camotero Level 01
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Posts by camotero

    I guess that someone studying Epicurean Philosophy would fairly quickly grasp the general idea of how the soul is thought of being and dissolving in this materialist context.

    So, the Epicureans provide an answer to the questions of the soul, but don't say what it is (at least I think they don't), in a way of a redefinition of a previously superstitious and abstract concept, as they do with the gods (with the explanation of the natural evolution of humans into what they must be), into something related to nature.

    For me, it's not that this particular topic is of the utmost relevance, since I think these were just explanations needed to be given by Epicureans to previously existing superstitious concepts in order for the philosophy, and its most relevant contribution of ethics, not to be disqualified as "incomplete". But Still, the problem of superstition is still a real one these days, and being able to provide a bridge to someone to get out of it depends on being able to talk about the things most relevant to them. And I think the soul is one of them, usually.

    So, after eliminating what I think would be the previous or traditional conception of soul, a superstitious and abstract "spirit or essence", the only definition I could find (online) is that of the energy (a material thing) that causes the (biological) vigor (an observable and possibly measurable quality of strength of action) that all living things show in different ways.

    Is there an "official" one of the philosophy?

    Just getting into full-nerd-mode, because it's not significant but it's weird nonetheless: Strange that MFS would talk about this as something so obvious, dropped casually as a 1 line footnote without further references or information, and yet we're not being able to pin point what exactly is he talking about.

    Thanks to both. Interesting answers. I agree that the poetry could have interpretations that are coherent with Epicurean Philosophy; so it's the more confusing to read MFS talking about an Epicurean deduction/description/observation of a "fiery envelope" as I don't believe the use of poetics was common neither in Epicurus nor in any other disciple except Lucretius, and it doesn't seem like a description of anything observable in the world that wouldn't have been described quite differently were this the case.

    In the MFS version there is a footnote linked to the following text (1.71-73):

    ..."far beyond the blazing battlements of the world".

    The footnote reads:

    "The reference is to the _fiery envelope_ that, according to the Epicureans, surrounds the world"...

    This is the first time I've come across this "fiery envelope belief". What is he talking about?

    I wonder if my implying that the ultimate test of the validity of the system is that is logical makes me a Platonist myself?

    Ha, I hadn't thought of that, but what I gather from this is that you're trying, as they did back in Athens, to have the most logically solid argument, not because that's what gives actual validation to the system, but because it improves the possibility of it being recognized at the outset as a valid system, to later be actually validated by experience, logic taking the back seat.

    Camotero something else going on here that I think is relevant, and I see myself making this point a lot lately:

    It may look like we (I? Epicurus?) are taking things to unnecessary extremes by carrying things out to "extreme" logical conclusions, but I think that is exactly what Epicurus was doing. Epicurus was faced with teaching philosophy in ancient Athens, where everyone who was anyone was expected to know and understand the arguments of Plato and other similar authorities, starting with Philebus on pleasure but also lots of other dialogues with similar arguments. Those guys in Athens were fully committed to "logic" as the key to everything, so Epicurus could ill afford to take half-measures and appeal to practicality like we might do today. I think that is one reason that some of us have problems coming to grips with how extreme some of the conclusions can sound, but after going through Philebus and other Platonic dialogues a couple of times I am convinced that Epicurus thought that if he left any logical conclusion unanswered then his entire system would be ridiculed into obscurity.

    Yes we are appealing to the sensations and feelings as the ultimate guide of how to live, but we are doing so only after a rigorously logical argument as to why we are doing so. Anything less than than would be pure assertion on our part, and make our philosophy arbitrary, as a result of which it would rightly be laughed out of Athens.

    It's clear, thanks.

    I think you are probably trying to separate out mental and bodily pleasures in a way that would contradict the position just stated in the above quotations. If one feels pleasure it can be from any source, mental or bodily, and this I think is playing in to your resistance to the saying that the wise man will on occasion die for a friend, which is something that can be extended very far into war, etc. If in our own personal calculatons/feelings we would feel so awful if our friend died when we could have attempted to do something about it, then for some number of people such a result would mean such agonizing pain for the rest of their lives that they would rather die. That's the comparison that each person has to make for themselves, weighing the result of each action in terms of total future pain and pleasure (and this again is a situation where I think duration - length of time - is only one of the factors involved).

    I think I understand it better with the following aid: When we talk about mental or bodily pleasures, we're talking about the source of the pain or pleasure, not where said pain or pleasure is felt. I remember DeWitt saying something about the mind as another source of sensation, and I think I may have gotten confused about the posibility of experiencing pain or pleasure in an abstract way (as in, as an example, being able find proof of some mathematical thing would be satisfactory intellectually without the need of experience said satisfaction in the body) vs a tangible way; I know, it sounds weird now that I re think it. I now understand that pain or pleasure are only felt in a tangible way, in the body, but the sources of stimulus may be from our physical senses, that interact with atoms outside the body, or from the mind, which interacts with atoms inside the body. Does this make sense?

    We expand, codify, ignore, misuse, and corrupt that innate faculty as adults, but nature and evolution has given us the ability to distinguish justice from injustice at a fundamental level and to act accordingly if we so choose.

    I would argue also that having a "Justice System" to resolve issues for us, helps to the atrophy of our justice-recognition-organ, because it makes it external, and sometimes overly complicated to discern. One contribution of Epicureanism to humanity could be to rehabilitate this faculty, organ, of recognizing when justice is or isn't being served/practiced.

    I am becoming more and more convinced that we are born with a prolepsis or anticipation of justice - or call it a basic sense of fairness. I've been watching a Netflix documentary series on research on babies and their development, psychological and physical. In experiment after experiment, it can be shown that babies can distinguish between what we would call fair play - or what is just - and what is not.

    I don't know if you guys are familiar with Noam Chomsky, but regardles of his political activism, he has some very interesting and down to earth theories about language, one of them being that our ability for language is too a prolepsis. This was the first time I had heard about this concept (of anticipations).

    When you say "make them valid amongst us and have as many people as possible recognize them as well , and dogmatically, as good" I think that's where you'll get push-back. When we start labeling something as good in and of itself are we starting to elevate that concept to an ideal in the sense of Plato's Ideal Forms?

    Yes, I guess you're right. I realized this after reading the other responses and crafting my own.

    By declaring dogmatically that these rights are good doesn't increase anyone's pleasure unless it's to just feel good by holding those beliefs.

    Yes, and thus it could even be detrimental. Because of a false sense of achievement that such statements can produce.

    Yes most of us agree that these are desirable, and that they bring us pleasure, and therefore we should "fight" for them as appropriate, but the starting point for the analysis is that the things that bring us pleasure frequently require action on our part to obtain, and they are not handed to us free by god or nature - they require effort.

    Yes. In line with my comment above, once again one could suspect of machiavellic intentions behind all this promotion of them.

    If the issue he is raising is why "justice" gets special treatment as an abstraction

    Yes, this is what I was implying. I am now entertaining the possibility that the abstraction of justice, as I tried to define it above, and not as I used to understand it before, could have great potential to be effective as a suplementary criterion of the sensations and the feelings.

    the problem is that those who don't agree cannot be expected to go along and give up their own views of pleasure and pain.

    There, again, it could be said that it can become unjust, because these utilitarian wouldn't be taking into account our sensations and feelings about it, and just trying to create an absolute solution for every case.

    We can probably generalize from the PD's and other texts that the greatest happiness of the greatest number would result from each of those involved achieving the most pleasure and the least pain for themselves and their friends, but that doesn't end up producing a real-world rule that can be used to make specific day to day decisions.

    Are any of you guys familiar with Anarchism? Not in the definition of disorder and damage to private property, but rather in it's definition that any form of hierarchy (thus, government) is only justified as long as it proves itself useful to the ones it rules over; and if such proof can't be found, it should be dismantled and changed for one that does; this would perhaps imply many different and probably more local types of governments, rather that ones that encompass large geographic areas and populations that can be very different. Again, Chomsky has some stuff to say about this.

    All this is VERY helpful and absolutely within the scope of things that are proper for this forum. This is not partisan politics or the type of "careerism" that I think Epicurus was mainly warning against. This is basic-level theory that in my mind is closely akin to the observation that friendship is among the most important tools for achieving happiness. Practical reality is that we are social animals and we need to understand the implications of that in an atomist universe.


    If we believe these ideas give us pleasure, and by extension allow our society to let us pursue our pleasure, then we must defend the society or government that allows us the freedom to pursue our pleasure against those who would institute a form of government that would curtail our pleasure.

    I was about to argue in favor of freedom being an absolute need for pleasure... but I guess it's not either. Perhaps there could be a scenario where our freedom could be curtailed in order for some other basic pleasure be continued (either immediately or later on)? And, judging it by the prolepsis of justice, defined as I did lines above, it wouldn't be unjust to have your freedom curtailed in that scenario as long as the government that reduces said freedom is making sure you're pleasures are taken into account? And as such, it also makes sense to curtail the freedom of those who are unjust (those who don't care for allowing the others experience and live by their sensations/feelings, or outright impede it).

    great look at the subject through the development of and interaction between various cultures through the melting pot of an island paradise. Immigrants from Bora Bora, China, New England missionaries, whalers, merchants, lepers....

    This brought thoughts about the definition of justice. And what missionaries usually do, trying to impose their worldview unto others'. Perhaps justice is an innate ability, that gets forced out of us somehow, to intuitively recognize that the other ones have their feelings too, as we do, and these are based on their and our specific culture/upbringing/personality and we can be happier letting them be with them, and procuring we're left to be with ours as well?

    Also, I realize, that the decision between living a life of public action, activism, etc, or a more recluse or retired life, is highly correlated to personality, which comes down to what, according to your wiring, produces you more pleasure, and produces a better result at the hedonistic balance (i liked the term Godfrey :thumbup: ). What I'm getting is, none is wrong, none is better than the other, if lived using the criteria. If not lived using the criteria, it's just a missed chance to live a more rational, conscious existence, controlled experience. Interesting :/

    remember what Torquatus had to say about his ancestors and the way they acted in war:

    At the outset, it all sounds like mental gymnastics to justify otherwise avoidable atrocities. But, what I'm gathering is, that within the framework of EP, anything is justifiable, as long as you were true to your sensations and feelings?

    But this is a logical mistake to make if someone thinks that "painlessness" or "absence of pain" or even "immediate bodily pleasure" is the goal of Epicurean philosophy. I think Epicurus was very clear from his deeds and words that such asserts are dramatic misunderstandings, but they will recur so long as people talk about Epicurus in these terms instead of diving deeper into the text to see the underlying role of feeling as the true guide of life rather than virtue/ being good / being holy / being reasonable etc.

    It could very well be that I'm experiencing a resistance now to assimilate the relativity that is allowed for in EP. I sort of can recognize this. There's in me still a desire for a philosophy that allows for, and is conducive to, things being simpler, easier, more peaceful. But I realize, I may be falling for an idealization.

    Could someone explain better what's the role that virtue plays in EP, and how does it play it? From all these readings I'm getting a greater importance is put on virtue than I initially thought there would be in EP.


    in my view of Epicurus' teaching, pleasure is EVERYTHING that we find to be desirable, including our attachment to our friends and our family and our "country" and innumerable other things. I think it is dangerous to narrow the definition at all beyond "what we feel to be desirable" and that means that certainly mental constructs and abstractions are pleasurable and desirable too.

    This is clarifying for me. I think I can agree with this definition. Is this an interpretation of yours Cassius or is it shared by others in this group? Is there evidence among the texts that this is a definition that aligns with Epicurean Philosophy without the risk to becoming too intangible? As you know, I'm a novice in these topics, so even though it's intuitively clear to me that it can all be sensational pleasure, I do try to see how one situation or another would translate into actual sensational pleasure, in the shortest - or more probablly succesfful time frame - to regard it as good or bad (hence my argument against the war, and C. Longinus logic for going at it).

    Epicureans held that mental pains and pleasures can be / often are more intense than "physical" ones. We don't have much problem seeing that in terms of visual art and music and dancing, but it also extends to literature and to any and all other forms of abstractions as well.

    And these, I think, sort of reinforce my point about pleasure having to be actually felt, because if we leave it at them just being something that happens in the mind, we're one inch away from falling into idealizations again. And I remember, from what I learned in DeWitt, that even such abstract stuff as humor or fear at the end get translated into things we feel, because there are atoms in our body moving from one place to another that allow us to feel the effect of these abstractions on us. So, from my understanding so far, yes, everything has to end in something physical, to be real. Literature and music produce emotions in us, that are atoms (molecules if you will) that make them real. What other "pleasures of the mind" can we think of to see if they hold up to this test? Can you tell me of some pleasures of the mind that stay just there, as mental constructions and as such "are pleasant" without producing an effect in our bodies?

    So absolutely I think that a person can employ Epicurean philosophy not only to die for a friend, as Epicurus specifically included, but also to die for any number of things if we find our value (our pleasure) to be deep enough in that objective.

    So far into my studies, I don´t see this. I know we shouldn't fear death, because if we're dead we won't feel pain, but following your line of thought Cassius where you point out that painlessness is not the objective, death only achieve painlessness, but deprives us from keeping feeling pleasures, so I don't see any scenario where, absent of terrible pain, it would be desirable to get into a scenario of certain death for someone, anyone; I know this doesn't sound romantic at all... but aren't we the pragmatists? Thinking of going towards certain death for someone else, seems to me the most idealistic thing. On the other hand, if death is not certain, and you could do a calculus of putting yourself at certain risk of death, like, let's say, donating a kidney, to help someone you love and that will bring you more pleasure afterwards, well yes, I think it's something worth doing. Since I'm no oracle, to me, there are situations that are better to be regarded as certainly conducive to death, like war, and some that are not. When you enlist to fight, if you havent' come to terms with the possibility of dying, you're fooling yourself. So for me, it's a no, from the outset. Keeping in the pragmatist line, why is your loved one exposed to this danger that could hurt him so bad and probably end your life? Isn't it a consequence of their life choices? And also... if they're the ones to go, we are certain they're not suffering anymore, and we know, that our pain of losing them won't be eternal, and if it's goint to be long, it's not going to be very intense.

    I want to clarify that for argument's sake I'm taking postures that are actually rather extremist for me.

    By resting their best philosophical case on natural rights, the American Founders (to take the earlier example) left open the door to every manner of specious argument. The condition of the African slave? Natural. They'd be worse off without us. The disenfranchisement of women? Natural. They are the weaker sex. The racial partition of society? Natural. What right do we have to intermix what God at Babel hath set apart? The prohibition of homosexual sex and marriage? Natural. Two men, after all, cannot procreate.

    Thanks for your reply JJElbert . I particularly like the ponit about the Enlightenment Rebels. But this paragraph here I need to delve deeper into, because I think it's an evidence of the confusion that I'm arguing against. All these arguments you talk about here, are manipulations via mis interpretations and wrongful use of rhetoric to advance some macabre interests. And thus, we can confirm once again that the name for these rights is a misfortune, since it can so easily be misused to reinforce these cases. But it is analogue to saying that some stupid stuff the Republicans or Democrats say is actually what Republicanism or Democracy is about. It's not. But my argument is that there are other concepts, like justice, which is just a concept, that unfortunately have been misappropriated before by groups in power, but that we would be benefitted from recognizing in the same category as justice. Again, life and freedome. Of course justice. Education I think is a big one.

    You didn't see that warning did you? Because if you did, or people see it elsewhere, I need to work harder to turn it off.

    I didn't see any warnings, Cassius .


    From Don:

    I would say that there are some things that promote people living together but I don't want to go down a Utilitarian rabbit hole.

    by the way. The calculus of pleasure, which is something I’ve come to identify as very epicurean... sounds very utilitarian to me. Could someone elaborate on what are some big differences between utilitarianism and epicurean philosophy?


    From Don:

    The Epicureans saw something like justice to be a contract among people to live without being harmed and to not harm others.


    But, how is justice not the same as the other constructs ? It is equally idealistic. There’s no physical justice in nature that you can see or grab, the same as the other constructs. If the problem is the name (natural, universal, etc.), because they are made to sound as if a supernatural authority is or should be enforcing them, well, let’s jot use that name. But the constructs listed under those unfortunate names are as useful for pleasure as justice. So we should clarify that it’s not the non-existing quality of those constructs what impedes them to be put on par with justice, but rather the fact that their grouping name sounds woo-woo. Of course they don’t exist. But of course we should try to make them valid amongst us and have as many people as possible recognize them as well , and dogmatically, as good (which I guess is the whole reason they gave them said names). Or why is justice the only one that can pass the cut? Is it not? (I truly don’t know)


    from Cassius

    In such a universe, where there are no gods and no ideal forms, it is literally impossible for there to be "universal rights" apart from what humans create for themselves.

    Perhaps the naming is wrong. Perhaps that’s why Human Rights is better. I think we all agree that they have to be recognized and upheld and honored by us as a community or else they don’t exist. They don’t even exist after we’ve upheld them. The pleasure resulting of using them as factors in our calculus of pleasure is what’s very real. And I do think it does more harm to say they don’t exist, when clearly they are concepts we understand and can include them in our calculus of pleasure. It’s obvious they don’t exist, but negating their value and capacity as factors for producing pleasure seems to me absurdly purist, not pragmatic at all, and potentially very harmful by leaving all of us potentially subject to experiencing a life without these rights. So I would say, there should be a doctrine or dogmatic saying that states that recognizing a person's right to live regardless of what they’ve done, and to live free within the constraints defined by their interactions with others, because it is obvious that this could bring us all more pleasure than pain.

    Don thanks.

    I would only think that freedom and life could be universal rights, if there was any. Property I’m a bit more doubtful about. But I agree with you that these could be achieved from seeking justice, in the Epicurean way. And what I argue is, if they are so evidently effective towards producing more pleasure than pain, why do we have to have an organized body of government to recognize them and enforce them, if we could do it as well. If we understood that the pain that would cost us to defend our fellows' rights to life and freedom is something that could be pragmatically pleasure producing for all in the not so long run, we could easily accept them in the same category of justice, just enforced by everyone, instead of having a judge to determine it. But by saying just that they don’t exist, we’re taking the easy pleasure of not complicating ourselves now, but leaving our future pleasures unsecured. And by the way, what like you said, what is justice if not recognized by the people: nothing. There’s nothing in the universe that protects us from being harmed and harming the others. And I think these other cosntructs fall in the same category. Or if you could help differentiate why they’re not I’ll be glad to listen.


    From @Cassius

    Epicurus taught against making politics a career as far as I can see, but that did not stop Epicureans such as Cassius Longinus from helping to lead the Roman civil war, and I feel sure the reason is as you state. If you do not act to protect yourself then god certainly will not, and it is unlikely others will either.

    This is another issue where we have to dig back through the texts but I think it is clear that Epicurus distinguished between unhealthy political ambition and between whatever action is required to obtain and secure peace and safety.

    I'm having trouble reconciling taking part in a civil war with epicurean philosophy. I presume there’s nothing pleasurable in taking part in war, and it could only be if there was some level of sociopathy/psychopathy, but perhaps I’m not seeing something. And even if you decide to endure it for a later pleasure, said latter pleasure has to be so idealized as to make it unreal. When one goes to war, they do so expecting to die, very likely in a very unpleasant way, and the only consolation one can find to do this falls more into the realm of stoic idealism than of epicurean pragmatism.

    I wonder if this confusion may be recurrent, because, as I have come to understand epicurean philosophy, for the calculus of pleasure to be effective and pragmatic, one has to be able to “add 2 + 2”, with which I try to say, there has to be pragmatic, and easily identifiable pleasure at the end of the pain you’re calculating you’ll endure. Deciding to go into war, seems more complicated than that, with much uncertainty at the outcome, thus making it a highly idealized outcome.

    I’d understand if he was already involved in this, by erroneous choices of the past, without knowing better, fooled by the stoic idealism of the time, and this was his last resort to try to change his ways within the options he had. But for me it would have been better to do something else, or go somewhere else, like Epicurus himself did when he was being harassed/pursued at lampsacus (or one of the first places where he started teaching).

    I think the line crossing towards fooling one self that the pain one’s enduring will produce pleasure later on is a thin one, and specially since we’ve been indoctrinated and bombarded left and right with idealistic thinking. I understand this has to be more practical. Pleasure should be more immediate and not “after a war”. If it takes a war to get to the pleasure, I don’t think it’s very real.

    Likewise, Cassius , I gather from your display name that Cassius Longinus may be an important character to you, so I want to clarify that this reply is not directed at you personally, but rather intended to explain my point of view, with an open stance for correction and clarification.

    I'm sorry to come late to this discussion, but I thought it was better to continune this thread than to open another one.

    I think the whole concept of natural rights is a disaster.

    Elayne I presume you refer to the thinking-of-them-as-real-stuff is what you deem a disaster. But the fact that they are recognized (life, liberty and estate) as rights (in Cassius's meaning of being things desirable because they produce more pleasure than pain) by the bigger chunk of humanity-as-an-authority the recognizes them and will try to enforce them regardless of politics is actually something good. So trying to promote them, and honoring them, regardless of them not being real, is something very desirable and far from disastrous. Why couldn't we just accept these as good (pleasure-producing), regardless of having and organized body enforcing them, and be willing to enforce them ourselves in our quality of members of an existent cumulus of beings who can understand this, and each other, called humanity.

    "Rights" exist only where enforced by some kind of organization. Where the organization chooses or simply does not enforce them, the "rights" do not exist, and as Adams says, the issues will either be taken into the hands of the living people involved, or not -- but calling on "rights" is useless.

    How is the Epicurean posture of not taking part in politics reconciled with the recognition of rights as being good and only posible within the context of a governmental authority that could help enforcing them? It is in my best interest to have some rights, so it is in my best interest to have a recognized body that can help me have them and maintain them, but if I only relate passively to such body, I'm foregoing control of my experience, and putting at risk future pleasure derived from said rights.

    I don't think voting is active enough, because the options could be: bad and worse; unless we have a more active stance in, at least, promoting into general culture the need of this regulatory body of civilians, with the same interests (and then again this is why is good that some rights are recognized as universal/natural/human in order to reduce the risk of loosing them if the body of regulatory civilians tends to opine different than me in all issues). I think this inevitably exposes you to the risks of political life, whether or not you decide to take public office, albeit at a lesser level; but this is a pain that generally we should be willing to endure for the greater pleasure of certainty of some rights, otherwise we would be hiding our head in the ground (like in the discussion of Voltaire's Turk  Cassius ); I'm not familiar with the PDs but if they didn't include something like this I would be surprised.