Nate Garden Bard
  • Member since Jan 9th 2018

Posts by Nate

    Some reflections on the link between Epicurus and nominalism:

    “When [Epicurus] says ‘unreasonably’ this is more than mere derision; it is a fundamental doctrine. Since the only real existences are atoms and void, it follows that no abstractions exist; ‘justice is nothing by itself’; form cannot exist apart from subnstance, quality apart from thing, virtue apart from action. This results in a sort of nominalism; virtue becomes an empty name, corresponding to no reality” (De Witt, Epicurus and His Philosophy 247)

    “But against Plato, the Epicureans think that universal ideas or concepts refer to a class of similar objects or concrete particular things, but the universal ideas are neither independent of these concrete particular, nor are they in things. They are merely verbal marks to enabel us to think about the class of particular things. Hence, Epicureans foreshadowed medieval nominalism and also modern empiricism.” (Masih, A Critical History of Western Philosophy 127)

    “We saw William Euvrie propose Epicurus as the ultimate founder of the nominalist movement—a connection he seems to have picked up from a contemporary arts master at Paris, Johannes de Nova Domo. Pedro Fonseca still sees a link between nominalism and Epicuranism in the later sixteenth century.” (Pasnau, Metaphysicsal Themes 1274-1671, 90)

    “The reference to Epicurus as the spiritual father of nominalism was often repeated in the writings of late medieval realists. Besides Johannes de Nova Domo, the most important defender of this doxographical claim was Heymericus de Campo.” (Friedman and Nielsen, The Medieval Heritage in Early Modern Metaphysics and Modal Theory, 1400-1700)

    To answer the original question, ABSOLUTELY, pigs feel the guiding relief of stable pleasure that is the enjoyment of having had one's natural needs satisfied. That statement goes for other animals as well, and not just the "intelligent" ones. Pleasure and pain seems to me to be a language of life. Katastematic pleasure is not limited to the intellect of philosophers. Pure pleasure is accessible to all lifeforms that operate according to the barometer of pleasure and pain.

    I have a feeling that this question (depending on who's reading it) might beg a Platonic or Stoic answer, one that might say, "Katastematic pleasure (i.e. supreme mental tranquility) is the only pleasure that matters, it is unrelated to physical sensations, it is so superior to the body's sensations that physical pleasure can be ignored completely, and that only philosophically-minded human beings are capable of interfacing with this otherworldly pleasure."

    Contrary to Plato, the goal is neither otherworldly, nor limited to the privileged few. Contrary to the Stoics, achieving the goal does not yield an unaffected state of indifference, but rather, a positive feeling of pleasure.

    De Witt seems to think that this distinction (between "static" and "kinetic" pleasure) was profound:


    It was the discovery of static pleasure, without which continuity of pleasure was impossible, that resulted in the division of pleasures into static and kinetic. There was no call for such a division until the name of pleasure had been extended to denote the possession of health. On this point, however, as on many others, greater precision is possible. The modern use of the word static as opposed to kinetic is Aristotelian in origin. The Epicurean word is katastematikos, from katastema, explained in the lexicon as 'stable condition.’ It connotes, moreover, change of state, from action to rest. To Epicurus it denotes a normal state of pleasure to which the individual returns after kinetic pleasure, which is activity. For example, it is the comfortable feeling that follows after the satisfaction of hunger and thirst, the relaxed condition that follows after attending the theater, a public festival or a banquet. Exceptionally, it describes the return to normal after the joy of escape from peril of life.

    Since this innovation was, as it were, the keystone of the new hedonism, it is not surprising to learn that it was expounded in the letter addressed to the philosophers in Mytilene, which is rightly regarded as having been written in Lampsacus, nor that it was emphasized in other major writings and kept in the forefront by successors. That it was an innovation is made clear by a sound paragraph of Laertius. Discussing the divergence from Cyrenaic doctrine he quotes a phrase of Metrodorus: ‘Pleasure being thought of both as associated with motion and as static.’ Epicurus is quoted at slightly greater length: 'Serenity of mind and freedom from bodily pain are static pleasures, but joy and delight are seen to be associated with motion, that is, activity.' In both these passages modern usage calls for the adjective static; the Greek would demand catastematic. Static and kinetic would apply to the state of a stone, now lying on the ground, now sent hurtling through the air. Catastematic and kinetic would apply to the pleasure of a healthy Epicurean, now enjoying a quiet evening at home, now having a rollicking time at one of the monthly banquets.” (De Witt, Epicurus and His Philosophy 242-43)

    So, for De Witt, Kinetic pleasure is a rolling stone and Katastematic pleasure is a mossy stone?

    I am gravitating toward privileging the idea that "Epicurean texts mention both mental and bodily kinetic pleasures, and mental and bodily katastematic pleasures", which creates more of a spectrum than a strict duality:

    Kata Kinêsin HêdonêKatastêmatikê Hêdonê

    Others seem to argue for a horizontal division:

    Kata KinêsinKatastêmatikê

    Others advance this into a vertical hierarchy:

    1.Katastêmatikê Hêdonê
    2.Kata Kinêsin Hêdonê

    Others seem to propose an equivalency between desires and types of pleasure:

    1.KatastêmatikêPhysikaì kai ànagkaîai (natural and necessary)
    2. Kata Kinêsin
    Physikaì kai oyk ànagkaîai (natural and not necessary)

    There seems to be a further suggestion that the division between katastematic and kinetic pleasures was as a response (or perhaps re-formulation) of the Cyrenaic proposition of a neutral state:

    Epicurean PathēCyrenaic Pathē
    Moving PleasureMoving Pleasure
    Stable Pleasure
    Neutral State

    With all of these typologies, I continue to wonder if these words were just general adjectives used to describe the diversity of pleasure, or whether they were strict technical categories. I am reminded that "no pleasure is an evil in itself" (KD 8 ) and that "pleasures would never differ from one another" (KD 9), so any hierarchy seems to diminish the unconditional proposition that "Pleasure is The Greatest Good" (not "Stable Pleasure is The Greatest Good to which Moving Pleasure is Subordinate"). Still ... there must be a significant reason this description exists.

    An excerpt from “Epicureans on Pleasure, Desire, and Happiness” by B. A. Rider:

    “Epicurus’ second important distinction between types of pleasure was more original and

    challenging, and its interpretation remains controversial. Epicurus evidently distinguished

    between kinetic pleasures—those involving some kind of “movement [kinesis]”—and

    katastematic (or static) pleasures (from “katastema” referring to a condition of equilibrium)—

    those arising from the healthy state of the body and mind, free from pain and

    disturbance. This distinction cuts across the previous one. Epicurean texts mention both

    mental and bodily kinetic pleasures, and mental and bodily katastematic pleasures (see, e.g.,

    DL 10.136).

    This distinction was important because, Epicurus argues, the pleasures that matter for

    eudaimonia are katastematic ones: the health and painless state of the body [aponia] and

    the tranquility of the mind (ataraxia—literally “freedom from disturbance [tarache]”) (Ep.

    Men. 128; KD 3, 18). Epicurus uses this idea to argue that pleasure has a limit. Once your

    body and mind are in a good state, the quality of your experience of life cannot be

    improved—it is as good as it can get. At this point, there is no need for more food, luxury,

    or indulgence, because adding more cannot make your life any better, and it may even

    damage your ability to experience health and tranquility in the long term.


    Later, Cicero contends that the arguments supporting Epicureanism depend on a fallacy of

    equivocation, using “pleasure” ambiguously to make their position appear more attractive

    than it is. He criticizes Epicurus’ appeal to the behavior of infants:

    What sort of pleasure, static [katastematic] or kinetic […] will the bawling infant

    use to determine the supreme good and evil? If static, then clearly its natural

    instinct is for self-preservation, which I accept. If kinetic, as you in fact claim, then

    there will be no pleasure too foul to be experienced. Moreover, our new-born

    creature will not be starting from the highest pleasure, which you regard as the

    absence of pain.

    Admittedly, infants and uncorrupted animals want to feel good; they desire sensory stimulation,

    kinetic pleasure. But if so, how can the baby’s behavior be evidence that katastematic

    pleasure is the highest good? By conflating two very different kinds of experience

    and calling both “pleasure,” Cicero believes, Epicurus seeks illicitly to combine the crude

    enticements of indulgent hedonism with the moderation and order of a theory that aims for

    satisfied painlessness. Cicero suggests that while such a bait-and-switch sales pitch appeals

    to the shallow minded, it fails as a coherent and livable ethical theory.

    Is Cicero’s criticism fair? In part, the issue turns on how exactly we are meant to

    understand the distinction between kinetic and katastematic pleasures, and what precisely

    Epicureans had in mind in identifying aponia and ataraxia as the highest good. Unfortunately,

    on this point the surviving texts are especially fragmentary and contradictory, leaving

    open a variety of interpretations.

    Since Cicero’s On Moral Ends has the most detailed description of the doctrine, many

    interpreters use it as a starting point (including Long and Sedley 1987; Mitsis 1988; Woolf

    2009). According to Cicero, Epicureans classify any pleasure that actively stimulates the

    senses as kinetic, involving a “movement” in sensation (De Fin. 2.10, 2.16). These sensory,

    kinetic pleasures include both appetite satisfactions that fill deficiencies like hunger (what

    we might call “restorative” pleasures) and pleasant sensations that do not fill a deficiency,

    such as the pleasures of hearing beautiful music or seeing a beautiful statue (“non-restorative”).

    This breakdown leaves katastematic pleasure as simply the state of being free from

    pain or mental disturbance. This state does not in itself “stimulate the senses” (which would

    make it kinetic); but we recognize that it is good because of the relief we receive when pain

    or distress abates (1.37).

    Notice that Cicero’s way of drawing the distinction plays directly into his criticisms—if

    only kinetic pleasures involve sensory stimulation, it becomes puzzling why katastematic

    pleasure is pleasure and why we should think of it as being the goal. Moreover, Epicurus

    clearly places great importance on sensory pleasure. As quoted above, he claims that he

    “cannot conceive of anything as good” without the pleasures of taste, sight, sound, and

    sex (Cicero, Tusc. III.18.41 = LS 21L1). But if Cicero’s interpretation of the distinction

    between kinetic and katastematic pleasures is right, these are kinetic pleasures, and why

    would he care so much about inferior, kinetic pleasures? If the mere state of being free

    from pain itself represents the highest limit of quality experience, why would an Epicurean

    need them?

    For this reason, many scholars look for other ways to interpret the distinction. The debate

    about this topic has produced a dizzying array of interpretations. For the purposes of this

    chapter, I will describe just a few of the most prominent proposals.

    An early attempt to reconsider the distinction between kinetic and katastematic pleasures

    was made first by Diano 1935 and later by Rist 1972; Wolfsdorf 2009 defended this

    interpretation more recently. This interpretation accepts that all sensory pleasures are

    kinetic—they are “events in which the perceptual or rational faculties are smoothly or

    gently stimulated or activated” (252). But, on this interpretation, katastematic pleasure—

    the well-balanced state of body and mind—is the necessary precondition for any kinetic

    pleasure. A person cannot experience kinetic pleasures in a part of himself unless that part

    is in a pain- and disturbance-free state. Wolfsdorf explains, “perceptual pleasures [which

    are kinetic] reveal katastematic pleasures […] because perceptual pleasures depend on

    katastematic pleasures. The smooth functioning of the perceptual faculties indicates the

    correlative katastematic conditions” (245). Proponents of this interpretation focus on

    passages like Principal Doctrine 3, where Epicurus states, “As long as pleasure is present,

    so long as it is present, there is no pain, either of body or soul or both at once”

    (Wolfsdorf’s translation, 246). This interpretation allows for aponia and ataraxia to be

    fundamental (you can’t have any pleasure without them), while still taking into account

    Epicurus’ statements about the importance of sensory pleasures (since we need sensory

    pleasures to “reveal” the healthy state).

    As an illustration, consider someone who is hungry. He is hungry, Lucretius explains

    (DRN 2.963–72), because certain parts of his body are disturbed and out of place and

    require replenishment to restore their integrity and functioning. So he eats. As he eats, he

    feels pleasure on his palate and throat (from tasting and swallowing the food) but that is

    only because these parts aren’t disrupted. As the atoms from the food are absorbed into the

    body and the deficiency is remedied, the pain of hunger recedes. Wolfsdorf argues that the

    recession of hunger is not itself pleasurable, but it leaves us in a state that is free from pain

    and therefore capable of (kinetic) pleasure (252).

    On this picture, then, katastematic pleasure is a state of healthy functioning, and it is a

    precondition for any pleasurable stimulation. Kinetic pleasure occurs when healthy, painfree

    parts are “moved” and stimulated. What I’ve called “restorative pleasures,” however,

    don’t exist, because there can be no pleasure while parts being restored are still in pain.

    This interpretation has a possible problem—since it assumes, with Cicero, that all sensory

    pleasures are kinetic, it suffers some of the same objections: If only kinetic pleasures

    have a sensory quality, what is attractive about the katastematic pleasure in itself? On the

    Diano-Rist-Wolfsdorf picture, it starts to look like we seek a well-balanced state merely as

    means to experience kinetic pleasures. Moreover, why call the katastematic state “pleasure”?

    Finally, Epicurus insists that all good and bad occur in sensation (Ep. Men. 124), so

    how do we perceive the goodness of aponia and ataraxia, if they have no sensory quality

    of their own? For these reasons, Gosling and Taylor 1982 argue for a different interpretation.

    They contend that, actually, aponia and ataraxia are states of sensory pleasure:

    Aponia is a condition of having sensory pleasures but with no accompanying pain,

    and ataraxia is the state of confidence that one may acquire such sensory pleasures

    with complete absence of pain. This confidence is itself a positive state.…What is

    important is to get a life of sensory pleasure untainted by pain.

    When a person is conscious in a healthy, well-balanced state, Gosling and Taylor explain,

    she naturally experiences a wide variety of positive sensations: she feels warm and comfortable;

    tastes foods; hears sounds; enjoys the sights of things around herself. These

    experiences are not kinetic, as Cicero or Wolfsdorf assume, but are themselves manifestations

    of katastematic pleasure. Distinctively kinetic pleasures, on their view, are merely the

    subset of sensory pleasures involved in restoration or replenishment (373). In fact, Gosling

    and Taylor believe that, for Epicureans themselves, the distinction between kinetic and

    katastematic pleasures wasn’t really that important. It does not mark two vastly different

    kinds of pleasures, since both are sensory. The categorization has more to do with a pleasure’s

    functional role than its inherent qualities (374).

    Arenson’s recent book on Epicurean pleasure (Arenson 2019) updates and adds additional

    nuance to Gosling and Taylor’s approach. She agrees that the Epicureans’ main

    concern was with healthy functioning, and she traces Epicurus’ ideas to debates in Plato’s

    Academy, including Eudoxus and Aristotle, about the role of pleasure and healthy functioning

    in a good human life. Plato takes a strong anti-hedonist position: In the Philebus,

    Plato’s Socrates argues that pleasure cannot be the good, because pleasure occurs only in

    the process of filling a deficiency (53c-55c). Therefore, pleasure itself isn’t the good, but

    instead a means to a good end: healthy functioning.

    According to Arenson, Epicurus introduces the distinction between kinetic and katastematic

    pleasures in part to address these kinds of anti-hedonistic argument. Plato was right

    that some pleasures—kinetic pleasures—occur in the process of restoration, and these

    pleasures are indeed merely a means to a greater end. But, against the anti-hedonists, Epicurus

    argues that other pleasures—katastematic pleasures—arise from the healthy functioning

    itself. Arenson goes on to argue that katastematic pleasure itself has two

    manifestations: First, a general pleasurable quality of experience from having body and

    mind in a good state—a sort of non-specific pleasure of being alive, conscious, and healthy

    (Chapter 6). Second, there are pleasures that arise from specific activities of healthy faculties,

    including pleasures of seeing, hearing, and tasting. Arenson calls these “non-restorative

    pleasures,” because while they involve active stimulation, they do not restore deficiencies,

    as happens when we eat while hungry or drink while thirsty (Chapter 8). Now, these two

    manifestations of katastematic pleasure are not really distinct; rather, in line with Epicurus’

    doctrine that the highest pleasure has a limit, the non-restorative pleasures merely “vary”

    but do not add to the general quality of life (KD 18).


    I would suggest that the Epicureans understood this lesson, and that by defining the best

    experience of life as aponia and ataraxia, they aimed to capture something like this idea.

    Haybron’s attunement dimension corresponds most closely to Epicurean katastematic pleasure:

    both refer to a fundamental state of healthy functioning, security, and freedom from

    disturbance that makes other kinds of enjoyment possible. Epicurus realized that when a

    person’s mind and body are in a healthy, well-balanced state, it becomes possible for them

    to become engrossed in and enjoy a variety of different kinds of activities and experiences

    as expressions of that healthy state. Far from being ad hoc, then, Epicurus’ idiosyncratic

    form of hedonism may simply have been the right way to think about what makes for a

    good experience of life.”

    (Rider, B. A.. “Epicureans on Pleasure, Desire, and Happiness”. The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy, edited by Kelly Arenson. Routledge, 2020, 286-91)

    An excerpt from “Epicureans, Earlier Atomists, and Cyrenaics” by Stefano Maso:

    “According to Epicurus this is happiness, technically the katastematic pleasure:

    the well-established condition or state of the body in which pleasure does not change (On

    the Goal, fr. 22.3 Arrighetti).


    It is crucial to note that natural but non-necessary desires are based on the varying of the

    perceptual experience.

    These various forms of desire are precisely what enable Epicurus to develop a conception

    of pleasure that distinguishes between kinetic pleasure [kata kinêsin hêdonê] and static or

    katastematic pleasure [katastêmatikê hêdonê]. The kind of pleasure that varies constitutes

    the explicit foundation of Cyrenaic thought: Cyrenaics do not admit katastematic pleasure.

    By contrast, Epicurus accepts both kinds of pleasure and assures his readers that freedom

    from disturbance [ataraxia] and absence of pain [aponia] are static pleasure; but joy

    [chara] and delight [euphrosunê] are regarded as kinetic activities (DL 10.137).

    It seems as though the unbridled physical enjoyment of pleasure constitutes the heart of

    the Cyrenaics’ hedonistic ethics. The pursuit of pleasure thus translates, in their view, into

    the experiencing of a pleasure that varies in terms of both quality and intensity. The corollary

    to this is that, precisely because there is no limit to the quality and intensity of

    pleasure, the pleasure of the Cyrenaics proves disappointing, since it endlessly defers the

    possibility of satisfaction.

    According to the Cyrenaics, we can distinguish three states: one in which we are in pain,

    and which is like a storm at sea; a second one in which we experience pleasure, and which

    is like a gentle swell—for pleasure is a smooth movement; and a third, intermediate state in

    which we feel neither pain nor pleasure, and which is like a flat calm (PE 14.18.32 = IVB5

    Giannantoni). Man seems to perceive these three states alone; moreover, from the Cyrenaics’

    perspective, it is pointless to carry the enquiry any further, for example by searching

    for the cause of these different states.

    By contrast—and evidently in polemical opposition to the Cyrenaics—the Epicureans

    believe that pleasure is pleasure, and pain is pain and that there can be no intermediate state

    between them. Pleasure is found where there is and for as long as there is no pain, just as

    pain is found where there is no pleasure and as long as there is no pleasure: the removal of

    all pain is the limit of the magnitude of pleasures (KD 3–4; LS 21C). Moreover, every

    pleasure qua pleasure is good, and every pain qua pain is bad (Ep. Men. 129; LS 21B3).

    But how is it possible to deny the existence of an intermediate state, a state that everyday

    human experience seems to entail? Why does Epicurus choose to go down this route?

    We can try to answer by relying on the interpretation Cicero gives us of the controversy

    between Democritus, Cyrenaics and Epicureans. While this interpretation clearly derives

    from doxographical contributions, there is no doubt it reflects a historical and persistent

    rivalry between the different schools.

    Cicero—a critical yet attentive reader of Epicurean texts—tackles the issue we have

    posed directly, especially in Book 2 of De finibus and Book 3 of the Tusculanae disputationes.

    18 First of all, Cicero believes that Epicurus contradicts himself, because in his

    view the philosopher believes not so much that the absence of pain can accompany the

    absence of pleasure, but rather that pleasure and the absence of pain de facto coincide,

    constituting a sort of analgesic hedonism (cf. Tusc. 3.47 = KD 18). Therefore, the ultimate

    good would simultaneously coincide with the absence of pain and the highest degree of

    pleasure. Furthermore, Cicero emphasizes that, in his approach to ethics, Epicurus has

    separated the highest good (which coincides with pleasure) from virtue. In doing so, he has

    created an unbridgeable gulf between the physical and the spiritual dimension. Cicero’s

    ultimate thesis is the diametric opposite: “Pleasure is one thing, absence from suffering

    quite another [aliud est voluptas, aliud non dolere].”19 In other words, suffering is the

    opposite of its own absence, and not the opposite of pleasure (De Fin. 2.28). Cicero here is

    adopting the thesis of Hieronymus of Rhodes, the Peripatetic philosopher (third century

    BCE), according to whom the experience of pleasure and the absence of pain are two different things (De Fin. 2.9).

    To avoid possible misunderstandings, Cicero introduces an

    example: he asks whether the pleasure we feel when drinking is the same as that which we

    experience after having quenched our thirst. The answer is very important: according to

    Torquatus (the champion of the Epicurean thesis in Cicero’s dialogue), once our thirst has

    been quenched, we enjoy a stable pleasure; whereas during the actual act of quenching our

    thirst we experience an unstable pleasure, i.e. a pleasure in movement (De Fin. 2.9–10).

    However, this means assigning the same name, pleasure, to two different kinds of pleasure;

    and, according to Cicero, this is incorrect, as is the notion of “variation” [varietas] when it

    is introduced to deny the radical difference between stable pleasure and kinetic pleasure. It

    is untenable to argue that kinetic pleasure (i.e. pleasure that “varies”) must be added to and

    coincide with stable pleasure, which “does not vary” (i.e. “absence from suffering”).

    According to Cicero, Epicurus’ theory resembles an attempt to combine Hieronymus’

    theory with that of the Cyrenaic Aristippus (De Fin. 2.19)—an absurdity.

    By contrast, precisely the connection between “stability” and “perception” is key to

    explaining the reason the Epicureans theorized the absoluteness of “katastematic pleasure,”

    namely the kind of pleasure that does not vary. Epicurus himself would appear to

    have been the first to draw a distinction between the two kinds of pleasure (DL 10.136 =

    LS 21R), by emphasizing that only the former is perfect and lasting, whereas the latter is

    temporary. The instability of kinetic pleasure, and its reduction to a mere physical condition

    to be brought back to stability (which is to say, to katastematic pleasure), is the key

    to understanding the Epicurean position. Reason is what brings this “reduction” about: it

    rests on the realization that variation—which constitutes kinetic pleasure—is actually

    entirely superfluous, given that any experience of freedom from pain coincides with the

    highest good: “pleasure exists everywhere, and for the entire time it lasts, there is no

    suffering either of body or of mind or both” (KD 3). This implies that the intermediate

    state—the one which, according to Hieronymus and Cicero, makes the absence of pain

    different from the presence of pleasure, even though the two may go hand in hand—is

    meaningless, which is why Epicurus rejects it.

    It may be noted that the ancient atomists did not distinguish between the two kinds of

    pleasure. Rather, Democritus observed that the ultimate goal which man must set himself is

    contentment [euthymia]: only by finding satisfaction in what we have and what is proper to

    our nature, and by appreciating what befalls us, can we attain safety and absence of

    apprehension [athambia], and well-being (Stobaeus, Anthology 3.1.210, LM 27D226–231 =

    DK 68B3, 189, 191; A1, 167, 169. See 133.1–4, 152.1–4, 139.1, 137.1 Leszl). “Contentment”

    seems to foreshadow katastematic pleasure, insofar as it consists in the capacity to

    limit desire and pleasure. We can ask if a specific connotation distinguishes the denominations

    with which Clement of Alexandria20 labels the ultimate end [telos] that Democritus’

    successors identified. And whereas Democritus identifies telos with euthymia or euestô

    (contentment and feeling good), Nausyphanes (Epicurus’ teacher) uses the word akataplêxia

    (absence of fright). But according to Clement, the akataplêxia of Nausyphanes corresponds

    to the athambia (absence of apprehension) attributed to Democritus. Furthermore,

    Anaxarchus of Abdera, one of the first followers of Democritus, proposed the apatheia (the

    absence of passions) and the adiaphoria (the indifference to external things) as means to

    reach the eudaimonia (happiness). However, it is evident that only Democritus defines telos

    (the ultimate end/the purpose) positively: all the other words are qualified by the presence

    of the “privative alpha”—a prefix meant to indicate the negation of a word—and seem to

    allude to happiness as the result of a process of “reduction” in the human psycho-physical

    experience, the exact process that can also be recognized in the way Epicurus conceives of

    katastematic pleasure.

    The Cyrenaics’ interpretation of pleasure leads them instead to acknowledge the distinction

    between the two kinds of pleasure. However, this theory denies that it is de facto

    possible to grant katastematic pleasure. Given the varied and successive way in which we

    experience pleasures, we can grasp only kinetic pleasure or katastematic pleasure, either

    successively or not at all, and any increase in pleasure is kinetic.

    Unlike that of the Cyrenaics, Epicurus and Lucretius’s interpretation is intended as a

    renewed version of Democritus’ position. By introducing a distinction between two different

    kinds of pleasure, the Epicureans also reach another remarkable conclusion: the idea

    that contentment is already a katastematic pleasure in itself. Clearly, it is possible to grasp

    different facets of such pleasure, which present themselves as varietas and hence as kinetic

    pleasure. Epicurus and Lucretius are aware that it is the task of reason to process this varied

    sensory experience, in such a way that each specific detail may be positively appreciated

    and grasped in the most pregnant possible way [katapuknôsis]. Epicurus gives great weight

    to cogitation [logismos and phronesis] and, ultimately, reason (which is to say the mind,

    psuchê), demanding that they be capable of grasping and focusing on the pleasurable

    aspects of life, so that negative ones may be considered absent (and be de facto eliminated).

    But if the physical side of the experience of pleasure constitutes the point of departure, the

    point of arrival is the rational processing of this experience. In The Letter to Menoeceus

    (129–130 = LS 21B3) Epicurus writes:

    Every pleasure, because of its natural affinity, is something good, yet not every

    pleasure is choice worthy. Correspondingly, every pain is something bad, but not

    every pain is by nature to be avoided. However, we have to make our judgment on

    all these points by a calculation and survey of advantages and disadvantages. For

    at certain times we treat the good as bad and conversely the bad as good.

    Consequently, Epicurus—opposing the Cyrenaics—can argue that, even in the apparently

    most painful moments, the wise man is capable of being happy: for, if needs be, he knows

    how to concentrate on the sheer fact of being alive. At this point, “being alive” may be

    seen to coincide with katastematic pleasure. Epicurus states as much in a letter to his

    mother: “When we are alive, we experience a joy akin to that of the gods” (PHerc. 176 5

    X Vogliano = fr. 72.38–40 Arrighetti). Even his spiritual testament, which is to say the

    letter addressed to his friend Idomeneus and transmitted by Diogenes Laertius, bears

    witness to this. The philosopher maintains that the day in which he is dying is a blessed

    one, even though his bladder and bowl pains could hardly be more intense (Letter to

    Idomeneus = DL 10.22).

    Aristippus’ Hedonic Presentism and Epicurus’ Doctrine of Limits

    According to the Cyrenaic Aristippus, pleasure persists and has value only as long as we

    are experiencing it. His grandson, Aristippus the Younger, thinks that a “unitemporal”

    present pleasure constitutes de facto the happiness that every man must propose to himself

    as an end. No doubt that this experience of pleasure is, moreover, an essentially physical

    experience. We observe that there is a strong emphasis on the physical dimension and the

    instantaneousness of the perception of pleasure; it is a real limitation that aims to capture

    only the most obvious character of pleasure: intensity. The Cyrenaics renounce the lasting

    experience of pleasure because their focus is the intensity of the instant in which man

    experiences pleasure. The Cyrenaics focus on the search for an ever more intense and

    varied experience of pleasure in order to guarantee the intensity of the present perception

    and avoid the distraction involved in waiting for an uncertain future. Kinetic pleasure is the

    actual limit of the Cyrenaic ethics.

    By contrast, it is important to understand the ethical basis of Epicurus’ doctrine, and, in

    particular, its therapeutic proposal. Every Epicurean master and every reader of Epicurean

    texts considers the “fourfold cure” [tetrapharmakos] a crucial element in Epicurean doctrine.

    Lucretius himself, while not directly referring to this doctrine, no doubt bore it in

    mind when composing his poem. Cicero explicitly mentions the Key Doctrines in which

    Epicurus summed it up. Even Philodemus of Gadara explicitly mentions the theory.25 Epicurus

    pithily expressed it as follows: “Were we not upset by the worries that celestial

    phenomena and death might matter to us, and also by failure to appreciate the limits of

    pains and desires, we would have no need for natural philosophy” (KD 11 = LS 25.B.11;

    cfr. KD 1–4, 10, 20, and Ep. Men. 133).

    It is interesting to note that the tetrapharmakos also rests on a doctrine of the “limit”; this

    time, however, in an Epicurean version. This doctrine applies to everything that exists and

    is perceived within the cosmos. Take atoms: we have isolated atoms that eternally fall and

    never combine with others; but we also have atoms that combine into endless, more or less

    changeable structures. The gods constitute the ultimate “limit” of this changeability, for

    they are eternally stable atomic compounds. They never change because, by definition, they

    are intangible: they never collide with other atoms or other compounds. Take death: by

    definition, it never has anything to do with life. It constitutes the “limit” of life. Take pain

    and, in parallel, pleasure: each constitutes the other’s “limit.”

    Based on this doctrine of the “limit,” Epicurus infers that we must not fear the gods,

    because they are imperturbable and, hence, take no interest in us or interfere with other

    atomic compounds (Ep. Men. 123–124). We must not fear death, because when it exists, we

    do not; and as long as we are alive, we cannot perceive it (Ep. Men. 124–127). We must

    not fear pain, because it may be more or less intense: if it is light, it is so easily endurable

    that at its limit it can be perceived as pleasure; if it is extreme, a loss of sensibility occurs

    and we no longer feel it (KD 4). Finally, we must not fear pleasure, in the sense that we

    must not fear the dissatisfaction that affects those who give themselves over to the pursuit

    of the most intense and prolonged sort of kinetic pleasure, as did the Cyrenaics, for kinetic

    pleasure finds its limit in katastematic pleasure (Ep. Men. 131–132).

    This is exactly the opposite of what the Cyrenaics claim. Although both consider the

    “limit” as an inevitable psychophysical border, the experience of the limit leads the Cyrenaics

    to renounce katastematic pleasure, denying its reason; on the contrary, it leads Epicurus

    and the Epicureans to re-evaluate katastematic pleasure by reconsidering kinetic

    pleasure as an irrelevant variable.”

    (Maso, Stefano. “Epicureans, Earlier Atomists, and Cyrenaics”. The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy, edited by Kelly Arenson. Routledge, 2020, 60-65)


    Thanks for a very good list! By what criteria did you place each reference in each category? Someone reading your post casually might think that the cites themselves categorize the pleasure into the location you placed it, but I gather of course that that is not the case, and you are categorizing them yourself according to some criteria.

    Can you spell out as best you can how you organized the two lists?

    Aye, there's the rub. In general, my katastematic list includes pleasures that are enjoyed through the volitional activities of the mind (calculation, meditation, reflection, etc.) whereas my kinetic list includes pleasures that can be enjoyed without intellectual analysis and correction (hearing the sounds of birds in nature, being warmed by the sun, etc.).

    I am personally associating katastematic pleasures with "pleasures of the mind" and kinetic pleasures with "pleasures of the soul" (noting in Lucretian terms that the mind is the volitional part of the soul).

    I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of pleasures and then try to group them accordingly. This is by no means an authoritative list, and we may find plenty of areas of overlap or disagreement:

    Katastematic Pleasures:

    Understanding that neither God nor Death are to be feared (KD 1, 2)

    Reassurance that all pain is temporary and severe pain is brief (KD 3)

    Acceptance that heavenly events are non-sentient physical phenomena (KD 11)

    Dispelling ignorance and suspicion through a dedicated study of Nature (KD 12)

    Enjoying the peace acheived by withdrawing from the crowd (KD 14, Fragment 86, 87)

    Knowing the limit of pleasure through reasoned understanding (KD 18)

    Acknowledging that infinite time contains no great pleasure that limited time (KD 19)

    Appreciating that there is no need to live by the evil of necessity (VS 9)

    Understanding the value in knowing that we are only born once (VS 14)

    Overcoming the suffering of mental anxiety and physical pain (VS 24, Fragment 1)

    Reflecting when the body is neither hungry, nor thirsty, nor cold (VS 33)

    Eliminating regret knowing that the past cannot be changed (VS 55)

    Knowing that what is sufficient are simple pleasures (VS 68)

    Using reason to overcome hate, envy, and contempt (WMS 1)

    Accepting that prophecy does not exist and there is not fate (Fragment 2)

    Calculating the means to support the stable condition of the body (Fragment 11)

    Recollecting joyful memories against severe physical pain (Fragment 30)

    Committing to a love of true philosophy to reduce disturbance (Fragment 66)

    Focusing on the present moment instead of an uncertain future (Fragment 78)

    Kinetic Pleasures:

    Sharing pleasant interactions with friends and loved ones KD 27, VS 52, VS 61)

    Receiving assistance in the form of utility from friends (VS 23)

    Venerating the wise so as to emulate their blessed life (VS 32)

    Laughing and enjoying humor while practicing true philosophy (VS 41)

    Practice virtuous habits knowing that they produces pleasure (VS 46)

    Responsibly enjoying luxuries so as not to become a frugal ascetic (VS 63)

    Receiving praise from others, while not asking for it (VS 64)

    Being deeply moved by feeling while not succumbing to it (WMS 2)

    Showing gratitude by speaking well of one’s friends (WMS 3)

    Marry and have children if it can be done safely (WMS 12)

    Taking care of one’s property and possessions (WMS 21)

    Enjoying the sites and smells of the countryside (WMS 22)

    Embrace fortune and use it to diversify pleasures (WMS 23)

    Conversing about music and poetry (WMS 28)

    Jubilation while enjoying pleasures involving motion (Fragment 1)

    Enjoying the taste of a meal, maybe a pot of cheese (Fragment 10, 33)

    Exploring the spectrum of healthy sexual pleasures (Fragment 10)

    Listening to pleasant sounds and meaningful music (Fragment 10)

    Viewing beautiful forms as compelling visual art (Fragment 10)

    Cooling or warming oneself to a comfortable temperature (Fragment 44)

    I think it is important to re-state that the mind is a type of body, and that the satisfactions of the mind are, themselves, pleasures of the body. Regardless of any schema designed to organize the different pleasures into categories, all pleasures are pleasures of the body, require some type of energetic motion to instigate, and some of those active bodily pleasures are felt by the mental organ instead of the visual, auditory, chemical, kinesthetic, or thermal organs.

    I am very suspicious of the concept of katastematic pleasures in the first place because the related word katastēmatikós was elsewhere used to describe "sedation". If that were accurate, then the Cyrenaics would have a legitimate point about equating ataraxia with dreamless sleep. However, we know that all pleasures must be consciously experienced, so dreamless sleep is not a pleasure, nor are any other forms of sedation that limit our ability to experience.

    I just finished reading Dante and Epicurus: A Dualistic Vision of Secular and Spiritual Fulfillment by George Corbett and came across a number of interesting anecdotes (In particular, I am found of being called a "gastrimargi"):

    “The foremost channel for Dante’s second-hand reception of Epicurean theses was Cicero. From direct citations, we know that Dante certainly read De finibus, the first two books of which are devoted to Epicurean ethics, and De natura deorum in which Cicero creiticizes at greater length Epicurean natural science. Just these two Ciceronian works would have sufficed to provide Dante with a substantial, if biased, account of Epicurean ethics and natural philosophy.” (Corbett, Dante and Epicurus 9)

    A further potential influence on Dante’s understanding of Epicureanism emerges from the scholastic commentaries of the thirteenth century. As one might expect, the scholastics appear to have generally held the correct view with regard to Epicurean ethics. The followers of the flesh are humorously nicknamed, as Albert the Great notes, ‘gastrimargi’ [stomach-madmen]” (Ibid. 16)

    In line with Cicero’s treatment in De finibus, Dante elects the noble Roman Torquatus as the advocate for Epicureanism in his prose works, the Convivio and the Monarchia. Aside from the pagan Torquatus, Dante identifies four thirteenth-century magnates as ‘disciples’ of Epicurus in Inferno X: the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the influential Ghibelline Cardinal Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, and the Florentine statesmen Farinata and Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti. To this list we may add Guido Cavalcanti who is indirectly associated with Epicureanism and named in the canto. All five of these thirteenth-century personages appear to have been accused of Epicureanism or of the denial of personal immortality during their lives and, by extension, of irreligion and a sceptical attitude towards Christian revelation.” (Ibid. 42)

    Pope Gregory IX accused Frederick II of gross impiety: ‘He said that the whole world has been taken in by three impostors: Jesus Christ, Moses, and Mohammen’. The Pope’s account is borne out by countless anecdotes about Frederick II’s religious scepticism. Cardinal Ottaviano was infamous for his Epicurean sympathies: […] [in his acts and his words he was an Epicurean]. His doubt of the soul’s immortality is illustrated by his self-damining epitaph: […] [who used to say frequently during his life: ‘if the soul exists’, speaking sceptically, ‘I have already lost it for the Ghibelline cause’]. Farinata and his wife Adaletta were posthumously condemned for heresy by Salomone da Lucca: ‘The sentence […] held them both guilty, and ordered the separation of their bones from those of the faithful, and the confiscation of their goods’. Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, or so the early commentaries would have us believe, wholly followed the Epicurean sect and unceasingly persuaded others of his mortalist convictions […]. Guido Cavalcanti, as Dante implies in Inferno X, was infected by his father’s notorious Epicureanism” (Ibid. 42-43)

    The four Epicureans named in the course of the canto are Farinata (c. 1210-64), Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti (c. 1210-80), Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor (1194-1250), and the Ghibelline Cardinal, Ottaviano degli Ubaldini (c. 1210-73).” (Ibid. 70)

    He [Cavalcante] wholly followed the sect of the Epicureans, always believing and persuading others that the soul would die together with the body: therefore he often had on the tip of his tongue this saying of Solomon: ‘For the dissolution of man and of beast is one, and their condition the same’.” (Benvenuto da Imola, gloss to Inferno X. 52-54)

    I note that Diogenes documents both dates (the 7th and the 10th) within one page of each other, the first one being a citation to Apollodorus, and the second being a citation of Epicurus' Last Will: “He was born, according to Apollodorus in his Chronicles, in the third year of the 109th Olympiad, during the archonship of Sosigenes, on the seventh day of the month of Gamelion, seven years after the death of Plato" (498). And then, one page later, "[T]he customary celebration of my birthday each year on the tenth of Gamelion.” (Mensch, Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius 499)

    Since Both of these citations come from Diogenes, and they occur within a few paragraphs of each other, I think it is likely that the tenth is a symbolic custom, designated by Epicurus, and the seventh is the actual date of his birth.

    The only proposition I have heard that corresponds with our Calendar comes from Alpers (about whom I could not find more information besides a citation from Alger) who proposes that the 24th of January corresponds with the 20th of Gamelion. So, if we are to take the 7th of Gamelion to be the actual date of Epicurus’ birth, then that should work out to January 11, 341 BCE. And then, the "customary celebration" of Epicurus' birth would fall on January 14, each year.

    From my sources, I am drawing the following conclusions:

    The 7th of Gamelion is the actual date of Epicurus' birth (Jan. 11th?)

    The 10th of Gamelion is the date of celebration for those who strictly follow Epicurus' Last Will (Jan. 14th?)

    The 20th of Gamelion is the date of celebration for the Eikadistae who merged his Birthday with Gamelion Eikas (Jan. 24th?)

    "Sloppy commentary" is exactly right. I think this is what happens when secondary sources cite each other over source material. It seems to me that Epicurus' birthday may have been posthumously celebrated (after centuries) on the 20th as an extension of the monthly Eikas celebration. That, however, does not mean that he was born on the 20th of Gamelion, only that his birthday was celebrated in accordance with the monthly Eikas festival.

    I am comfortable ruling out the 20th as a reflection of his historical birthdate. I think it is a symbolic custom. Who started that custom is also of interest, as they may not have had access to Epicurus' Last Will.

    As to the differences between the 7th versus the 10th, Epicurus, himself, refers to the "customary celebration of my birthday on the tenth day of Gamelion in each year", whereas ancient authors like Diogenes agree that he was born on "seventh day of the month of Gamelion". I tend to think that one may have favored a historical birthdate as opposed to a celebration that has been tweeked to accommodate an occasion (like celebrating your birthday on the weekend).

    My question, now, is this: is the usage of "customary" in Epicurus' Will a reflection of a symbolic celebration, moved in accordance to some other occasion? Or is this a technical description of his actual birthdate?

    Why do we have three different birthdates for Epicurus?

    The 7th

    “Epicurus was born (as Laertius relates out of the Chronology of Apollodorus) in the 3rd year of the 109th Olympiad, the 7th day of the month Gamelion” (Gassendi, Epicurus, His Life and Doctrine 106, 1660)

    “[F]or he was born on the 7th and dy’d on the 10th of the Month Gamelion” (Stanley, The History of Philosophy: Volume 3, 122, 1660)

    “[A]fter the death of Epicurus they were to be perpetuated in memory of himself […] the anniversary of his birth, which fell on the seventh day of the month Gamelion” (De Witt, Epicurus and His Philosophy 104, 1954)

    “First as to chronology. Of the authorities used in the Life far the best is Apollodorus, whose versified Chronology embodied the results of the great Eratosthenes. His data make it clear that Epicurus was born on the 7th of Gamelion (i.e. in our January) 341 B.C., and died in 270 B.C.” (Taylor, Epicurus, 18-19, 1911)

    “Diogenes Laertius (10:14) also records a tradition that placed Epicurus’ birthday on the seventh of Gamelion. On the confusion (ancient and modern) between the gathering on the twentieth of every month and the celebration fo Epicurus’ birthday on the tenth of Gamelion, see Clay 1986 and Sider 1997: 152-53 and 156. Cicero (Fin. 2.101) and Pliny (HN 35.5) differentiate between the two” (Gordon, Then Invention and Gendering of Epicurus 30, 2012)

    “He was born, according to Apollodorus in his Chronicles […] on the seventh day of the month of Gamelion, seven years after the death of Plato.” (Mensch, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 498, 2020)

    The 10th

    “Another part went to defray the expenses of the social meetings held annually on the anniversary of the birthday of Epicurus (the 10th of the Attic month Gamêlion)” (Wallace, Epicureanism 66)

    “[T]he annual gathering of the group to celebrate his birthday on the tenth of Gamelion (in January).” (Clay, The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism 22)

    “Epicureans are to observe: Epicurus’ birthday on the tenth of the month Gamelion” (Gordon, Then Invention and Gendering of Epicurus 30)

    “The Will provides (a) for an annual celebration of the birthday of Epicurus on the tenth of Gamelion (his birthday was actually on the seventh, according to Diog. Laert. 10.14)” (The Greek Anthology: The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary Epigrams 394)

    The 20th

    “He was born on the twentieth of the month of Gamelion (24 january 341) […] The debate over the exact date of his birth was definitively resolved by Alpers 1968.” (Algra, The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy 43

    “There were two rites for Epicurus: one annual, the twentieth of Gamelion, his birthday, and one on the twentieth of each month...” (Dorandi, Oxford Handbook of Epicurus and Epicureanism 58)

    “Cf. Plut., Adv. Col. 1117AB. Epicurus’ birthday was commemorated each year and the twentieth day of each month was celebrated in honour of Metrodorus and later also of Epicurus himself. Cf. De Witt, Epicurus 105.” (Rist, Epicurus: An Introduction 11, 1972)

    “[F]or conducting the customary birthday feast for us every year on the twentieth of Gamelion” (Epicurus, Lives of Eminent Philosophers translated by Stephen White 417, 2021)

    The latter two images are high-quality transparency images. If you have a black background, the black images will blend into it because they do not contain any negative space except for a PNG background-removal.

    The observation that atomi do not emit eidola is consistent with the physics that explains the methods used to take this award-winning photo of a "Strontium atom" (which is actually a re-emission of laser light):

    "An image of a single positively-charged strontium atom, held near motionless by electric fields, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)." (…science-photography-prize)

    From a National Geographic article about taking a picture of a Stronium atom: "Atoms are infinitesimally small, measuring only a miniscule fraction of an inch in diameter. At 38 protons and 215 billionths of a millimeter across, strontium atoms are relatively large by comparison. Still, the only reason why we can see the atom in the photo is because it absorbed and then re-emitted laser light at a speed capturable by a long camera exposure. So, the photo is actually of the laser light being re-emitted, rather than the outline of an atom. Without the long exposure effect, the atom wouldn't be visible to the naked eye." (https://www.nationalgeographic…-exposure-competition-spd)

    If large, invisible particles exist, according to Epicurean physics, then they should still form compounds which can be seen. They could have reasoned that there are no compounds that, when broken, simply poof into an invisible realm of large particles. For example, there is not a mineral that can get split in half, and then both halves suddenly disappear. Everything we observe seems to dissolve, eventually, into something that is at least finer than dust.

    Clay provides at least two lists of ΣΤΟΙΧΕΙΩΜΑΤΑ (STOIKHEIOMATA), with very minor differences. Also, I note that Clay does not try to reconstruct the same ΔΩΔEKA ΣTOIXEIΩΣEIΣ (DODEKA STOIKHEIOSEIS) that De Witt does (the "Twelve"). He omits the Propositions about uniform atomic motion and the atomic swerve.

    In Paradosis and Survival (12), he writes:

    1. “Nothing comes into being out of nothing.” (EH 38.8-39.1, DRN I 145-150, 159-160)

    2. “Nothing is reduced to nothing.” (EH 39.1-2, DRN I 215-218, 237)

    3. “The universe always was as it is and always will be.” (EH 39.1-2, DRN II 294-307; V 359-363) (Atomic Theory; Quantum Field Theory)

    4. “The universe is made up of bodies and void.” (EH 39.6-40.2, DRN I 418-428)

    5. “Bodies are atoms and their compounds.” (EH 40.7-9, DRN I 483-486)

    6. “The universe is infinite.” (EH 41.6-10, DRN I 958-1001)

    7. “Atoms are infinite in number and space extends without limit” (EH 41.11-42.4, DRN I 1008-1020)

    8. “Atoms of similar shape are infinite in number, but the variety of their shapes is indefinite, not infinite.” (EH 42.10-43.4, DRN II 522-527)

    9. “Atomic motion is contstant and of two kinds.” (EH 43.5-44.1, DRN II 95-102 [I 952])

    10. “Atoms share only three of the characteristics of sensible things: shape, weight, mass.” (EH 54.3-6, DRN II 748-752)

    In Lucretius' Translation of Greek Philosophy (35-39), Clay writes:

    1. “Nothing is created out of nothing” (DRN I 145-150, 159-160)

    2. “Nothing is reduced to nothing.” (DRN I 215-218, 237)

    3. “The universe is made up of two components: body and void.” (DRN I 418-428)

    4. “Body is understood as atoms and their compounds.” (DRN I 438-486)

    5. “Atoms share only three of the characteristics of sensible things: shape, weight, mass.” (DRN II 748-752)

    6. “Atomic motion is constant and of two kinds.” (DRN I 952)

    7. “The universe is infinite.” (DRN I 958-864)

    8. “The atoms are infinite in number, and space extends without limit.” (DRN 1008-1020)

    9. “Atoms of similar shape are infinite in number, but the variety of their shapes is indefinite, not infinite” (DRN I 1008-1020)

    Clay also has a slightly different version in Lucretius and Epicurus, but I do not have access to it. They are essentially the same, but Clay never presents the same list in the same order twice.

    Do we have any comparable passages regarding the size of clouds? Epicurus would have naturally observed how clouds appear to be fist-sized from our perspective, but city-sized when they drop to the ground as fog. Anyone can perceive that they float in the sky, lighter than air, and yet can drop a deluge of heavy water at the same time.

    I have mentioned before that a mountain expands beyond our peripheral vision at the summit, but appears no larger than a thumbnail when viewing that same mountain from the middle of the Aegean (which Epicurus did).

    The sun and the moon easily eclipse any object on the planet, given appropriate distance, so I continue to debate his meaning of "appearances". Does he mean, "literally fist-sized according to the visual sense organ", or does he mean, "approximately bigger-than-anything-on-Earth according to the mental sense organ"?