Posts by Elayne

    I am pretty sure my term "fancy pleasure", as I explained it, takes care of the idea that there is something other than regular pleasure.

    But I will revise the ataraxia part as Elli suggested and probably put in another section-- I think in my own words, I have described exactly the situation of ataraxia/ aponia elsewhere, but I see why it is a good idea to have a specific section to cover it.

    Not sure I will have time to get to this until Saturday, but I will do it before next week for sure!

    Cassius, oops-- I don't think I should say ataraxia is a feeling of freedom when I've just said there are two feelings, pain and pleasure-- freedom is not a third feeling. Obviously most of us use the word feeling much more loosely in conversation, but here I've used a strict rule. I either need to label it as a pleasure itself, due to freedom, or a "condition of freedom", or some other revision. I'll check in the morning and see what you think.

    Ah-- if you see the link and small discussion I put in the end notes, about how the brain works-- I know of zero evidence that the pain/ pleasure function of the brain ever fails to weigh in at any time in life, on anything that comes to our attention, but the intensity of feeling can certainly vary. It would be a pretty extraordinary assertion that sometimes pain/ pleasure shuts off-- I would need some replicated research to be willing to say that. And it would be against my personal experience entirely. So that is one of the points I mentioned we didn't have consensus on.

    I will fix the ataraxia sentence.


    I do not think it is ever a confusion whether someone is having pleasure. But there is definitely a confusion, which I have observed in person first hand and would be unwilling to argue against, of people not recognizing low grade pain for what it is. They can have what is clinically termed "alexithymia", inability to describe a feeling. I have never, ever observed this with pleasure. When I question the confused person who doesn't know what their feeling is, after some time I can help them realize that it is an unwanted feeling, which means it is a pain. As I mention in the paper, sometimes they are just so used to pain that it is like water to a fish. They have forgotten there is an alternative. But people in pleasure don't forget they are happy. They can habituate to an experience in regards to pleasure, but not to the feeling itself.

    I don't know why this is the case, just that it is definitely so. It isn't that there is a 3rd feeling, but maybe pain is confusing to people in some way that pleasure is not?

    I think by saying the feelings are two that I don't need to say pleasure is of a similar type, otherwise there would be more than two.

    Ok, here is an alternate sort of wording: "In the absence of pleasure, only pain can occur, not any hypothetical neutral state. In the absence of pain, only pleasure can occur, not any other state. This is the same as knowing that where there isn't void, only atoms will be present, and where there are no atoms, only void." And I will work on adding the other details I've proposed, such as there being no third sort of "mystical pleasure" feeling that's different from regular pleasure feelings.


    I really do think this is a key point and that we should not concede any ground to confused people who think any feeling other than pleasure will happen when pain is _effectively_ minimized.


    I also continue to strenuously disagree with the idea of representing feelings in abstract numerical form, especially given Epicurus' known antipathy towards the way math was used in his time. I'm an old calculus team gal, who is very comfortable with math, but it does not belong as a representation of feelings-- I advise we must always stay with the feeling itself when deciding which result we want. Seeing that graphic with the numbers makes me cringe, lol.


    However, I can include a line that there is not a consensus on this point.

    I think I have a way to allay those concerns about modern people not knowing what pleasure is.


    1) I will add a mention that in addition to absence of pain not being a hypothetical "nothing" experience, it is also not a hypothetical type of pleasure different from what we already know as pleasure from ordinary activities. This, I believe, is another key aspect of what Epicurus said about only variation after the cup is full. It's not a different feeling.


    Along this line, I disagree with the idea that a person who has deep enjoyment of a smaller variety and number of experiences and thereby achieves continual pleasure as often as anyone can is somehow having a less full cup or smaller cup than someone who enjoys a great many experiences. And vice versa-- both can be fully happy. Some of that is really just a preference. If a person in Ancient Greece couldn't be fully happy with the limited variety of availability activities compared to the much wider number of experiences to choose from now, due to technology, this philosophy wouldn't make sense. However, if the person feels a lack of variety, she has not met her personal need for it and should do more things.

    2) I will add a section on the most effective practical method of minimizing pain, which is to maximize pleasure. If both methods worked as well, they would have the exact same end result-- pleasure-- but in practice, focusing on pleasure is more effective.


    3) I will add a section explaining that humans are not fundamentally insatiable.

    Ha, it's thundering here, so I will write a little more.


    I need to reword the death comment--didn't intend to imply that there's anything after death, just that it's the only complete end of both pleasure and pain. Until then, one or both of those is always present.


    On happiness, I see I made an error-- I meant to say maximum happiness was a pleasurable feeling resulting from maximizing pleasure in all areas of life-- basically, it is pleasure of having the full cup of pleasures, or at least more pleasure than not, especially in regards to the life time "movie" of that cup. Without including maximum, I've inadvertently left out more ordinary situations. By saying it is a pleasurable feeling, I do not believe I have left room for it to be other than pleasure, and I'm not sure how that could be derived. We have all sorts of different sources of the pleasure feeling, and the response to awareness that our life's cup is mostly full of pleasure is itself a pleasure. I will say that at least that's what I mean by happiness. The feeling is the same as for other pleasures, but the stimulus is specific.


    Maybe I could just reword it as "happiness is the feeling of pleasure that comes from awareness that one's lifetime cup is more full of pleasure than pain."


    On absence of pain/fullness of pleasure, I am baffled by your answer-- it seems like you are disagreeing with the synonymous aspect, although you say you aren't, and I can't get a grasp on your train of thought. I would tell the person who says minimizing pain results in maximum pleasure that he is correct, and then I'd ask how he plans go go about it. If it is by withdrawing from activity, and he wouldn't listen to my advice that this will result in more pain, not less, then I'd tell him to check in with me in a year, earlier when he gets bored.


    If he asked me how to minimize pain, of course it depends on the situation he is in, but I would give him ways to maximize pleasure, and tell him it is the exact same end result, and IMO, _easier_ to approach actively by seeking pleasure than by only withdrawing from pain. But if the withdrawing did result in minimum pain, it would have worked just as well. There should be no difference at all.


    I'm not even trying here to describe what pleasure feels like, if that's the issue--that's like trying to describe "sweet." If they don't know the feeling of pleasure by adulthood, I can't imagine I would be able to help them out. There isn't any sufficient description, IMO, other than by using synonyms.


    On the size of the cup... I guess this is just me seeing the metaphor differently. I don't see the cup as representing numbers of experiences but the organism's feeling capacity. I don't think it helps to imagine people's cups of different sizes, if the cup represents feelings. Because then you'd have to say, well your cup might be full of pleasure but it's too small, so you aren't having enough. And how would you know? How would you measure it, if they are saying nope, I'm in total bliss here-- how can you say they could have more, based on an outside assessment of their activities? If they aren't having enough pleasure, their cup isn't full, rather than being too small-- they still have pain.


    Instead of restricted experience shrinking the cup of feeling, I would see it as the cup being in mostly a pain state, perhaps of low intensity boredom.

    Cassius, thank you for your comments-- it will be likely Monday before I have time to give a full response.


    I will throw out there, though, that although pleasure is felt at all normal times as a response to a specific experience (as is pain), I think the activity itself is not the pleasure or the pain. My first reason to think so is that the same activity under different conditions of the same person can be pleasurable or painful. This gives the nervous system a more flexible, accurate way to indicate to us the desirability of whatever it is we are doing, in different circumstances.


    The second reason I think that is the issue that under abnormal circumstances, a sensation of pleasure can be somewhat unhinged from a direct action. I can think of two ways to do this-- electrical stimulation of the brain during surgery, and drugs which bind to the pleasure neurotransmitter receptors in an abnormal way, causing prolonged feelings of pleasure with no other cause than the drug.


    Although actions-- electrical stimulation and drug taking-- did initiate the feelings of pleasure, the feelings are not being produced through the normal pathways and are not serving as a useful feedback about the health and safety of the action. It is not so much that the person is enjoying the action but that artificial bypassing of the natural feedback system is going on. It's not at all the same type of pleasure-action association, neurologically, as pleasurable reading.


    This is similar to a "sense of knowing", where electrical stimulation of the brain can cause a person to feel they "know something", a sense of certainty, but without any content.


    I do completely agree that we know pleasure when we feel it, and that normally it's a result of activity, but not that it "is" the activity.

    Ok, that's the last of it. The differences between my perspective and Cassius, as I understand it, are:


    1) Cassius does not think absence of pain in a living person is synonymous with fullness of pleasure. IMO this would require a third state, neutral, which I do not believe actually exists.


    2) Cassius proposes that the cup itself can be enlarged to admit more pleasures. I would take the position I understand meant by Epicurus saying that once the cup is full, it only admits variations.

    Besides the aspects of intensity, duration, etc-- perhaps add the "extent" or some word to describe whether the pleasure involves as many aspects for the person as possible? I'm thinking of PD 9, where he talks about if all pleasures could involve the entire person or the "principal parts"-- which suggests he was thinking of some pleasures only involving parts of us.

    An example of a widespread (?) pleasurable experience to me would be listening to some favorite music while eating a bowl of cut fresh tomatoes and reading a good book. I've got all my senses involved-- hearing, vision, smell, texture, taste... plus my cognitions on the book. Whereas some pleasures, even if intense, may not occupy very many senses or cognitive faculties. I personally find that experiences which involve more faculties seem heightened in a way that seems different from intensity.

    I think I would avoid trying to revert to a former or esoteric meaning of atheism, personally. I don't think Epicurus would go for that, because it would create confusion. But we may need more discussion to come to a consensus.

    I would stick to defining words which have a current conflicting opinion. I think there are two main terms that need defining-- eudaemonia, which is what I really think most normal people imagine when they hear the word happiness in English, even if they don't say so-- and agency/ free will. I suspect we need actually to have brief articles on those two terms.

    Here are some ideas. The atheist one bothers me somewhat, because the current meaning of this is absence of belief in supernatural gods. So here again I feel we are getting into issues of mistranslation into modern English because of attachment to older language. I would prefer that we use the modern meaning of atheist, a label I do apply to myself.


    1. Not "the greatest good for the greatest number," but “to all desires must be applied this question: What will be the result for me if the object of this desire is attained and what if it will not?”

    2. Not "humanism", “individualism”, “collectivism”, “egoism” or “altruism”, but “the tie of friendship knits itself through reciprocity of favors among those who have come to enjoy pleasures to the full.”

    3. Not "hard determinism" but “some things happen from necessity, some from chance, and others through our own choice.” (see paper on Agency)

    4. Not "short term hedonism" but “it is to continuous pleasures that I invite you.”

    5. Not "absence of pain" as a full statement of the goal of life, but “the Feelings are two, pleasure and pain” and “Pleasure is the beginning and the end of a happy life.”

    6. Not "living unknown" as best way to organize one's life, but “friendship dances around the world summoning us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.”

    7. Not "creation by a supernatural being”, but matter which is uncreatable and indestructible. In modern physics, this takes the form of the First Law of Thermodynamics: energy is neither created not destroyed but only changes form. One form of energy is matter. It seems unlikely Epicurus would disagree.

    8. Not "faith" but "constant activity in the study of Nature”

    9. Not "individualism" or "collectivism" but (I combined these in 2)

    10. Not "egoism" or "altruism" but (combined in #2)

    11. Not "idealism" based on reason, but “not even reason can refute the sensations, for reason depends wholly upon them.”
    12. Not "atheism" or “supernaturalism”, but a fully material universe with the possibility of continuously happy beings, and “for those men for whom wisdom is possible, and who do seek it, such men may truly live as gods.”
    My preference would be: Not belief in supernatural gods but... and the rest the same. Leave atheism out of it, and accept that living people who use that word are referring to supernatural gods only.

    “The wise man alone will know true gratitude and in respect of his friends, whether present or absent, will be the same throughout the journey of life.” Epicurus, DL, trans. Hicks, 10.118.


    Sometimes a post from The Daily Stoic shows up in my newsfeed, and usually I ignore it... but every so often, I check to see what the Stoics are up to. Today’s bit of unwise advice is to distrust your friends, because everybody lies. If they say they are enjoying life, they are probably lying, so no need to ask them how they have accomplished their joy—you can be safe knowing they are just as miserable as you. https://dailystoic.com/assume-everyone-is-lying/


    What a miserable way to live! Of course, sometimes people lie—but that does not mean everyone lies all the time, or that there are no deeply honest people—people who say the same thing whether they are with friends or alone in the room. Sometimes people do not broadcast their unhappiness online, but this also does not mean the pleasures they post are not real or that there are no people who are truly having an enjoyable life.


    Sometimes, after being betrayed by someone who pretended to be an honest friend but who was not, we may feel like believing we can’t trust anyone at all. But that is a path to a sad, painful life, without the true friendship which is one of life’s greatest pleasures.


    Let us seek to find friends whom we trust and with whom we will be trustworthy and honest about our lives, so that we may enjoy ourselves together. Parents, I advise you to teach your children from an early age how to recognize honest people and how to be honest themselves, by demonstrating your own honesty in their presence.


    In your comments, I invite you to give examples of the pleasures of honesty among friends, from your own lives. If you are a parent, how have you taught your children about this pleasure?


    *** This is a potential post in my planned "The Daily Epicurean Parent" website, from which I will eventually construct the book I've discussed earlier. Any editing suggestions are welcome!

    I like this idea, and especially focusing on applying the philosophy in everyday life! The most obvious times it comes into play are when we make decisions-- sometimes big life decisions, but also small ones. It seems to me that the small decisions often add up to the most effect in overall happiness. When someone wants to be happier, I think their daily schedule is the first place to start.

    We have natural desires, and we have a natural, innate sense of what feels just and what doesn't, based on the evolved tit for tat strategy. Organisms that can't tell if they are getting shortchanged on resources don't survive well! But a desire for justice is not a right until others contract with us to establish such. I think the whole concept of natural rights is a disaster.

    Fortunately, zero partnering with other organizations is necessary, because there is no training of ordained ministers required by these online groups. They do include example scripts for weddings, but no one needs training to perform a wedding. If a person is shy about public speaking, that can be overcome through other channels. All one really needs to know is what their state law requires for a marriage. Couples can write their own vows.


    I'm ordained through ULC, as well as through the First Church of Atheism and the Church of the Latter Day Dude. ULC was created solely to provide a route for celebrants for couples who otherwise had no options, and they had to meet the definition of a church, to meet state law requirements. Cassius, that is the reason the wording is vague-- it was the mínimum needed to withstand court challenge (which ULC successfully did).


    Many states had put a stranglehold on access to marriage. If you couldn't find a minister or a judge to do your ceremony, you were SOL. This was especially true for same sex couples. That was the reason I registered online-- our probate judges refused to perform same sex weddings, and when they were ordered to, they quit doing ANY weddings at all. So atheist couples or "nones" couldn't get married either. I have performed several same sex and atheist weddings. It's super easy and fun!


    I agree that it is something to consider. If I ever marry again, it would be to an Epicurean, and how cool would it be to have a database of folks who would perform ceremonies for their fellow Epicureans? I get emails from desperate atheist couples who don't even have an atheist friend or family member to help them. Last fall, I did an entirely secular wedding for a couple in Cullman and their family didn't even realize we had left out god! 😂