I'll try to make it to this one, provided my calendar isn't too busy in the morning.
Charles Level 03
- from Minnesota
- Member since Sep 1st 2019
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Reminds me of the graphs that Julie mentioned, where pleasure over time can only reach a "set ceiling", and that no matter the amount of time in any given example, continues to be a non-factor. I think a part of this misunderstanding comes from the Epicurean counter-argument against fearing death, as mentioned in his letter to Menoeceus: "And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality.". Where now the standard for Epicurean philosophy is; live life pleasurably for when you die you cease to exist, it only makes perfect sense to want to extend that pleasure for the longest amount of time as possible.
But of course, in many other sources such as PD 19, and later in that same letter as you quote, Epicurus does not get hung up on pleasure with any sort of extenuating circumstance or modifier.
He's more of a modern revival of a hedonist/humanist. Devoutedly atheist and bashes Christianity alongside Islam, and even wrote a book about philosophers and their diets. Yet he is almost the definition of academia and many find him hard to access, also because of the short supply of extensive English translations of his works (at least from what Ive noticed).
Life is about feeling / sensation and logic alone is worthless, but Plato through wordplay is attempting to reverse that natural priority and convince us that logic has primacy.
This reminds me of Michel Onfray's quotation about pleasure scaring people.
"Pleasure scares people. They are scared of the word and the actions, reality, and discourses around it. It either scares people or makes them hysterical. There are too many private and personal issues, too many alienating, intimate, painful, wretched, and miserable details. There are secret and hidden deficiencies. There are too many things in the way of just being, living, and enjoying. Hence, people reject the word. They produce spiteful critique that is aggressive and in bad faith or that is simply evasive. Disrespect, discredit, contempt, and disdain are all means for avoiding the subject of pleasure."
It's truly as if most today are frightened by the very word "hedonist" or the concept of living live pleasurably, instead believing that hardship is necessary and that in the long run you will be happier (they don't like to acknowledge that this means the after life we don't believe in).
I've been working on an outline of Plato's most important arguments from the text with the following rebuttal from his interlocutor, with my own notes at the bottom of each section.
Not only which pleasures are "better than others" but Plato immediately casts aside the argument that pleasure is in itself good and if we have Epicurus in mind, we can easily see the types of pleasure that Plato is grouping with even the most natural; "unnatural and unnecessary", of which his interlocutor asks,
"What do you mean, Socrates [Plato]? Do you think that any one who asserts pleasure to be the good, will tolerate the notion that some pleasures are good and others bad?"
Of course Plato then replies afterwards that this is the "old position" of pleasures and that present and cited examples "do not pierce our dull minds", including "we go on arguing all the same, like the weakest and most inexperienced reasoners?".
In the typical Socratic formula, this is only to get Protarchus to eventually end up admitting self-defeating statements so that Plato's argumentation remains superior.
That's the translation I've been reading, I have a bookmarked section from a file off of Project Gutenberg. But with everything from Gutenberg, it becomes a large wall a of text.
How ironic, since I feel confident enough to defeat the Stoic argumentation against Epicureanism, I've been wanting to move onto critiquing the more Platonist mindset that is antagonistic towards pleasure. However with anything by Plato, it is a gargantuan task to completely read it properly, much less analyze it to a great extent, but you can include me in this discussion.
I think those behind every popular academic philosophical book need to see this. My father's philosophy class, briefly mentions Epicurus and what he has learned aside from asking me, is that common misconception of pleasure = no pain, and that katastematic pleasures are better than kinetic. Yet nowhere in any of these circles, do I see an acknowledgement of the juxtaposition of this modern interpretation. How can pleasure = absence of pain when you are adamant about kinetic v katastematic pleasures with the latter being more important despite it relying on kinetic pleasures to begin with, ie what they believe causes pain?
This is a pretty good source to derail that criticism. So much of my time spent talking about Epicureanism to other philosophical people ends up being a kangaroo court, where I'm the defense.
"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." - Donatien Alphonse Francois
I've thought about bringing discussion to the Epicurean subreddit, but the bulk of its users seem to be (like you said): spiritualists, eclecticists, and non-Epicureans, the most widely spread post is the so-called "Epicurean paradox".
It's a bit of a shame as I would like to see it flourish like r/stoicism as reddit is much more accessible compared to a great number of other sites. Maybe some integration is in order?
I consider myself to be in both, personally.
I know a wide variety of western philosophy and humanities, but I always find myself going back to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc. for the same subjects. There's always something to learn from each culture.
Here is my personal outline of my Epicurean Philosophy, a bit messy though, with some slight deviations.
The Nature of Things and of The Universe
- Nothing comes from nothing, and that nothing leads to nothing.
- When I die, my body and its elements will return to the earth and the universe, my soul and mind with it.
- Everything within the universe is comprised of physical materials called matter (Atoms<-Quarks), and the lack of matter or its specific properties acting as a catalyst: void.
- This matter exists within reality and of the void.
- The void allows matter to move across the universe, like a fabric supporting water droplets or bits of pollen moving end to end.
- The laws of nature, are predisposed to exist through some mechanism of the moving and properties of matter.
- Because of these two substances, we can do away with religious or supernatural explanations for understanding the laws of nature.
- Since we have done away with those two, we can rule out any credence in their eligibility.
- Since nothing can be created from nothing, the universe must have always existed in some fashion or another.
- While it may be easy to say that matter is infinite, it may just be infinite in our comprehension.
- The universe is ever expanding, but will one day collapse on itself when all matter is exhausted.
- However, because of the complex nature of higher beings (humans, dolphins, elephants, pigs, etc.), the movement of atoms/matter is not always perfect and its path is determined by probabilistic causes that are bound to collide (Atomic Collision) or conversely, "swerve".
- The swerve of atoms in higher beings is precisely what gives us and complex animals the agency of free will.
How we are sure of our knowledge and other epistemological canons
- Since we have ruled out the idea of the supernatural, superstitious, or religious means. We rely on our senses to determine the nature of the universe for us.
- Our senses do not mislead us, it is our minds that can misinterpret the truth of our senses.
- We are not born with innate knowledge of our surroundings or of the universe, upon birth our minds are like a blank slate to be filled through direct sensory experiences, much like Locke's tabula rasa.
- What we are fed from our sensory experiences is thus interpreted through reason, leading to knowledge to be stored away in our minds.
- Through mathematics, we have set up a system of defining universal principles and measurements of certain objects/concepts, such as the circumference of Earth being 24,901 mi or its surface area being 196.9 million mi².
- There are three initial criterion for the validity of truth: sensations, preconceptions, and feelings.
- A fourth criterion can also be applied: "presentational applications of the mind", for discussing things which we cannot observe, but can perceive directly but strictly in our minds.
Epicurean Ethics: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Tetrapharmakos
- Since the concepts of religious afterlife and divinity are brushed off, our conduct and attention must be grounded in reality and where we live (Earth, ISS, etc.).
- Part of that conduct, includes virtue and its purpose, the purpose of living pleasurably, not as a reward to live in the afterlife.
- To live pleasurably alongside virtue, one must use virtue as a stepping stone when one sees fit, not the other way around.
- Since there are no gods, the only other limiting factor to our way of life is death itself.
- However we must not fear death, as the fear of death is enhanced by superstitions of punishment or banishment.
- To counter this fear we must acknowledge the following: "Death is nothing to us. When we exist, death is not; and when death exists, we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death, there is awareness."
- In addition to acknowledging that quote, we must dispel the fear that we will not accomplish what we have wanted prior to dying.
- To dispel that fear, you must acknowledge that if you regret what you have not done or what will be done in the future, ask yourself if you regret not being a part of the past and the discoveries/activities of yore.
- If you do, then think why you are in a constant negative-feedback loop of never being satisfied with what you can do right now within your lifespan.
- To achieve a pleasurable life, you must derive pleasure from the most basic desires in life: that is both natural and necessary.
- In addition, you must resist and avoid the desires that are both; natural and unnecessary and unnatural and unnecessary.
- However, there may be some leniency towards desires that are natural and unnecessary such as having a healthy sex life or going out with friends to a nicer restaurant.
- Remember that bodily pleasures are intense, but an over indulgence in certain bodily pleasures will lead to harm over time or as a result.
- To even obtain the corresponding mental pleasures, one must first engage in the activity that sparked the pleasure to begin with, such as having a fond memory of a conversation with a friend.
- It is also worth noting that what is terrible in life is easy to endure.
- Setbacks are bound to happen to everyone, and from that pain (or any other sort of pain) we learn and can do our best to avoid it in the future.
- Intense physical pain, while difficult to bear, will likely not last long.
- Intense physical pain that is chronic and lasts long, is rare and more often than not will lead to death, or becomes something you become used to. In my case, I have painful chronic migraines with no cure or remedy to truly avoid them, thus I have accepted it as a part of life and embrace the fact that there are worse pains to avoid.
- In order to live a more pleasurable life, we must take a look at each of our actions to determine their outcome, and if it means pain in the present for pleasure in the long term, then it is advisable to accept that.
- It is often easy to lose sight of the balance between living frugal and modestly, and living the excess life of a hedonist, but as long as you can balance both, you will be fine. VS 63 states: "There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance."
- It is also important to be ambitious and challenge adversity when you see fit, for the opposite is to sit idly and be "content with what you have". Epicurus was an extremely ambitious person who took the risk to found a school to teach his controversial teachings right between Plato's Academy and the Stoa. He also wrote over 300 books on various subjects, we should strive to always work or produce something.
- While also being productive and ambitious in a quiet matter, we should avoid the unnecessary strife that is political argumentation or a toxic friendship or relationship, for these are incompatible with living a pleasant life and having a tranquil mind.
- If someone close to you is suffering, it is up to you to do whatever it is in your power to help them, the same can be said of a suffering world.
- As always: philosophy's first and primary objective should be to alleviate human suffering and provide clarity and betterment for ourselves.
- The Nature of Things and of The Universe
Thanks Cassius . I'm glad to be a part of the online Epicurean community found both here and on Facebook and wherever else on the internet.
To give a little background of myself: I'm 19 years old and I live in Minnesota. In my free-time I like to study Politics, Geopolitics, History, Economics, Literature, Music Theory/History, and of course, Philosophy. In particular I love Antonio Vivaldi (Baroque) and Hindustani Classical Music (India), my favorite book is "One Thousand and One Nights", and my philosophy is obviously geared towards Epicurus, I draw inspiration from David Hume, Charvaka, and Donatien François.
As I have mentioned prior in a few other introductory statements, I used to be a rather dogmatic hedonist. But that blanket term did not imply any further studies or associations with other forms of thinking (ie epistemology or ethics), and I could not reconcile the many questions I had, nor the scathing criticisms that the term begs for. Eventually, I decided to look back upon Epicurus whom I had known before, but never gave much thought to.
Since then, I've developed a much more firm philosophy in the wake of Epicurus, and wishing to keep the trend of satisfying a desire for more knowledge, I stumbled across many Epicurean communities online: primarily through Facebook. Thus, that is what leads me to writing this introduction and allows me to maintain my interest and ambition in wanting to both grow the number of Epicureans worldwide, and to become much more involved with the existing community.