Anticipations - Justice & Divine Nature

  • As to looking for a "first" or primitive form of life millions or billions of years ago I am always going to think that is the wrong approach from an Epicurean perspective. I think Epicurus would insist that there is life throughout the universe, and that the universe had no beginning date. So whatever he would point to as producing this mechanism, or to be it's key characteristics, I do not think he would think that to be time-dependent. I think the appropriate analogy would be that no matter how many monkeys and how many typewriters and how many years those monkeys would never produce the works of Shakespeare. I am thinking it's likely the discussion would be more on the lines of something swerve-like in the sense of "it must be there and be natural even though we don't yet understand the mechanism."

    Of course I am very open to alternate possibilities including being completely wrong on my view there.

    But I think any theory that posits a "first" is going to be incompatible, as would any theory that violates what we can glean from the views of "isonomia" and "nature never produces only a single thing of a kind."

    That's why I think If we want to talk "soups" that is one thing, but simply assigning something to millions of years ago is not helpful. Where we are today is going to be "millions of years ago" when a couple more millions of years pass by.

  • The last few days I've been thinking more and more about anticipations trying to understand them but also, I think, getting more my mind around what is it concretely we're talking about.

    I liked thinking about them as a faculty. I've been pondering about how this faculty works, and I thought about it (thanks to others in this thread/forum) being the faculty to contrast "automatic" reactions - that we have towards and about things we experience and think about - to how we expect them to be; the expectation being the actual pre-conception, or anticipation, to the reaction and to our consciousness of it.

    These expectations being formed both biologically (language) and psychologically, perhaps?

    Does anyone have references to current divulgation of research about anything that could align to these anticipations of Epicurus?

  • I still think Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett's work is an interesting possible modern interpretation of the anticipations. I think Godfrey mentioned her in this thread. If suggest taking a look at that discussion elsewhere on the forum.

  • Here's one thread on her work:

  • In the past I've also been interested in the writing of Sarah Williams Goldhagen regarding embodied cognition. But she, as I recall, is a design critic. LFB is a neuroscientist and is more on point.

  • I'm reading the passage of DRN where Lucretius talks about the cow and how she feels the loss of her calf.

    Is this an example of an anticipation or pre conception? I'm pretty sure he's not talking about platonic motherly love. So why does the cow feel that, if not because - biologically - all animals have this pre conception that causes them pain... or - psychologically - both mothers and some males form this anticipation somehow?

  • That's an interesting question. On first pass I would say that it's the feeling of pain, and it's a good illustration of why sometimes we would choose to sacrifice ourselves because the pain of sacrifice would be less than the pain of seeing our child suffer.

    On second pass, however, there is sensation and preconception involved, as well as feeling. Feelings don't just arise out of nowhere! So this is a good way to examine what a preconception might be in a particular instance. Would the preconception be a non-conscious expectation of a continuing relationship with the calf/child? I think that this begins to point out the "non conceptual" nature of a "preconception." In modern terms it might be called a non-conscious mental model arising from a non-conscious prediction loop, at least to my meager understanding.

  • Yes I think it's probably true that a faculty of anticipations is involved in the assembly of pretty much all thought, in the sense that we would not recognize the subject as significant to us at all if we didn't have such a wiring to recognize it. The continuing hazard is to think that a particular idea is preprogrammed rather than simply "wiring" that if we choose to use it and if it is functioning correctly (we're not sick or insane) will allow us to be conscious of something to think about and eventually firm ideas in. And that's why I still like preconceptions as a word to emphasize the PRE part.

    When I think anticipation I can't help thinking of Carly Simon!

  • I think we're most all in agreement that we are not born with fully formed ideas. Aristotle and Locke assert that if we aren't born knowing ideas we are essentially s "blank slate" and that's going way too far.

    I think the better analogy is that while we agree we aren't born with fully formed ideas, we aren't born as nothing more than a pure white piece of paper. We're actually built with a superior version of a computer operating system (think Windows or Linux or Mac) that when operated can process data in amazing ways, but only on the basis of the ultimate programming of the system (dogs and cats and humans and grasshoppers are programmed differently). We aren't born with a stored database of knowledge, but we are born with an operating system and a series of peripherals (the senses), using the data from which a database can be constructed after conception and early development.

  • I think the senses leg of the canon well fits the "computer peripherals" analogy, and the anticipations leg fit the "operating system" analogy. It's less clear to me where the pleasure /pain fits, possibly as part of the operating system but perhaps more the "applications program" or the electricity or something analogous to the purpose for which the computer and operating system were constructed.

    In real life all these three operate very closely together too so it's not like they are entirely separate from each other and this is another area I think DeWitt's ideas are good.

  • It's less clear to me where the pleasure /pain fits,

    The on/off switch?

    Just a reminder to not let our metaphors run away with our philosophy. (I know I'm guilty of this sometimes! Shoehorning a metaphor to fit the philosophy probably does a disservice to both).

  • Possibly the on / off switch, because that's a good analogy to stop and go, but I'm not sure that goes far enough.

    The whole analogy of humans / living things to robots is probably both useful and dangerous at the same time, but then again that seems to be the whole situation with logic itself, so we've got to get used to that and be comfortable articulating the good and bad of it. I think that's pretty much "got to be" the approach Epicurus took.

    We can't label "all abstractions are bad" - that would be ridiculous, but at the same time have to be just as firm that "the map isn't the territory itself."

    Cliches can be tiring but I think assembling a list of them would probably help us talk about the subject and explain it more clearly.

  • Maps may be one of the best analogies, in addition to the compass.

    Maps can obviously be very useful, and maps can be useful at many levels of detail. Sometimes great detail helps, sometimes it is best to take to 30000 foot view, but they all need to be consistent with the facts.

    On the other hand no matter how detailed the map never becomes the terrain itself.

    I think DeWitt talks about this in terms of the telescoping levels of outline, with Epicurus' 40 doctrines perhaps the highest view, then the letters, then I think there was another summary level that Lucretius used or else he was using the full 38? Books of On. Nature.

    Regardless the telescoping view analogy seems very valid, and explicitly what Epicurus referenced as outlining jn the letter to Herodotus.

  • Quote from Cassius

    When I think anticipation I can't help thinking of Carly Simon!

    I tend to think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show :)

    The entire operation of a computer is based on 1 and 0, which might be equated to pleasure and pain. Or not.

  • I am going to try to make some comments and point us to the reading material in this post here. It's been a long while since I read this myself so I am going to put a priority on rereading it now. (Yes Don, even before I finish reading Sedley's work on Lucretius! There is too little time!!!)

    If anyone gets started ahead of me please post in that thread (the link that follows) and let's try to prompt each other to deal with those issues soon: