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Don Level 03
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Posts by Don

    Multiple components comprise the Epicurean life. There is more to laud in the "sweetest life" than just pleasure.

    To return to Kalosyni 's original statement...

    The are myriad, numerous experiences and components to laud in the "sweetest life", but the most important - the "highest" thing - to laud IS that they are part of our sweetest life possible. According to Epicurus, all we choose to do should point us in the direction of living the sweetest life. Sometimes we choose (or have no choice due to disease, death of someone close, etc.) to experience pain for a greater, pleasurable goal. I seem to always use the example of the choice of the pain of exercise ^^ Epicurus gives us agency to affect the arc of our life. We do not live at the whims of Fate. We choose. We reject. We live!

    That *was* Epicurus's rebellion against SPA (I'll be contrary and say ΣΠΑ ;) ) "You're all wrong. The highest good - the star by which you should steer your ship - is the feeling of pleasure or pain. Steer towards pleasure. I don't have to 'prove' this with flowery rhetoric or fancy logic. I point to children and animals, to blessed Nature herself. That is sufficient. You all are deluding yourselves and your students with talk of virtue and 'the beautiful, the honorable (kalos).' I spit on the kalos unless it brings pleasure!"

    Decades ago (literally), I remember thinking (and I'm sure it's not original to me) that "the meaning of life is a verb, not a noun." Life is meant to be lived.

    Now I think, Epicurus's philosophy is that life is meant to be lived pleasurably. Our life's path points to pleasure as our North Star. It is the destination. Along the way there will be obstacles, taking our path along circuitous routes to that goal, some painful and tortuous. But we keep our eyes on the North Star to guide us in the right direction.

    "Let no one put off the love and practice of wisdom [note] when young, nor grow tired of it when old."

    Yep, because the practice of philosophy "the love and practice of wisdom" leads to living pleasurably (also translated sweetly, joyously).


    "Practical wisdom is the foundation of all these things and is the greatest good. Thus practical wisdom is more valuable than philosophy and is the source of every other excellence [note], teaching us that it is not possible to live joyously without also living wisely and beautifully and rightly, nor to live wisely and beautifully and rightly without living joyously. [note] For the excellences grow up together with the pleasant life, and the pleasant life is inseparable from them."

    The context is important here, too. In the lines directly before this, Epicurus is writing about not endorsing the pleasures of the profligate and making decisions that will lead to a pleasurable life. Practical wisdom - phronesis - is essential for making those decisions on what desires to choose and which to reject to pursue a pleasurable life. The pleasurable life is "inseparable from them" precisely because they are instrumental to the highest good.

    I would agree that there are multiple pleasures and multiple components that lead to a pleasurable life.

    Saying "pleasure is the highest good" doesn't mean it's the "best good thing among rivals." It means it's the goid thing toward which every other rival points. It's at the apex of possible candidates for all good things. That doesn't mean prudence isn't good. We practice prudence and justice and virtue because they lead to pleasure. They are instrumental goods to leading a pleasurable life, which is the highest good.

    I'll dig up my translation of the Letter and respond to your excerpts asap.

    And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
    I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
    There's more than one answer to these questions
    Pointing me in a crooked line
    And the less I seek my source for some definitive
    (The less I seek my source)
    Closer I am to fine, yeah
    Closer I am to fine, yeah

    I agree that that's the general tone of Wilson's book. For someone who's never heard of Epicureanism, maybe it could be an entry point for further exploration? From my perspective, that's why it's important. It's really the first book to get some popular press coverage for Epicureanism after the glut of Stoicism books for so long.

    I differ with the author's translation of αταραξία (ataraxia) as "impassiveness" and would use something like "tranquility," but I find the paper overall very compelling and thought-provoking. Final excerpt below:


    "While making his final catechistic efforts in Book 6, the poet can legitimately hope that his student sees the true nature of the imperturbable gods and approaches their shrines “with an untroubled breast” (placido cum pectore, 6.75) – which, of course, cannot be done by common worshippers and could not be done by the reader himself at the start of his textual pilgrimage. Creating an untroubled breast (or placidum pectus) is the fundamental purpose of all the six books of De Rerum Natura, whose contemplative devices are carefully modelled on the traditional Epicurean practice of philologia medicans – the therapeutic reading, analysis, and memorization of Epicurus’ writings that, as Lucian reminds us, could “produce peace (εἰρήνη), impassiveness (ἀταραξία), and freedom (ἐλευθερία) in readers”.¹⁰¹