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Cassius Administrator
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Posts by Cassius

    The opening of Chapter 19 of Gosling & Taylor's "The Greeks on Pleasure" is also very informative. In it, they observe that


    " It has usually been taken as fairly unproblematic which pleasures are kinetic. All sensory pleasures fall into this category and

    perhaps some mental ones such as learning. This determines Usener’s selection of passages, and it tends to be a point of

    agreement among commentators who disagree about the nature of katastematic pleasure and its relation to kinetic." (my emphasis. Elsewhere in the book they discuss this further and make clear that kinetic implies change of any kind, which is why they include learning here, and when you think about the "change" component, it's sweeping in scope.)


    At the end of the first paragraph is the sentence "But he [a commentator] agrees that all sensory pleasures are kinetic."


    In other words, when you trace back the meaning of "kinetic" you find that it really means anything that changes, and that means not only bodily pleasure but also mental pleasure -- in fact ANYTHING that you can sense as pleasurable. Which logically leads you to the question, "Well if you can't sense katestematic pleasure (if you can sense it, it must be kinetic) then what good is katastematic pleasure?"


    And I would say thus you're on the trail of the ridiculous position that there's something special called katestematic pleasure which is what Epicurus held to be the real goal of life.


    I know my position here sounds radical and hard to accept, but read Nikolsky first (he's shorter) and then read this chapter. Gosling & Taylor - On Katastematic and Kinetic Pleasure Gosling and Taylor are well-credentialed academics and don't suffer from the disrepute in which DeWItt is held in some (not all) academic circles.




    So this highlights both the pleasure of rest and the pleasure of action...

    ....so both "the cake AND the frosting".

    Yes that is the important point - Epicurus praised both (really ALL) kinds of pleasure, and there is no reason to differentiate between the static and the moving. If you can find the time please read the article by Nikolsky "Epicurus on Pleasure" and now that you see that Diogenes Laertius confirms that Epicurus praised both / all, and he never remotely said that the active pleasures are for the sake of the static (or vice versa) then you are prepared to see that the standard argument that you should go for pleasures of "rest" in all things is hogwash. There is no true rest in human life (or in the universe for that matter) because all atoms are constantly in motion. "Rest" is a fiction of the Platonic imagination because his realm of forms (which does not exist) is the only place where "things" allegedly remain immovable and the same. There is no "horseness" - only horses, and there are in my view no real pleasures that can be considered unmoving or at rest, only some which last longer than others.

    OK I just finished listening to the full address. Before I forget here are some preliminary comments:


    (1) The only thing that jumps out at me as a major issue is that Tyndall says that Lucretius invented the swerve himself and that this was an innovation (a negative one) from Epicurus and Democritus. I am aware that some commentators take that position but I don't think it is justified by the full history and I would definitely warn people against this interpretation.


    (2) All in all I do think this work deserves reading by most everyone here. It's a good snapshot of where people were in the late 1800's. But at the same time, "where people were in the late 1800's" doesn't translate directly into a bolstering of the goal of this forum (to promote Epicurean philosophy) because it also preserves what I would say are their failures in following up on Epicurus more supportively, which I think was readily possible. If I had more time I would extend this point to carry it through why England has proved itself largely anti-Epicurean even up through today.


    (3) Related to point two I think is the nervousness I have whenever people focus on the Darwin arguments. I certainly see how they fit in with the liberation of the world from religion, but I have this gnawing doubt about them and I suspect the doubt is based on this: I personally don't think that any number of "purely scientific observations" about changes in life over the eons really adds up to a "philosophic" argument about the origin of life and the existence (or not) of supernatural gods.

    (4) I think this is the issue that bothers me with Frances Wright. No matter how long your string of observations are, you are still at some point left to make a logical deduction about things you have not observed, and numbers of observations don't add up "by themselves" to a logical conclusion. You've still got to take a position on the "epistemology" questions of how you process the evidence into a conclusion. I realize now over time that this is why I personally am much more comfortable with the persuasive power of "nothing comes from nothing or goes to nothing" than some other people who are also strong fans of Epicurus are. To me personally, you could stack up all the observations of natural phenomena and the details of bees and flowers ad infinitum, and those would still have not nearly the impact on me as the argument that "we don't see anything coming from nothing or going to nothing, and we would if there are supernatural forces, therefore there are no supernatural forces." I think that's why I am also singularly unimpressed by Aristotle -- for all the apparent work he put into his process of categorization, that doesn't add up to anything special in my mind, and in fact it smacks of its own kind of "word-gaming" since his categories end up seeming very arbitrary to me.


    Thats all I have time for right now but I suspect that's enough!

    HA -- I want to say this for the record. Lately I am getting worried about saying "I was not aware." I am mostly joking and I don't think there is really anything wrong with my memory but with the forum software available I am getting to think I need to do a search here every time I get ready to write "I am not aware" or anything like that, because I bet in a good number of cases i I did the search I would find myself talking about the very subject a few years ago! ;) I am sure no one else has that problem but we're going to need to be tolerant of each other on that score.

    Very interesting - I was not aware of those takes. This is probably going to be one of those situations then where I think it is best to read everything together as if the doctrine numbers did not exist. A "things" approach would make sense too but I am going to bet that the closing paragraphs of the document were probably directed at relationships to other "people" for lots of reasons.

    Grappling with Epicurus's contractual nature of justice is not easy. Intellectually, it makes sense.

    And I am not even sure that "contractual nature of justice" really conveys his views accurately either. I can see how it can be interpreted that way, and he does talk about agreement being involved. But when a particular agreement can at one moment be just but another moment become unjust (due to a change in circumstances) then it isn't just a simple question of "Did you make the agreement?" And "Did you break it?" (which I think is the way we tend to think of contract law.)


    Justice is definitely one of the more difficult doctrines for us to understand, but I agree with Don that the problem is that our cultural attachment to contract and the idea of absolute right and wrong is so great today. Quite possibly if we looked at this from the perspective of a "family," (or at least friends) where we don't view agreements so formally and we release people from agreements easily, we might find it easier to understand Epicurus.


    Because remembering PD39 he is saying that we try to make people into one family (or friends? Depending on the Greek) and for those who can't be made that successfully we to an extent separate from them. Maybe this is another situation like gods where he is stating that the common definition of the word needs to be understood differently.


    So maybe we ought to be thinking about PD39 when we discuss the justice doctrines.

    This strikes me as hugely important—is there something about the Epicurean conception of justice (as not morally absolute) that appeals to the slaveholder, but repulses the abolitionist?

    I think that comment deserves a reply, just not the one I gave it before I moderated myself :)


    I think that regardless of the specifics of the context in which Caldwell was involved, the American Civil War, it is widely true is that the Epicurean concept of justice is always going to appeal to the minority, to the dissenter, to the rebel --- to basically everyone who finds himself or herself in a minority position.


    If we happen to find ourselves part of the majority and the establishment, then we like to think that such is the natural order of things, and we tend toward Platonism or Stoicism.


    People who find themselves "on the outs" from society are always going to be searching for answers to questions about whether the views of the majority are "right" and "just" for some cosmic reason, or simply because the majority is numerically stronger.


    Every time we get tempted to let our emotions pull us in the direction of thinking that one moral position or another is so compelling that it "ought" to be universally received, we've got to remember - I think - that the nature of the cosmos in the Epicurean worldview is that such absolute standards of authority don't exist. We can and we should act as vigorously as possible to see that we surround ourselves with things and relationships that please us, and we separate ourselves from things and relationships that cause us pain, so we get involved where it is reasonable to do so and we fight to defend what we think is just. But we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that there is any absolute universal law or absolute justice that is behind our decision. Presumably across the species pain and pleasure does spring from a common background and we can expect that we aren't the only ones who measure pain and pleasure as we do, but I think it's fair to say that human experience is very wide on that score, and we have to expect that there are lots of people who disagree with us in most facets of life.


    I think the bottom line is that no matter how much we may want there to be some cosmic force that writes our conception of justice and enforces it, Epicurus would say that such a cosmic force doesn't exist. That's true in the case of your question for both the slaveholders who thought god was on their side and the abolitionists who thought god was on their side. But we could also pick any other age and context and dispute, no matter how hotly contested, and analyze it in the same way.


    I think something like that is the ultimate philosophic lesson. Whether we are part of the "in crowd" or the "out crowd" is not the determining factor - there's no fate and no human necessity. But that circumstance likely influences who it is who finds themselves motivated to study Epicurus and other views that justify "outsiders" and non-conformists, and who it is who stays closer to home and to "establishment" views like for example the Stoics.

    Ok here is a much better second effort of an MP3 version of the Belfast Address: https://www.swisstransfer.com/…1c-4bac-8420-69259164f37e No doubt there are still some errors. Please report them and help me get a better transcript here: Tyndall - Address at Belfast


    I still haven't completed a full run-through, and I hesitate to sound like I am fully endorsing this until I fully absorb his conclusions and where he leaves the argument - which I haven't yet been able to finish.


    I note in scanning the latter part of the text that a lot of it cites Darwin, and that always gives me pause. I am of course well disposed toward Darwin and what Darwin stands for in the public mind, but I have never read much of Darwin himself to be able to know for myself. Much of the reason I mention this is that I am not an expert on Nietzsche either - by far - but I think I am aware that Nietzsche did not think highly of Darwin. Not that I consider Nietzsche a standard of perfection either, but given Nietzsche's appreciation for Epicurus I am concerned that there may be some deep-seated philosophic issues that I need to understand. In the meantime I think it's best if I continue to hold back in being as sweeping in an endorsement of Darwin as his work on evolution might indicate would be the case.


    I note that Tyndall is touching on some of the deeper philosophical issues in this essay, so maybe in reviewing this speech he'll help us explore what I think is a similar issue: Why so many good scientific-minded Brits of the last several hundred years could end up being so good on "raw science" but so bad on philosophy. (And I say that as someone who is genetically primary a Brit himself, if I understand my DNA results!)

    Ok Will do. I did already set up a separate thread on John Tyndall.


    EDIT: Rather than move to a new thread I just deleted most of my comments, which were the ones that were really over the line. It's highly unlikely we need to discuss the War Between The States here any further than we already have, or might in the future, other than as Frances Wright's pre-war comments might be of interest. Too little to be gained and too much danger to go into that unless we find some figure who specifically discusses Epicurus.


    As for Caldwell let's just focus on Caldwell's philosophical views and if we find enough there to talk about we can create a separate thread just on him.


    The point of this thread is to "identify Epicurean figures of the past," and that's another limitation as to Caldwell -- if he was just commenting briefly he probably merits more the "general discussion" group anyway.

    Joshua after quickly scanning through what Don sent I think I am going to have to defer to you to assess the significance of it. Please let me know what you think whenever you get around to it. I want to get that text from Tyndal into better shape for an mp3 version and i will upload a new effort soon.

    I have never read the Belfast address and will try to do so today. It would be a lot easier for me personally if we had audio copies read by someone sympathetic - I wonder who that might be? :)


    Failing that (and no doubt for good reason) we can always run some of these through one of the better text-to-speech engines, but that probably means have it in good "text" form from which an engine can translate.


    I downloaded from Don's link several different formats. The PDF version is a series of images and this likely unusable. The Epub and txt versions are in decent shape, but will need editing to correct errors where the scanning and OCR failed.


    I have done one run-through and uploaded a cleaner TXT version here: Tyndal - Address at Belfast


    I also placed a copy here where collaborative editing can be done:


    Tyndall - Address at Belfast


    That's not efficient to have two copies, but I realize that for someone who knows what they are doing, having the TXT file for use in a Text editor is a lot easier than trying to edit online.


    I will work with this today and find a way forward.


    Already the version in the lexicon might be usable if someone calls up that page and has a "text reader" application on their telephone.

    I have never read the Belfast address and will try to do so today. It would be a lot easier for me personally if we had audio copies read by someone sympathetic - I wonder who that might be? :)


    Failing that (and no doubt for good reason) we can always run some of these through one of the better text-to-speech engines, but that probably means have it in good "text" form from which an engine can translate.


    I downloaded from Don's link several different formats. The PDF version is a series of images and this likely unusable. The Epub and txt versions are in decent shape, but will need editing to correct errors where the scanning and OCR failed.


    I have done one run-through and uploaded a cleaner TXT version here: Tyndal - Address at Belfast


    I also placed a copy here where collaborative editing can be done:



    That's not efficient to have two copies, but I realize that for someone who knows what they are doing, having the TXT file for use in a Text editor is a lot easier than trying to edit online.


    I will work with this today and find a way forward.


    Already the version in the lexicon might be usable if someone calls up that page and has a "text reader" application on their telephone.

    And I and I am sure others stand ready to give you constructive comment and suggestions as you do that.


    You have been very polite and constructive so far and it is definitely within the scope of the forum to walk through the preliminary learning stages with people who have an open and constructive attitude.


    I hope you will understand however that it's a practical concern arising from many years of experience (and reading about centuries of dispute before that) that as DeWitt says Epicurus is simultaneously one of the most loved but also most hated philosophers. Many sincere people decide to cast their lot with supernatural gods or virtue idealism, and once they make up their minds to do so their constant argument has to be dealt with for everyone's sake.


    One of the most core aspects of this forum is that the world is full of people who want to selectively adopt some aspects of Epicurean philosophy (especially use if the phrase "absence of pain") and ignore or repudiate the rest.


    We therefore set up the forum as a place where those of us who want to be sure we understand the full extent of the philosophy can collaborate among ourselves free from the constant roar of greedy Acheron harping from the Stoic - Academic community.


    You'll know if and when the time for you to withdraw comes, and I doubt you are anywhere near that point yet.


    In fact I am sure we have many lurkers who are committed to other views but do not "make trouble" because they profit from reading along. I have been pleasantly surprised that we have had far fewer problems than I originally expected we would have, largely I think because we do try to be clear in the welcome message, terms of service, posts, etc that we do have these limits. So please understand that the reminders of the limits are not by any means directed at you personally but are needed to maintain the ongoing continuity of the forum as others read them in the future.