Posts by Hiram

    at the crux of this issue are two facts:

    1. my oldest brother is an alcoholic and seems sure that he will never be able to quit or stop being an alcoholic.

    2. my neighbor and good friend is a recovering alcoholic also and I've visited AA meeting as a friend / family / ally in support of him. He says "idle hands do the devil's work" and that he does not believe that many addicts will stop themselves from engaging in their behavior if they're bored or idle.

    So we know that morality is never absolute.

    We also know that NOT everyone has the same moral stamina.

    This means that different moral concepts must work for different people. In fact some sources say that philosophy and morality are built for the PROTECTION of sages, because they do not really need to restrain their nature like people of lesser stamina do.

    So, the question is: is it wise to conclude that false beliefs are "ok" in some way for OTHER people who may be dealing with addiction or other issues, even if they're false. Clearly, not everyone is meant to be an Epicurean. And it's also clear to me that people with addiction or other character problems need a different approach to applied philosophy than the rest of the population.

    I don't have all the answer, but if moral absolutism can help my brother overcome or manage his addiction to alcohol WITHOUT too many bad side effects, his false beliefs may be of utility.

    Here is the relevant portion (I should have included). I think every sincere student would benefit from revisiting this in depth.

    My own thoughts is that Epicureanism can only claim to be based on the study of nature if it preserves the (originally intended) empiricism in its canon, and so the acceptance of non-empirical "faculties" is incoherent with the original intention. This strengthens my view that the third / atheistic interpretation of the Epicurean gods (or at least the idealist) is the accurate one. One can only infer so far based on the available evidence.


    Epicurean Preconceptions, by Voula Tsouna, was published in Below is a quote from it. The word enargeia means immediacy, and denotes the quality of an unmediated insight which requires no arguments to establish itself as true.


    Broadly speaking, there are two alternatives on the table. According to one, preconceptions derive their enargeia from their unmediated link to aisthēseis, sensations: because of their origin in sensation, they take on, as it were, the self-evidence and trustworthiness of sensation itself. (I call this the ‘Lockean view’.)
    According to the other, the self-evidence of preconception lies, not so much in a natural continuity between preconception and sensation, as in the spontaneity of the association between the preconception and the corresponding object as well as the word that denotes that object. For example, as soon as we hear the word ‘horse’, the preconception of a horse comes automatically to mind, and it is precisely in virtue of this association that the preconception captures ‘both the unmediated nature of an experience and its direct connection with reality’. (I call this the ‘Kantian view’.)
    Recall that Epicurus and his followers argue for the veridicality of all (sensations) partly by pointing out that they are alogoi, non-rational: the mind plays no role in sensations, whose trustworthiness depends, precisely, on the fact that they are non-rational events involving no interpretation at all (Diogenes Laertius 10.31-2).

    Diogenes Laertius (10.33)--cited in the work--introduces preconceptions in this manner:


    Before making this judgement, we must at some time or other have known by preconception the shape of a horse or a cow. We should not have given anything a name, if we had not first learnt its form by way of preconception. It follows, then, that preconceptions are clear. The object of a judgement is derived from something previously clear, by reference to which we frame the proposition, e.g. "How do we know that this is a man?"

    In section five of the essay, which is about the length of a short book, the author explains the controversy surrounding whether anticipations are ontologically a separate thing, a third entity separate from the word and the thing meant. This controversy is summarized as the three-tiered interpretation (which accepts anticipations as a third, distinct thing and is influenced by the Stoic doctrine of lekta) versus the two-tiered interpretation, which says that only names and name-bearers (objects referred to by names) may exist. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that this last interpretation is truer to Epicurean teaching. The anticipations appear to be related to our brain's pre-cognitive faculty of memorizing meanings and easily recalling them, as if unconsciously. If names are accurate, it's because the named objects correspond to them, not because meaning somehow asserts itself independently of the named objects. We have no reason whatsoever, in my view, to suppose that they exist as de-contextualized Platonic ideas on their own, or to imagine that they emerge as phenomena in any way independent from the names or the things named. The author says:


    Both the implicit denunciation of investigations of ‘mere utterance’ and the Epicurean rejection of dialectic are warnings against concentrating on language but losing connection with reality. And although Epicurus makes clear elsewhere that attending to prolepsis ensures, precisely, that we remain grounded in reality, nevertheless, in the present instance as well as in others, he chooses to highlight only words and things.

    Furthermore, the view that meanings exist as separate things from names and things named is a useful nursery for superstitions of all sorts. Ancient Egyptians believed that words (written or spoken) had magical powers, and that a person's name contained part of their essence. One could curse, influence or enchant a person by the use of their names, which is why the Pharaoh had numerous secret names, and why descendants had to continue repeating the names of their ancestors in the belief that, if the names were forgotten, their souls would no longer be efficient or would "die" on Earth.

    This view of meanings as a separate thing from names and things named also lends itself to the superstition that meanings existed apart from, and even prior to, the things that are named--and so we have problems like "in the beginning was the Word", where a complex cognitive process is believed to have preceded nature itself. The study of nature demonstrates that nature obviously existed prior to language, and that language is an emergent property of social sentient beings. Nature must not only provide a mind that has the ability to think, but also contents for it to think about, prior to the formation of thoughts and words.

    For more discussions on anticipations, you may visit this forum page.

    On tabula rasa, I never delved too deep into the subject but I do know that babies recognize mothers’ nipples :-) and social instincts are innate, and that Darwin observed tiny birds in the Galapagos that experience panic and call out for their parents whenever they see a plane flying over them. This in spite of the lack of birds of prey that eat them in galapagos, but their South American ancestors did get eaten by condors. This means that this panic instinct was not learned but inherited, and it’s difficult to imagine that 1000’s of species survived for millions of years without similar inherited instincts.

    This is a very interesting thought that I have not seen made before. I want to think about this one but I pulled it out in hopes that others can comment to. No doubt we want to avoid being in a constant negative-feedback loop. However i think I am wondering whether sentences two and three really address the same point.

    Can or should we entertain a sense of urgency about what we want to accomplish before we die separately and apart from the question of whether we regret being a part of history before we were born?

    Concerning what we accomplish prior to death, this is from my reasonings about Philodemus' scroll on death (I remember also a portion on the death of a youth, whose name I don't remember now, and how his death was unfortunate because he hadn't lived long enough to study philosophy and live pleasantly, and know the things that make life worth living--so it seems like a certain age and maturity is considered a sufficient natural lifespan to have lived well):…bout-philodemus-on-death/

    1. In addition, you must resist and avoid the desires that are both; natural and unnecessary and unnatural and unnecessary.
    1. However, there may be some leniency towards desires that are natural and unnecessary such as having a healthy sex life or going out with friends to a nicer restaurant.

    Can I ask why you feel we must "resist and AVOID" pleasures that are natural, yet unnecessary? I am including PD 26 and 30 for reference at the bottom, but concerning "resist and avoid", the founders of Epicureanism argued that we must sternly reject only HARMFUL desires, not unnecessary ones (VS 21).

    21. We must not force Nature but persuade her. We shall persuade her if we satisfy the necessary desires and also those bodily desires that do not harm us while sternly rejecting those that are harmful.

    In other words, it is not in our nature to shun pleasure (PD 20). We should enjoy them, but do so intelligently.


    26. All such desires as lead to no pain when they remain ungratified are unnecessary, and the longing is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to procure or when the desires seem likely to produce harm.

    30. Those natural desires which entail no pain when not gratified, though their objects are vehemently pursued, are also due to illusory opinion; and when they are not got rid of, it is not because of their own nature, but because of the person's illusory opinion.

    The universe is ever expanding, but will one day collapse on itself when all matter is exhausted.

    Can you explain what you mean by this one?

    Matter can not be "exhausted" because it can't be turned into nothing, only into energy / other matter--nothing comes from nothing.

    For that reason, cosmological theories of this sort are still very speculative. I think one of the theories I've read is that black holes may swallow all matter eventually, but if this happens, then the matter will still be there (just gravity won't let it escape), or black holes may eject the matter into other universes following whatever laws of nature we have yet to discover regarding black holes. But we know that matter swallowed by black holes does not disappear because otherwise, they would not have the gravity to keep in all the light in them (and we already have photographic evidence of this, as of a few months ago).

    Welcomes Charles Edwins

    I see you like Indian classical music, so you'll enjoy the music I chose for my video "I Call You to Constant Pleasures" with quotes by Epicurus. It's a beautiful melody. Cassius wasn't into Indian music and sought to change the tune (the song is actually by musicians from Germany), but I loved and relished this song from the moment I heard it.

    I moved this thread into the Frederick the Great subforum. I see the article actually labels him an Epicurean. I might at some point move Frederick into the "Epicurean" forum category, but before I did that I would want to see evidence that Frederick ever referred to himself explicitly as an Epicurean.

    This is the most inequivocal quote


    Frederick left no doubt about his Epicureanism. In 1749, at the age of 37, he published a 200-line poem called On Pleasure. Blanning (p. 156) reports that in it, Frederick “begins with a dismissal of the intense but short-lived and dangerous carnal delights offered by prostitutes” (much like Epicurus did) but that he seeks to “combine a hundred different pleasures to create just one.”

    “He declared that he would,” reports Blanning, “always follow the Epicurean gospel.” Epicurus’s term for this one pleasure is ataraxia, a pleasant, untroubled state of mind. An Epicurean is not obliged to maintain this state at all times but is encouraged to follow its guiding light. Frederick did, and this may be, in no small measure, what made him great.