Daniel Van Orman Level 01
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Posts by Daniel Van Orman

    Yes, that IF in that statement is the big hurdle.... and that IF is really at the center of much of the rest of the issue. Who has the "right" to enforce their view of the greatest happiness of the greatest number on everyone else who disagrees?

    As I have mentioned before, that IF rests on education, opinion, and various, loose supporting evidence (such as people are social creatures, people tend to be happier when they work together, etc.). It comes down to an abstract ideal which can be accepted, rejected, or anywhere in-between by an individual.


    One could ask, who has "right" to enforce any philosophy and what does that mean? Utilitarianism states laws are meant to promote total happiness; what gives police/government the "right" to enforce laws? I think this is a discussion which applies to far more than just utilitarianism.

    If you mean silencing others, know that Utilitarianism is very strong about maintaining freedom of speech. John Stuart Mill's On Liberty focuses greatly on that.


    "Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. Not that it is solely, or chiefly, to form great thinkers, that freedom of thinking is required." - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2


    "First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any object is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied." - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2


    I believe the Epicurean answer to the greatest happiness for the greatest number is to get more people to follow Epicureanism;)

    Doesn't every philosophy, religion, and belief systems more or less hold that everyone would be "better off" if more people followed their beliefs? ;)


    Convincing, not compelling, people is crucial to truly making their lives better. If they honestly believe in something, they will more likely and more greatly follow, support, and benefit from it.

    As to holding the happiness of the entire world as equal to that of my own and my family and friends, that's equally clear - but in the reverse -- most people do not hold to that opinion at all except an abstract ideal that they know does not comport with reality.

    Which is why Daniel, with all due respect to you, I have always found the idea of "the greatest good for the greatest number" to be nonsense, or worse.

    That makes sense. :)

    It is an abstract ideal - driven by emotions rather than nature.


    I'd like to add that it appears to me, on the basis of this discussion, that Utilitarianism is an attempt to "improve" upon Epicureanism by adding to it. . . .

    I had thought that there would be more in common between the two philosophies but they actually seem quite divergent.

    As I have mentioned before, I believe utilitarianism is an extension to Epicureanism. I hadn't realized how much original doctrine had been changed, but it seems the vast majority of the changes have been in ethics and views on deities/superstition.


    There is much they have in common - we have just been discussing what major differences they have. I think there is far more common than not.


    In fact, that seems to me to be much more of an artifact of Christianity or some other type of universalist religion than something that I observe to be true.

    the additions seek to bring together ideas which do not belong together

    There is a theory utilitarianism started as a way to combine the most common beliefs of Christianity in a way which did not involve a god - a secular way to unite quarreling Christians.


    I see the reasoning for this, but I think it is incorrect. Jeremy Bentham despised religion. For example, from 1809 to 1823, he spent exhaustive efforts criticizing religious beliefs - even the idea of religion itself.


    In my mind, the ideas fit together perfectly. If one places "greats happiness for the greatest number" at the center and asks, "How does X in utilitarianism help achieve that?", the answer (if you understand the concept X well enough) is usually very clear.


    It seems to me that it's a prescription for the worst kind of totalitarian despotism which could only work by a small elite deciding what the "greatest good of the greatest number" is by fiat, and then enforcing that (by force) on everyone else.

    there's a rather famous short story by Ursula LeGuin that I recommend reading. It's titled " The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"

    Neither of those cases would truly create "the greatest happiness for the greatest number".


    If the totalitarian despotism did truly make everyone happier, then it would be fine - it would be an exchange of freedom for happiness. However, a slave society would not be fine since the suffering of the slaves would be far greater than the suffering of the small elite.


    In "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", the small child being tortured is acceptable since it magically saves and improves numerous lives at the expense of one (a common trend - martyrs, revolutionaries, etc.). In reality, those exchanges are much less emotion-jerking than the story makes it out to be. A different example, food drives require numerous people to donate to help a few, increasing total happiness, yet aren't seen as evil. Torturing people almost always causes more pain than it saves or produces pleasure. Even the case of sadism (taking pleasure in seeing others in pain), the pleasure of sadism is brief and low-level compared to the long and terrible pain of torture. Also, I think it is worth adding, any argument primarily reinforced by magical powers is very weak when there is such emphasis on basing arguments and principles on nature and the real world.


    Before deciding I was a utilitarian, I explored both of these criticisms. My perspectives on these are below and in this thread: Criticisms against Principle of Maximal Utility


    His foundation: "This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures"


    As far as I can tell, utilitarians don't give much more reasoning than that for why "greatest happiness for the greatest number" is universally correct. I think that foundation is based on sensations, "general observations are based on experience", but I could see an argument for otherwise.


    I guess that answers the previous question of whether or not there is moral responsibility in Epicureanism. If there are no ethical standards which are universally true, then there are no moral responsibilities.


    In utilitarianism, gods and mortals are held to the same, universal moral responsibilities: "If it be meant that utilitarianism does not recognise the revealed will of God as the supreme law of morals, I answer, that a utilitarian who believes in the perfect goodness and wisdom of God, necessarily believes that whatever God has thought fit to reveal on the subject of morals, must fulfil the requirements of utility in a supreme degree" (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2).



    As far as things go, I agree the force "universalizing" them are "general observations are based on experience". Whether a god or a mortal mixed an acid and a base, the reaction would be the same.


    In my mind, this is what gives importance to the practical side of both Epicureanism and utilitarianism. Consequentialism, one of the central doctrines of utilitarianism, is entirely based on "learning by experience the tendencies of actions; on which experience all the prudence, as well as all the morality of life, are dependent" (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2).

    Cassius

    "Greatest happiness for the greatest number" might be an ideal. It is enforced by "education and opinion", as mentioned earlier. Although, I think it comes partly from nature (so, maybe not an ideal?).


    I am not sure exactly how he reaches that principle, but this is generally the reason he gives:

    "once the general happiness is recognised as the ethical standard, will constitute the strength of the utilitarian morality. This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become stronger, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilisation" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3



    I am not sure we are in agreement on "universal truth".... I think we are not in agreement. I believe there are certain principles/facts which are always true and always will be true for all times and places, very few of which are true for all situations/environments/circumstances.


    I believe those principles/facts are not deontological ideals, such "theft is always wrong" ("ideals" from nature, such as pleasure/pain, cause-and-effect, etc. are fine - they are based on sensations, real data, etc.). I think deontological ideals are wrong (ex: theft is usually wrong, but not always wrong) or circularly correct (ex: "virtue is always good because virtue is defined to be always good - good is always good").


    For example, I think certain principles, such as this one, are "universal truths": "It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn't know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure" (Principal Doctrines, 12 ; Vatican Sayings, 49). This principle probably doesn't fit all situations/environments/circumstances, but I think is fairly close to doing so.


    Another example, I think the sciences, for the most part, are in search of facts which are "universal truths". They gather, verify, and explain things, hoping to reach conclusions which are and always will be true regardless of situation/environment/circumstance.


    I think a key concept of ethics is to define a set of principles which are "universal truths". Those principles may help determine ethical choices depending on the situation, regardless of time period, bias, etc. Those principles should be valid for all places and all times. If possible, some of them for all situations/environments/circumstances (ex: if dead or not alive, then dead or not alive thing feels no sensations).

    Cassius

    Below are some responses to some of your statements. Thanks for your help.


    "The issue is really 'What is hedonism'? The word has no obvious clear meaning -- 'Pleasurism'."


    I thought it had a clear meaning among philosophers: the only good is pleasure and only evil is pain.


    Although not a trustworthy source, Wikipedia seems to sum up its meanings well, starting with: "Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that the pursuit of pleasure and intrinsic goods are the primary or most important goals of human life".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism#Epicureanism



    "they look for ways to logically prove that something is 'the highest good' before they launch off in pursuit of it"


    I completely agree that is the right thing to do.


    I meant my opinion is the most important thing philosophy does is define "the highest good" and how to pursue it. It certainly has many other valuable aspects, I just value ethics above the other aspects.



    "all truth is something that is 'true to us' or 'true to a normal human being in those same circumstances.'"

    I absolutely agree. I believe this is called "universality"? The mormons call it "eternal truth" - a truth which is eternally true, no matter the circumstance, time, etc.



    "As to 'hedonism' there is no accepted 'author' or authority who can answer such questions or tell us what the 'right answer according to Utilitarianism' is."

    True.


    However, the End is "greatest happiness for the greatest number". Other principles and definitions, such as commensurability, impartiality, etc. help one pursue that End.



    "I am not an expert on Bentham or how he might have defined 'good.'"


    "pleasure is in itself a good: nay, even setting aside immunity from pain, the only good: pain is in itself an evil; and, indeed, without exception, the only evil; or else the words good and evil have no meaning. And this is alike true of every sort of pain, and of every sort of pleasure." - Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter 10.10


    "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think" - Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter 1.1


    "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure." - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2


    "Ethics at large may be defined, the art of directing men's actions to the production of the greatest possible quantity of happiness, on the part of those whose interest is in view." - Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter 17.2



    "You'll find that Epicurus had a very clear set of principles which you can outline, and based on the answers you can line up basic positions"


    I believe utilitarianism is the same way. However, one must understand a set of principles before they can use them to provide answers.




    Godfrey

    I agree, PD5 doesn't talk about responsibility, moral or otherwise. However, I think that means it doesn't contribute to that argument.


    If you say there is no evidence Epicurus thought there were moral responsibilities, I will respond, where is the evidence he thought there were no moral responsibilities? There seems to be an absence of evidence on this topic.

    Outlining

    Fitting categories into Canon, Physics, and Ethics is an excellent idea! Thank you.


    If we could summarize those three categories and continue with summarizes and links to the categories within them.


    Thanks for the advice and links. I need to find the time to go through all of that material (and more). :)


    I definitely don't know enough to summarize those categories, but hopefully the idea and/or task will benefit others.



    Differences between Epicureanism and Utilitarianism

    I thought Epicureanism was hedonistic.


    It talks about pleasures and pains, but I guess it never fully encapsulates hedonism.

    No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

    Principal Doctrines, 8 ; Vatican Sayings, 50

    All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary...

    Principal Doctrines, 26


    I see philosophers frequently call Epicureanism hedonistic. For example, Henry Sidgwick refers to Epicureanism as "egoistic hedonism" (while utilitarianism is "universalistic hedonism"). Are these philosophers oversimplifying or misspeaking?



    I thought Epicureanism emphasized a moral responsibility to make one's self happy:

    So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.

    Letter to Menoeceus


    My interpretation of PD5 (which may be wrong) is it is an example of Epicureanism promoting consequentialism. A natural consequence of not living prudently, honorably, and justly is to not live pleasantly. I don't see how PD5 talks about responsibility - just how it gives a very important lesson.



    Moral Responsibility

    In utilitarianism, the "force" driving the principle of maximal utility is education and sentiments:

    education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2


    moral associations which are wholly of artificial creation, when intellectual culture goes on, yield by degrees to the dissolving force of analysis: and if the feeling of duty, when associated with utility, would appear equally arbitrary; if there were no leading department of our nature, no powerful class of sentiments, with which that association would harmonise, which would make us feel it congenial, and incline us not only to foster it in others (for which we have abundant interested motives), but also to cherish it in ourselves; if there were not, in short, a natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality, it might well happen that this association also, even after it had been implanted by education, might be analysed away

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3


    Cassius I assume, you are going to criticize enforcing ethical beliefs using "education and opinion". ;) Before you do, see my opinion on emotion driving moral responsibility below and know the "force" I mention next applies to utilitarianism.



    The "force" I thought was driving moral responsibility in Epicureanism was hedonism and natural consequences:

    [Happiness] has not, by this alone, proved itself to be the sole criterion [of morality]. To do that, it would seem, by the same rule, necessary to show, not only that people desire happiness, but that they never desire anything else. Now it is palpable that they do desire things which, in common language, are decidedly distinguished from happiness. They desire, for example, virtue, and the absence of vice, no less really than pleasure and the absence of pain

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 4


    During all [the existence of humanity], mankind [has] been learning by experience the tendencies of actions; on which experience all the prudence, as well as all the morality of life, are dependent.

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2



    Personally, I believe moral responsibility is driven by emotion. The "forces" I mentioned above simply drive or manipulate emotion.


    I focus heavily on ethics - believing it to be the most important part of philosophy. That's just my opinion, though.


    There are plenty of non-ethical or practical parts of utilitarianism. Impartiality helps one to become "the man who best knows how to meet external threats[, who] makes into one family all the creatures he can" (PD39). Commensurability helps one make better choices, as such to "pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues from them" (Letter to Menoeceus).




    Thanks for the conversations, guys. This has been great for my learning and understanding of Epicureanism. :)

    Quick summary, since I went overboard on details in my response below.


    Central to Utilitarianism:

    - Principle of Maximal Utility: "the greatest happiness for the greatest number", love others as much as yourself

    - Consequentialism: Actions are central to morality, morality of action = results of action and tendencies of results from action

    - Impartiality: Don't use bias - value others' interests equally.

    - Commensurability: Sum consequences of actions to determine whether its good or bad.


    Most differences between utilitarianism and Epicureanism I see are where utilitarian philosophers expand/extend Epicurean teachings. As an example:

    Epicurus: Law are made to kept people from being wronged --> Jeremy Bentham: Laws are made to make everyone happier --> John Stuart Mill: Laws allow one to predict others' actions and know consequences; helps people work better with each other (ex: stop signs on roads, fines for speeding)




    Here is a list of what I consider central to utilitarianism:

    - Long-term Happiness (Hedonism) & Principle of Maximal Utility

    Pleasure and pain are the only good and evil in life. They motivate every decision one makes and it is everyone’s moral responsibility to increase the pleasure of every person (including themself) while relieving their pain.

    - Consequentialism

    The moral correctness of an action depends on its predicted and actual results (consequences). A good action produces good and uplifting outcomes, whatever they are defined to be. An action which produces bad outcomes, even if done with good intentions, is still immoral.

    - Impartiality

    When determining the most morally correct action, one should use objective criteria – never prejudice, hatred, bias, or other non-objective reasoning. Every person’s interests should be considered as equally, even though individuals are not equal because of talents, skills, personalities, and other attributes.

    - Commensurability

    The morality of an action or set of actions can be determined through combining their outcomes, through using some consistent system to compare, total, average, or otherwise combine outcomes. The best actions produce the most good.


    Together, these doctrines give meaning to "the greatest happiness for the greatest number". These quotes might also help explain things:

    the feeling of duty, when associated with utility, . . . would make us feel it congenial, and incline us not only to foster it in others . . ., but also to cherish it in ourselves

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3


    To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbour as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2


    once the general happiness is recognised as the ethical standard, will constitute the strength of the utilitarian morality. This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become stronger, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilisation

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3


    When people who are tolerably fortunate in their outward lot do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to make it valuable to them, the cause generally is, caring for nobody but themselves

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2




    The largest difference I see between Epicureanism and utilitarianism is the Principle of Maximal Utility and its connecting sentiments and logic. Most of the other differences I see are where utilitarian philosophers expand/extend Epicurean teachings. I am unsure whether Epicurus would approve of these extensions, but (other than connections to maximal utility) I see no reason why he would not.


    Here are a few examples of what I perceive to be utilitarian philosophers describing Epicurean doctrines in greater detail:


    It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn't know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

    Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 12 ; Vatican Sayings, 49


    education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2



    Laws are made for the wise: not to keep them from doing wrong, but to keep them from being wronged.

    Epicurus, Selected Fragments, 530


    The general object which all laws have, or ought to have, in common, is to augment the total happiness of the community

    Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter 13.1


    In the conduct of human beings towards one another, it is necessary that general rules should for the most part be observed, in order that people may know what they have to expect; but in each person's own concerns, his individual spontaneity is entitled to free exercise.

    John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 4



    The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life.

    Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 39


    The deeply rooted conception which every individual even now has of himself as a social being, tends to make him feel it one of his natural wants that there should be harmony between his feelings and aims and those of his fellow creatures. If differences of opinion and of mental culture make it impossible for him to share many of their actual feelings- perhaps make him denounce and defy those feelings- he still needs to be conscious that his real aim and theirs do not conflict; that he is not opposing himself to what they really wish for, namely their own good, but is, on the contrary, promoting it

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3



    If every pleasure had been capable of accumulation, not only over time but also over the entire body or at least over the principal parts of our nature, then pleasures would never differ from one another.

    Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 9


    Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure. If one of the two is, by those who are competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing ...

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2



    Don't avoid doing small favors, lest you seem to be the same with regard to greater things.

    Epicurus, Selected Fragments, 214


    if it may possibly be doubted whether a noble character is always the happier for its nobleness, there can be no doubt that it makes other people happier, and that the world in general is immensely a gainer by it

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2



    [Addressing a young man] I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclination as you will, provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not checked by one or more of these provisos is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm.

    Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 51


    many who are capable of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superiority of the higher. Men often, from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less valuable; and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures, than when it is between bodily and mental. They pursue sensual indulgences to the injury of health, though perfectly aware that health is the greater good.

    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2

    Godfrey

    I completely agree that process of learning. Also, when it comes to belief systems, I think it is essential to look at its criticisms and think through them yourself.



    I have no outline. I was hoping to either get help with that or pursue another idea for introducing Epicureanism.


    Perhaps a rough outline could be: Long-term Happiness (Hedonism), Physics (Atomism, Nature), Friendship, and Desires & Superstitions (Limit Desires, Remove Superstitions, Don't Fear Death).


    Here are some quotes to help explain those groupings.

    Long-term Happiness (Hedonism)

    No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

    Principal Doctrines, 8 ; Vatican Sayings, 50


    Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.

    Letter to Menoeceus


    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring joy; but if not then bid them farewell!

    Selected Fragments, 70


    Physics

    nothing is created out of that which does not exist: for if it were, everything would be created out of everything with no need of seeds. And again, if that which disappears were destroyed into that which did not exist, all things would have perished, since that into which they were dissolved would not exist.

    Letter to Herodotus


    Only superstition must be excluded, as it will, if one successfully follows the lead of seen phenomena [nature] to gain indications about the invisible.

    Letter to Pythocles


    Don't think it unnatural that when the body cries out, the soul cries also. The body says don't be hungry, don't be thirsty, don't be cold. It is difficult for the soul to prevent these cries, and dangerous for it to ignore the commands of nature because of attachment to its usual independence.

    Selected Fragments, 200



    Friendship

    Every friendship in itself is to be desired; but the initial cause of friendship is from its advantages.

    Vatican Sayings, 23


    We do not so much need the help of our friends as we do the confidence of their help in need.

    Vatican Sayings, 34


    The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life.

    Principal Doctrines, 39


    We show our feeling for our friends' suffering, not with laments, but with thoughtful concern.

    Sayings about the Wise Man, 41



    Desires & Superstitions

    All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary, but the desire is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to obtain or the desires seem likely to produce harm.

    Principal Doctrines, 26


    The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

    Principal Doctrines, 15 ; Vatican Sayings, 8


    It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn't know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

    Principal Doctrines, 12 ; Vatican Sayings, 49


    Dreams have neither a divine nature nor a prophetic power, but they are the result of images that impact on us.

    Vatican Sayings, 24



    These categories overlap greatly. Friendship could be a subsection of long-term happiness:

    Of all the means to insure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends. - Principal Doctrines, 27

    and superstitions could be a subsection of nature.


    Also, the categories might need to be reorganized. When explaining nature, should we group it with physics or put it be in its own category?

    Insofar as you forget nature, you will find yourself in trouble and create for yourself endless fears and desires. - Selected Fragments, 203



    Are the categories missing anything or are there important subcategories missing?



    Cassius

    I am primarily utilitarian.


    So far, I love everything about that philosophy - especially the principle of maximal utility ("greatest happiness for the greatest number") and consequentialism.


    Because of how frequently utilitarian leaders quote Epicurus and how utilitarianism seems to be an extension of Epicureanism, I value Epicureanism teachings.



    Here are my notes for utilitarianism: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0hj2…0.21%20-%20Edit.docx?dl=0


    If a popup asks you to sign into Dropbox, close it using the X in the top-right corner.


    The notes about LDS theology/Christianity are there because I live in a predominantly Mormon community. It helps to be prepared to explain "non-member" beliefs, in case people ask.

    1 - I'm a computer science major (I study how to program computers). In case it helps, as part of my major, I study a good amount of chemistry and physics. Neat, precise terms are valued in those fields, just as they are in computer-oriented fields.


    2 - I see "hedonism" as "pleasure and pain = only good/bad" and "folk hedonism" as "pleasure-ism" or "pleasure at any cost, including self-destruction". Epicureanism does has many facets, but we can define and describe the largest and most important facets to help teach it to others. In my mind, hedonism is a facet of Epicureanism - and one of the bigger and more important ones.


    3 - "Logical reasoning and the senses" was a very bad name on my part. I just don't know what umbrella or broad term describes those facets. Epicurus uses reasoning (whether emotional, logical, or otherwise), he tends to be very logical, and (at least from what I've seen) frequently relies on empirical evidence.



    Is a "describe each facet" approach worth working on? Is there a better way or something we already have which could be improved?


    Other than memes, I don't see much introductory material.


    As I mentioned in my initial post, other ideas could be creating neat, fun stories which teach lessons or finding/composing a reading list for beginners who don't want to spend much time trying to learn what Epicureanism is.



    Thank you for your responses.

    Don't worry, I'm not taking anything you are saying as "critical" or "negative". It is helpful advice and I appreciate it.


    I use the word hedonism since it seems to be the most precise word to describe the main ethical part of Epicureanism. It does have a strong negative connotation, but I thought it might be worth trying to battle over that word for the sake of accurate, precise language. Now I see not everyone is a science major like I am. ;) What word(s) would you use to describe it instead?


    I think one useful way to introduce new concepts to people is to represent neat categories or "boxes" which fit together to create most of Epicureanism. I was wondering if you had descriptions for any categories already and whether we should write them. I started with hedonism as an example since I care most about the ethical part of utilitarianism (which is centered on hedonism/utility).


    To help non-philosophical people understand Epicureanism, should we work on neat, nice descriptions for atomism, logical reasoning and the senses (any better name?), superstition (including fear of death), and any other categories which seem necessary? Currently, I see numerous concepts, with various connections to each other, without much of a starting point or order of importance. It might help people understand them if those concepts were grouped together and those groups summarized.


    Are there any other methods or ways you think we should pursue? There are definitely other ways, each with pluses and minuses, which will appeal to different audiences/individuals.

    I was using the word hedonism to describe one part of Epicureanism. There are many other parts (ex; Physics, Friendship/Social Creature, etc.) which could be described in detail to help people understand the whole of Epicureanism.


    I thought Epicureanism was a hedonistic philosophy. Is there something wrong with my understanding or saying it is?

    Are there any simple, neat summaries of Epicurean core beliefs to help introduce people to philosophy? I think it would be fantastic if we had a document full of quick summaries of our core beliefs and, within easy access of that document, more detail explained plainly.


    As an example, I wrote some descriptions (seen below) to help describe hedonism in Epicureanism (please correct me if I am wrong - I may have misinterpreted things or accidentally thrown in utilitarian beliefs).



    Hedonism: Quick Summary

    Many people read hedonism is about happiness and immediately assume it is about sex and drugs. This is a terrible misconception!


    That is not happiness! Sex, drugs, and other destructive actions will never bring long-term, true happiness. It would be seriously concerning – and against Epicureanism and its hedonistic beliefs – for anyone to think otherwise.


    Just as numerous others' perceptions of happiness are not about sex and drugs, hedonism as part of Epicureanism is not about sex and drugs.

    [I wrote the above notes simply because of common misconceptions. I think those misconceptions must be eased before people are ready to hear the truth.]



    Pleasure and pain are the only good and evil in life. They motivate every decision one makes and it is everyone's moral responsibility to increase their own pleasure while relieving their own pain in the long-term.


    Simplification: "What matters is that you are happy"



    Hedonism: Details in Plain English

    Hedonism means pleasure and pain are the only important things in life. This includes both physical and mental pleasures and pains (ex: enjoying a good book and savoring chocolate would both be pleasures while worrying about others and injuring an arm would both be pains). Furthermore, all pleasure and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable (valuable for its own sake) and all pain and only pain is intrinsically disvaluable (not valuable for its own sake). Happiness comes down to one's pleasure minus one's pain (this is called prudential hedonism).


    These are some of what Hedonism Entails

    - Pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain influences every decision one makes, whether consciously or unconsciously (motivational/psychological hedonism).

    "Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing." - Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

    "For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled." - Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

    - What makes an action important is the amount of pleasure or pain it creates (value hedonism).

    "So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it." - Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

    - Pleasure and pain make one's life better or worse (prudential hedonism).

    - Choosing short-term actions to quickly gain pleasure or avoid pain generally, over an extended period of time, reduces one's pleasure and causes more pain (prudential hedonism).

    "No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves." - Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 8 and Vatican Sayings, 50

    - It is morally correct to pursue or increase pleasure and avoid or decrease pain (normative/ethical hedonism).


    Common Misconceptions

    Hedonism is not a philosophy which encourages sex, drugs, and impulsive behavior performed at the expense of one's self as well as others. This misconception is called "Folk Hedonism", as it only exists in the mind of the common people (the folk). Hedonism teaches most short-term, impulsive actions cause far more pain than pleasure and can reduce one's access and ability to feel pleasure – these destructive actions should never be done.


    As an example of how impulsive and destructive behavior is against Epicurean standards, listen to this advice Epicurus gave to a young man: "I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclination as you will, provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not checked by one or more of these provisos is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm" (Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 51).

    Cassius

    No.


    I am not sure how much of it would be ready or useful for public showcasing and I am not sure where I would post it. I have been keeping everything on my computer, very rarely sharing it when the situation seems right.


    So far, I have the topical guide (posted on EpicureanFriends), a large document half composed of notes describing basics of utilitarianism (hedonism, consequentialism, utility, etc.) and common criticisms of it (the criticisms are posted on EpicureanFriends), several stories such as the ones shown in the initial post, sections of quotes/passages I organized to be easier to make into lessons or documents if needed, a small collection of pictures of utilitarian leaders, and organized notes of mine from studying act, strong and weak rule, and ideal utilitarianism.


    Most of these are oriented more toward utilitarianism than Epicureanism and are good for introductions.

    Cassius

    It is good to be back! I have been busy with college and other priorities, so I would only check in rarely and update the Dropbox link to the topical guide every few months.



    The point of my post is we need to evaluate what approaches we are using and make them better and find new ones. Currently, I cannot find very much for a person with only a small interest in learning. This may be a missing approach. We might also want to create a list of all of the approaches and what they could be best used for (ex: "If you are new, click here for an introduction! If you are looking for original sources.... If you are looking for new discussions....").

    One way to help people learn something new is to categorize and summarize pieces of a whole.


    This could be an outline of how to do so with Epicureanism:

    - Pursuit of Intrinsic Goods (Hedonism)

    - Friendship

    Nature

    Physics

    - Atomism?

    - Reasoning?

    Superstition & Fear


    However, we must organize those categories into Canon, Physics, and Ethics. I don't know enough to do that correctly.

    Are the categories missing anything or are there important subcategories missing?

    These stories are fairly flexible with doctrine, but get ideas across in a friendly, understandable way.



    So, how do you share your personal beliefs with others? If one were to ask or show interest, but not want to spend much time learning Epicureanism, how would you help them? Should we spend time improving our materials or making new ones? Are there materials I am completely overlooking which should be made more noticeable?

    Greetings, everyone!


    I was wondering, what materials or ways do we have for presenting our teachings to others who have never seen them before? How effective are they? How much do they draw interest? How much understanding do they provide? How well do they motivate others to learn more?


    Would it be useful to compile a list of these materials? Are there any gaps we could fill or materials to be improved?


    Among our materials, I find intermediate and rich depth for those already interested in Epicureanism, but not much for someone with only a little curiosity or just trying to make philosophy seem a little less foreign.


    In my personal efforts, I wrote a few fun stories which carefully present neat lessons. They are meant for to be enjoyed (so people will want to read them) as well as focus heavily on one topic or lesson. These stories could be shared with friends without them feeling you are forcing anything onto them and could help others feel more comfortable with philosophy in general.


    I am a utilitarian (I believe utilitarianism is directly based on Epicureanism), so these stories have both Epicurean and utilitarian elements.

    Hiram

    Looking over the hedonism summary now, I see it really needs to be reworded. However, I am not sure what parts, if any, are incorrect. If you would please help me remake or fix the hedonism summary, I would appreciate it.


    I created the current summary from searching online and trying to match what I learned to sources. The points I wanted to cover in the summary were:

    Hedonism in General - All pleasure and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable ; all pain and only pain is intrinsically disvaluable

    Motivational/Psychological Hedonism - Pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain influence every decision one makes, whether consciously or unconsciously

    Normative/Ethical Hedonism - It is morally correct to pursue or increase pleasure and avoid or decrease pain

    Prudential Hedonism - Happiness = Pleasure – Pain

    Value Hedonism - What makes an action important is the amount of pleasure or pain it creates


    Would you mind using a conversation on the website to help create a simple explanation of hedonism for newcomers?



    The "Teachings on Higher Pleasures" is only based on utilitarianism. Thank you for the "Reasonings About Philodemus’ On Choices and Avoidances" article. Hopefully, I wil lbetter understand what Epicurus meant by different kinds of pleasures.



    Your "Utilitarian Reasonings" are interesting. I will enjoy reading more thoroughly later. Thank you.

    Criticisms against Principle of Maximal Utility:

    This thread is dedicated to arguments against the principle of maximal utility. It focuses more on theoretical and generic applications and meanings of it.


    The four principles listed under "Before Continuing" in this thread are meant to quickly explain concepts discussed throughout the rest of the thread. It is not what the thread is about. Each of those concepts could have its own thread.



    Daily Application of Principle of Maximum Utility:

    This thread is dedicated to following the principle of maximal utility each day. It focuses on the pros and cons of applying it in realistic, day-to-day situations.