beasain Level 01
  • Member since Jun 5th 2022
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Posts by beasain

    In the meantime, I noticed an interesting exchange on Martin's wall about "entropy" and how issues revolving around the eventual destruction of our world (but not of the universe as a whole!) can be a little depressing to think about.

    Martin on his wall limited this issue to the future of our solar system. In my opinion the concept of entropy is really a most depressing one, and I think that Epicurism is for me an excellent antidote to live with it.

    Entropy is a measure of disorder, and especially the so-called second law of thermodynamics rules the universe in an unpleasant way:

    "the entropy of the universe increases in the course of any spontaneous change."

    The key word here is universe: it means, as always in thermodynamics, the system together with its surroundings. There is no prohibition of the system or the surroundings individually undergoing a decrease in entropy provided that there is a compensating change elsewhere.

    Atkins, Peter. The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. 49). Oxford University Press. Edición de Kindle.

    "The second law is of central importance in the whole of science, and hence in our rational understanding of the universe, because it provides a foundation for understanding why any change occurs. Thus, not only is it a basis for understanding why engines run and chemical reactions occur, but it is also a foundation for understanding those most exquisite consequences of chemical reactions, the acts of literary, artistic, and musical creativity that enhance our culture."

    Atkins, Peter. The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (pp. 37-38). Oxford University Press. Edición de Kindle.

    The consequence of this law is that there is in general a change that takes place in the direction of more disorder (destruction). My library spontaneously evolves in a chaotic staple of books (and it costs energy to order them). The good thing is that you like in my library locally can reduce the disorder by augmenting the disorder of the universe. An example is an airco installation in the city. You can reduce the inside temperature in your house (lower temperature is lower entropy) by 'pumping' entropy to the rest of the city. X/

    In other words, to maintain entropy/disorder low you need to have a continuos flow of energy. An example is our body. While we are able to pump oxygen and sugar around our organs everything maintains its ordered state, and the repair mechanisms maintain entropy low. Once the flow of energy stops, self-organisation begins to disintegrate, and in keeping with the Second Law of thermodynamics our orderly system becomes undone, dissolves… The cells start leaking, autolysis, and the body starts to disintegrate.

    I thing that the Second law of thermodynamics has enormous philosophical implication, and I have the feeling that it is in some way in Epicurus with his no nonsense stand against metaphysics. "You can philosophize all that you want but nobody escapes of a tremendous increase of entropy sooner or later". The latter are of course my words...

    What do you think? Martin?

    PS. The book of Peter Atkinson I have cited from is a very good introduction to the concept, and in my opinion also to philosophical implications. Peter Atkinson wrote various very good textbooks on chemistry etc.

    @Casius, I think my plane example needs a bit more explanation. First of all my rendering maybe a bit confusing, but I don't see this problem. When they offer you an upgrade in this situation, there is only pleasure, and no pain. So for an Epicurean this is great. Nobody is saying that you have to avoid by all means pain.

    On the other side, I is clear to me that Epicurus warns against indulgence. He doesn't need champagne, he is happy with water and seems to recommend a frugal life.

    Diogenes Laertius:

    "Epicurus himself says in his letters that he was content with nothing but water and a bit of bread.

    ‘Send me,’ he says, ‘some preserved cheese, that when I like I may have a feast.’ Such was the man who taught that the end is pleasure."

    Also here in the same text:

    "Sexual intercourse, they say, has never done a man good, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him. Moreover, the wise man will marry and have children, as Epicurus says in the Problems and in the work On Nature. But he will marry according to the circumstances of his life. He will feel shame in the presence of some persons, and certainly will not insult them in his cups, so Epicurus says in the Symposium. Nor will he take part in public life, as he says in the first book On Lives. Nor will he act the tyrant, or live like the Cynics, as he writes in the second book On Lives. Nor will he beg. Moreover, even if he is deprived of his eyesight, he will not end his whole life, as he says in the same work."

    So, I imagine me Epicurus as a modest man seeking most pleasure in very natural simple things and not as a big spender with big needs. From there to "ascetic" is not that far away, I think.

    In defence of Peter Adamsom, I have to say that he places Epicurus in a historic context, where hedonism was seen a coward-ism, and had a very negative press, and he want to stress the frugality and not seeking immediate pleasure but stable pleasure (moving pleasure vs stable pleasure) in contrast with the Cyrenaics, who seek immediate pleasure. Epicurus has been commonly misunderstood as an advocate of the rampant pursuit of pleasure, he, in fact, maintained that a person can only be happy and free from suffering by living wisely, soberly, and morally.

    So this justify the use of "ascetic" (pleasure), I understand. ;)

    Matteng, what I also like about Epicurism is that it seems to take also animals in consideration (and better informed people will help me with this), and that animals also seek pleasure, apart that it considers all humans equal (which is revolutionary in Antiquity). Animals are not like most salon biologists put it trying to be the fitest in the evolutionary race, but they have in general very humanlike emotions and behaviours, and play and enjoy (when there is space for that). This is not wishful thinking but has been demonstrated in studies with apes and monkeys and everybody can enjoy the joy of animals around him (see e.g. numerous studies of Frans De Waal, Jane Goodall, etc.). I think that from an ethological point of view, and I consider humans and other animals equals in this, the idea that the search for pleasure and avoidance of pain is the universal motor of animal behaviour is really a very valuable one. And I think that this is not yet appreciated enough. :)

    Although I am a beginner, I dare to bring up a practical example from Peter Adamson's History of Philosophy:
    "An Epicurian takes a plane and is offered a seat in Business Class, although he has an Economy ticket. He will accept it as there is no pain in exchange, because it is more pleasant to travel in Business Class, like more space and better food. He could think that next time he has to travel in Economy Class he might desire to be in Business, but as a good Epicurian he can deal with that, as it is not a necessity."

    Peter Adamson use the term ascetic hedonism for Epicurism. What do you think of that?


    So my point was that where in the past they copied philosophical concepts even from materialists, now they copy high tech systems ;) to upgrade their marketing strategy.

    For me it is strange to see how much high tech is used by religious groups that adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible. I would think that in their purity they ban all technology that is not mentioned in the Bible, but they use the same high tech marketing technics as ordinary industries.

    I was in dialogue with such a group, and as they speak in Bible citations they had their iPads with hypertext, even the children!, while I tried to find it as quickly as possible in my Bible.

    Maybe my comment was not that important...

    we can point out that Dewitt did not defend Epicurus strongly enough

    An author that very strongly defends Epicurus through his historical analysis of Ancient Greek philosophy is Benjamin Farrinton e.g. in "The Faith of Epicurus" or in "Science and Politics in the Ancient World". For me he is the best author that I have read so far about the historical and economic backgrounds of Greek Philosophy/"Science". He is marginalised but often cited. The effect of the slavery economy is according to him a very important factor. I think that his books are worth reading although they are mostly from around the 1950's. The knowledge of economic backgrounds to interpret the work of a philosopher is maybe key in understanding his work.

    "Ultimately" - NOTHING is "good in itself" or "a goal in itself" other than pleasure.

    Anything that we set up as an interim goal, if that process and pursuit causes us to lose sight of the ultimate goal, becomes an obstacle to our progress rather than a help.

    Thank you Cassius. This is something that I am struggling with my whole life. I mistakenly thought that obtaining as much knowledge as possible was a good thing, but as knowledge is infinite it becomes an obstacle for pleasure.

    The soul of the future is made out of bits instead of atoms? :)

    Psychological counselling is a profession with a bright future.

    Since long do I think that this senseless strive for obtaining scientific and technical knowledge is another kind of intoxication of the mind.

    I understand that in this sense Epicurus' warns us that investigation of nature is only acceptable to the the point that it augments pleasure, or that ""scientific investigation"" is only a help for ethics, not a goal on its own.

    Cassius ;)

    I was in fact referring only to the case of astronomy. As far as I perceive Epicureans were not that that much interested in astronomy, maybe because it was very speculative, and that was a wise position, because there was very little that could be known about the nature of stars and planets without a telescope, etc.. Of course there were astronomical calculations of positions but they don't make us any wiser about celestial materials. The Epicureans don't seem to be very interested in calculations of celestal positions neither. I understand that for Epicurus the Earth was a flat disc and the centre of this cosmos, one amidst an infinite number of others.
    When we dig a bit in the Letter to Pithocles, we observe that Epicurus stresses that for the things above us we "

    admit of more than one cause of coming into being and more than one account of their nature which harmonizes with our sensations."

    In the letter indeed appears for each phenomena multiple explanations, that seems not very precise, and the main objective seems to be the demonstration that we can imagine for each phenomena numerous physical explanations that don't need any mythological input, and thus also the things above us follow 'normal earthly physics'. I hope to have explained myself better now.

    First of all then we must not suppose that any other object is to be gained from the knowledge of the phenomena of the sky, whether they are dealt with in connection with other doctrines or independently, than peace of mind and a sure confidence, just as in all other branches of study.

    [86] We must not try to force an impossible explanation, nor employ a method of inquiry like our reasoning either about the modes of life or with respect to the solution of other physical problems: witness such propositions as that ‘the universe consists of bodies and the intangible,’ or that ‘the elements are indivisible,' and all such statements in circumstances where there is only one explanation which harmonizes with phenomena. For this is not so with the things above us: they admit of more than one cause of coming into being and more than one account of their nature which harmonizes with our sensations.

    Joshua, I am particular curious about the article of the size of the Sun.

    I understand that Epicurus is only interested in astronomy to the point to obtain just enough knowledge to demonstrate that above the moon physics are as below the moon: atoms and void. Scientific knowledge is not an objective rather a methodology to reject superstition (and suffering from fear). A few 'reasonable' explanations are enough, and they are not (much) interested in making the science advance.

    Is this confirmed in the article of T.H.M. Gellar-Goad?

    I wanted to share with you a few links that give me a lot of pleasure.

    I was always desiring to learn more about antiquity and especially the relation between history and the way of thinking. Each philosopher is a child of his time, so to understand him you need to know about his time.

    A great gift are a lot of the courses of Wondrium, and not alone those about Antiquity. You find there introductions to Greek and Roman history and Culture, but also more specialized courses like the one on Pompeii, with a class completely dedicated to the Villa of the Papyrus and the Epicurean library. Each course consists mostly of 24 classes of half an hour. Most professors are quite good, and some are amazing. They al have a course book that you can download, and the level is quite gentle. It is a pleasure to listen to. The price for access to all the course at once is about 20 $ a moth (year plan around 10 $ a month first year). Also in the Physics Section there are some good courses about the philosophical implication of modern physics (like the vacuum flickering that mentioned somebody in the post about Parmenides: matter and anti-matter as a couple can appear from nothing, contradicting apparently Parmenides).

    Included in the package are two very good introductory courses of Ancient Greek and Latin of professor Mueller.

    A somewhat more serious free course is Introduction to Ancient Greek History of the famous Yale professor Donald Kagan. It stops just when Epicurus appears.

    The most amazing internet thing is Philosophy without any Gaps of the British expert in the the history of philosophy Peter Adams. A series of high level postcasts about most ancient philosophers that are known (still in construction, now till the 16th Centuries. There are also interviews with important specialists

    Another incredible free tool is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    One of the ways to feel pleasure is sharing.

    Living in the moment

    This made me think of my own experiences. I was once ambitious and highly stressed, till I had a series of panic attacks. For those who never had a serious panic attack, it feels like a heart attack with similar symptoms, but it is quite innocent, although you have the impression of dying. First pills etc and then psychologist. It became soon clear that I projected my whole life on the future, I postponed happiness to the future, and at the same time I feared the uncertain future. So the ideal cocktail for anxiety, high blood pressure and panic attacks. The therapy consisted among other things in graphically imagine a time line and situating your thoughts on that time line, when in the future, you move the lamp (¿cursor?) to now. After a month moving my thoughts to now, and thinking at the moment everything is OK, my level of anxiety became lower than ever. This was for me a kind of wisdom experience.

    you might be interested in would be DeWitt's "St Paul and Epicurus"

    Carlos García Gual, a prominent translator of ancient Greek to Spanish and professor in ancient philosophy in Spain, signals in his book "Epicuro" (2021, ALIANZA), p. 110, that Epicurus uses the Greek term "sarx" (flesh) instead of the usual "soma" (body), which we encounter also in Saint Paul.

    I understand that Christian Writers scanned the whole Ancient Greek Philosophy for useful concepts and terms. We see this also in modern religious expression, e.g. on a technological level, like the use of Power Point, Pay Pal for donations, sophisticated webpages with flashy design. You have to adapt to your markets...