Elayne Level 03
  • Member since Dec 5th 2018
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Posts by Elayne

    Well, considering we are not equating sensation with feelings, wouldn't it be more accurate to say all good and evil consist of individual feelings? Vs the senses, which are not the value-assigning functions? With "individual" as a reminder that nothing is absolute.

    I am starting a new job on March 1 and wanted to get my intellectual property public in some form prior to the start date, to retain control over it. The ideas in here are ones I have developed over 25 years of post- residency pediatric practice. I am posting it here because I included a little of my philosophy as part of it and added a link to this page. I even included my interest in EP on my bio for the clinic website! Even if you aren't interested in parenting strategies, it is an example of how philosophy can be incorporated into other subjects-- maybe you can think of a way to do that for your areas of interest.


    isychos sounds like you've got it! Maybe your wondering if the framing is "too far" reflects that this is indeed a radical philosophy! I find it very exciting! I suggest paying attention to your experience -- I have not personally experienced a condition of neither pleasure nor pain. There is a lot of variation in intensity, but I don't know of a true neutral.

    Matthaios it's a bit difficult to answer you fully, given the no current politics rule (which I understand)... but I think I can say that there is a danger in thinking that EP leads to one political position or even a narrow range, because individuals take pleasure in different things. What looks like painful selflessness to someone else can feel like pleasurable social connections to others. Remember that meaningfulness is often one of the strongest pleasures for humans! I have had in fact opportunity to speak to many young people over the past year, whom I suspect may be in the group you are worried about, and I'm happy to say that they understand and practice EP principles easily! Even though they don't call it that. I've had some great conversations with them. Where I reached them was in person, at community events, and after that I connected online.

    There are a lot of nonpolitical online places a modern Epicurus might show up besides history and philosophy sites, which don't get as much broad interest. I think Epicurus today would definitely be on physics forums, where there are mostly atheists already, reminding them about pleasure, but that's still narrow. I can most easily imagine him going to health-related online groups, physical and mental, talking about how health has no value apart from pleasure (just as nothing else has value without pleasure). Lots of people of all ages are interested in health, and what they really want, even if they don't articulate it, is physical and mental pleasure. Health is the most common modern day framing I know of for happiness-- it has become religion-like for many people.

    He might use a range of platforms but I suspect given his writings that he didn't personally enjoy politics so would probably not show up on the platforms that are heavily political. However, those of us who enjoy politics can engage wherever we get pleasure engaging. I certainly do!

    Hi isychos ! This is exactly the kind of big question I hope people will take up, when they commit to choosing pleasurable lives. I agree with the things Cassius has said. We definitely don't realistically expect 100% pleasure 24-7. However, work for most of us takes up so much time that there's no sense standing in an anthill if there are other options!

    A few other things to think about... you say you have tried many sorts of working roles. That doesn't necessarily mean you have ruled out the possibility that there's a type of work you would find intrinsically pleasurable! Considering many people do find such work (including me), maybe you can too. Maybe visiting a career counselor would be helpful in exploring this?

    Another possibility is that your enjoyment has been negatively affected by extrinsic rewards throughout life. Your friends who've advised you to see work as a means to an end are demonstrating this, and I think your intuition is dead on that this is not the right direction-- based on a large body of evidence.

    Humans have a deep-seated, automatic tendency to devalue something they get extrinsic rewards for. To test this for yourself, imagine if I told you "if you eat all this pie, I'll give you cake." What?? There's got to be something wrong with that pie! We never tell children "oh you are such a good boy for eating all your pie!" And if we did? They would want and enjoy pie less. We know this from experiments on rewarding kids and adults for enjoyable actions, even including sharing their toys. They lose interest and enjoyment. Yikes, right?!

    We are all subject to this extrinsic reward cycle from childhood, and it can have devastating effects on pleasure.

    The more you can stop thinking of work as a means to an end and find pleasure intrinsically, even if it is also providing for your income and pleasure outside work, the more of your day will be enjoyable.

    I recommend two books: Daniel Pink's Drive, about the science of human motivation (basically, wanting and liking -- anticipation of pleasure and pleasure in our activities); and Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards.

    Cassius , the point I'm trying to make is that ancient history and ancient physics wasn't part of Epicurus' philosophy in his day... nor was an absent historical figure. He didn't have to deal with that because he was right there, making current observations. He wasn't asking his students to study ancient history, ancient philosophers, or a different language. If he were here today forming groups, including online forums, I can't imagine any of those aspects would be the focus of his philosophy! He would definitely not be spending time arguing over what he said centuries ago, because if he were here now, he wouldn't have been alive centuries ago 😂.

    So those aspects we are dealing with are actually _novel_ to his way of teaching and forming groups.

    I think it is fine for people to be interested in history-- it can be a pleasure for many people. But history, translations, etc-- none of that was a focus for Epicurus himself. In that way, modern Epicureans are adding these aspects to his strategy of organizing students. And this increases the difficulty of attracting the widest public interest, if it is the primary structure.

    Cassius but here is the critical difference, the thing Epicurus definitely would not be doing, and I don't think I explained it sufficiently or you wouldn't disagree lol. Epicurus would _not_:

    1) Have to get people interested in a prior historical figure no longer present and argue with them over what that person meant;

    2) Have to get people to figure out what people hundreds of years ago thought about physics, compared to current research.

    Those are the two major barriers, as I see it, to folks getting specifically interested in Epicurus-- and if they do get interested, these are barriers to understanding his philosophy.

    Epicurus in his time had the benefit of being able to explain the philosophy directly, using current observations. I have no reason to think he wouldn't do the same today-- using all the current science at hand. That is the way I think people today could learn it... but the historical and physics issues are a substantial barrier to practicing and teaching it the way Epicurus did.

    Cassius , I have started thinking my most useful online activity (in terms of pleasure) is a combination of this site and just conversing with friends and family on FB-- people I see in person when there's not a pandemic.

    I have realized that it may be an unnecessary effort to get large numbers of people interested in Epicurus and the historical details. There are multiple characteristics that would be necessary, not all of which were necessary in his time. People who want to participate in something like this are interested in history, science (at least to a degree), critical thinking, languages... interests which aren't necessarily relevant to their daily pleasures.

    Most people who have adopted Platonist or Stoic ideas are unaware of the source. They've absorbed it unconsciously through the culture. Most people who accept elements of modern physics know very little about the science involved. Non-religious people are statistically likely to be better educated... but there's a pretty high degree of doubt and metaphorical takes on religion even in those who don't know much about physics.

    I have many friends who are aware that their religious texts can't be literally true-- they like writers like Bishop Spong, who metaphorizes the whole thing. They know the mind is material if you ask, even if they also hold parallel incompatible religious beliefs. What they've retained is primarily the idealism... and that aspect, although sticky, can be argued against by appealing to real life experiences.

    I am not lacking in local friends, and I hope others on here are not either. I think I can bring the most pleasure to my friends (and thus to myself) by just spending time with them... because when we talk about life, when crises and decisions come up, I give my perspective, and I can help them see pleasurable choices and alternatives to Platonic or Stoic thinking even when they don't know where they got those ideas. To borrow a Christian framing, if they see me enjoying my life and here and there I mention what works for me, the example can attract them-- even if they never get interested in Epicurus or physics at all.

    I've thought about this in regards to the blog I started, which is way too nerdy and detailed for most people. I'm not yet sure how to revise it to have broader appeal, but I think most people might be attracted to something with far less detail. They don't care about whether the universe is infinite or had a beginning-- and it causes unnecessary confusion if that conflicts with popular articles on modern physics. Just saying "everything is material and there's no supernatural" is enough of a description of the physics aspect. If they are religious and need to be talked out of it, they can read from a plethora of atheist sources with thorough arguments, and perhaps links could be provided. But as Elli has pointed out, what most atheist sources are missing is the goal of pleasure. I don't even think it's necessary to explain that in a complicated way. But I'm still working on exactly how to state it... and it is devilishly hard for me to tame my own wordiness and tendency to get complicated. 😂

    To get most people to start putting pleasure first would be a lot easier if we aren't expecting them to also be interested in Epicurus or to need to learn the correct understanding of ataraxia in order to combat modern academics, etc.

    I thought we were saying something different and was glad to see the ❤️ in case I added useful information. Bryan's post focused on physical pleasure but in a way that seemed somewhat minimalist to me... whereas I read Epicurus as promoting both mental and physical pleasures, but noting that mental pleasures can predominate and become accessible at all times. One must take physical action, such as engaging in friendships, in order to have material for ongoing mental and physical pleasures-- rather than being passive.

    There's a risk with talk of calmness and gratitude in forgetting that quite a bit of action is generally needed to secure our pleasures, rather than passively trying to be glad about whatever happens, no matter what that is. When dying, Epicurus took pleasure in memories of combined mental/physical pleasures (because an encounter with friends is both) which he had taken action to experience. So it's not just that we get a roof, a coat, and food and then focus on being calm. We actively arrange for pleasurable experiences.

    A person can gain such skill at mental pleasures as to successfully enjoy life even during physical pain, but the reverse is not true-- no type of physical pleasures can enduringly compensate for mental pain. And this is not to say we would neglect or disdain physical pleasures!

    Bryan As you say, Epicurus denied a mixed state-- however, he also did not propose a neutral state. There is not pain, pleasure, and calm-- and he was clearly speaking of actual pleasure. So when pain is fully relieved, it isn't replaced with some sort of calm void but with bliss, real pleasure-- and that is why a person having full blown pleasure doesn't desire to go looking for more at the moment (although continuing to arrange for future pleasures would be wise). It isn't because of a logical argument but because that person is totally satisfied-- there would be no such thing as more pleasure. You can't add more water to a full cup. Complete pleasure is not some sort of subtle, easily missed feeling.

    What he warned against was going for pleasures one could never obtain, or of course those which brought more pain than they were worth in terms of pleasure.

    When Epicurus talks about variety, it is not in a disparaging way... and good thing, because neurologically, we do have to rotate pleasures to some degree, even cognitive pleasures, or our nervous systems quit noticing the stimulus.

    Cassius Idk if you have a copyright on "Epicurean Friends" or if that can be done-- but I hope that name will _not_ wind up being used on gab or minds, because you have made so much effort to keep this site free of modern political controversy. Both those sites are well known as havens for a certain extreme political perspective. As we have discussed, EP does not dictate an individual's political stance-- that would be determined by individual assessment of pleasurable choices. And if groups of politically like-minded Epicureans gather and have political conversations, in every imaginable ideology, that's to be expected! But there could be disastrous consequences if this group's name became associated with one ideology. There are some people who would not want to participate in your site should it be seen as connected somehow to these others, because such participation could be socially and professionally risky as well as personally unpleasant -- factors a wise person should include in their pleasure decisions.

    TDLR: imo, any groups formed on sites known for heavy political activity need their own names and should not be associated with this group in any way.

    Ok that's what gets translated as vain opinion also. In context to me it sounds like it's basically false opinions. Unreal ideals. Empty of facts, empty of reality 😂. Because it's contrasted with nature, which includes everything that actually exists. People today contrast natural with artificial/manmade, but Epicurus is contrasting it with unreal.

    Are you quoting Epicurus by using "empty" pleasure, Don ? Which text, if so?

    Today I think most people would interpret an "empty pleasure" as being one without meaningfulness (a source of pleasure). If someone was experiencing pain from a sense of meaninglessness unrelieved by their choices for pleasures, it would be analogous to the profligate hedonists-- leaving some of their pleasures on the table instead of choosing the maximum pleasure.

    But it reminds me of where Epicurus has been translated talking about "vain desires", which means "in vain" rather than prideful-- desires for imaginary pleasures, idealism-- infinite power and such. The desires wouldn't be in vain if they were for real, obtainable pleasures, so that's the problem. Futility. Idk if there's any correlation to what you are talking about with "empty."

    Another consideration-- because we experience

    continual stimulation of our pain/pleasure system, it's not just the initial experience which triggers pleasure then emotion, but the emotion itself continues to trigger pleasure or pain-- and this should be included in our understanding of how different decisions affect us. The emotions involved in affectionate friendship create strong pleasure. If we weren't having pleasure from our emotional responses, we would use different words to describe the relationship in question.

    So feeling is not just a brief blip followed by emotion-- feeling continues to be evoked.

    Don the sense are subjective in that they involve both the real, external object being sense _plus_ that person's specific locus and specific sense organs. We are not idealists-- our sense are material functions, biological, and of course they have differences between people. That does not make the sense inaccurate-- if I have cataracts in my eyes, the color I am seeing is an accurate perception of the object's color plus the yellowing of my lenses.

    People who have bought into the popular notion of "objective" fact often feel very uncomfortable at the material reality that there is no absolute perspective and that every perception is _by_ a subject and includes that subject's materiality.

    You could think of it as similar to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. In the act of measuring very small particles, we have to change what that particle is doing and so we can't separate the act of observing from what the particle does.

    For me, I am a connoisseur of emotions and find the incredible variety and particularity marvelous. I never experience pain or pleasure without a full context of experience, so trying to isolate feelings seems almost Platonic in idealism. In contrast to real life. Epicurus made the point that pleasures are not interchangeable-- there is variety!

    Nor do I ever have any delay in knowing whether I'm having pleasure or pain-- that is a foreign concept to me. Of course, others could be differently wired and will need to figure themselves out. I see the primary challenge as gaining experience and accuracy in knowing which decisions will work out for pleasures, and age helps a lot with this, if a person pays good attention to results of their actions.

    Cassius I agree with a couple of minor deviations. I wouldn't contrast direct perceptions with reason/idealism by saying nature "gave" (metaphorically) one and not the other. Obviously our ability to reason and idealize is evolved naturally-- it sure isn't supernatural 😂. It's just that one involves contact with external reality and the other involves further neurological processing.

    And under your point 3, I would not say we only refer to immediate perceptions, which are fleeting-- it would be hard if not impossible to do that anyway. In a way, all our conscious perception is of events slightly preceding awareness anyway. So I would include memory, although the longer ago, the more we rewrite our memories. If we didn't include past perceptions at all, though, we wouldn't have any stable experience of reality.

    I don't want to leave out that the seeking process itself can feel pleasurable, as well as enjoying that there remain mysteries about reality to be solved. Like an adventure. If we ever did figure out a theory of everything, I wonder if there would be something like a post-adventure let-down. This pleasurable seeking is part of why I don't mind leaving so many questions about reality open!

    The other reasons that sort of uncertainty feels fine to me include that it isn't threatening/scary. Uncertainty about whether there's a burglar hidden in the house is unpleasant. Uncertainty about cosmology details is not dangerous and so can feel pleasurable. We know enough physics that I think anxiety over remaining uncertainties can usually be solved with more physics education. None of the many physicists I know seem to be anxious about cosmology and most are atheists.

    The 3rd reason IMO to keep our superficial physics up to date is that more advanced concepts gradually get incorporated into popular knowledge. So not updating it ensures the philosophy will deviate more and more even for a minimally educated person, and it will gradually seem less relevant.