waterholic Level 01
  • Member since Sep 18th 2022
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Posts by waterholic

    Lucky you! :)

    So your upbringing would fall under the first or second category of Epicurus's "some things happen by necessity, some by chance, and some by our own power."

    Well I did get my fair share of a toxic mixture of cultural conservatism and marxist-stoicism. The net result is probably marginally better than a catholic school. It's funny how you can get even religion out of the people but not the instinctive hatred and mistrust of pleasure.

    If you reduce everything to atoms and motion in a straight line, people think that that would lead to a totally mechanistic result, and so a straight line materialist such as Democritus would conclude that everything is in the grip of an iron "fate" that allows no room for personal decisions whatsoever. Cicero made this argument against Epicurus in criticizing the swerve as a departure and regression from Democritus.

    Ok, so this is where the Epicurean "swerve" comes in to introduce some level of chance. Looking at this from the vantage point of the modern science, we know for a fact that the small-scale world operates on probability (quantum mechanics) and not linearly. Additionally, complex systems, Mandelbrot sets (fractals) all demonstrate how you can get from simple predictable small elements into extreme unpredictable complex whole. This suggests that absolute determinism cannot be defended. In this sense, I suppose "compatibilism" is probably the best description of the reality, though I somewhat dislike the notion of describing a certain feature of universe by accepting co-existence of two extreme and improbable ideas.

    Free will has the connotation of a supernatural soul. In materialism without hard determinism, "agency" is the preferred term to replace the term "free will" to get rid of that supernatural connotation. This leaves enough room for anything from the little "free will" of Onfray to a lot of "free will" and is flexible enough to not be refuted by future research results on how far agency actually goes unless those results prove hard determinism. A proof of hard determinism in the real world as perceived by us appears to be not conceivable as of now.

    Thank you Martin, I now understand the connotation of a supernatural soul coming from "outside the system". I have been raised in a completely non-religious environment and developed scepticism later in life, so I did not develop a radar for theological red flags. I like the term agency!

    The term "free will" is problematic for materialists, but not indeterminism, itself.

    Thank you Nate, I am closer to understanding Onfray, though he extends the argument too far for my liking.

    I will definitely look into Marx's thesis; I am a bit familiar with his dialectical materialism and political economy, as well as Popper's extendee criticism of Marx, but I never knew about his Epicurean references.

    But with regards to free will, aside from the context of a deity (some external intelligence that "tests" us - an idea that has been an excuse to avoid any critical thought), what could materialism have against the concept of free will?

    I am confused. I was listening to a French writer Michel Onfray, who is known for his Epicurean views. The first half was very much in-line with what I would expect. Then there are his views on determinism. I have added the link, unfortunately, in French, but the essence is:

    1. Your life has been impacted by many events driven partly by necessity (e.g. you were raised in the South, you taste for food would be a function of that) and partly by chance (people and events you encounter in your life limit your decisions). You choose very little. Even now, when you look back, few would have chosen exactly the life they had lived. So there is little free will. Onfray calls this determinism and accepts it as a reality.

    2. Religion (he spoke specifically of Christianity) on the other hand assumes you have free will and can choose between good and bad, and can be punished for a bad choice. This, in Onfray's view, is the free will and he rejects it.

    I am not very well versed in this, but isn't determinism rejected by Epicurus? How can Epicureanism and determinism co-exist in Onfray's mind?

    Link to the video


    -- Is there a physiological need in some people to seek out more "tranquility" because they are very sensitive to stimulus and easily disturbed by sensations of sounds.

    I think the key word here is physiological, as raised by Don. Whatever daily recipes could have been available in the Epicurean times, they are lost and even if they weren't, I doubt that much of it would be useful nowadays. I am curious if there have been attempts to construct a modern Epicurean "guide book" based on modern physiological and sociological studies, A/B testing (randomised controlled trials) and other modern methodologies?

    One additional point of concern: going down the rabbit hole of relativism can seriously damage the outcome. Bottom line: there is no way to fear gods and be Epicurean at the same time (as in, fearing gods is one's way of removing other anxieties).

    Kalosyni thank you - love the concept of the ability to problem solve. I suppose having a sober assessment of one's state, an audit of the problems and building an action plan is easier to do with the anxiety left out of the equation. I would suggest that it's the role of Epicurean approach to remove the paralysing anxiety.

    Martin has a great practical approach.

    Would it be better for a poor person to start praying to supernatural gods? Would it be better for a poor person to start hoping for a better life in heaven after death? W

    Finally Cassius gave me the remaining piece of the puzzle. My original question was about whether Epicurean life is achievable only for the wealthy. But I think the answer is clear if I separate the external (social, economic) from the internal (our attitude and mode). Epicurean philosophy may or may not be an answer to a social structure (say instead of capitalism, socialism and a bunch of other "isms'). We can't tell because we have not been able to test it. Consequently, the external demand on Epicureanism is irrelevant. When it comes to the internal demand, as Cassius suggests, I have absolutely no doubt that someone with no basic necessities of life IS better equipped with the Epicurean thought than stoicism or any of the religions.

    Bravo Cassius and thanks. I get there in the end :)


    It's outside the general scope of this forum, but worth noting in passing that this was the essence of Marx's critique of religion in the introduction to his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. (And because this is the internet, I now have to clarify that I'm not taking a Marxist possession, but describing one...)

    Joshua yes indeed, Marx referred to religion as opium for the people. I tend to treat this issue on two different planes. So far as personal philosophy is concerned, the Epicurean reasoning is the closest to me (no need to worry about gods). Then there is the social justice and economics plane, where organised religion can be a source of social cohesion or a force that holds the society back (or both). On this plane I would have hoped for different tools to achieve social cohesion.

    No need to apologise, I find a lot of useful ideas reading through everyone's posts.

    Indeed, as you say, there has been incredible amount of nonsense circulated about Epicurean position from extrene ascetism to extreme hedonism. Clearly, neither is in the spirit of Epicurus.

    My question is: could Epicurean philosophy be of any use to someone in abject powerty and misery as a starting position? After all, much of religion has historically been used to create contentment in misery. Being satisfied with one's own position is all well if the society is just (broadly). Nearly all sources of Epicurean-leaning thought from Buddha (a rich prince who decided to leave the palace and spend some time under a tree) to Bertrand Russell (who argued in favour of idleness while really not needing much gainful employment) happens to originate in the "opulent quarters" of the city.

    More practically, partly due to chance and partly due to choice, I am somewhat independent and can have comfortable life without overstressing. How do I suggest to those significantly less fortunate to be satisfied with whatever is within their reach?

    A few years back I watched a happy-life advice (probably on YouTube) from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (not my regular passtime, but still...). The essence of it was quite Epicurean: "Try to enjoy life, don't work every hour, spend time with your friends and family". Needless to say, a "don't work too hard" suggestion coming from two gentlemen who jointly have more wealth than GDPs of poorest X countries in the world sounded a bit disingenuous or tone deaf.

    Of course, the Epicurean take on this would be: what you really need is not that hard to attain. But Epicurus also places emphasis on being a good friend (and family?) Even if one's own needs are minimal, people surrounding one (children, spouses, relations, friends) do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of not needing iPads and designer clothing. One "spin" would be to say: making people surrounding you happy is the pleasure in life. But if the cost of that is absolute absence of leisure and continuous stress?

    How did Epicurus address this issue? Self sufficiency is the recipe of course, which at the time (2300 years ago?) was possible. But even then many did not possess land or means of farming, or freedom! Going back to Epicurus himself, as it transpires, he was certainly a wealthy man (possessed lands and slaves - not a judgement, quite normal for the world before 1800s)!

    How do we reconcile this?

    Thank you all, I will collect my thoughts and post a question (or a few of them). In the meantime, I apologise ahead of time for posting in the wrong places; it has been a while since I used anything "social" online.

    Greetings all and thank you for creating this oasis of sanity.

    I can't claim that I am a philosophy scholar and can't say that I am too keen on fully understing the intricacies of the ancient thought (e.g. whether atoms have random disturbances). Not because I am lazy. Just some answers are easier found in today's reality. Also, looking for hidden meanings in ancient scriptures does remind me a bit that "other" teaching. Having said this, I do prefer reading original texts to the extent possible in order to make up my own mind, so yes, I have read the few surviving letters, Lucretius and Cicero (incidentally, my instinctive dislike of what Cicero stood for drove me to Epicurus).

    My goal here is to seek help in reconciling Epircurean thought, which is very close to my learnt experience, and the modern life, which is outside the window, there and unavoidable.

    Is this the right forum?