Godfrey Moderator
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Posts by Godfrey

    Here's a footnote from Melville: "the vessel itself | Produced the flaw: a Platonic analogy (cf. Gorgias 493a ff.), but one which links to a complex of imagery within the poem: see above on 3. 936, 1003, and cf. Epicurus fr. 396."

    In his translation at 3.936 he refers to the leaky vessel as an "ungrateful mind".

    I see Don already linked to the Gorgias text :thumbup:

    Quote from Cassius

    The development of exercises to encourage people to focus on seeing how mental pleasures and physical pleasures combine to constitute the full goal of "pleasure" is probably a good idea.

    The way I read PD09, which is the way about half of the translations render it, is that pleasures and pains can be described by intensity, duration and location. Thinking about activities that expand the location of pleasures can then help with what's stated in the above quote.

    For instance, many pleasures are experienced both physically and mentally at the same time: relief at escaping trauma, the awe of a blazing sunset, the list goes on.... Thinking about this facet (location, or breadth as I also like to think of it) can be useful in understanding the nature of pleasure.

    Quote from Don

    Pleasure do differ, that's my interpretation of PD09 from the grammar. But I'm still not sure I understand where you're getting the specific parameters of intensity, duration, and breadth from the words that are in PD09.

    From what I read, Epicurus is specifically saying "Every pleasure *cannot* condensed nor be present at the same time and in the whole of one's nature or its primary parts." The "if.." clause cannot happen, and so the pleasures do differ from one another.

    Intensity: Hicks uses the word "accumulation", Bailey uses "intensified", DeWitt uses "condensed", White uses "concentrated"; the other translations in Nate's compilation use variations of these. I'm interpreting these English words as describing intensity of pleasure, and, to me, it's clear that pleasures can vary in intensity.

    Duration: all of the translations use "time", "duration", "lasted", or similar references to time. I'm calling these "duration".

    Breadth: the translations all refer to "parts"; I'm using "breadth" to describe the idea that pleasures can vary in the number of "parts" that they affect. These include toes, tongues, mind: various body parts and various states of mind.

    I don't interpret Epicurus' "if" as referring to "condensed". I interpret it as referring to maximizing particular pleasures in all three aspects of intensity duration and breadth. If this could be done, then the pleasures wouldn't differ from each other. They can't be maximized in such a way, so they do differ. But by using intensity, duration and breadth as the three criteria in this statement he is telling us that those are the three variables which affect pleasures and differentiate between them.

    Just to be clear, am I correct in saying that pleasures do differ, but only in intensity, duration and breadth? This is both how I read PD09 and how I reason it out.

    For instance, pleasure/pain in the toe is different from pleasure/pain of equal intensity and duration in the tongue, because of the different nerve endings in the two locations. If we could spread each of these instances of pleasure/pain over both the toe and the tongue, they would be the same. But as long as that doesn't happen, they're different. This, then, becomes a formula for how pleasures/pains vary.

    Don intensity, duration and breadth are how I'm reading PD09 at the moment. Epicurus seems to be saying that all pleasures are equal if these three things are equal. I'm interpreting this as saying if you want to analyze pleasures or maximize pleasure, these are the aspects that you have to work with, in the context of a specific situation (yours, or a hypothetical one).

    At least to my current thinking, the important point in PDs 19 & 20 is limits: finite (limited) v infinite (unlimited). The limits apply to pleasure, well-being and desires equally. Adding the idea of limits to the idea that the three listed criteria of pleasure in PD09 makes the point, I think, that within our finite lifetimes we can maximize our pleasure by maximizing intensity, duration and breadth. But we should realize that we can never cross the limit into the infinite. There's no afterlife: make the most of this life and keep in mind the fact that it's going to end.

    Sorry, I'm playing catch-up.... Referring to PD09, I'm reading that the variables that cause pleasures to differ are intensity, duration and extent (parts of the body and aspects of the mind). If this is the case, then intensity, duration and extent can be considered useful ways to evaluate potential pleasures. This is of course in the context of what each particular individual considers pleasurable in a given situation.

    Which is interesting, because the duration part of this seems to conflict with these PDs:

    PD19. Finite time and infinite time contain the same amount of joy, if its limits are measured out through reasoning.

    PD20.The flesh assumes that the limits of joy are infinite, and that infinite joy can be produced only through infinite time. But the mind, thinking through the goal and limits of the flesh and dissolving fears about eternity, produces a complete way of life and therefore has no need of infinite time; yet the mind does not flee from joy, nor when events cause it to exit from life does it look back as if it has missed any aspect of the best life.

    Measuring it out through reasoning (if you will), it seems that PD19 & 20 are comparing finite and infinite time, whereas PD09 is dealing strictly with finite time and therefore there's no conflict between these.

    With this in mind you can evaluate hypothetical #1(Epicurus) and #2 (shepherd) like this:

    - intensity: #1, intense pain, intense pleasure; intensity of pleasure outweighs pain by uncertain amount. #2, uncertain pain, uncertain pleasure; uncertain which predominates and by how much.

    - duration: #1, one week. #2, one week.

    - extent: #1, great breadth of mental pleasure, somewhat localized physical pain. #2, uncertain breadth of mental pleasure, uncertain physical pleasure and pain.

    So to properly evaluate this hypothetical you need to get a sense of the uncertainties. We have Epicurus' letter describing his situation, but we don't know much about the shepherd. Do they love or hate their job? Are they allergic to grass? What's the breadth of their mental pleasure in this circumstance: does it align with their innermost desires? We therefore need to make up answers for all of these uncertainties, which of course is what makes this a hypothetical in the first place :rolleyes:

    Which would Epicurus choose?

    At this particular moment, despite my poll answer above, I think I'd choose the shepherd. Partly I'm choosing avoidance of pain ;) . But I'm also considering that learning and growth bring me great joy, and the shepherd is probably closer to my stage of growth, which perhaps would give me the space to enjoy the pleasures of nature and experience the process of growth.

    However, the option of Epicurus' final week could serve as a trial run for my own death (not that I anticipate dying in that particular way: more a trial run of the process of dying) and as such could be of value and interest.

    Having now answered a hypothetical, I'm turning and running from the rabbit hole as fast as my legs will carry me!

    "...conscious of his own condition..." in the italicized part of the quote from Torquatus above is so critical to really understanding the lack of a neutral state. It's so easy to think that you're in a neutral state, but paying closer attention invariably reveals subtle pleasure or pain that you were oblivious to. It then becomes a question as to whether the gap between the feelings is infinitely divisible in order to arrive at a point that could be a verifiable neutral state. If there is such a point, I imagine that it's beyond human perception and therefore pretty much useless.

    This probably belongs under "posts by Captain Obvious", but I was just thinking about PD03 and it occurred to me that that particular PD is, among other things, an instruction for removing pain. The reading that absence of pain leads to pleasure has the doctrine backwards. (One might credit Cicero with having a hand in this....)

    PD03: The limit of enjoyment is the removal of all pains. Wherever and for however long pleasure is present, there is neither bodily pain nor mental distress. St-Andre translation

    Reading the second sentence in the most straightforward way says that if you're experiencing pleasure then you're not experiencing pain. It doesn't say that the way to obtain pleasure is to remove all pain, although that's a logical implication of what is said. It's not a Buddhist idea either; it's more of a refutation of the idea that you relieve suffering by removing desire.

    If one is attempting to remove a particular pain, following Epicurus' advice here may lead to a series of realizations on the nature of pleasure. One might start with a very fleeting pleasure, discover that eventually that dissipates or leads to further pain (I've sometimes referred to this as papering over pain with pleasure). Continuing to pursue pleasure in the attempt to remove particular pains eventually leads to a deeper understanding of pleasure and its optimal role in one's life. This has nothing to do with pursuing the absence of pain in order to obtain pleasure, in fact it's the exact opposite approach.

    There's a paper on Academia titled 'Aristotle and the Uses of Contemplation' (M.D. Walker, CUP 2018), by Tom Angier. It's a review of Walker's book of that title. It mentioned something new to me (me being basically ignorant about Aristotle), which is that Aristotle's highest good of contemplation was theological.

    Although not mentioned, this got me thinking that Epicurus' insistence that the gods are real likely was some kind of response to Aristotle. Since Aristotle placed (theological?) contemplation quite highly, Epicurus was making a point about the importance of contemplating the true nature of the gods and of the importance of pleasure.

    Here are some quotes I have from trying to get a handle on epibloai. I'm not sure if they're helpful, and I don't have any conclusions to offer at the moment. This is quite a juicy topic: one perfect for Cicero to turn into an obfuscated mess.

    Lucretius 4.793-817 (Long and Sedley translation 1987):

    No doubt the images are steeped in technique, and have taken lessons in wandering to enable them to have fun at nighttime! (8) Or will this be nearer the truth? Because within a single period of time detectable by our senses – the time it takes to utter a single sound – there lie hidden many periods of time whose existence is discovered by reason, it follows that everywhere at every time every image is ready on the spot: so great is the speed and availability of things. And because they are delicate the mind can only see sharply those of them which it strains to see. Hence the remainder all perish, beyond those for which the mind has prepared itself. The mind further prepares itself by hoping to see the sequel to each thing, with the result that this comes about. Don’t you see how the eyes too, when they begin to see things which are delicate, strain and prepare themselves, and that there is no other way of seeing sharply? As a matter of fact, even with things plain to see you can discover that the result of failing to pay attention is that it becomes like something separated from you by the whole of time and far away. Why then is it surprising if the mind loses everything else beyond the matters to which it is devoting itself?

    Letter to Herodotus 50-52 (Mensch translation 2018)

    And whatever image we derive by focusing the mind or the sense organs, whether on the object’s shape or its concomitant properties, this shape is the shape of the solid object and is due either to the continuous compacting or to the residue of the image. Falsehood and error always reside in the added opinion [when a fact is awaiting confirmation or the absence of contradiction, which fact is subsequently not confirmed by virtue of an immovable opinion in ourselves that is linked to the imaginative impression, but distinct from it; it is this that gives rise to the falsehood]. For impressions like those received from a picture, or arising in dreams, or from any other form of apprehension by the mind, or by the other criteria, would not have resembled what we call the real and true things had it not been for certain actual things on which we had cast our eyes. Error would not have occurred unless we had experienced some other movement in ourselves that was linked to, but distinct from, the apprehension of the impression; and from this movement, if it is not confirmed or is contradicted, falsehood results; whereas if it is confirmed, or not contradicted, truth results. And to this view we must adhere, lest the criteria based on clear evidence be repudiated, or error, strengthened in the same way, throw all these things into confusion.

    From "Epicurean Prolepsis" by David Glidden (1985):

    What is puzzling is that in his discussion of Epicurean theology Cicero seems to conflate the Epicurean apprehension of the gods through epibolé tés dianoias with the apprehension of their nature through prolepsis.

    Unfortunately, Velleius goes on to describe this process of apprehension in some detail, and the description he comes up with turns out to be exactly what we know to be Epicurus’ sixth sense, where the mind itself acts as a sense organ: namely, epibolé tés dianoias.

    On the one hand, the process of imprinting guarantees that the kinds of things there are make their impact on the mind, a causal defense of realism and the testimony of aisthésis. This mechanical process enforces our ability to see things the way they are. To make this defence impregnable the Epicureans went on to insist that any thing we can imagine owes its character to a real existence - namely, the shape of some atomic construct striking the mind. To imagine a god or a flying horse or even to see that the gods are blessed and eternal is simply to be exposed to the requisite atomic patterns and in time to come to recognize them. According to Epicurus, it is some such process as automatic as this which makes perception possible and gives it its authority. And the dream figures the mind perceives are of a piece with perception generally, leaving, so to speak, no room for imagination: that is, nothing for the mind to make up on its own or at least no right for the mind to call such inventions aisthéseis, when for the Epicureans such cognitive impressions can be nothing more than judgments or opinions which must be tested against the vocabulary of experience, the way things look. Given the connection between epibolé tés dianoia and prolepsis, the mind is also said to be able to pick out figures by their sortal nature, to perceive the general character of things. This is all said to be part of the same process and prolepsis is said to enjoy the same sort of epistemic authority as aisthéseis in general.