I'm still figuring out how to start a thread so I've been using the general discussion section. I see there's a "create thread" button in the section you referenced; I've been having trouble finding those buttons but will look more carefully for them for future posts.
This popped up in my feed: it's a brief article on the preservation of the art and architecture at Herculaneum.
And if anybody wants to visit a living, breathing reproduction of the Villa Papiri in scenic Malibu, California:
Interesting article. From an Epicurean point of view I see it as a intriguing examination of the non-conscious aspects of the Anticipations. The only major objection is the idea that morality is objective.
Everything is worthy of the attention of an Epicurean.
The art of fashion is an excellent example. As in all things, it depends on your personal hedonic calculus: does the pleasure it brings to you outweigh the potential pain?
To what degree is it natural and necessary? This would be quite different for Tarzan, a corporate attorney and, presumably, you.
To what degree is it natural and unnecessary? What pleasures can you afford without undue sacrifice? Are comfortable, stylish, well fitting, well made clothes a pleasure to you? This could be anything from t-shirts and shorts to tailored suits, depending on your circumstances and desires. Or are these things meaningless to you?
To what degree is it unnatural; to what degree does it bring you more pain than pleasure? If you need tailored suits for work, but can't stand wearing them and can't afford them, then maybe a different job could be considered. If you "have" to have every latest fashion craze then maybe you need to examine at what point this desire will end, or if you need to control your desire.
Regarding the "art of fashion:" fashion entails art, design and craft and can be appreciated on all of these levels and more. But appreciation doesn't have to mean consumption. In my trips to art museums I've stumbled across a variety of fashion exhibits: historic clothing of various periods, Japanese armor, Hollywood costume design, and what may have been the post Met Gala exhibit. The aesthetic conception, richness of materials, intricate craftsmanship, sense of place and how the articles fit into their culture... this and more are worthy of consideration, if it brings you an excess of pleasure over pain.
An interesting and thought provoking essay, Hiram!
Martin, if I understand you correctly I should have said "I'm beginning to understand the objects of current biological research as part of the Canon..." which is a more correct statement.
Due to the shortage of verifiably authentic writing from Epicurus dealing with the Prolepseis/ Anticipations/ Preconceptions, and the conflicting interpretations of same (DeWitt/Cassius/common sense v everybody else/academics), I’ve been on the lookout for present day information which may apply, and I’m just beginning to read up on it. In my field of design, there currently is critical interest in “embodied cognition”. Here are some quotes from the book Welcome To Your World, by Sarah Williams Goldhagen, a proponent of this idea. In terms of the science involved, these quotations are quite generalized. As far as I know she has no interest in Epicurus. Words in  are my comments.
"The new paradigm of human cognition begins by reframing the relationship of our thoughts to our bodies. Cognitions do not emerge in tension with a corporeal self, as was thought for centuries, nor from a disembodied mind— a paradigm encapsulated in the dualistic “mind- body problem.” Instead, cognition is the product of a three- way collaboration of mind, body, and environment. Inherent in the very fact of human embodiment— life lived in a body— rests the notion that the physical environments that a body inhabits greatly influence human cognitions. The body is not merely some passive receptacle for sensations from the environment, which the mind then interprets in a somewhat orderly fashion. Instead, our minds and bodies - actively, constantly and at many levels - engage in active and interactive, conscious and nonconscious processing of our internal and external environments."
"The common western understanding of human thought and experience relies on the idea, first formulated by René Descartes in the seventeenth century [really?], that our conscious mind operates at least on some level independent of its corporeal home. The basic structure of this Cartesian dualism is as follows. First, through our senses— sight, touch, taste and so on— we receive information from the environment. After we sense a stimulus, we perceive it. After perceiving, we begin to process, forming a preliminary judgment about that information by running it through our internal data bank of familiar, recognizable patterns and by reacting to it emotionally. Thus we conjure a preliminary interpretation of the initial stimulus. Only then comes the highest step of cognitive processing, whereby we consciously use logic, reason, and abstraction to evaluate the importance of the given stimulus to our life and make decisions about whether and how to act."
"The emerging mind- body- environment paradigm starts differently: with the somewhat obvious fact that the human brain inhabits a body, and that this brain- mind- body lives on the earth, in space, and in the social world. The brain and the body together facilitate the operations of the human mind, which depends on their architecture for its very existence and for its modes of functioning. Human cognition takes place in a corporeal body that lives on the earth and in space. Not only that: our cognitions are shaped by the fact of our embodiment, sometimes in surprising ways— such as thinking more creatively when we sit outside (instead of inside) a box [this is from a study mentioned in the book, it’s not referring to “thinking outside the box”]. In this new paradigm, a cognition can be linguistic or it can be prelinguistic; it can occur anywhere on the spectrum from the non- conscious to the conscious. Learning to understand cognition’s complex, multilayered, often subterranean quality involves attending to our own fleeting thoughts and perceptions— precisely the ones that we are more or less predisposed to ignore."
"Those cognitions that are more audible, more distinct, usually come in the form of the words we hear inside our heads. Language is the enabler and medium we use to express our internal thoughts to ourselves as well as the enabler of social communication. Because words have such a hold on us, many philosophers of language and thought have for generations mistaken our interior monologues or the spoken language that forms them for the entirety of cognition."
"That people experience emotions first as physical states— as feelings, in other words, as things that we feel in our bodies— and only then as cognitions has been hypothesized ever since one of the founders of modern psychology, William James, proposed it. We now know, for example, that the cerebellum, which coordinates sensory input with muscular responses, is also involved in processing emotions. Fear manifests itself as a jolt of energy, and muscles tense…. Today, psychological research confirms that what we call “feelings” are cognitive responses to what our bodies literally feel, and not just in the case of the familiar fight- or- flight response activated by the feeling of fear. Our emotions are enmeshed in and intermeshed with our bodies; in other words, they are “in the body,” or embodied."
"People acquire a vast body of knowledge simply by living embodied in the world, as an object among objects, and as matter in space."
A couple of more specific practical examples:
"Recognizing and identifying patterns produces in us the sensation of pleasure. Whether it’s when we listen to a piece of music or look at a painting or walk through a building or landscape that slowly reveals the nature of its order, recognizing patterned organization rewards us with a little jolt of the opioids in the area of our brain associated with our “liking” system. Presumably, the functional origin of this reward system lies in our evolutionary need to rapidly situate ourselves and the members of our group within an environment and a social group."
"The appeal of bilateral symmetry does appear to be innate: even very young infants gaze at such objects longer than they do at asymmetrical ones, and this is true across cultures. “Good symmetry,” neuroscientist Eric Kandel writes, “indicates good genes”— and, he might have added, robust health. Even without our conscious awareness, our evolutionary heritage has taught us that almost every healthy animate being exhibits symmetry either globally, in its overall composition (the form of a butterfly) or locally (the pattern on its wings) or both. Symmetry in a perceptual object, then, heralds (in the words of V. S. Ramachandran) a “biological object: prey, predator, member of the same species, or mate.” Although the objects in the built environment, including its buildings, are inanimate, symmetry may also appeal to us because it intimates a human presence."
1) To me, this indicates that biological sciences are validating and updating Epicurus’s thinking, in a similar fashion to the previous validation/updating of the physical sciences, at least as far as I am familiar with them. This seems to be a description of the prolepseis and their integration into the Canon.
2) This seems to me to confirm and elaborate on the DeWitt/Cassius/common sense interpretation. If I understand it correctly: correct understanding is the whole point of this exercise.
II. Physics (in which I will include relevant biological research, which is ultimately physics)
This is a point that I've been thinking and reading about lately. I'm beginning to understand current biological research as part of the Canon (how we know things), and Physics as dealing perhaps more with non-biological (or non-cognitive?) processes.
I'm coming at this from a design background and with very limited scientific background. To this point I've primarily been reading work by Sarah Williams Goldhagen, an architectural critic interested in neuroscience and embodied cognition. As I approach these fields from an Epicurean viewpoint, it seems that modern biological science is addressing sensations, prolepseis and feelings as an integrated whole and validating and clarifying the Canon similarly to how modern physical science has been validating and clarifying the Physics.
Such a punny thread!
He's right about that! It's discouraging how in a couple of generations education has become a such a class issue (sorry, no pun intended).
Regarding investing, there are many books (particularly on index fund investing) which describe how the financial services industry is rigged, and the most effective ways to work within the system if one is interested in doing so.
Ignoring any political bent (please!) Elizabeth Warren and her daughter wrote a book, All Your Worth, back in 2005 which I've found very useful regarding using a bit of psychology and simplifying day to day budgeting and finances.
In college I periodically drove back and forth between Los Angeles and Denver. Those were unforgettable trips: I especially enjoyed them at night, when I'd stick my head out the window and breathe in the stars.
On the topic of finances, I found this podcast on the psychological and behavioral aspects of investing quite interesting:
(Some of the behavioral discussion seems to be relevant to the Anticipations, although that certainly isn't the intention of this podcast. I've been curious lately as to how current cognitive science may reinforce Epicurean philosophy. I'm not a scientist, so I've just been picking up tidbits in places like this where people are applying science to practical topics.)
Excellent! It's got a nice flow, gathering steam as it goes. And a nice use of language!Quote
I have occasionally been possessed by the notion to write a longform materialist poem in English. In my vision (forever out of reach)
Regarding "forever out of reach": baby steps! Putting oneself out there creatively takes a ton of courage (in some cases hubris). Maybe you've already been doing this, but sticking to a creative routine for an hour or so, say four days a week, builds momentum and over time leads to surprising results. Also, using a voice recorder on the road can be a way to get your ideas down. It may be possible to digitally transcribe the recording for later editing as well.
This all may be obvious, but I say it to offer encouragement back. There's a sense of your pleasure in your words, and you seem to have a drive (pun intended) to write more, so why not find a way to maximize your pleasure in this activity? I hope I'm not being presumptuous.
I'd enjoy reading more.
I, too went from Christianity, to the East, to the Stoics before stumbling upon Epicurus. In some ways it was a very long journey just to get home.
This Morricone music gives me pleasure because it takes me back to the 1970s. Clint Eastwood movies were quite popular then, which led to an interest in the so called (perhaps inappropriately) "spaghetti Westerns" that Eastwood had been in in the 60s. My friends and I would sneak beers into the theater where we would watch his latest movies and have quite a good time.
I haven't seen many of his movies since then, but his latest, "The Mule", is a tale of a life poorly lived and is an interesting bookend to the Sergio Leone movies. I'm curious if the Leone movies are worth another look: I just remember them as really bleak westerns with great music.
Cassius, thanks for your synopsis! I got completely derailed by the untranslated Greek in the piece.
What you say makes perfect sense. I've been under the impression, without recalling the sources offhand, that Epicurus was somehow opposed to poetry and music. This has always seemed peculiar to me; your interpretation makes much more sense with EP as I understand it.
There's an essay by Mark Walker, "A Life Worthy of the Gods: Towards A Neo-Epicurean Moral Psychology" in the pdf which can be downloaded from:
He discusses how EP could be linked with positive psychology, briefly comparing it to how Stoicism is linked to cognitive behavioral psychology. It's an interesting read that might be pertinent here.
Can anybody recommend some material on the Greek gods? I'm a little familiar with the stories of anger, chicanery and such. It would be Interesting to have references to peruse that deal with such things as:
- stories of the Greek gods
- Greek gods versus Greek myths: are the myths just stories of the gods?
- the place of the gods in Greek culture, especially during Epicurus's time
It might be helpful to see more specifically what the general thinking was that Epicurus was responding to. If so, maybe this subforum is a good place to gather references.
A good read is Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Historical fiction about the building of a cathedral and the intrigue and effort involved.