Elayne Level 03
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Posts by Elayne

    What I understand JJ to be saying is that slavery would not come under the category "justice" if if does not involve some type of mutual agreement, a contract which is at least implied, between the two parties. I agree completely. The use of force does not qualify as a contract. That is different from classifying it by a universal standard of right and wrong, different from popular concepts of "fairness", and different from an assessment of the consequences in terms of pain/ pleasure-- it's only saying it doesn't meet the definition of contractual justice as Epicurus used that terminology.

    There were two people in my Meetup group, out of several who signed up and fewer who actually came, whom I thought might work out... and that would have been ok to start with. Even ONE actual Epicurean in my area would be great, lol! But after we met a few times, it became clear we were not anywhere near to being on the same page, and that they were not willing to spend the time to study on their own between meetings. That wouldn't be so much of an issue if I had a core group to start with, of at least somewhat similar perspectives.

    Given the preponderance of competing philosophies, it may be much harder than I had thought to find people who are open to this philosophy, much less people who already get it.

    One mistake I made was that the group was not set up in a hierarchical manner. This is mainly because I consider myself a self-led person, but I dislike having followers... I prefer other self-led friends. In the past, when I have done public political things, a crowd of almost groupie-like people tried to glom onto me, and it was quite irritating-- they were more interested in some kind of weird hero worship than they were in doing anything substantial themselves. They didn't treat me like a real person but more of a projection. So I did not set things up where I was clearly the leader of the meetup group--- I wanted it to be more lateral than vertical. But that doesn't work well when the others are so unfamiliar with the subject matter.

    VS 76 sounds like one of those sayings where the specific context matters, so I would just be guessing. When I read DeWitt, I realized how important the contexts were. For myself personally, when I study for my own pleasure, that automatically includes wanting the pleasure of those I'm close to. Not a whole country. But on the other hand, I suspect that if a substantial number of citizens in my country decided to practice EP, the outcome would likely increase my freedom of choice and thus my options for pleasure.

    Hi JJ-- cool info about Whitman!

    I read a few years ago that Whitman was interested in phrenology-- a popular idea in his time that one could discern character from bumps on the skull. And that this is where some of the language in his poetic self description originated. Phrenology was discredited, but I still love what he did with all that. You may already know this-- here's a link in case not.

    I mention that because I have noticed that there is a wide range of inquiry in that general field of embodied consciousness-- some credible and some woowoo. It's a fascinating subject!


    Cassius, I will likely need your help when I get to the point of including some of the historical documents/ translations-- I think my main focus will be on how the basic structure of the philosophy applies to raising children, but it will be stronger if I include specific historical references. Most likely I will write initially from my pediatric knowledge/ experience, which agrees with EP in full-- and then add in the history as part of background. So when I post chapters, I will be glad to revise them to incorporate historical material.

    For anyone who is substantially involved in the book, I will certainly want to list them as co-authors.

    Hiram, thank you for those ideas! I do need to include objectivism. I tend to forget it, because I don't see it all that much where I live, but I know it is a popular thing. Because of my schedule, it might take quite a while for me to finish... so I think I should get some sections at least in a draft before contacting a publisher. But when the time comes, that would be great!

    The concept of parental leadership out of respect, not fear, is one of the major things I will cover-- that is what I have taught my whole career! I agree completely. When I was on faculty at UAB, I taught the med students their discipline lecture. I always stressed that discipline comes from the Latin word for teaching/ learning-- not for whacking them on the butt. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) calls that type of leadership "authoritative" parenting, as opposed to authoritarian parenting. There was a time when this was popular-- Dr. Ginot, for example, and Dr. Thomas Gordon-- and lately the pendulum has swung in what to me is a micromanaging, behavioral modification direction with lots of rewards and punishments that tend to backfire and are largely ineffective.

    Martin, pediatrics used to be just younger children... but my training-- and I have been in practice for 23 years-- was to care for newborns through adolescence. There is some debate on the age to end pediatric care-- most offices I know turn them over to the family docs at 18, but some at 21. I am comfortable doing their medical care, including family relationships and basic psychiatric care, through age 21.

    So my book will definitely include teens! I will think about how to include a scenario such as you describe. I haven't run into that exact one, but it is very common for parents to have differing perspectives on a wide variety of issues, and that would be a good aspect to cover. It might come under a broad heading of teaching children to cope with conflict, by example.

    Godfrey-- when I include biological research in Physics, of course we are using our sensations (and the instruments which are tools to extend our sensations) to perform the research. Just as we use our sensations to observe the results of a physics experiment. However, physics-- the movements and interactions of particles-- is at the root of biology, since we are material creatures. So what I meant is that in the study of the brain, we are studying events and structures that occur as the result of physical interactions in matter/ energy. And when we talk about the results of biological experiments, rather than the methods used, we are in the realm of physics.

    This is my outline so far for a book for parents, combining my professional knowledge about child development ( I am a pediatrician) and behavior with EP. I will likely not write chapters in order but will post as I go and then eventually have a full book done. I am very interested in hearing member stories about how they have applied EP to interactions with their children-- I plan to include stories from my own experience as examples of different points. This outline has some technical jargon in it for conciseness, but I will write in a conversational tone.

    I would like your comments on the general proposed organization of information and suggestions for any key topic I may be omitting. Thanks!

    I. Basic overview of EP, including physics, the Canon, and ethics-- fairly brief and I will probably write this part last

    II. Physics (in which I will include relevant biological research, which is ultimately physics)

    A. Material nature of the universe and of biological beings

    . B. Brief overview of developmental human behaviors and evolutionary pressures-- genetics, epigenetics, environmental influences, timing of skill development, empathy, temperament, etc-- nature/ nurture. Parent nurture influence is a small part of the total environmental influence on adult behavioral outcomes, but we do have influence.

    C. Evidence for prolepses-- humans not "blank slates"

    D. Research on decision making/ choice and how humans participate in shaping the environment including culture. Include decision fatigue. The process of choice is not an illusion.

    III. How children perceive reality and how to provide effective support as a parent

    A. Sensory-motor development, effective ways to stimulate

    B. Pain and Pleasure

    1. Pain-- intrinsic vs extrinsic, pitfalls of behavioral modification (children are not like lab rats), role of pain as a vital warning system, how children express physical/ emotional pain and the temperament variations

    2. Pleasure-- intrinsic pleasure, pitfalls of extrinsic rewards, individual variations, shared pleasure

    C. Prolepses -- more details about some specific hereditary human cognitions such as innate recognition of justice

    D. Development of abstract reasoning and common childhood errors in interpreting their experiences. Human cognitive heuristics. The use and precautions of reasoning as a tool.

    IV. Ethics in child raising

    A. Setting an example through living a pleasant life yourself, demonstrating honesty, trustworthiness, justice, kindness, friendship, wise judgment/ planning-- "show your work" to child so they understand what you are doing and why

    B. Teaching wise judgment and decision making for net pleasure in developmentally appropriate ways

    C. Making proxy decisions for a child's net pleasure, until child old enough to do so for themselves-- based on adult knowledge, experience, and observation of your child's individual temperament and preferences. Includes using evidence to make wise healthcare decisions for your child. Importance of maintaining your child's future freedom of choice.

    D. Increasing shared pleasure in the family through activities and happy memories, building family relationships over time

    E. Teaching children about common pitfalls in competing/ popular philosophies and how to recognize subtle variations-- stoicism, Buddhism, Humanism, various social utilitarianisms-- ists and isms, lol

    F. Helping your child learn to evaluate potential friendships and skills to nurture true friendships and to recognize and leave situations where they are being treated badly-- social skills

    G. Providing effective feedback to help your child learn from mistakes-- communication with children

    H. Transitioning over time to a position of providing wisdom from experience and gradually releasing active decision making to children and teen, in age appropriate ways.

    V. Raising children without supernatural beliefs in a supernaturalist society-- challenges and tips. Children's developmentally expected fears. How to discuss death with children.

    VI. Summary-- raising children as part of a pleasant life, enjoying your relationship with your grown children, transmission of wisdom from one generation to the next. Since this is aimed at parents it won't have a section on enjoying not having children, although I certainly think this is a wise decision for some people!

    Hiram, not speaking French, I don't have the same access to Michael Onfray's work-- but I found this article by him which seems to be a different perspective than Epicurean. His hedonism is a "balance" between pleasure for oneself and others. If he does that, then he has caused balance to be more important or as important as pleasure. Then he talks about the universal things he believes, including some abstract quality of "worth" of different humans.

    I definitely take a lot of pleasure in witnessing the pleasure of those I love, so it is included already in my own pleasure-- it isn't a separate thing that needs to be balanced. And I don't even assign "worth" to humans at all. That's an abstract concept which eventually results in the turning of humans into math problems, and then the math becomes more important than the actual pleasure.

    Onfray says a happy human is "better" than an unhappy human- what does he mean by better? Is there a "better" that is different from pleasure? If he said "I am happier being around happy humans than unhappy humans" or "I am happier living around other people for whom pleasure is the goal" it would make more sense. That would be something I could agree with.

    I make this comment because if he is a central figure representing Epicurus in France, his version sounds significantly different from the direction we are going here.


    Hiram, right, I do not mean an external object but a molecule that mimics our endogenous pleasure pathways-- which could give us pleasure despite actual danger. This is more similar to someone's brain being directly stimulated with electric current to create pleasure-- it does not give us the usual information about whether the action is likely safe.I would limit unnatural to synthetically produced mimics, such as fentanyl, but the word unnatural is tricky and I rarely use it. But I think it is safe to say that since fentanyl has not been around long, we can't have adjusted to it through evolution. There is a generation right now being exposed to massive use of synthetic opiates by their parents, and a dramatic increase in overdose deaths in the past few years in the US, often by young adults. The grandparents are raising these children-- I have many in my practice. I'm expecting a cultural aversion to synthetic mimics of the opiate pathway in that generation, which is being left orphaned-- once they are of age.

    I am contrasting something like fentanyl's mimicking action with, for instance, a sweet pleasurable taste tending to indicate that a fruit is less likely poisonous-- in which case the brain is producing the evolved pleasure response. There is a definite difference between those two events in the brain, as well as in outcomes for the person.

    As far as addiction goes, of course I have assisted in the treatment of teens, since that is part of pediatric practice, and for that reason I have done a fair amount of research. I think the evidence is most supportive of a process like the one Stanton Peele outlines. I have had several conversations with Stanton on the subject, and I had the pleasure of reviewing an advance copy of his book on developmental aspects of addiction, which is coming out in May. The general gist is that people do not become addicted when they are enjoying pleasure through their innate pleasure pathways-- they tend to have no interest in the mimics, or if they do use them, they do so without becoming addicted. https://peele.net/

    The thing that convinces me of the anticipations is developmental pediatric research-- the fact that we are not blank slates. We have a rudimentary "sense of justice" based on the tit for tat scheme, and several other innate intuitions which are either present in infancy or emerge as if on a schedule, in a variety of environments.

    I have decided the best word for me to describe these brain functions is as being like senses. That is what they seem closest to, but instead of being sights and sounds, they are innate intuitions. People know what we are talking about if we say a "sense of justice." We have more senses than had been understood in Epicurus' time-- we have senses which were then subsumed under touch, such as temperature and vibration. We have proprioception to know where our body parts are with our eyes closed, a sense of balance (lol, some of us-- me not so much), and a sense of acceleration (we cannot detect constant speed, however). There is some recent convincing evidence that humans, like some other animals, have a sense of magnetic fields! I have seen some research on the sensation of "knowing something", which can be stimulated in the brain completely unattached to content. There is a sense of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and although the familiar usually (except with deja vu) requires prior exposure to a setting, that does not explain the sense itself-- anymore than having seen red once explains color vision after that. And maybe we have an innate preference for reality.

    The innate intuitions like the sense of justice are different enough from vision and hearing to be put in their own category. They are not based on reasoning and/or experience. I suppose someone could lump them in together with the other senses, but they do need to be accounted for in the ways humans interact with reality, somewhere in the Canon.

    Cassius, that is exactly the track I am on with this, and your phrase "disposition to embrace reality"-- that's the short version to encapsulate my long explanation.

    I thought it was worth talking about because I haven't seen us address it directly, when it comes to seeking pleasures. It doesn't change pleasure being pleasure but it could explain some intuitive aversions.

    A specific example-- if a person takes a powerful artificially manufactured extrinsic pleasure mediator, like fentanyl, they can put their hand on a hot stove and burn themselves while feeling no pain. Reality would have provided the signal of pain to prevent tissue damage. But the person has "fought against their sensations" by introducing a molecule that binds unnaturally to the endorphin receptors and now has no way to judge reality.

    Cassius, yes, I should have been more clear. I mean two distinct ideas-- the "higher and lower", as you say-- there is no distinction. And then the intrinsic pathways of pleasure vs the extrinsically mediated pathways-- I am tempted to call these natural vs unnatural, but that might be a stretch. There seems to me a definite difference between our pleasure systems responding to reality vs a molecule bypassing part of the intrinsic pathway to mimic our innate pleasure systems.

    For the substance- mediated pleasure which sort of "hijacks" our innate pleasure pathways-- bypassing the ordinary workings of these feelings--I do not mean that the pleasure itself is differently felt, but I am wondering if the frequent sense of hesitation many people feel about these pleasures is because of an intuitive apprehension that there will be net pain. It may be a learned apprehension from having seen people go down the road of addiction, but I am not fully sure that is all that is going on. With all the sense-altering plants in the world, that would be a constant danger if humans (and other animals) had to use reasoning every time to decide about them. Generally, instead, humans use the substances but have built up all sorts of rituals and prohibitions about them.

    So I am wondering if we have an intuition, an anticipation/prolepsis to be cautious with what Elli called the "fantastic", when we were talking about someone lying on the beach forever with margaritas, in altering our sensory input. I am not calling this a different type of pleasure, in the felt sense. But like justice, I wonder if we are innately suspicious. Animals that make themselves intoxicated frequently would not survive to reproduce-- they would fall, be unaware of predators, etc. Loss of contact with reality is precarious. Humans can reason this out-- we can do hedonic calculus-- but that might be too fancy of a skill to have been present early in evolution.

    Even lab rats will skip extrinsic mediators like cocaine and opiates if they are having pleasure from a natural environment. Even if they haven't experienced addiction and withdrawal pains. I don't think they are reasoning this out.

    In that thought experiment asking people if they would chose the completely blissful simulated life vs the real life, I think this is behind an intuitive preference for the real vs the unreal. The unreal feels intuitively unsafe.

    The closest I can come to finding a PD that would support this is PD 23:

    " If you fight against all your sensations, you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those sensations which you claim are false."

    The extrinsic mimics of our pleasure pathways "fight against" our sensations, in a way, by rendering them unreliable as signals about reality. Sometimes only with the pleasure pathways and sometimes including our sense organs as well.

    We have had several threads lately on FB addressing the principle that pleasure is pleasure-- no higher or lower pleasures. There is still often some contrast made between pleasures which involve altered states, such as through drugs or foods-- the use of extrinsic molecules which bind to receptors which otherwise bind our own endogenously produced neurotransmitters. I would like to consider this from a slightly different angle, while maintaining still that pleasure is pleasure.

    The contrast in comfort level with feelings of pleasure mediated by intrinsic neurologic/ hormonal pathways and those mediated by extrinsic factors may be based on an intuition that the extrinsic pathways are not credible contacts with reality. I'm saying intuition here because I don't get the sense that it is a reasoning process-- it seems like a visceral distrust. Perhaps a prolepsis?

    The extrinsic molecules bind differently from our intrinsic molecules-- often more "tightly", less reversibly. They can result in down-regulation of our receptors, a hallmark of tolerance which happens in addiction. To my knowledge, feelings of pain and pleasure produced by unaltered contact with reality do not have this effect at the molecular level. We can become habituated to smells, so that we only notice a new smell after some time of contact with a particular odor, but we do not down regulate our ability to feel pleasure at a new, pleasant smell. We may become habituated to a particular pleasure without losing responsiveness to a new one. Whereas with extrinsic mimics, we can, if addicted, temporarily lose access to normal pleasure entirely.

    Perhaps we have an intuitive sense of caution around extrinsic mimics of our pleasure pathways. From an evolutionary standpoint, this would make sense, because pleasures and pains are signposts about reality-- they tell us what will help and hurt us. If we alter our senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste so that we do not contact reality in the way we have evolved to do, this can be unsafe-- and in the same way, altering our ability to get feedback from reality-based pains and pleasures could be dangerous.

    I have taken courses in medical hypnosis, which can be very useful for reducing both chronic and acute pain without medication side effects. I have mostly used it for patients with migraines and "functional" abdominal pain, where the pain is not serving a useful purpose as a warning. I've occasionally used it for acute pain, such as for a little boy whose mother brought him to my office unexpectedly with a serious, obvious broken arm. While splinting him and contacting ortho for an emergency appointment, I quickly used hypnosis to resolve his severe pain and panic.

    However, a key element of medical hypnosis is always the suggestion to never remove ALL the pain and to never remove pain that has not yet been diagnosed-- because then we have removed a critical warning system for tissue damage. We do not want people self-hypnotizing away their appendicitis pain. It should really be used very very selectively.

    I am wary of extrinsic molecular mimics of my pleasure pathways, as well as other practices which could alter my normal contact with reality-- such as trying to lose my spontaneous emotional response to painful or pleasurable events-- a goal of certain meditation practices. While maintaining that pleasure is pleasure, net pain can result from losing our usual contact with Nature.