Thursday, April 4, 2013

Da Gud Life, according to Epicurus

I discovered a BBC podcast a few months ago. It's called "In Our Time" and basically, every week, they invite some scholars on a certain topic and talk/inform about it. It's a good podcast to listen to if you want to fall asleep... :-) But also interesting if you're awake.

So, I was listening to a podcast about Epicureanism, and found one passage in particular to be very interesting:

21:20 : If you're not hungry, thirsty, or cold, then you are in a state of "static pleasure". And what most people think –quite incorrectly according to Epicurus–  is that you can further enhance that state by adding luxuries: if you had enough to eat... if you have a box of chocolates as well, then most people would think you've added an extra pleasure –a kinetic pleasure (or pain)– and that increases total pleasure." Not so" according to Epicurus. What the additional pleasures do (glass of wine or chocolate after dinner) is vary your state of pleasure, but they don't actually increase it. e.g. "being rich doesn't make you happy, it just enables to you to be miserable in comfort".

Actually, the heigh of pleasure is achieved when all the pain is gone. He claimed that this is a "pleasant state". So, pleasure isn't derived from accumulation of kinetic pleasures, it's obtained when all the pain is gone.

That was about bodily pleasures, and they teach us the nature of pleasure and pain...

...But mental pleasures are the ones that are really important. Mental pleasures are superior, because with your mind, you can enjoy all your past pleasures, and look forward to new ones. The mind is a much more powerful source of pleasure than the body. Mental painlessness is the best possible state you can achieve. Get rid of all the fears you have: the fear of God, the fear of death, any fear of pain, any other fears, then you are in the highest state of pleasure. That is really the essence, or the basis from which he develops his account of "da gud life".

So basically, I'm going to go to sleep now and force my mind to have a dream that will be far more entertaining than even the best movies. And then I'll reminisce on that wonderful memory. :-)

The section around 26:40 about friendship is also pretty interesting.

More information, copied and pasted from the IOT website:

"...discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system based on the idea that everything in the Universe is constructed from two phenomena: atoms and void. At the centre of his philosophy is the idea that the goal of human life is pleasure, by which he meant not luxury but the avoidance of pain. His followers were suspicious of marriage and politics but placed great emphasis on friendship. Epicureanism became influential in the Roman world, particularly through Lucretius's great poem De Rerum Natura, which was rediscovered and widely admired in the Renaissance."

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