Posts by Elayne

    I think Cassius and Elli have put it just as I would.

    The only things I have to add are that I prefer to dwell in reality and not imaginary hypotheticals like this, because the devil is in the details. Let's say that such a machine exists. Who designed it? How much do you trust both their motives and their skills-- is it really wise to hand over your sensory input to a machine which could be taken over by someone else and used to torture you? What if the machine breaks? And you can't access reality to extricate yourself? I do not think an Epicurean would typically accept a hypothetical where those things couldn't happen, because that takes the scenario out of reality as we know it. A decision would have no relevance to us or bearing on our real life philosophy.

    Our ability to perceive through our senses is critical to being able to choose pleasure. In making this imaginary choice, a person typically tries to "double" themselves-- but they can't fully double. They can't really let go of the pre-machine condition of knowing that life would be going on without them-- that they wouldn't really be seeing their friends, only imagining it. That they would miss out on the pleasure of knowing they are really there for their friends-- the pleasure of _being_ a friend. That creates a pain in the imagination which can't be removed in the hypothetical. It has nothing to do with valuing something other than pleasure. It is an inability to believe there would not be a feeling of painful loss in the machine. A sort of anticipatory loss. And no matter how many times you reassure a person that they won't know they've lost reality, they can't imagine it. So a normal person will not choose the machine.

    Don as to the question why they would do that, it seems clear to me, partly because I tried it out also. It is for the pleasure of community and the ease of familiarity. Although I didn't grow up with those myths, having been raised atheist, everyone around me was Christian. I got interested in their myth, as a metaphor, and it was 100% more available than making something new up. The beautiful buildings were already there. Some of the music is stunning. The rituals can be beautiful and pleasurable.

    For those who grew up in that tradition, however, there would be even more reason. Those hymns can be like Proust's madeleine. Lots of layers of memory and positive associations for them.

    I did participate in an "atheist church" group a few years ago, in a friend's home, and that was fun, although no one shared my philosophy. I'd actually say some of the atheist Christians came closer, because fewer of them were universal consciousness types and had less of a humanist flavor. The atheist group was kind of a mishmash of secular Buddhism, humanism, Platonism, and secular paganism. We took turns providing material for the meetings. We had many discussions in which I unsuccessfully tried to persuade them on most of the points in Epicurean Philosophy, without knowing anything about Epicurus. I might have done better, had I known how to outline things the way he did, but idk. I had the parts but they weren't all organized.

    When I tried to start a local Epicurean group, I got a few humanists. I made better arguments for Epicurus that time, but his words fell on deaf ears.

    So you see, it is not easy to build a group like that-- it isn't surprising that they want to re-purpose the existing structures. IMO the only flaws are that their philosophy is not Epicurean. Lol, I think any philosophy that is not Epicurean is a flop!

    Eugenios, what I am saying is that they are using it exactly that way. They are using it entirely metaphorically and they are _not_ bringing in religious belief. For instance, if they say "God", they are referring to the entire universe, just the material universe. Not to any sort of being-- it is exactly the way Epicurus uses the word Nature. It is not true that the Christian atheists have gone halfway. They do not believe at all in the literal truth of any of it.

    There is a different group you may be thinking of, just broadly progressive Christians or those who understand parts of the bible as literary devices but other parts not. They would definitely be subject to the critique you give.

    However, because I personally know some of the real Christian atheists, I assure you that they are using these terms the same way as Lucretius did. Their philosophy is a mess, but they are not in any way literalists.

    I agree with everything Cassius has said, Eugenios, and I think this is an extremely important issue to understand, in order to thoroughly grasp this philosophy. Once you have fully gotten it, you won't have trouble recognizing when people aren't understanding it.

    One way people can accidentally slip into idealism on this subject is through using personifying language about nature. Epicurus did do that, but I am sure he made certain his students knew what he was doing. If that is tripping you up, you might want to avoid using metaphorical language and see if it is easier to avoid this trouble.

    The actual way we got to develop both the capacity for pleasure and specific preferences is through evolution. Humans who followed their desires to pursue pleasure and avoid pain survived and reproduced-- but it is not that the sweet fruit which was life-supporting was designed for us and the poisonous fruit not. We evolved together. The sweet fruit propagated by having us eat it and evacuate its seeds, so those fruits which matched our tastes most closely were propagated more, and we learned to continue to eat them-- humans who had a taste for them and could get those calories survived. The poisonous fruit which does not spread that way survived humans eating it by mutations which killed or repelled through taste --- the fruit without that taste and/or poison mutation didn't survive, if our eating it killed it off. The humans who ate food tasting that way didn't make it. None of this was according to any kind of design.

    The typically shared pleasures of our species were evolved, such as a tendency to empathy and cooperativeness... but the "cheater" niche, which includes sociopaths, is a consistently filled niche in most if not all species. It isn't unnatural. It has advantages and disadvantages, and a member of the cheater niche is going to feel pleasure and pain from different stimuli than the rest of us. Their subjective pleasure can only be sensed by them. Species with cheaters also evolve ways among the typical members to detect and contain cheater activity within a certain range-- or else that population tends to die off. Unchecked cheating is not a successful evolutionary event.

    In the last two paragraphs, I have gone beyond what Epicurus said, because he did not have all the evolutionary science available to him which we have now. But I think what I have said is coherent with the philosophy. I have not yet found any observable material phenomena to conflict with his philosophy, because it is based in reality.

    On Christian atheism-- it's actually a thing, not an oxymoron at all. It is people who take the supernatural elements of the bible metaphorically, even thinking that's how the words were intended. The same as we read Venus in Lucretius metaphorically. They think literalists missed the whole point of those writings. People like John Shelby Spong. It's a fairly popular position in the progressive churches.

    Eternal life for them does not mean individual life-- more what we talk about, that the matter doesn't die, but also that sense of timelessness people have in moments of strong love.

    I tried this practice out myself many years ago. I was attracted to the love aspect, because I'm a person with strong feelings, similar to many others who practice it. And I enjoy singing with others.

    It's different from humanism in that it isn't a generic love for undifferentiated humanity-- it isn't utilitarian. There's even a lot of pleasure in it. But because of the archetypal sacrifice myth it is centered around, it places self-sacrifice and sacrificial service way up there. It has the weird Christian discomfort with money. And it advises non-judgment of others as well, which doesn't always make sense. It prefers being a lily in the field, not activity-- being Mary, not Martha-- and as we've discussed, either rest or activity is fine depending on which is needed, timing-wise, for pleasure. Pleasure is not at the center of Christian atheism. Sometimes pleasure requires dying for another person, and certainly generosity with property and time is often a huge pleasure, but it is even better if we are able to live together with our friends enjoying life instead.

    When pleasure is not the goal, there is no way to keep a philosophy from going off the rails.

    Interesting-- I thought he was saying that most people don't do either rest or activity pleasurably, rather than that rest was preferable. For pleasure you would do best to rest or sleep when tired and be active when activity is more pleasurable. People get sore when they sit around all day, and it feels good to take a walk.

    A person who doesn't realize pleasure requires getting out of bed in the morning would be in a stupor... a person who doesn't realize pleasure requires taking breaks and also sleeping could get manic. A certain percentage of the population does get hypomania when sleep deprived.

    If the person can remember that neither rest nor activity is the main goal but only a means to pleasure, then that person could enjoy both.

    I had taken the word "vain" here to be the less commonly used English definition of futile. We usually say "in vain" for that, but "vain" alone can be used the same way. Vs the other meanings of worthless or prideful.

    It wouldn't seem in character for Epicurus to call desire worthless or prideful, or even the object of desire-- but as Elli said, it's simply something that has no existence and thus cannot be obtained. We would desire it in vain because it doesn't exist-- say, infinite power, inexhaustible money, etc.


    I think the article is fairly thoroughly dreadful. It pushes that weird tranquility view instead of actual pleasure, and it wants us to gloss over the real fear and grief involved in this pandemic in a way that seems Stoic.

    As far as I know, Epicurus wasn't opposed to reality-based fears-- just unnecessary anxiety over things that don't exist. We are not anesthesiologist philosophers. Some of what is happening and will happen with the virus will be quite sad. It's normal to be afraid and to grieve. Just be wise, learn the facts, and take action for your pleasure, including looking after the people you love.

    I have been busy seeing patients-- in Alabama, they weren't testing until a few days ago, and now "suddenly" we have 5 patients. Despite cases encroaching on our borders on 3 sides, officials kept saying "it's not here." Of course the virus does not read maps! So we are behind the 8 ball, a shame when we did have such a good advance notice to prepare.

    So now that there are cases in the state, though the Georgia cases are closer, my town has gone into a panic and bought all the food. The photo is my local grocery! And bottled water-- who knows why. All they need to really do is social distancing but instead they bought all the toilet paper. I've read people are buying bidets off Amazon.

    I am definitely concerned about my elderly friends and family. The case fatality rate is very high for them. I'm sticking to work and home right now, because I'm one of the few docs who decided to think ahead and wear a mask to work last week. The others are going to be out on quarantine soon, I bet, so I will be busy.

    At the exponential doubling rate, every 6 days, we will soon see worse problems than Europe unless people do take social distancing seriously, because we have a bad shortage of ventilators and hospital beds. Many rural hospitals in my state have gone bankrupt and closed in the past several years. Several counties have no hospitals. 1 in 4 grandparents here is raising grandchildren without parents, due to drug arrests, compared to 1:10 nationwide -- the age group harder hit. Who is going to take those kids, I wonder?

    If people do take this seriously, it might wind up looking much better.

    I am curious whether we are being told the truth about the leveling off of new cases in China. I wouldn't be surprised if they were lying, given their past record.

    I suggested to my elderly Chorus friends that if any of them run out of something which one of us can share, I will help by letting the sharer (if not me) put the item in my car trunk and I can drive to the receiver. They can get it from my trunk without coming in contact. We all have some supplies and will be able to help each other if necessary. So we are not alone in this. Of course I have some dried beans, like Epicurus did!

    It's early in the morning and i don't have time to continue but i think in Eugenios' post THIS part will bear further elaboration:

    We REALLY have to define what we mean by "living pleasurably" I think. Almost by definition, someone who derives "pleasure" - and I deliberately put that in quotes - from their heinous crimes isn't living pleasurably by almost any rational societal understanding

    Eugenios, we must remember pleasure is strictly a feeling, _not_ a rational understanding that we define. It isn't defined other than by the feeling itself. So not only don't we need to define it further, doing so would be counter to Epicurean philosophy. We all know what the feeling is.

    Some people will have pleasure in activities that most of us would abhor. We share most of our genomes-- it shouldn't surprise us that humans agree on many pleasures and pains. We aren't clones, though, and we have unique life experiences, so we'll also have some differences in pleasure.

    Because there is no absolute standard of what "should" bring pleasure, only the person having the feeling knows if they are living pleasurably or not. Pleasure cannot be measured from the outside, only subjectively.

    To my mind, Epicurus was speaking of a normal, typical person, who would live in fear of being caught (and I would add for myself, in dread of the grief due to empathy for whoever I harmed).

    A sociopath often does not experience the same kinds of worries we would, and certainly not empathy/remorse. If sociopaths get pleasure from acts that harm us, it's real pleasure for them. Some of them do get away with it in the long run and have pleasurable lives hurting others.

    There is nothing about this philosophy that says the pleasures of people won't come into opposition. It's not a philosophy that will cause every person to adhere to the same practices. But because we care about our pleasure, we would be wise to do our best to avoid dealing with sociopaths and if necessary, we can attempt to restrain them. If we structure things wisely, we can increase the chance that a budding sociopath _would_ realize a benefit from not murdering, etc.

    As a side note, sociopaths appear to respond to rewards more than punishment. Punishment is not a highly effective deterrent for them, partly due to typically high impulsivity.. If they see a path to pleasure that involves following laws, they do sometimes take it.

    Mike, the most coherent explanation is that ataraxia is not itself a full description of a state-- it is merely the absence of disturbing conditions, fears, and the like, which would impede pleasure. And yes, if there's no pain, there's pleasure, for sure!

    What has happened is that modern understandings of the word tranquility, instead of "without disturbance", imply a very passive state of muted pleasure, so people have gotten confused and think that's the goal.

    There is no such thing as too much pleasure, because then it would be pain, at the moment it is felt to be "too much"... a person will have fluctuating energy levels and intensity levels that will suit them best. Less than that intensity will leave them searching for more, due to remaining pain, and too much intensity of a stimulus will be painful, causing them to back away. It's not a balancing act of pleasure-- it's finding the maximum pleasure point in the action that we want.

    Of course, the joke in that song is that while singing it, Baloo, a bear, is demonstrating "bear necessities" to Mowgli. It's obvious Baloo is completely missing that Mowgli can't make use of bear necessities, because he is human-- Mowgli fumbles when trying to copy Baloo. Bagheera is watching them and gets what is going on.

    Baloo's necessities, despite being presented with the play on "bare", are as luxurious as a bear could imagine, which is also part of the joke-- that he's going on about simple, etc, while he is eating delicious food and playing. Who wouldn't want to eat pawpaws and swim in a beautiful river? It's like a person on an expensive tropical vacation bragging about their simple life. We are supposed to get that this bear is _not_ living a restricted life. He has a pleasurable life. Pleasure itself is shown as the bear necessity.

    If you take it beyond the species-specific message, you could say that the individuals have their own pleasures-- just as a bear pleasure necessity is not a human pleasure necessity, one person's pleasure is not always another's. Bagheera knows that, and that pain is the result of not getting the message. Mowgli lets pleasure guide him at the end, not just his species pleasure but his own.

    "Nature" is what has caused the phenomena of keeping up with the Joneses and working to impress others. It's not an artifact of civilization. Social status in human groups is a serious issue for health-- it's even an issue for less advanced primates. So nature won't help a person make those decisions, which are quite natural, unless the person has fully absorbed the primary lesson that pleasure is the goal. By taking pleasure as the goal, a person would avoid getting caught in unpleasant social competition but could engage in it strategically if necessary to serve pleasure.

    When I go for a job interview, I make sure my clothes and typed CV are in condition to make a good impression on strangers-- for the pleasures I will use my income for. I'm aware of competing with others for the position. If it were necessary to do that "constantly" to gain pleasure and prevent pain, there are times that would be the wisest choice. It would only be unwise if there were more pleasurable alternative choices.

    If he meant this as anything other than "pleasurable measure", he was wrong. IF, Hiram. IF. I do not think he meant it the way you are running with it.

    I do not think he was talking about some kind of Buddhist-like happy medium of wealth either. In many settings, extremes are unpleasant, but it is not because they are extreme that we avoid them, merely because they are unpleasant.

    I don't think you are deliberately leading readers away from pleasure. I just don't think you understand the big picture.

    Hiram, let me be more clear-- I don't believe Metrodorus was promoting a "natural measure" of anything, as different to or opposed to a "pleasurable measure." I said "if" he had done so, I would have told him he was wrong. I am not calling Metrodorus wrong or silly. I am calling the way this material is being interpreted wrong-- and the concept of "natural" as a goal for measurement in place of pleasure is absolutely silly. I doubt Metrodorus did it.

    You have a repeated tendency to glom onto words in the philosophy that are not pleasure and start elevating them as criteria instead of pleasure. Happiness, wellbeing, natural-- it goes on and on. I really think you should check yourself on this. Why, oh why, are you reluctant to stick to pleasure as your single goal? You are leading your readers in all kinds of unhelpful directions.

    When we point out what you are doing, you start prooftexting. But this invariably has been taking single phrases out of the context of the whole, which has made me think you don't understand the whole. You don't understand how differently you are using these words than how they are used by Epicurus.

    The income studies aren't measuring "natural"-- they are measuring pleasurable. And income and wealth are different anyway-- related, but different.

    Instead of the focus on natural, if you instead wrote about the economics of pleasure, directly, it would be both true to the ancient writings and applicable to modern life. It's a real shame that you are not being direct about pleasure and instead constantly reframe.

    To elaborate on another aspect of what I said above-- infants don't appear to "figure out" that a shape like a cow moving against a background represents an object separate from the background. That is part of their innate rudimentary physics. They act surprised when objects don't behave according to gravity, etc.

    There's clearly no innate specific word for cow-- but there is an innate recognition of the cow as distinct from the other matter in the field. The visual system, including the brain, has to perform work when presented with light reflections-- what is an object? Where are the boundaries of the object? Etc.

    I don't know that anyone has specifically studied cows-- but humans do appear to have innate recognition of snakes and spiders as dangerous. The fear of snake-shaped objects appears whether a baby has been bitten by one or not.…-science-snakes-video-spd

    This inborn pattern recognition doesn't include language and is not a symbolic concept-- it is an example of what I believe Epicurus meant by the prolepses. It's definitely what I would include in my own Canon-- it's like a species encoded memory of certain patterns.

    Did you know reading is not innate? Language is an innate skill, but learning to read requires using brain functions evolved for other purposes. It's likely why we have far more reading disabilities than we do language disabilities.

    Reading is a great pleasure to me. And writing. It's not "natural", though, so if I'm supposed to only value natural desires, I should not care if my library burns up-- I should not care about making enough money to buy books, which are manufactured and require unnatural activity, reading.

    This is the kind of thing obsession with natural leads to, and I picked a silly example to demonstrate the silliness of the whole idea as a criterion, instead of pleasure.