should realize all along that as long as the white/pain is gone, the circle is fully "pink."


    In this a word game? Yes. Does it fully satisfy us when we get old and we want to keep living forever? Probably not. But does it help us realize that no matter how long we stay on the treadmill of time we can't improve the experience of running full speed on that treadmill? I think so, yes.


    DeWitt's mountaintop analogy is probably more attractive than comparing life to a "treadmill." Even with a mountaintop, which we all generally see as "good," no matter how long we stay at the summit of the mountain the experience really doesn't get any better after we've looked around for a relatively short while.

  • I don't think that a person looking at the chart without explanation would conclude that "except for the first one, all are at the limit of pinkness." Without "explanation" (which comes through philosophy) I think most people would say that the top right circle is the "most pink" because they would be automatically be looking at the darkness (intensity) and fullness (purity) of the color in the circle as making it "most pink."


    However, with the explanation, which I agree makes sense by explaining that "pink" includes all shades of pink, the chart conveys exactly the point which is intended: that the "limit of pleasure" does not mean "the most intense pleasure possible" but in fact means a state in which pleasure cannot be increased BY DEFINITION.

    I originally drew this out with whatever markers I had on my desk and picked pink at first just because I like it, but then the more I thought it through, pink is the perfect color for this, because it is defined by being some mix of red and white. If you take it all the way to either extreme, it's literally not pink anymore. This isn't to say anything about "higher" or "lower" pleasures, but rather that although the instinct is probably to say that darker pink=more pink, that can be debunked easily by pointing out that red is not "more pink" than pink.


    PD18. The pleasure in the flesh is not increased when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied: and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures, and of the emotions akin to them, which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind.

    PD18 was definitely my main point of understanding, although I still have a ways to go in wrapping my mind around the latter part about pleasure in the mind...