Scott Level 03
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Posts by Scott

    There remains one telos for all humans, but not every human will be able or willing to see that or follow it to it's end.

    Don I want to understand your point here. I agree many persons may not be "willing" to see pleasure as telos, guide and goal [which to me seems obvious] - but by the word "able" do you mean many humans will not have the cognitive CAPACITY to understand? Surely only someone with VERY limited mental ability would have trouble with this. I think the basic thrust of EP with pleasure as goal, it easy to understand. So I'm wondering if I just don't understand your meaning.

    Epicurus seemed to be treating this question carefully, which even Torquatus seems to admit when he said that Epicurus denied the necessity to construct a logical argument that pleasure is good

    Yes!


    If you are going to ask the question "What is the greatest good?" The answer is "pleasure."


    But you also have to consider "Should you be asking that question?"

    Yes!

    We have the word guide which is clear. What is added by calling it "good" or calling pain "evil"?

    Yes!


    I'm so glad to see this shared out! I couldn't agree more - the "other" philosophers were setting the terms of the discourse. Its like a silly Mad Libs game where Epicurus is kind of forced into filling in the blank, and the only possible Epicurean word that could be suggested is "pleasure", but ...NO! This is a child's game! The "good/greatest good" is just an abstract idea, not a living reality! You're chasing after a ghost! 8| :P

    Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

    Happy Valentine's Day to all! May you be blessed with love relationships that make your life deeper and more satisfying.

    Since pleasure is our guide, we can know the right path to take by paying attention.

    Well, perhaps, but its a tough thing to "know"! I think humans have a difficult time of romance and long term [committed/contractual] relationships. Many many failures in this area! Playing a game of cards or tennis may be rewarding and/or frustrating, but it is soon over and a new one can be started at any time! With romance and finding "mates" and marriage, one must make longer term choices - eventually most people make a choice to intend to stick someone for the rest of their lives. Now no matter how much I love Beethoven's 7th Symphony, I would probably tire of it if I listened to it several times every single day for the rest of my life. That's a stretch of an analogy, but not without some merit. Humans are generally inclined to monogamy, but it is certainly not always a piece of cake. Are there any Epicurean quotes on long term relationship pleasure/happiness?

    Cassius this is a great topic and worthy of investigation and discussion. The particular article you referenced, and its author, are not however, a very good sources of information. The article is littered with many bits of accurate information and truths, but also... lots of unsupported assertions, interesting anecdotal evidence, conflations, stretched analogies, etc. Debunking all those would take gobs of time. However, the article does stir up thought and offers interesting insights. I've occasionally had trouble sleeping through a "full night" and have read some about this stuff over the years, including about the 2 segment night sleep idea and historical sleep pattern changes that Don's article refers to. Also about people / groups / cultures that employ daytime napping, and there is little doubt in my mind that sleeping 8 hours straight per night (or 7-9 as Guzey usually refers to) is not set in stone. I found that once I stopped worrying about it on those occasions when I woke up in the middle of the night or had other "variations", I really didn't have any further troubles. Sleep varies over time, within one's personal experience, and between different people. That's OK. Figure out what works for you.

    I should add to that last post, to clarify one thing - when I could say that to my mother, I felt GOOD. I didn't just feel like "virtuous" or something. I had a release of a lot of internal turmoil and was at peace and have been since then about it. That was a true pleasure there, for me.

    Another thing I've found resulting from developing compassion is a more fair assessment of others' intentions. You know how we might go too late through a traffic light and say to ourselves "Damn! That was a red light I just went through!" Whereas when we are sitting at a red light and someone flies through the other way we say "Damn that guy is a f***g jerk!" There is a bit of tendency to assume bad intentions for others, and to think our intentions are good. Well, at least for me. Compassion has helped me more often give people the benefit of the doubt or at least be more open to them. I sort of gained a perspective like "we're all in this together". During childhood I (short story) had some amount of trauma. Only many years later I became capable of telling my mother that I loved her. It wasn't because she or history or anything else was changed. It was me who changed. I was only able to do this because of developing compassion. My heart just got a little "bigger" or whatever. Sorry, that's kind of the Grinch story there I totally bumped into that corny reference apologies lol

    I tend to avoid the word "compassion" altogether. It's etymology is sticky. The word is rooted in ecclesiastical Latin, and specifically alludes to the "co-suffering" of the Christ with the rest of humanity.


    Agree, that's part of the history/origination of the word. But that's very old history. It doesn't mean that in today's usage. Words change in meaning over time and there is no other word that can replace it today and have the same meaning. Pity and empathy and sympathy just don't fill the bill (and most folks don't know the history of all this anyway).


    since "compassion" (or "co-suffering") necessarily includes the idea of "suffering", I think the word is antithetical to the Epicurean goal. A wise person would not contribute to their own suffering by accepting the same punishment as someone else; rather, a wise person would direct their efforts toward trying to remedy the situation

    I can totally understand your perspective Nate, as this seems counter-intuitive. But I have lived through this and can honestly attest to the fact that cultivating compassion can be a very positive thing. This is an example of accepting some pain (the extent to which we can take on the pain of someone else, limited) to gain at least 2 greater pleasures 1) a very powerful pleasure of helping someone, and 2) more broadly the pleasure of deep connection with people. This is very meaningful work. Enjoying the good fortune of a friend for instance, is a great thing, but if you help a friend out when they are truly suffering, the connection is much deeper and more powerful. Same with non-friends (in fact sometimes friends are made this way!)


    That said, compassion CAN be problematic - it depends on the details. One can become overwhelmed by compassion (we've all heard of this among health care workers during this pandemic, as just one example). Also some persons are so sensitive (or even have outright medical/psychological issues) that most any effort at compassion could be debilitating or even dangerous!

    I should share that I don't want to suggest compassion is all "bad" by any means. Cultivating compassion can produce very positive results. I have spent some time doing this and can attest to the value of it. I've worked with Amnesty International and Tzu Chi for instance, both of which help end the suffering of people from human rights abuses and natural disasters, etc. It is a wonderful feeling to do compassionate work, a powerful connection with one's fellow human beings. When you help someone that is hurting, it is a deep, heartfelt pleasure! There was a time earlier in my life when I didn't have much compassion at all. For anyone, really. That to me now seems cold and "Stoic".

    Thanks, Don, and Joshua thanks for all the citations! Great work digging all that up! There is plenty to indicate the kindness of Epicurus and that of EP as a philosophy in general, perhaps especially from Diogenes of Oenoanda. Kindness and benevolence, love and help, etc. All good stuff. But I was pondering this and it occurred to me there is still something a little "different" about compassion than what we find in these citations. Some flavor. I did some etymology work on it (e.g. https://www.etymonline.com/word/compassion).


    Then I took the dog for a walk, and it struck me. Compassion deals with suffering. It calls for suffering. Pretty much requires it. That seems obvious to me in hindsight. That's what really differentiates it from benevolence and love and help and such.


    So then I thought... Buddhism, which has been a long time influence in my life, has "suffering" as a seminal concept, as we all know. And would it be any surprise then that compassion is likewise a Buddhist primary motif, which it is, especially from the Dalai Lama and other Mahayana versions, but to greater or lesser extent it pops up in most of the strands of Buddhism. Suffering is also a big deal in Christianity. The passion of Christ, etc. Perhaps Epicureanism just didn't and doesn't have suffering as such a center piece. Although certainly aware of it and concerned to address what we generally find translated as "pain" in EP materials, is it not simply the case that Epicurus put the positive in front, not the negative? His focus was more on pleasure, not on escaping pain, right?

    Pretty much everyone in this EF forum understands that EP gets a bad rap from mainstream culture, and has ever since Stoics and Christians and similar "transcendent value" ethics have held sway. An (abbreviated) version of the most common critical narrative goes something like this:


    *Epicureanism is about hedonism, which means they pursue pleasure instead of the (grander) {virtue/deity worship/other abstract/transcendent values/value systems}. Chasing after pleasures is shallow, unreliable and dangerous to oneself and society.*


    Challenging this narrative is difficult, at best. Arguing that going after pleasure as your final goal makes more sense than going after abstract transcendent values ("ATVs" lol ^^ ) as a final goal is an uphill battle. As Cassius said in the thread on Eusebius: "Christians and most of the rest of the world think that Epicureans are monsters. Or that Epicurus was an Antichrist even. This is why we can't get too complacent and think that "everyone wants to be happy" means the same thing to everyone."


    Exactly! So I'd like to throw out some thoughts about one way to deal with this. A "re-framing" (for us, but also for those with whom we engage). Probably some EFers have already used this kind of approach and apologies if this is nothing new to you, but in any case I think this can be an effective approach to presenting EP to the world, so I'm just writing it down and putting it out here.


    I'm suggesting a way to simply be more honest - to put everything on the table - and in so doing be better able to directly challenge the challengers, because in fact the honest truth is THEY are all chasing after pleasure just as much as every other organism. This approach is a slight twist in direction, but I think a significant, and impactful one. I consider it pretty easy for instance to point out to an anti-EPer that what they are doing is done because they want to feel good. Feeling good is what we mean by pleasure. They will resist this approach at first, of course, but ...we all know they WANT pleasure, so does every other being, and this is ultimately inescapable. This point must be won first, and I think it can be won, if pursued. You really have to go to unusual lengths to try to disagree with this point (I'll work some of these up I've heard and list some of them later. I invite others to share any arguments against this and know resolutions).


    Some of the elements of this re-framing would probably include items on the list below. Note, again, that this is an offensive move to expose underlying motivation(s) in ATVs rather than the defensive approach of first arguing for EP's perspective. The points below for that reason overlap a bit - the goal of them is to break up misleading, incorrect mental habit patterns about motivations.


    • ATVs create a feeling of belonging - as "membership" in any group can - but is dramatically stronger because there is a god or some other abstract Super-Value they all share, making them all feel sort of Super-Special. This FEELS VERY GOOD.
    • Having a religion or ethic based on something "transcendent" gives individuals a feeling of being in touch with MEANING and POWER - that is very comforting. Comfort FEELS GOOD. The individual is motivated to do this because they want to **feel good** about themselves. (I have found most anti-EPers would have to eventually agree to this, though as I said earlier, they may be blind &/or resistant to this at first blush.)
    • Abstract Transcendent Value systems help an individual avoid feeling deeply lost and confused because it gives context and explanation for the world and how one should act in it, absolving the individual from wrestling with trying to figure all that out (assuming they can hang on to their belief strongly enough to avoid doubt). This FEELS GOOD and reduces anxiety.
    • Having an ATV makes one feel "safe". Safe FEELS REALLY GOOD - Example thought experiment for an anti-PEer: Consider if your religion/philosophy was established in such a manner that the result of following it would be that you will go to the tortures of hell *forever* ...would you follow it? For instance if your god said to humans "I command you to do this and do that, and as a result you will go to hell." I have challenged Christians with this and after getting them beyond "that's stupid because it would never happen" (I just insist this is a thought experiment, I KNOW it would never happen) then they have agreed with me they wouldn't follow that path. Boom! If this doesn't make the point that feeling good is the ultimate "what it is all about" I don't know what does!


    If the above points are made, EP and ATVs end up on level ground with respect to their final goals - EVERYONE is going after a good feeling, in the final analysis.


    I think it is then easier to explain that EP in fact does NOT pursue "feeling good" in a foolish or dangerous way, but uses the knowledge of this universal fact about organisms trying to feel good to decide to use wisdom and prudence (things that advanced, thinking beings can do) in order to determine what is really the best way to live a good life. Wisdom and reason and prudence are CENTRAL to living the good life, according to EP. OTOH if you pretend you have no motivation to pursue feeling good, your dishonestly will be leading you astray because you can then follow something that simply isn't true. You won't have a good measuring stick for what is worthwhile to you.

    I think it would be good to more clearly define the word "compassion" as an active attitude rather than a passive attitude.

    Sounds right, Kalosyni - I totally agree with you compassion should be thought of that way! Compassion tends to make people try to help. Compassion includes an urge to reach out. If there isn't this active element, you only have sympathy or empathy.

    Thanks for staring this thread, Joshua ! You beat me to it and I'm glad, since you did a far better job than I could have :thumbup:


    I'm pleased that we have the quotes that show that Epicurus felt and expressed concern for people generally, as opposed to just a sort of tit-for-tat kind of "concern" for "friends" (which is an idea that can come out of certain passages). As you say, what we have is somewhat indirect, not the:


    full-throated endorsement of compassion we would like to see

    Compassion is not identical with being "friendly", of course, or even being "kind" or "considerate". "Caring" comes closer but still doesn't nail it. All of these are also great attributes but I'm thinking in today's use of the term compassion we have something like a powerful "feeling with" another person, combined with a desire to alleviate suffering they have. Its often a fairly automatic response, like what one has when one sees a crying child or even a hurt animal. It's like empathy but with a motivation to reach out. It does not involve any desire of a reward for reaching out (even the reward that someone doing compassionate work under the aegis of a religious organization for example might get from knowing that are promoting their ideology). Of course, one can have an affiliation with a religious or philosophical organization and still have genuine compassion - I don't mean to suggest otherwise. But compassion is one of our natural, biological responses which can yet be cultivated (even into a strong, reliable personal pattern of feeling & behavior) - or conversely, repressed into oblivion. It is perhaps a bit "unusual" in not being directly self-advantageous to the organism feeling it and acting on it, though studies in evolutionary biology and other fields have identified it as producing social benefit. Certainly acting on compassion and eliminating another being's suffering can produce powerful feelings of pleasure, even though the initial impetus may not contain an consideration of that.


    Is there even a word in ancient Greek or Latin that captures this idea?