Saturday, May 9, 2009

11 Epicurus

Epicurus took over the atom theory of Democritus and he combined it with the ethical approach of Socrates.

He wasnt interested in the metaphysics, but he needed this atomtheory as a foundation for his ethical ideas, for he mainly was interested in the happines of man and not in ontological questions.

The soul consisted of perfect spheres, like all atoms too small to be seen by the eye. They were mixed with the atoms of which the body was composed of. No soul was his point of no existence after death for the soul.

Epicurus main isssue was Ataraxia = Peace of mind. Our peace of mind is mainly threatend by fear, fear for the gods, fear for death, fear for our fate.

But there is no reason for these fears. The gods arent interested in us at all in a universe, where everything happens because of the eternal movement of atoms, which is independent of their doings.

Neither is there reason to fear death. The soul is mortal. No soul without a body. So punishments for the soul after death is a non issue.

To quote Epicurus: "As long as we exit there is no death. When there is death we dont exist".

Nor do we need to fear fate. The atoms can move and change direction, because of which we have the possibility of free will. So we are not delived to fate, not determinated but master of our own behavior.

That were his convictions and starting with these premisses he tried to define his concept of Ataraxia, the peace of mind. He was looking for a practical philosophy of life.

The greatest good was peace of mind and the elimination of physical and mental pain. And mental pain was according to Epicurus the worst of the two, for physical pain was there and decaying and could be controlled by the mind or would lead to death.

Mental pain, the absence of ataraxia, was worse and needed more effort to handle. And thence we had to strive for pleasure and try to evade pain.

Often Epicurus is seen as the founder of hedonism, the lust for pleasure, but in fact his theory was much more modest. Wisdom was the greatest virtue. And here he stands in the great Greek tradition: the discovery of the mind as a source of understanding and controle of life.

He who lives a virtuous life will be happy, not because virtue as such is good, but because virtue leads to pleasant consequences and the absence of mental pain.

One last interesting issue which later is called "the problem of evil". Why is there evil in this world. Epicurus analyzed the idea of an allmighty, all knowing all caring god or gods.

Seeing all suffering in the world..let me quote him:

If god wants to fight evil and he isnt capable of it,then he isnt allmighty. If he could and he doesnt then he is malicious. Is he able to fight it and is he willing to why then is there evil in this world?

Epicurus, a mix of contradictory ideas....hedonist...strive for lust, but preaching moderation; a believer in gods,but gods that are not interested in men and a soul that is mortal. But main issue here is that the new theme of philosophy was formulated: the well being of man.

The Discussion

[13:10] herman Bergson: Epicurus today...
[13:10] Gemma Cleanslate: even the chat is slow coming in
[13:10] herman Bergson: not the most difficult guy after Aristotle..:-)
[13:11] herman Bergson: but interesting....and influential in ethics
[13:21] herman Bergson: Interesting is that these philosophers like Epicurus had real schools
[13:22] herman Bergson: Plato started with that...
[13:22] herman Bergson: Education for the people...
[13:22] herman Bergson: so these schools had followers..
[13:23] Cailleach Shan: Did Epicurus have a particular method or practice for achieving Ataraxia, the peace of mind
[13:23] herman Bergson: YEs ...virtue
[13:23] herman Bergson: not an absolute sriving for lust
[13:23] herman Bergson: striving
[13:24] herman Bergson: and virtue was a quality of the mind
[13:24] herman Bergson: the greek really discovered the mind as the source of knowledge
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: Chronilogically, how is Epicurus related to Aristotle?
[13:25] herman Bergson: all about the same time
[13:25] herman Bergson: around 300 BC
[13:25] herman Bergson: it is a fascinatingf moment in history....
[13:26] herman Bergson: on the one hand the thoughts of the pre-socratics
[13:26] herman Bergson: on the other hand Plato
[13:26] herman Bergson: then the moral issues addressed by Socrates
[13:26] herman Bergson: and then the empirism of Aristotle...
[13:26] Cailleach Shan: I don't think virtue is self evident though.... it's open to interpretation isn't it?
[13:26] herman Bergson: it is all there about that time
[13:27] Clarity Dagostino: The greeks discovered the mind as the source of knowledge? Were there earlier views about the source? Or no views?
[13:27] herman Bergson: oh sure Cailleach
[13:27] herman Bergson: but it is related to a basic feeling of being a good human
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Did he present an opinion on the balance of pain and pleasure?
[13:28] Rodney Handrick: Good human...that is still a subject of debate
[13:28] herman Bergson: lol...if you are refering to things like SM Aristotle...I dont think so
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: Is there any connection between Epicurus and epicurean
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: No I mean a equal capacity for pain only in relation to pain.
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: Pleasure
[13:29] herman Bergson: sure the concept of Good is questionable
[13:29] Maphisto Mapholisto: i believe avoidance of pain was central to notion of ataraxia Aristo
[13:30] herman Bergson: yes Maphisto..I think so too
[13:30] herman Bergson: not having the greatest pleasure...
[13:31] herman Bergson: I think you should see these ideas in the context of those days...
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: and the greatest pleasure wasn't the most intense, but the most fulfilling and ebduring
[13:31] herman Bergson: staying healthy was already a hell of a job then
[13:31] Phaethon Comet: Could there be any influence on Epicurus from East? Some of the ideas seem to be similar to buddhist ideas
[13:32] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think so too Phae - similar to gautama's mental hygene rules
[13:32] herman Bergson: There is no documentation on such influences Phaeton, but it is quite well possible to invent the wheel on two places at the same time
[13:33] Phaethon Comet: there is pretty small difference in time, so it seems the influence is likely
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: Is there any connection between Epicurus and epicurean
13:33] herman Bergson: I dont think so..:-)
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: I am thinking about food..... for pleasure.
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: How do you know it is pleasure without having been hungry?
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Ah... the polarities.
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: epicurean is coined after Epicurus because he once said pleasure starts with the stomach, or some such
[13:34] Linden Markova: Herman, can you remind us please why Plato was different, why is Plato so enduring?
[13:35] herman Bergson: Plato is so enduring because of his epistemological ideas
[13:35] herman Bergson: to say it in a simple way...because he said the mind is the source of true knowledge
[13:36] herman Bergson: which direction Aristotle choose
[13:36] You: agree
[13:37] herman Bergson: and this is the ever lasting debate between rationalism and empirism
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: Surely the religious status quo has some influence on Plato's durability.
[13:37] herman Bergson: Epicurus is not so important in this epistemological debate...
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...that lasted till 1250
[13:38] herman Bergson: Epicurus is important for the Socratic line in history...the moral debate....ethics
[13:39] herman Bergson: but before you can discuss ethics you HAVE to discuss epistemology....answer the question: how do I know for certain
[13:40] You: "All knowledge is built on shifting Sand ?
[13:40] herman Bergson: First question..philosohically this a good question?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Is there one thing we know for certain?
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: Certainly not.
[13:41] herman Bergson: what does this question implies....a nice paradox
[13:42] herman Bergson: there is the answer given by Aristotle...He know for certain that there is not..:-)
[13:42] Linden Markova: All we know for certain is that we don't know anything
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: Indeed.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Just holfd on...
[13:42] herman Bergson: another philosophical step to take.....
[13:43] herman Bergson: we use a concept and we seem to understand what we mean....SEEM TO
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Knowing is an awareness
[13:43] herman Bergson: what do you mean by CERTAINTY
[13:43] herman Bergson: I stop the discussion here if you dont mind
[13:43] Cailleach Shan: Oh boy... we are going down the rabbit hole...
[13:44] herman Bergson: I just want to show you how tricky things are....
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes Caillieach...very true
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: A slippery thing....truth.
[13:44] herman Bergson: but yet....get the feeling.....hold on to it...for here we are at the core of philosophy
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: sorry
[13:45] herman Bergson: just look what we did.....
[13:45] herman Bergson: we used the word Certainty...
[13:45] herman Bergson: and all stops when you ask...what do you mean by that.....?
[13:46] herman Bergson: or all begins..a big debate..for hours...
[13:46] herman Bergson: this is what philosophy means...
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: Cailleach acknowledges Herman's wisdom..
[13:46] herman Bergson: it puts us back on our feet.....
[13:47] herman Bergson: Like the simple paradox Aristotle created with his response
[13:47] herman Bergson: we have to deal with that
[13:48] herman Bergson: so...still 88 philosophers to go..I look forward to it sharing this with you all
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: smiling
[13:48] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...:-)
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: This class has been an Epicurean delight. Thanks, Herman
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: thank you Herman

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-10-26 02:15:35

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