Continuous Life Improvement

  • Some mental pains that I can imagine are anxiety, worry, desire for revenge, fear and anger. I know that one of the basic goals of Epicurus is to reduce or eliminate fear/anxiety/worry in humans.

    I am using the terms Rational Decisionmaking and Rational Behavior Decisionmaking in place of the term Hedonistic Calculus. Section 18 is an attempt to describe Hedonistic Calculus, how one would make behavior decisions using criteria that align with Epicurean philosophy. I don't like the philosophical term Hedonistic Calculus because the word hedonist makes me think of eating grapes off a tross while participating in an orgy, and the word calculus reminds me of difficult to understand mathematic concepts, when in fact the term Hedonistic Calculus means a careful choice of behavior to maximize one's joy and happiness.

    You can see in the original section 18 I used a mathematical explanation, or a spreadsheet explanation of hedonistic calculus. After reflection, I don't like this explanation, it is not the way I make decisions about my life. That is the reason for the rewrite of this section.

    Either the English language is failing me with words to describe what I mean, or perhaps I need to find better words to describe things like "Present Moment Physical Comfort Enhancement". That phrase is clumsy and not quality writing. I could remove the word Physical which would reduce the clumsiness and make it less specific. One could write an entire book on the hedonistic calculus, and I am trying to describe it in a few paragraphs.

  • Rational Decisionmaking sounds rather Stoic; maybe something along the lines of "optimizing pleasure" would be a better replacement for hedonic calculus. Or "using pleasure for making decisions".

    If it's not too trendy, Present Moment Physical Comfort Enhancement could become "mindfulness of pleasure".

  • Garden Dweller I agree your concern about hedonism, and i agree with Godfrey's comment re "rational". I think we are seeing the implications of Epicurus' deemphasis of " logic" . there is indeed a limit to which logic and reason can take us. We are really in the realm of "feeling" although even that word is surrounded with negative stereotypes.

  • Tell me if I am over-interpreting the Epicurean approach:

    A student of Epicurus, when confronted with a pain causing problem, will use a strategic method to relieve the pain, including:

    Analysis of the root causes of the problem, which may be complex and not easily discerned.

    Consulting with others on how best to resolve the problem, including use of the body of knowledge obtained through scientific method.

    Respond to the problem by means of a strategy focused on achieving a state of pleasure, which may be by use of a number of complex problem solving methods, if needed.

    Simple problems may have simple solutions, but more difficult problems may need a coordinated approach with a number of methods.

    This is what I mean by rational decisionmaking.

  • That makes good sense to me.

    Part of what we always dance around in coming up with formulas is the issue of whether the goal of avoiding pain is somehow entirely separate or more important than that of pursuing pleasure.

    That's where I think the perspective has to focus on that there really is not a conflict here. Yes there are times when a train is coming at you and your immediate attention is focused on getting out of the way, but in reality since the feelings are only two, then every choice, and not only when you are standing in the path of the train, but always, is basically that of avoiding a pain by choosing a pleasure, or choosing a temporary/smaller pain in order to experience a longer/larger pleasure.

    Once your perspective opens up to including EVERYTHING that you experience/feel as either a pain or a pleasure, then there really is no issue of worrying that you are at any point "shifting into neutral" and doing something that is neither a pain nor a pleasure. Each and every action is geared toward the same ultimate result.

    And that's why I also think that Epicurus seems to have tended to collapse the wording into saying that PLEASURE is the guide of life. Each time he could have said "pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain" but I think when the overall goal is seen as pleasure, which is really the same thing as avoiding pain, then it makes sense to talk in terms of the one word "pleasure" (even using the "accursed" term "hedonism") rather than always saying "pursue pleasure and avoid pain."

    Because it seems to me that really both terms are encompassed in "feeling" and so ultimately what we are discussing is the competition between ultimate goals: Are the ultimate goals set by "feeling" or by "gods" or by "Ideal forms / virtue." And of course Epicurus comes down for "feeling."

  • Cassius, I guess that in your statement above

    "Part of what we always dance around in coming up with formulas is the issue of whether the goal of avoiding pain is somehow entirely separate or more important than that of avoiding pleasure"

    you do not mean "avoiding pleasure" but rather finding pleasure.

  • Yes, I agree in any difficult situation we have to think of what would be the right strategy to overcome this situation that is against the goal of pleasure. But we have to keep in mind that we have to not be delayed or to be very hurry. This is what the greeks said with the word [eu+kairia] "opportunity".

    "You would attempt something, only when you can attempt it in the appropriate circumstances and in the appropriate opportunity. But when comes the right opportunity, you must be ready to grab it. Epicurus forbids us to stay idle, when we think about fleeing, and gives us the hope of a way out even from the most difficult situations, as long as we are not in a hurry before the time nor too dilatory when the right time arrives”.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!