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 Post subject: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:26 pm 
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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed by me in this thread (or anywhere else, for that matter) are my own and do not reflect the views of this forum or its owner or any other related or affiliated entities, organizations, beings, corporations, organisms, aggregates, pluralities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So, this is my new repository for Epicureanism-related topics.

I want to kick it off with Alexander technique. I've stumbled on this before some time back but I'm rediscovering it in relation to posture in piano-playing (I am an amateur pianist). Here's a video discussing myths about it:



Near the end, he states, "... human beings are not mechanical. We are not machines. Alignment is for cars. We are organic, we are mammals. The Alexander technique is about learning how we are best designed to function as Homo sapiens. The Alexander technique is in part about questioning cultural concepts of the body and about undoing the acquired habits that interfere with our natural design."

There are a couple insights here that I think are actually incredibly valuable. First of all, the mind and the body are inseparable. The body is a reflection of the mind and vice-versa. Thus, tension in the mind is reflected as tension in the body... and the release of undue tension in the body is an integral step to releasing undue tension in the mind. Second, the holistic concept of "presence" - I think this is huge and is intimately correlated to the whole problem of how cultural concepts - not even necessarily about the body itself - interfere with our minds and, thus, our bodies.

The deepest interference can be seen in the discomfort that most people have with the idea of frankly embracing pleasure as a moment-to-moment principle of living. The idea of even moving in a certain way only because "it feels good" is alien to the conditioned mind. But what is the underlying angst? What is it the message that the culture is sending to the mind to condition it to feel uncomfortable with the frank embrace of the pleasure principle?

The answer is simple: The culture constantly questions your right to exist at all. Are you lazy? Are you fat? Are you perverted? Are you selfish? Are you greedy? Are you insolent? And so on. The culture is constantly - moment by moment - bombarding you with an endless series of moral tests and the implication behind these moral tests is that if you generally fail them, you are really not fit to live. Even though no direct action is taken against you, if you become perceived as generally immoral along the dimensions that matter to the wider culture, you are perceived as "worthless".

More important than any particular moral failing is the principle itself: you are fit to be, only if you meet some set of criteria. As this message is internalized, your mind seeks to alter itself to conform to these expectations well enough that you yourself at least retain your sense of self-worth. In fact, people mostly don't care about you one way or the other... your care about social expectations (peer pressure) and its resulting mental anguish is almost entirely self-inflicted, particularly as you go into adulthood and leave your childhood peers behind.

Thus, as your mind is altered by the forces of self-questioning and the conditioned belief that you don't really deserve to be alive, your body is also altered along with it. Your posture, stance, motions, voice, speaking, articulation, eye movement, etc. etc. all become enclosed, timid, withdrawn, shrinking, deflated.

This process doesn't affect everyone and doesn't affect everyone in the same way. Nonetheless, it is a real, pervasive problem that manifests itself in physical suffering as well as a failure to reach full self-expression and flourishing. If you feel you are affected by it, I think it is a symptom that shows you need to develop a mature sense of adulthood. You need to develop a true, healthy, balanced sense that you are a full peer with any other adult human on the planet - not in the crude sense of denying socio-economic classes but in the sense - there's really no other word for it but "spiritual" - that you stand completely equal with anyone else and have as much right as anyone to utilize the resources available to you - your mind, time, talents, property, natural resources, etc. This mental attitude will manifest itself in your posture... standing like a person who is proud of who and what he is, who is sure he has every right to "be here". The inevitable consequence is a healthy, natural pride that exhibits itself in posture, eye-contact and general demeanor.

Clayton -

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Let art, then, imitate nature; find what she desires, and follow as she directs. For in invention nature is never last, education never first; rather the beginnings of things arise from natural talent, and the ends are reached by discipline.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:15 pm 
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Clayton,

I think that this would be a good opportunity for you to go through and give a brief summary of Epicureanism from its roots. I would really like to know a little bit more about it, although I have heard you express it in basic terms in the past.

I also greatly appreciate your above post in terms of societal judgement. While I think that the more "mainstream" viewpoint, I.E the viewpoint expressed by the people who talk in terms of "society" and "judgement" is little more than an excuse for fools to act pretentious, there is truth that the normal archetypes for action and what one is "supposed to do", are ultimately the judgments of others, and often these judgement are based off of emotional/traditional impulses rather than coherent and reasoned though. One must always understand how one is judged judged in the eyes of normal society as this is a valuable piece of information, but one must respect, develop, and maintain one's own autonomy and individuality.

If one allows society to control his values (and individuals are renown for doing so) then he is more or less destined for unhappiness.

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If anything can be called obvious in this field, it is the fact that this intellectual is just a bundle of prejudices that are in most cases held with all the force of sincere conviction.

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:51 am 
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The basics can be found here. Epicurus - unlike most Greek philosophers - was good at summarizing his own ideas. You can't do better than to get it from the horse's mouth.

Here is a nice little introductory article discussing some of the high points.

I think that Epicurean philosophy is unique in that it connects itself directly with human purpose. For example, Epicurus says: "We esteem the art of medicine not for its interest as a science but for its conduciveness to health; the art of navigation is commended for its practical and not its scientific value, because it conveys the rules for sailing a ship with success. So also Wisdom, which must be considered as the art of living, if it effected no result would not be desired; but as it is, it is desired, because it is the artificer that procures and produces pleasure."

The foundation of his moral system is pleasure and pain - pleasure is the messenger of good, pain the messenger of evil. These are the two pillars of valuation and repudiation. Time-preference is also implicitly present within Epicurus:

Quote:
But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure? On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.


It is the human capacity to balance long-run as against short-run consequences that forms the basis of Epicurean wisdom. Wisdom is not an end-in-itself, it is merely the logic of choice, the logic of valuing pleasure and repudiating pain and balance long-run against short-run interests.

The majority of human suffering, in Epicurus' view, is self-inflicted. This is visible in the Tetrapharmakos:

Don't fear God
Don't fear death
What is good is easy to get
What is difficult is easy to endure

All four of these address an anxiety: fear of divine justice, fear of perishing, fear of the inability to be satisfied in life and fear of terrible, uncurable pain. The primary obstacle to satisfaction in life (ataraxia) are these needless anxieties, fears, guilts and regrets. Eradicating them is the process whereby we attain eudaimonia... the flourishing life.

Clayton -

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Let art, then, imitate nature; find what she desires, and follow as she directs. For in invention nature is never last, education never first; rather the beginnings of things arise from natural talent, and the ends are reached by discipline.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:35 am 
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Clayton, thanks for introducing me to Epicurus a while back.

Here's a gift back from me: The Five Tibetans

The original book from 1939 describing how a british officer found about them: The Eye of Revelation

P.S. It works. A must try. Daily.

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:02 pm 
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z1235 wrote:
Clayton, thanks for introducing me to Epicurus a while back.

Here's a gift back from me: The Five Tibetans

The original book from 1939 describing how a british officer found about them: The Eye of Revelation

P.S. It works. A must try. Daily.


Yeah, this definitely looks interesting. I think we do have "chi"... of course, the stage-magic version of chi is a complete fraud and a bastardization of what it's really about, which is I think this amazing "psychokinetic" capability we have to move and alter the world around us. The Alexander technique guy points out that we don't breathe... we are breathed. And I think Tai Chi Chuan is this same idea applied not only to breathing but to all the body's motions:



Notice the "weightlessness" of the motions... the motions, when done properly - that is, with "chi" - are like breathing - we do not move, we are moved. Allowing the motion - energy or chi or whatever you want to call it - to simply "flow through the body" and be expressed is, I think, the goal of Tai Chi Chuan practice. I'll keep reading on the Tibetan rites but my first impression after reading Kelder's booklet is that these rites are intended to activate or "rev up" the body's natural chi.

I'm convinced at this point that the human body is "electrically active" in a non-trivial sense. For example, you can close your eyes and merely by concentrating cause your palms to tingle - you can mentally scan every part of your body and produce a similar effect almost anywhere, internal or external. This might seem inconsequential at first but I think it is not - we tend to think of nerves as either "sense fibers" that collect information to the brain from the outside world, or as "drive cables" that send electrical impulses to the muscles causing them to tense. But this simplistic view is simply wrong - even the notoriously block-headed Western medicine knows this is wrong. Your nerves send sense information both directions - from the brain to the "plexuses", as well as to the nerve endings themselves. But what use this is - aside from some of the high-speed fine-muscle sensorimotor control - Western medicine has little to say. I suspect that we are meant to touch each other non-sexually much more than we do and that one of the purposes of outgoing nerve information is social signaling - I believe our nervous systems are meant to "couple" either by direct skin-to-skin contact or even close proximity. Singing, dancing and other natural social activities probably enhance the transmission strength of these invisible, social signals.

Clayton -

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Let art, then, imitate nature; find what she desires, and follow as she directs. For in invention nature is never last, education never first; rather the beginnings of things arise from natural talent, and the ends are reached by discipline.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:13 pm 
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To respond about my Will comment as well as this: as I mentioned over at Mises, I'm a Wiccan. It's a new religion (1950's) that evolved out of the same cultural movements that spawned the New Age stuff like the 5 Tibetans. I'm a member of a postmodern tradition of Wicca which maintains a sort of rational skepticism about the origins of these practices (as of the origins of our own religion), while also acknowledging their value.

My understanding of the 5 Tibetans is they are no older than the book they were first presented in, and that they originated in the West in response to some of the excitement about/exposure to Eastern cultures that was blossoming in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That doesn't mean they don't work well for people!

Wiccans see magic as the operation of Will in the creation of real change in the outward world. The exercise of freedom of action and self-determination, in other words. That can mean any action, but many Wiccans also make use of practical and ceremonial magic. Being a religion that accepts a large amount of eclecticism, Wicca has absorbed ideas from all over the place. In the past, this has been conducted in a way that I would say is abusive of the parent culture. Making claims that aren't honest about another culture or a people out of the past is not above board and it is not helpful. So something like the "5 Tibetans" gets a bit of a shrug for me-great if it works for you, but I'm not sure why it's necessary to call those movements Tibetan or make claims about their origin.

On the matter of the actuality of Chi or any other subtle "energy", I feel sure that science misses as much as it explains, and in some matters I do believe that the practical experience counts more than the scientific explanation. The breath certainly proves to be a powerful tool for some purposes, and I'm willing to do what works without asking too many questions. It's like the so-called placebo effect: a cure's a cure. If it does no harm, I'm fine with it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:57 pm 
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Some thoughts on virtue theory (still WIP):

I have taken satisfaction to be the moral criterion. Morality, for my purposes, is the art of choosing right ends for attaining satisfaction in the most general possible sense, that is, flourishing or eudaimonia. I am, of course, utilizing the "means-ends" language of human action.

Virtue, then, is the "character" of being moral... the virtues are those habitual "orientations" or "default stances" towards life that a person should adopt in order to do the best job at choosing right ends.

In the most particular sense, what the virtues are is dependent on what actually makes people happy. This, in turn, depends on human nature generally and the genetic and circumstantial particulars of each individual specifically. In the final analysis, virtue is ascertained by lived lives.

This leads to the first insight - that the lives of all our ancestors that have gone before us can be thought of as a gigantic science experiment of which we are the beneficiaries. What they found to be satisfying and dissatisfying in life is encoded to one extent or another in the very words we use, in the songs we sing, in the stories we repeat and in the religious beliefs we hold.

Excavating moral lessons from the corpus of human culture, then, is the most direct method of distilling a virtue theory. However, there are a few a priori observations we can make about virtue theory that can act as a "skeleton" on which to hang the necessarily uncertain business of excavating moral lessons from culture.

I'm comfortable with using the term "cardinal virtue" and I think that the classical cardinal virtues are essentially these a priori virtues.

First, in order to act any way at all, you must act. The act of acting, so to speak, is a precondition to acting virtuously. Hence, fortitude is the first of the cardinal virtues. It is sheer action, persistence.

Second, given the act of acting, you must be distinguishing between virtuous and vicious actions at all in order to be able to act virtuously. Hence, justice is the second of the cardinal virtues... it is the discrimination between right and wrong action.

Third, given that there is action and a distinction between kinds of actions, those actions which bring satisfaction must be preferred over those which bring dissatisfaction - there is an orientation to justice and this is called prudence. It is ordinary self-regard.

Fourth, the entire enterprise of virtue theory assumes that without thought, without introspection, without following some kind of virtuous action, one will not act as virtuously as he could, he will fail to attain satisfaction in life as well as he could... in other words, that we are deficient of virtue. The will to change requires self-control, aka temperance, which also has an element of patience to it, that is, the willingness to endure imperfection and suffering in the interim while satisfaction is being perfected.

Each of the cardinal virtues in classical virtue theory is understood to be a mean... such that there can be a deficiency or excess of each. For example, a deficiency of Fortitude is timidity, an excess of it is temerity, and so on for all the virtues. Furthemore, the virtues are mental and, thus, have past, present and future aspects and these each affect us accordingly. This sums up for me the astrological exploration I had done in the First Church thread - male, female (excess, deficiency), the cardinalities (cardinal, fixed, mutable) and the four elements mapping to the four virtues (Fire:Fortitude, Earth:Prudence, Air:Justice and Water:Temperance)... the Zodiac, IMO, encodes classical, a priori virtue theory.

Next, I intend to dive into a more psychological approach to virtue theory. I like classical virtue theory and I think it has its own value but I also think it's... well, classical. I think we can go a bit further and start to get our hands dirty in the bowels of the real particulars of human nature. However, things are going to get uncomfortable as the conclusions we reach will quickly go into the realm of the "unspeakable" and do not have the clean, sanitized polish of classical virtue theory.

Clayton -

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Let art, then, imitate nature; find what she desires, and follow as she directs. For in invention nature is never last, education never first; rather the beginnings of things arise from natural talent, and the ends are reached by discipline.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:18 am 
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OK, some first thoughts on a psychological approach to virtue theory. Basically, our approach will borrow from the "deductive psychology" I discuss here.

As "choosing beings", we have some degree of freedom to thwart, flaunt, disregard, overthrow, etc. our natural impulses. I suggest that the degree of this freedom we enjoy is one of the things that makes us uniquely human vis-a-vis other organisms. Nevertheless, we are not completely free from our biological impulses - imagine trying to stab a screwdriver into your eyeball... not gonna happen, is it?

Insofar as we are free enough to thwart our natural impulses, however, I believe that these impulses can fight back and "afflict" us to the degree that our underlying biology views our choices as being against our own interests. For example, fasting may lead to hunger. But your underlying biology may not understand you are about to undergo a life-saving medical procedure that requires you to fast beforehand. Nevertheless, your body will afflict you with hunger pangs.

But it's also a two-way battle. Not only are we afflicted when one part of our being believes we are acting against our own, true interests, but we can take measures to suppress these afflictions. You can take a headache-pill for a headache, you can drink to suppress or numb feelings of sadness, you can divert yourself to put troublesome thoughts out of your mind. In this way, your awake, alert consciousness - which I will term the "ego" even though I'm not using it in the strictly Freudian sense - can fight back against the other parts of your being which automatically or semi-automatically afflict you in response to choices you make in conjunction with your circumstances.

Following Epicurus, I will define the highest pleasure as the absence of suffering. Epicurus states: "Bodily pleasure does not increase when the pain of want has been removed; after that it only admits of variation. The limit of mental pleasure, however, is reached when we reflect on these bodily pleasures and their related emotions, which used to cause the mind the greatest alarms." (PD 18) Since our natural impulses are a constant source of suffering, we must either satisfy our natural impulses or we must organize the suppression of their attacks upon the ego's peace.

Now, there is a tendency - probably as the result of the pervasiveness of mind-body duality - to think of the "mind" as the ego, and everything else as essentially "mindless bodily functions." I think this is a serious mistake. As I describe in the linked thread above, the mind is actually composite and the composite units of the mind actually calculate, just like the ego does. They actually plot against the ego and work to overthrow it whenever they believe the ego is working against the organism's true interests. I suspect that this plotting is sophisticated enough that it is adaptive... as your ego changes its behavior, your "subselves" change their behavior in response. So, this is why suppression of certain behaviors can repeatedly fail despite repeated modification of one's behavior.

The ego's interests are not supreme within the organism, even though it feels like they are. It feels like your choices are final... your awake consciousness has "the last word" on what you will or will not do. This is an illusion meant to disarm the ego. The fact is that your choices are subservient to your genetic design.

The reason we know this is true is so simple, it's embarrassing to state it: you will die. In other words, you are merely an "instance" of the human genome... that genome encodes your life-cycle to suit its own purposes. You start as a child, grow into an adult, enter old-age and perish... because that's what your genome has programmed you to do. At every stage in the human life-cycle, you will behave in the age-appropriate manner ... because that is what your genome has programmed you to do. And then you will die.

As a result, when we ask "what is the most pressing natural impulse?", we have to answer it not from the point-of-view of the ego... but from the point-of-view of the genome. Thus, we arrive to our first assertion: The most pressing natural impulse is the reproductive impulse.

You might object that hunger pangs or the need to breath are even more pressing... if cut off from food or oxygen, you will experience extreme suffering. It is true that these impulses are very intense but this is not an indication of their rank in the overall order of impulses, it is merely an indication of the time-order on which these impulses operate... failure to breathe will result in death within a matter of minutes. But I'm going to assert that the "default" ranking of the impulses (how they are "normally" ranked) must be measured in terms of which impulses serve which other impulses. That is, they must be ranked in terms of means and ends. Which impulses are a means to the ends of other impulses?

So, this leads us to the next assertion: The ego's peace is not the most important natural impulse and is, in fact, subservient to the reproductive impulse which we have already asserted is the highest impulse. All other impulses are means to the highest natural impulse, which is the reproductive impulse, including the impulse to have peace-of-mind (ataraxia).

A point of clarification regarding the reproductive impulse is in order. First of all, the individual's relation to this impulse is not the same at every stage in life. As a pre-pubescent child, the relation is developmental... as a post-pubescent adult, the relation is participatory (initiating pregnancy), and in later stages of adult life where fertility begins to decline and disappear, the relation is supplemental (support, guidance, encouragement, etc.) Second, even the adult individual's relation to the reproductive impulse is not exclusively connected to one's own procreation - encouraging brothers and sisters to have nieces and nephews... and providing care for them, and so on, are just as much a part of appeasing the reproductive impulse as procreation itself is. In fact, we should organize all these specific behavioral impulses - procreation, family support and encouragement, etc. - as secondary means to the end of the reproductive impulse, which is the supreme impulse.

Hence, a fixation on "sex" in regards to analysis of human satisfaction (the ego's peace) is gravely mistaken. First of all, sex is not even necessarily a fulfillment of the reproductive impulse. Second, even insofar as sex does pacify the reproductive impulse, it is only one of many aspects that go into pacifying the supreme impulse.

Now, I want to talk about general orientations towards reproductivity. What about nuns? What about homosexuals? What about hermits and old maids? Etc. Note that I have already pointed out that having children of your own (procreation) is not the only aspect of pacifying the reproductive impulse. Helping others to do so (for example, a nun who works in a hospital's natal unit), providing support to one's family (for example, the gay man who is "the world's greatest uncle" and provides massive emotional and material support to his neices/nephews), and so on are all examples of how people who choose not to procreate still do things to pacify the supreme impulse.

However, there is one modern phenomenon I'd like to discuss to illustrate a fad that encourages people - I believe at their peril - to flaunt the supreme impulse: the so-called DINKs... Dual-Income No Kids. Many people are getting married and vowing never to have children, or even getting snipped to make sure they can't. Orgel's Second Rule states: "Evolution is cleverer than you are." You might think you've found the secret formula to supreme material happiness in life... two people working a job, enjoying hot sex, nice cars, big house, travelling the globe and so on... but my view on this is that you probably haven't. You're almost certainly going to pay for it and then some in the long run... especially if you're not making up for flaunting the supreme impulse in regard to procreation by taking other steps to pacify it. This must be the case according to Orgel's Second Rule.

Now, we take headache pills for headaches and drink to drown our sorrows and play video games to banish our anxieties. Can't we just take on the supreme impulse in the same way? My opinion is that you can't... for the simple reason I already pointed out that even your own peace-of-mind is merely a means to satisfying the supreme impulse. In the case of anxiety or hunger pangs or general sorrow... these are impulses that are often themselves subservient to the ego... their purpose is merely to serve as "background helpers" to the ego and to chastise the ego when it goes off the tracks in this way or that way.

In other words, your genome has already coded your very being in such a way that it will nuke the very possibility of peace-of-mind or happiness and satisfaction should you attempt to actively thwart the supreme impulse. And because evolution is smarter than you are, my contention is that whatever strategy you think you've found to get around this... will fail sooner or later. In fact, I will state it even more strongly: I'm not convinced that your lifespan itself is independent of your pacification of the reproductive impulse. I suspect that absolute repudiation of the reproductive impulse may even result in reduced lifespan. I can even think of some empirical methods to test this assertion.

We've gone a long way afield of virtue theory. To apply these thoughts to virtue theory, I will make the following assertion: The single most important consideration in virtue theory is how your choices affect the pacification of the supreme impulse. This is not the only consideration, of course. But it is the single most important because all other considerations are subsidiary to this supreme consideration.

This is why I believe that family is a good deal more important to libertarian social order (or any social order) than libertarians are wont to suppose. The family structure - as screwed up as it is - has emerged because, in whatever screwed-up way, it serves the ends of the supreme impulse. That doesn't mean that there are no possible improvements but it does suggest caution at proposals that purport to improve society by fundamentally revamping the family structure. It is doubtful that Nature is very far off the mark, here, and, furthermore, there may be structural forces holding the family structure in place that are so powerful that they simply cannot be thwarted for trying. Thus, any attempt to do so is doomed to only one outcome: multiplication of human misery.

OK, that's all for now.

Clayton -

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Let art, then, imitate nature; find what she desires, and follow as she directs. For in invention nature is never last, education never first; rather the beginnings of things arise from natural talent, and the ends are reached by discipline.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:08 pm 
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A great little webpage explaining the concept of Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness... one of the key concepts of evolutionary psychology (where it is termed, in respect to humans, the "Ancestral Environment"). The Ancestral Environment is essentially the African savanna - it is so important because this is where the modern human brain - and likely the brains of one or more of our evolutionary ancestors - spent the majority of its developmental history. We are well-adapted to that long-past environment just like a fish is well adapted to its environment.

The implications of this to psychology, philosophy, etc. are immense. The Agricultural Revolution - which displaced man from his hereditary environment - is a watershed event in human experience. After this point, many innate human behaviors became maladapted. This situation of displacement and maladaptedness has only intensified over time and progress itself is the very culprit! So, the human capacity for thought is the source of both our blessings and our curses - it is this capacity which has given birth to agricultural man and driven humanity from the African savanna... and it is this capacity which has given birth to the cures to the ills that afflict us, both natural ills and those ills that have arisen as a result of the Agricultural Revolution.

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:33 pm 
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Do you have kids, Clayton?


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:51 pm 
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LadySaiga wrote:
Do you have kids, Clayton?


Two. Why?

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:48 am 
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Sorry, got sidetracked. I sort of thought so. As a childless by choice individual, I find most parents identify satisfaction with parenthood, while most non parents identify satisfaction in individual ways.

I'm not saying reproduction isn't a huge drive, but I do think the thing that distinguishes human beings is their ability to adapt to changing circumstances through introspection and the use of reason. I think that can trump any other biological drive when it is in the individual's best interest.


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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:22 am 
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LadySaiga wrote:
Sorry, got sidetracked. I sort of thought so. As a childless by choice individual, I find most parents identify satisfaction with parenthood, while most non parents identify satisfaction in individual ways.

I'm not saying reproduction isn't a huge drive, but I do think the thing that distinguishes human beings is their ability to adapt to changing circumstances through introspection and the use of reason. I think that can trump any other biological drive when it is in the individual's best interest.


Well, I do think there are ways to cope with the choice, as I mentioned. However, it is my view that the choice does have to be coped with and that's really the point. Choosing to never once smoke a cigarette, for example, is not a choice you will have to cope with since there is no biological drive to smoke. But there is to reproduce, so I think that you have to do something in order to avoid going crazy.

I want to be clear that I respect the choice of some people to not themselves be parents - in fact, I believe that we need a certain number of people to make that choice each generation. And I think that there are a large number of ways to pacify the reproductive impulse besides having children. Where I think a person potentially gets into serious trouble is the whole DINK thing, and related attitudes. I've personally seen the effects, up close. I speculate that it ends up driving a lot of sexual misconduct, such as cheating, in people who might not otherwise have been inclined to behave this way. It's all about attitude and I think some people unwittingly have a self-destructive attitude about it. And they end up destroying themselves and their relationships psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, even physically.

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:34 am 
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Clayton,

I've been working on a system of deontology where I've substituted the concept of "needs" (in a Maslow sense) to represent Misesian "ends" or epicurean "pleasure/pain". I think it's at least compatible with the "natural rights" paradigm, within which I see epicureanism fitting. I'd be interested in your feedback:

http://intentionalworldview.com/Deontol ... +Action%29

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:43 am 
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NAPpy wrote:
Clayton,

I've been working on a system of deontology where I've substituted the concept of "needs" (in a Maslow sense) to represent Misesian "ends" or epicurean "pleasure/pain". I think it's at least compatible with the "natural rights" paradigm, within which I see epicureanism fitting. I'd be interested in your feedback:

http://intentionalworldview.com/Deontol ... +Action%29


I think you've linked me to this before and I asked you: what's the overall idea? Can you provide a single-paragraph summary?

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:12 pm 
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Clayton wrote:
NAPpy wrote:
Clayton,

I've been working on a system of deontology where I've substituted the concept of "needs" (in a Maslow sense) to represent Misesian "ends" or epicurean "pleasure/pain". I think it's at least compatible with the "natural rights" paradigm, within which I see epicureanism fitting. I'd be interested in your feedback:

http://intentionalworldview.com/Deontol ... +Action%29


I think you've linked me to this before and I asked you: what's the overall idea? Can you provide a single-paragraph summary?

Clayton -


The overall idea is to put normal presuppositions we all make in one place, call it a world view, and look for connections and conclusions that aren't obvious when looking at one field at a time. If you spend any time with philosophy, epistemology ought to be a commonly understood presupposition for any field of study, for example. Yet, how many have looked at Hoppe's idea of viewing epistemology as a branch of praxeology? And deontology as a branch of praxeology? I provide a summary of the wave structure of matter for metaphysics, and look for links to other basic fields of study. I pulled a hypothesis out of my ass as to why logic seems to work. There's only one other site on the web thinking in terms of world views (Principia Cybernetica Web) and they haven't considered praxeology, so I'm hoping this attempt can give some unique insights. That said, this is all my own work and conclusions so far, and I'm looking to test and refine my ideas.

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:08 pm 
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NAPpy wrote:
I've been working on a system of deontology where I've substituted the concept of "needs" (in a Maslow sense) to represent Misesian "ends" or epicurean "pleasure/pain".


What do you think this gains? What is the benefit of this approach? What's wrong with simply taking pleasure as an end?

Quote:
The overall idea is to put normal presuppositions we all make in one place, call it a world view, and look for connections and conclusions that aren't obvious when looking at one field at a time. If you spend any time with philosophy, epistemology ought to be a commonly understood presupposition for any field of study, for example. Yet, how many have looked at Hoppe's idea of viewing epistemology as a branch of praxeology? And deontology as a branch of praxeology? I provide a summary of the wave structure of matter for metaphysics, and look for links to other basic fields of study. I pulled a hypothesis out of my ass as to why logic seems to work. There's only one other site on the web thinking in terms of world views (Principia Cybernetica Web) and they haven't considered praxeology, so I'm hoping this attempt can give some unique insights. That said, this is all my own work and conclusions so far, and I'm looking to test and refine my ideas.


I don't think Hoppe has said deontology is a branch of praxeology. Can you cite this?

Here's some overall criticism:

Deontologies are a dime-a-dozen. Every major religion has one. They're all incompatible. There is no obvious way to sort out who's right and who's wrong. In fact, this is perhaps the single greatest driver behind moral philosophy; the attempt to justify and/or synthesize deontologies. Needless to say, there's not been much success on this front despite centuries of our brightest minds working on it... I consider it highly unlikely that there are any overlooked contributions in this area.

Are you saying praxeology is your "organizing principle" or something else? What, exactly, "ties it all together"? If it's just "What seems true/useful to me", don't expect it to be too persuasive to others. We each have our own opinions.

This is the beauty of the Epicurean approach, in my opinion. It a moral philosophy that can reach out to the hearer and say, "This is what is right and wrong. You should care what I'm saying is right and wrong not because I'm putting on such a big show of being sure of myself, but because it's in your own interests." And unlike most utilitarian systems, we don't have inter-person utility comparisons because we don't need them. Nor do we run into hedonist dilemmas (should I continue drinking until I give myself alcohol poisoning?) because Epicurean moral philosophy has human reason and its capacity to judge long-run consequences built right in. In fact, it is ignorance that is the single root of all suffering - ignorance of the long-run consequences.

As for theories of matter... why does that matter? How are you connecting it to everything else? I'm not saying it's of no use, I'm just not seeing how you are connecting it all together.

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:16 pm 
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Extending the psychological theory of virtue from reproduction, I think we can safely make the following assertion: The next most pressing natural impulse after reproduction is survival, in particular, metabolism. We can also shoehorn protection into this category and I think the two are very closely related - provision and protection loom large in the mind. But I will analyze protection separately in part because it is so complex and in part because I think that it is a more specialized aspect of the mind - we eat every day and we need to consume a certain amount of calories and nutrients or we will die.

Now, it is crucial to note that the survival impulse itself is a means to the supreme impulse... it is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. Also, I think that survival is itself a more pressing natural impulse than peace-of-mind, meaning that your mind will happily and constantly afflict you if it believes that doing so is necessary to your survival: being fed and staying safe.

Unlike the Maslow hierarchy where peace-of-mind is the sum total of all conceivable wants (including things like social status, etc.), I believe that peace-of-mind itself plays a crucial role in our overall aptitude so that it is only disrupted whenever one aspect of our being believes that doing so is absolutely necessary. Thus, feelings of anxiety, fear and other suppressive emotions are the result of a "red alert" in some part of our being. Thus, I assert: That peace-of-mind itself is valuable to your being (that is, your body itself values peace-of-mind) because this contributes significantly to your other aptitudes - survival, reproduction, etc.

I have asserted that these natural impulses are both more important than your own peace-of-mind and, thus, are internal factors that act like external circumstances - they are something to which your own choice-making must conform in order to attain peace-of-mind, not the other way around. If you do not like how the bushes are arranged in your front yard, you can dig them up and move them to where you like them better. If you do not like how the furniture is arranged in your living room, you push it around until it suits your tastes and brings you satisfaction. But your world-circumstances - the Sun, Moon, Earth, living things, etc. - are not subject to such whims. And what I'm essentially asserting here is that reproduction and survival - despite the fact that they are expressed as internal factors within yourself - are more like the Sun and the Moon than like furniture or shrubbery.

Also, I'd like to point out the recurring pattern of sacredness surrounding these impulses - both sex and food are consecrated in all the major religions and many others. Why? I think this has to do with the fact that these aspects of our being are not mere choices as much as other parts of our being... you can always quit smoking (start making the right choice, assuming smoking has become a problem) but a divorce or a catastrophic famine may leave you devastated and scarred due to factors inside you that are more powerful than your own will.

Thus, consecration of these aspects of life is a kind of conservatism driven by the costs of getting it wrong. It is possible that you may discover some new way to live life such that you flourish under conditions and choice-patterns completely unlike those of other people, in these areas. But it's unlikely. And since these aspects of life are so important and can have such a devastating effect on one's peace-of-mind, it is safest to take the safe-route. The sprawling suburbia of the mediocre masses is the ultimate expression of this formula.

I'm not saying it's "bad" or "wrong" to make unusual life-choices. I'm just saying it's risky and that most people sense this and, thus, choose to avoid this route. To choose differently is not wrong but there's no point in ignoring or trivializing the risks.

The narrative of modernity is particularly dangerous, however, and this is what I especially want to focus on. The idea of modernity is similar to the historical fallacy called presentism, whereby past civilizations are judged by the standards of our own. The modernity narrative suggests that we've transcended past limitations of knowledge and, in the process, we've become enlightened, enabling us to safely throw off the old superstitions in favor of new, better ways of doing things. This narrative is particularly pernicious because it is partly true. But, in many ways, it rests squarely on an exaggeration of human knowledge. We do know a great deal more today than people 500 years ago... but we're still actually quite ignorant - by any absolute measure - of very important aspects of our being and environment. Knowing more than someone who lived 500 years ago might make you feel superior ... to someone whose been dead for over 400 years... but it's of absolutely no use in avoiding the mistakes that arise from ignorance. So, the only measure we should actually care about is the ratio of what we know today versus what we don't know today. And the Conventional Wisdom on this point - that we're "almost there" (to complete knowledge) - is so deeply wrong, it would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious.

Returning to sex and food, the implications are that we need to return to a more conservative mindset about these aspects of life - and I don't just mean let's all go to church or synagogue or mosque. I have advocated and will continue to advocate a religious originalism; and these thoughts regarding sex and food are a big motivation for this, to my mind. All of the major religions have their roots in radicalism and were, at the times of their births, dangerous experiments in a whole host of radical new ideas vis-a-vis the much older pagan, tribal and folk religions. Today, we consider the mainstream religions "conservative" and all dissent to be "radical" or "progressive" by comparison. But this is a mistake in my view - we should not democratize all forms of major social change... those social changes which move us back to "last known good" social conditions should receive preferential treatment when discussing major social changes. Unprecedented ideas and ideas that have no possible historical input should be dispreferred.

And even the status quo itself should be kept in proper historical perspective, to the extent that this is possible. The primal diet folks are an example of how to properly go about this... by the application of science and good, old-fashioned reasoning, we can get a fairly reasonable picture of the pre-Agricultural Revolution human diet and lifestyle. Changes that move our day-to-day life and behavior back to those more truly normal conditions should be looked upon not as "radical change" but as "return to equilibrium" from a dramatic and radical social experiment... even if that experiment has been running for thousands of years.

Of course, caution is the watch-word here as the Marxists will leap at the opportunity to call out capitalism as exactly one of these radical social experiments. The Austrian school is so awesome in being able to ground modern developments (modern money, for example) in their ancestral precursors (indirect exchange). Far from being a radical, unprecedented experiment, capitalism is merely the organic continuation of the long trend of pacification of human behavior, resulting in increased material prosperity. That doesn't mean it is above critique - I think many theorists fall into materialistic tendencies.

Going back to the idea of our ancestors as a gigantic science experiment, I think we need to take the value of that corpus of human knowledge much more seriously and I also think we need to deflate modern exaggerations of "how much we know". Laboratory methods have proven to be invaluable in solving certain classes of problems and have been an immense catalyst of change. But as the Austrians have long been pointing out... society is not a laboratory and it is fiendishly difficult to derive true, useful lessons from contemporary observations. However, we can develop methods for excavating lessons from the corpus of cultural knowledge which is basically an untapped gold-mine of knowledge regarding right choices and right living for the ends of human flourishing and eudaimonia.

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:15 pm 
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Clayton wrote:
What do you think this gains? What is the benefit of this approach? What's wrong with simply taking pleasure as an end?


I don't think there's anything wrong with taking pleasure as an end. Looking at your recent posts, you've brought up things related to pleasure like reproduction and protection. The latest Maslow inspired needs pyramid had all those things--protection, reproduction, and also added gaining a mate. It seems at least possible that the concept of needs can serve as an end. There's even some research being done in this area if my google search is at all accurate. Is there any research being done on "pleasure"? I don't know. I was trying to find a way to be able to say "should", the dictinary gave me "required", and I thought eventually that "needs" could be considered "required" in some sense. I wrote a wiki on "agency / free will", and found that needs can be applicable to that area. I'm currently doing research on optimal learning, and again needs are appearing as a useful concept (integration). I have to admit that this may gain nothing, and provide no benefits. If curiosity won't inspire you take take a gander, then an additional desperate plea to look probably won't help.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex ... foundation

Clayton wrote:
I don't think Hoppe has said deontology is a branch of praxeology. Can you cite this?


I'm thinking of this quote:

“It is not difficult to detect that both a priori axioms—of action and argumentation—are intimately related. On one hand, actions are more fundamental than argumentation with whose existence the idea of validity emerges, as argumentation is only a subclass of action. On the other hand, to recognize this regarding action and argumentation and their relation to each other requires argumentation. Thus, in this sense, argumentation must be considered more fundamental than action, for without argumentation nothing can be said to be known about action. However, argumentation itself reveals the possibility that argumentation presupposes action because validity claims can only be explicitly discussed in the course of an argumentation if the individuals doing so already know what it means to act and have knowledge implied in action. Thus, both the meaning of action in general and argumentation in particular must be thought of as logically necessary interwoven strands of a priori knowledge.”
(Hoppe, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology, pg 291, http://mises.org/books/economicsethics.pdf).

My impression is that Hoppe considered argumentation ethics to be a deontology, intimately related to praxeology.

Clayton wrote:
Are you saying praxeology is your "organizing principle" or something else? What, exactly, "ties it all together"? If it's just "What seems true/useful to me", don't expect it to be too persuasive to others. We each have our own opinions.


This is a quote from my worldview etiology page:

What criteria should be used to determine the content of a world view philosophy?

One criterion is necessity or unavoidability. Are there hidden assumptions that underlie any discussion or life in general? Metaphysical assumptions about existence and causality are unavoidable. Epistemic assumptions about truth and knowledge are inescapable. Discussing metaphysics or epistemology presupposes that the Origin of Life happened, leading to possible hidden assumptions in this area. If life happened, then assumptions will be made about whether and how life changes, which mean assumptions about the evolution of life happen, and need to be examined. Every human action involves value judgments, which means that deontological assumptions need to be made explicit. Any time a deontology is proposed, it must assume that humans have a consciousness that will support that deontology, and it must make paedeutic (learning) assumptions that people are able to learn that deontological value system. Humans live, which means that they either act or behave, which involve presuppositions about praxeology. Human action always involves uncertainty, which means that assumptions will be made about futurology. For every fact that a human “knows”, there is a bunch of facts that are unknown. Humans, therefore, are in danger of making hidden assumptions about the meaning of life, what happens after death, and if there is a God or not.

Clayton wrote:
This is the beauty of the Epicurean approach, in my opinion. It a moral philosophy that can reach out to the hearer and say, "This is what is right and wrong. You should care what I'm saying is right and wrong not because I'm putting on such a big show of being sure of myself, but because it's in your own interests." And unlike most utilitarian systems, we don't have inter-person utility comparisons because we don't need them. Nor do we run into hedonist dilemmas (should I continue drinking until I give myself alcohol poisoning?) because Epicurean moral philosophy has human reason and its capacity to judge long-run consequences built right in. In fact, it is ignorance that is the single root of all suffering - ignorance of the long-run consequences.


I agree that this is a useful approach. I just thought it interesting that current needs researchers are finding things out that validate epicurean thought. That said, epicurus wouldn't be the first ancient thinker who's thought was subsumed under more modern terminology.

Clayton wrote:
As for theories of matter... why does that matter? How are you connecting it to everything else? I'm not saying it's of no use, I'm just not seeing how you are connecting it all together.


Metaphysics can at least influence how one thinks about epistemology and "how logic works". I wrote a wiki page on this as well.

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 Post subject: Re: The Epicureanism Thread
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:33 pm 
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NAPpy wrote:
Clayton wrote:
What do you think this gains? What is the benefit of this approach? What's wrong with simply taking pleasure as an end?


I don't think there's anything wrong with taking pleasure as an end. Looking at your recent posts, you've brought up things related to pleasure like reproduction and protection. The latest Maslow inspired needs pyramid had all those things--protection, reproduction, and also added gaining a mate. It seems at least possible that the concept of needs can serve as an end. There's even some research being done in this area if my google search is at all accurate. Is there any research being done on "pleasure"? I don't know. I was trying to find a way to be able to say "should", the dictinary gave me "required", and I thought eventually that "needs" could be considered "required" in some sense. I wrote a wiki on "agency / free will", and found that needs can be applicable to that area. I'm currently doing research on optimal learning, and again needs are appearing as a useful concept (integration). I have to admit that this may gain nothing, and provide no benefits. If curiosity won't inspire you take take a gander, then an additional desperate plea to look probably won't help.


I've skimmed it a few times and it looks to me like "brainstorming notes" - brainstorming notes are cool, I have dozens of documents on my hard-drive that I would consider brainstorming notes... but I wouldn't be surprised if I published them and other people were daunted by them.

Quote:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-murder-and-the-meaning-life/201005/rebuilding-maslow-s-pyramid-evolutionary-foundation


I'm not holding my breath for mainstream psychology to begin using evolutionary methodology any time soon - there is already an entire breakaway school devoted to this approach, Evolutionary Psychology.

Quote:
I agree that this is a useful approach. I just thought it interesting that current needs researchers are finding things out that validate epicurean thought. That said, epicurus wouldn't be the first ancient thinker who's thought was subsumed under more modern terminology.


I won't be holding my breath for this, either. All the major religions unceremoniously dismiss Epicurean ideas - the Jews go so far as to refer to reprobate heretics as "apikoros". And the secularists have no more love for him than the religionists do. After all, both religionists and secularists are collectivists.

Clayton -

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