**This is the seventy-seventh in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.
**As of tonight, our total “membership” has grown to 717. Last week this time we were 689. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers. We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”
**We’ve had another good week with many important discussions. Let me comment on one that has almost as most signficance as determinism, and sometimes (but not always) accompanies it in he minds of some people. We’ve discussed the issue before, but it is far from resolved. The issue is: the proper perspective on “active” vs. “passive” pleasures. It is well known that Epicurus considered the absence of pain to be a desirable state, but what is less clear is whether this state *constitutes* the “best” life; whether it *accompanies* the best life; whether it is a *necessary condition* for the best life; or whether it is a *sufficient condition* for the best life. Other Greek philosophers are known for advocating the “contemplative” life as the highest possible, but as in many other issues we should not jump to the conclusion that Epicurus was in agreement with them.
Students of Epicurus will find that there is a large body of thought that considers Epicurus to be almost what we today might call a “quietist.” These people see Epicurus as advocating a sheltered life (in a “garden”); as advocating restraining one’s desires and thereby restraining the pain of any desires that are unmet; and as generally advocating the pursuit of “static” over “active” pleasures. This is not my view, but there are definitely texts that can be listed in support of this position, so it is important to study it. Personally, I fear the argument crosses the line or comes perilously close to Stoicism and its suppression of desire, but I certainly see the argument and I do not believe it to be totally wrong. I simply think it is incomplete.
Relating the issue to determinism, I believe Epicurean philosophy is geared toward showing the individual how he or she can take charge of his life and maximize his or her pleasure within limits set by personal circumstances. Because I see this as Epicurus’ central theme, I cannot imagine that Epicurus would advise everyone to pursue happy living in a single way (in this case, but finding a better cave in which to bury ourselves). Certainly it is true that minimizing pain is all that some circumstances are going to allow some people to do. But I think in most cases, much more is possible and advisable. I look to passages such as near the end of the Life of Epicurus, where Diogenes Laertius recorded that “He [Epicurus] differs from the Cyrenaics with regard to pleasure. They do not include under the term the pleasure which is a state of rest, but only that which consists in motion. Epicurus admits both; also pleasure of mind as well as of body, as he states in his work On Choice and Avoidance and in that On the Ethical End, and in the first book of his work On Human Life and in the epistle to his philosopher friends in Mytilene.”
I then compare that passage to the description of all the pleasures referenced in “On Ends” as accompanying the happiest possible life. I compare further other passages where the desire for pleasure — even unnecessary pleasures– is not condemned for its own sake, but only in those situations when pursuit of those pleasures would produce more trouble than the pleasure that particular choice would bring. And I compare Vatican Saying 63, which states “63. 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.”
My reading of all this is that Epicurus would not advocate for all people a single formula for happy living. A formula of “living with the fewest possible desires short of death itself” may be the best that some people can hope for, and would indeed constitute a life worth living, but for most people much more is possible. It seems to me that Epicurus was advocating a sliding scale in which we should choose to pursue the maximum pleasure – static AND active – open to us under our particular situaton. This would seem to me to be in accord with VS 50. (PD 8) “No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.” Under this analysis, all pleasures — even unnecessary ones — are to be desired and pursued **so long as our context allows us to calculate that the pursuit will bring more pleasure than pain.** This view would comport with the sole criteria listed in VS71: “Question each of your desires: “What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?” This question does not bless simple living nor damn extravagance. In fact, it does the reverse, it perfectly implements the Epicurean anti-Platonic view that there is no single “Ideal” goal of life, neither one set in another dimension of forms (Plato) or cognizable by “logic” and “reason” (Aristotle) rather than through the Epicurean canon.
I will not resolve this issue here, nor will we in months of facebook posts. However this topic, and others closely related, would be very good to think on and post about in the Facebook page. Even better for such a deep subject, this is the kind of issue that deserves extended treatment in blog posts. I hope you will help us carry this discussion along, and if you are interesting in topics like this I urge you to write out your thoughts at length and let us deliberate them in the friendly confines of the Epicurean Philosophy Group! 😉
** Now for the news of the week:
**Starting the week, Alexander Rios posted to an article “Are You Really Conscious?” Ah, we never seem to get TOO far from issues of determinism, do we? 🙂 In a better world we will have a detachment of Epicurean scholars preparing broadsides against determinism, and against the argument that knowledge is impossible (dogmatism/skepticism) and we can add this question to the list: Why do those who apparently think themselves unconscious spend so much time bothering those of us who ARE conscious?” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732235393492090/
**Amy J. posted to a quote from our friend Robert Hanrott with which I agree so much I have to repost in full: “Most philosophies, like religions, become successful by bolstering the power of the ruler or ruling class.” Robert Hanrott http://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732401810142115/
**Elli posted a brief article about the Epicurean nature of one of the world’s oldest musical compositions, the Seikilos poem/song: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204532981347587&set=gm.732400613475568&type=1
**Chad C posted a comment about skepticism that led to a brief but important series of comments: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732711230111173/
**Ioannis A posted to a video on “Philotimo” that launched quite a discussion. I recommend both the video and the discussion for a penetrating analysis of how the world’s view of the essence of Greek philosophy may differ from that of Epicurus. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732491040133192/
**Hiram posted to an article about how the “Belief in Free Will Not Threatened by Neuroscience” (ths issue is never far away! ) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732036070178689/
**Ilkka V posted to a video: “Monte Johnson – Epicurus’ Cure for Unhappiness” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733179943397635/
**I posted a memorial to the birthday of the man who said (in part): “One has but to read Lucretius to know what Epicurus made war upon–not paganism, but “Christianity,” which is to say, the corruption of souls by means of the concepts of guilt, punishment and immortality.–He combatted the subterranean cults, the whole of latent Christianity–to deny immortality was already a form of genuine salvation.–Epicurus had triumphed, and every respectable intellect in Rome was Epicurean–when Paul appeared.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733387466710216/
**Hiram posted an article entitled “The Third Way To Look At The Epicurean Gods” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733477840034512/
**Elli posted a link to a video “36 Hours in Athens” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734049906643972/
**Elli also posted a graphic about Epicurus’ comments on the spiral nature of the universe and how that comment seems to be validated by science. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204555855079416&set=gm.733677303347899&type=1
**Alexander R posted to an article about “senses” beyond the five we normally think of, and started a discussion on how this might be related to Epicurus’ views: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734281143287515/
**Chad C posted a comment about his reading in Skepticism which led to interesting discussion: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732678083447821/
**Alexander R also posted a link to an article entitled “Does Everything Happen for a Reason?” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734541986594764/ No further comment as I have said enough on determinism for this week! 😉
** The NeoEpicurean group reorganized this past week and can now be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/826515367406620/
** Finally for the week Hiram posted to an interesting interview with Elon Musk about his Mars colonization project. This link prompted lots of good discussion and brings me back to the point where I started this week. Should we look to the stars for the future, or should we be content in our local gardens? 🙂 All kidding aside this is a tremendously profound issue, and I hope we will discuss it over and over in the future. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734185326630430/
**On a personal note, as this update goes to press I understand one of our admins (Elli) has taken a bad cold or flu. We will trust than neither she nor her contacts have recently traveled to West Africa, and that she will recover quickly and fully and soon be back to “defending the faith” (inside joke for you skeptical anti-dogmatists!) here in the Epicurean philosophy group!
**OK that’s it for this week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com
PEACE AND SAFETY!