Godfrey Level 03
  • from Los Angeles, CA
  • Member since Dec 7th 2018

Posts by Godfrey

    PD07 and PD10 touch on purpose; in a roundabout way you could derive a definition of limits from them. Not the word, but the usefulness of the idea.


    PD7: Some people want to be well esteemed and widely admired, believing that in this way they will be safe from others; if the life of such people is secure then they have gained its natural benefit, but if not then they have not gained what they sought from the beginning in accordance with what is naturally appropriate.


    PD10: If the things that produce the delights of those who are decadent washed away the mind's fears about astronomical phenomena and death and suffering, and furthermore if they taught us the limits of our pains and desires, then we would have no complaints against them, since they would be filled with every joy and would contain not a single pain or distress (and that's what is bad).

    Regarding PD3, there are also these two threads:

    I think it's helpful to study PD3 and PD4 together, also exploring the practical ramifications, as a further aid to understanding the Canonic faculty of pleasure and pain.

    As I understand it, a key component of Epicurean justice is that it relies on a compact and on someone appointed to enforce the compact. So my question regarding any anarchist "system" or any "system" eschewing government is: who makes and enforces compacts? It seems to me that some form of government is required in order to prevent a "system" reliant on aggression. But maybe I've read too much post-apocalyptic fiction :/

    (Note that I put "system" in quotes because that word seems incompatible with anarchy, but I don't know what word is preferred.)

    My understanding of the "official" description of the soul is that it's comprised of very fine atoms distributed (I think) throughout the body. This is off the top of my head; I believe Lucretius discusses it but I don't have a cite at the moment.


    PD3: “The removal of all pain is the limit of the magnitude of pleasures. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, pain or distress or their combination is absent. PD4: Pain does not last continuously in the flesh: when acute it is there for a very short time, while the pain which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not persist for many days; and chronic illnesses contain an excess of pleasure in the flesh over pain.” Long and Sedley translation

    Exercise: focus on pleasurable sensations, thoughts, feelings and actions and, later, think about what happened to your mental and physical pains.

    Notes: Quote from Don from (RE: Practical exercises: PD2 “I sometimes have a hard time accepting PD4. Theoretically, yes. Practically? I reach for Tylenol when I have a headache! A chronic, painful condition? That's going to be hard... But maybe PD4 gives us a goal?”

    For me, PD4 becomes becomes clearer when not separated from PD3. In this context, I think it's appropriate to use the same exercise for both PD3 and PD4 as they are basically two sides of the same coin.

    From Cicero’s On Ends, 1.37-39 (with omissions): "Thus when hunger and thirst have been removed by food and drink, the mere withdrawal of distress brings pleasure forth as its consequence. So quite generally the removal of pain causes pleasure to take its place. (7) Hence Epicurus did not accept the existence of anything in between pleasure and pain. What some people regarded as in between – the complete absence of pain – was not only pleasure but also the greatest pleasure. For anyone aware of his own condition must either have pleasure or pain. Epicurus, moreover, supposes that complete absence of pain marks the limit of the greatest pleasure, so that thereafter pleasure can be varied and differentiated but not increased and expanded." Long and Sedley translation, The Hellenistic Philosophers p. 174-5.

    Is the act of eating a pleasure or a removal of a pain? As far as I can see it doesn’t matter, since the two are the same. In answer to Don’s question above, PD4 isn’t saying “don’t reach for that Tylenol!” Ingesting that Tylenol is going to lead to a pleasure, and likewise a removal of a pain. So is bringing to mind pleasant memories, enjoying some music or a spectacular sunset. More important than whether something is a pleasure or removal of a pain, at least for me, is “being aware of your own condition.” That way, you can make choices and avoidances proper to your specific situation. The exercise I’m proposing here and for PD3 is simply one method of practicing this awareness of your own condition.

    Also regarding Don’s question: I think that PD3 is actually what represents a (the!) goal, not PD4. Practically speaking, I think that we pursue pleasure in the realm of individual, sequential choices and avoidances and that PD4 is addressing this while the removal of all pain in PD3 is a pleasantly abstract ideal. This jumps out to me (maybe erroneously?) when the two PDs are combined. More challenging for me is “Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, pain or distress or their combination is absent.” That’s something else to examine empirically in this exercise.

    To me, there should be better words for frugality and tranquility, based on previous forum discussions. I understand what you're saying though, Don .

    I would add prudence, friendship and gratitude to the list. I think prudence could replace frugality....

    As for PD5, prudence (or wisdom) and justice are pretty clear but I'm not sure what to make of "honor." It seems like there may be a better word for that. Maybe "honesty?" It’s obviously a good thing to live honorably, at least the way I understand it in the context of PD5. But it could be interpreted in terms of "honor culture" which I think is the opposite of what is Instrumental to pleasure.


    Franklin referred to this list as a list of "virtues". Since the greatest good to an Epicurean is pleasure and not virtue, might this be a problem with the list?

    Joshua referred to the items as "precepts;" another possibility is to call them instrumental virtues, as in instrumental to pleasure. It seems necessary to clarify this in order to avoid any confusion with Stoicism and the like. Offhand it seems like PD5 would be a guide, probably other doctrines as well. Also DeWitt has a chapter on The New Virtues although to me it's just a start and needs further thought.


    PD3: "The removal of all pain is the limit of the magnitude of pleasures. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, pain or distress or their combination is absent." (Long and Sedley translation)

    Exercise: as you go about your day, focus on pleasurable sensations, thoughts, feelings and actions and, later, think about what happened to your mental and physical pains while you were focused on pleasure.

    Notes: Think about the difficulty of removing all pains, especially as you get older and physical pains increase! The mere act of focusing on pains increases them. Instead, focusing on pleasure can be a therapeutic practice when you are in times of pain and stress. Further, the choice and avoidance of pleasures and pains is the basis of Epicurean ethics.

    In this PD Epicurus is not only refuting the argument that pleasure is limitless and insatiable, but pointing the way to the best life.

    For additional discussion on PD3: Philebus - Plato's Arguments Against Pleasure and Epicurean Responses

    PD4 is a challenge considering the modern ability to prolong life in painful circumstances. It would be good to start an exercise thread for that; if nobody else does, I'll give it a shot in a week or two.

    Cassius I was thinking of the PROCESS of dying, a la Epicurus. Absolutely there's nothing to enjoy once we're dead! As far as thinking about death goes, to me that would only apply to thinking about a good death... I can't imagine finding pleasure in visualizing being eaten by a tiger. That's why I clarified that I think the first version of the exercise that I proposed is more appropriate than the second version.

    the practice of living well/nobly/beautifully (καλώς) and (the practice of) dying well/nobly/beautifully (καλώς) are the same.

    Yes Don this is exactly what I had in mind; good cite!

    Don thanks for adding that link! It's nice to have related discussions close at hand.

    After some further thought I think that the first version of this exercise, visualizing dying well, is both the most useful and the most Epicurean (as is often the case). At least for me, it reinforces the understanding that if we can find pleasure even in death, we can certainly find pleasure in each moment of living.


    PD2: Death is nothing to us; for what has disintegrated lacks awareness, and what lacks awareness is nothing to us. (Peter Saint-Andre translation)

    Exercise: visualize your death in detail: physical feelings, surroundings, smells, sounds, mental state, thoughts. Make it personal, not abstract.

    Notes: Two ways of doing this are:

    - to visualize dying well

    - to visualize random ways in which you might die.

    Either way, be aware of the feelings this stimulates in you as to how you should live your life and how you define pleasure for yourself in this context.

    NB: Do NOT do this exercise if you are feeling any symptoms of depression.