Martin Moderator
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Posts by Martin


    Observable universe is a good modern analogy.

    Solar system or galaxy seem to be a better modern analogy for cosmos. That would leave enough space for gods between solar systems or galaxies und would not put them completely out of reach to the point that we should rather tear off completely what Epicurus wrote about them.

    Thanks for the compilation.

    I agree with about half of them as more or less strong analogies but the others are too much of a stretch:

    1. Momentum does not fit in here because its law of conservation is independent from that for energy.

    1. and 2. are only weak analogies because elementary particles can be created from kinetic energy and destroyed into other forms of energy (but not from nothing / into nothing as correctly stated by Epicurus in that context).

    8. No (or I just do not see that one).

    9. Farfetched because what Epicurus claims here is quite different from Newton's laws. Instead, the analogy with molecular and lattice vibrations is much stronger and really impressive/prophetic.

    10, Brownian motion fits less well than the uncertainty principle.

    11. OK with Nate's disclaimer.

    12. Innumerable seems not to fit as of now.

    I guess that "the solar plexus having an association with sight and the throat having an association with listening" is rather a part of the woo-woo. Although the ancients did get quite some things right, most of those connections seem to be arbitrary and based on superstition.

    I keep using the term "hedonic calculus" because I do not know a better currently used term although I fully agree with Godfrey's comment #6.

    The listed considerations in other comments of this thread are all useful. My description is meant to complement them:

    We use our knowledge and experience to estimate whether it is likely that the considered action produces the desired outcome and that this outcome actually produces the expected pleasure. A severely adverse outcome needs to be expected to be very unlikely to take the risk.

    We consider this for all feasible options we would consider and choose the one which appears to be the most efficient or which we simply like the most among several good options.

    We should not worry too much about actually hitting the maximum pleasure. It is enough if the result provides considerable net pleasure which is worth the pain in preparations or consequences.

    Here are some examples:

    I occasionally go for a zipline adventure because before the first time I knew from other experiences that viewing nature from an elevated but close perspective and gravitational and inertial sliding are pleasurable, and I have only moderate fear of height, and I know from the first time that a zipline flight is indeed extremely pleasurable and because I expect the probability of a serious accident to be very low based on that I read about only 2 serious accidents (one high impact with bone fractures under circumstances which do not apply to me, one fatal impact which could have been mitigated by appropriate action of the victim, no falls from snapped lines or harness failures so far) and because the way the lines, break systems, harnesses and procedures are set up appears to be safe.

    Already as a kid, I felt great pleasure from knowing stuff and noticed that learning was mostly pleasure but manual work was mostly unpleasant. I figured out that a university degree would facilitate finding a job which I mostly enjoy and which would pay enough to get me out of the somewhat adverse working-class environment in which I grew up. So I put in a lot of effort in studying the subjects which I liked the most to a high degree for maximum choice although the long study would keep me poor for an extended period.

    A case where math can actually contribute to the hedonic calculus is the consideration to buy a car: The total cost of acceptable alternatives for my transport needs is much lower than cost of ownership of a car. Other reasons against a car are the displeasure about its carbon foot print, feeling guilty if I cause an accident, the risk of injury from an accident, the worry about deterioration, theft and sabotage. For me, the greater flexibility in transport and the maybe only imagined facilitation of getting a girl-friend do not weigh up all these disadvantages. Therefore, I never owned a car and currently, I have no plan to ever buy one. Only unexpected changes in circumstances might change that.

    I chose based on hedonic calculus to have no fridge, no TV, no washing-machine, no dish washer and no other expensive status symbols in the apartments where I stay alone. However, I am not a minimalist because my rooms are full of stuff which I bought or collected mostly for pleasure.


    Whether or not the Sun consists of hydrogen or not, we cannot prove (yet).

    Cecilia Payne proved already around 1925 that the sun and other stars analyzed by then consist predominantly of hydrogen (with helium as other major constituent and traces of heavier elements). Her discovery made by analyzing atomic spectra was so revolutionary that she had to apply the trick to "prove" why her result cannot be correct to get her thesis accepted. Those who initially disagreed with her finding "because it could not be" quickly found out she was right. What is still not yet known with the desirable accuracy is the concentration of heavier elements than helium.


    Again, in a nutshell:

    With his syllogisms, Epicurus himself made ample use of logic.

    "He judged that the logic of your school ..." is an abbreviation which does not refer to logic in itself but the wrong way it is used, e.g. by starting with ideas which have no justification in reality as premises and then claiming the conclusiveness of logic for conclusions on reality or by constructing apparent paradoxes which confuse people who are not skilled in the proper use of logic.

    The excluded middle is probably the only theorem where Epicurus disagrees with Aristotelian / binary logic with respect to propositions on the future. Even Aristoteles himself was aware that the excluded middle might not be rock solid concerning propositions on the future (but Cicero apparently did not know that).

    Let us stay clear of futile attacks on logic because those would just undermine our credibility. Instead we should point out which premises are wrong or what other aspect of the application of logic is wrong in specific cases.

    It is mostly Plato himself with his dialectics and ideal forms who uses logic wrongly. The Stoics are relatively innocent and typically use logic properly for their reasoning as they have learned from Aristoteles except that some basic premises of the ancient Stoics are most likely false. There is no "Stoic logic" to refute.

    Well, but the theory that "the world only consists of atoms and void" is false (waves), that the "universe is infinite" (it only expands really fast, but it has a border), that the multitude of atoms is infinite (we've only a few types of quarks and bosons), etc..... so I wouldn't call EP coherent by today's standards. Sadly.

    I am not sad ;) :

    Some of Epicurus' statements on physics do not match reality as we model it today and are therefore obsolete. It is part of the history of science that older theories get replaced by better ones. That does not take anything away from the merit of the obsolete theories.

    Moreover, EP is still coherent in itself despite that some of its statements on physics are obsolete. None of the conclusions derived for the philosophy depend on the obsolete parts.

    Another perspective to look at it is to not take the statements literally to have to match modern science but just to describe the analogies between them and modern science.

    Or we can consider them as analogous to those unrealistic idealizations which we use today sometimes as physical models because they combine mathematical simplicity with sufficient accuracy. E.g., the universe is much larger than a human can travel in his lifetime. Therefore, it is a good approximation to call the universe infinite in size.

    Waves are complementary to particles and are therefore rather a refinement than something that exists completely without particles. Taking this into account and by assigning physical properties to the void, there are still just particles and void from a very basic perspective.

    As of now, we have no experimental base to claim for sure that the universe is not infinite. We have a horizon beyond which we cannot see but that horizon expands with the speed of light. The furthest away parts of the universe which are now still within the horizon seem to move beyond it to be never seen again because of the apparent expansion of space.