miercuri, 15 februarie 2012

Epicurus: Pleasures, Disturbances, Friendship



No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves. (Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 8)

According to Epicurus’ pronouncement, we may say that pleasure escapes from its antagonistic relation with pain or distress; also it seems to be more than a sheer subjective feeling.

Following a common moral consideration, the pleasure is qualified as good or bad, defying its primary reception as a good just for the fact that ceases the feeling of pain.

For doing so, we should presuppose the existence of a higher moral position than that of pleasure or pain. Platonic morality gladly speaks about such a higher position, which is subdued to moral values.

For Epicurus, since the pleasures are not by themselves bad, they cannot be judged from an outer or higher position. Against the presumable reply that a pleasure is a good, since it is felt as such by those who have a pleasant feeling, he turns to the sources of pleasure.

The sources of pleasure are called ‘ta poietika’, not the same thing as the objects of pleasure. In this way, the sources of pleasure claim a creative function coming from outside, which brings the pleasure out of the boundaries of subjectivity.

It is not an exteriority morally connoted, but rather the span of things, persons, or facts that compose one’s life. More than any other manner of fitting the individuality to the world, pleasure makes all the elements of the world to become integrant parts of a certain individual.

 Pleasure is the acceptance of a thing as being your own thing in a more intimate sense than the sheer possession. We can disclaim the relevance of certain properties others attribute to us, but not the pleasures we feel.

Thus, there is another dispute than that between pleasure and pain: the individuality of the pleasant feeling has to fight in the intimate domain of personal life with the external things of the world that arrive to us as creators of pleasure. The disturbances such things produce represent menaces to our individuality.

The greatest peril would be that of allowing to other persons to come in our individual life, since we admit them as being causes of pleasure. Their entrance in our life would mean that they can affect what constitutes our individuality, especially our way of thinking.

Whenever thinking is attained by admiration or pleasure felt for a different person who thinks, it appears the possibility of being led out of our individuality, though the progress of thinking almost always is accomplished in this way. The annoyances of a life dedicated to study others’ ways of thinking, as the sense of futility, are those disturbances accused by Epicurus.

Nonetheless, the commitment to an individual thinking implies that egoism of pleasure often imputed to Epicurus’ doctrine. It is a creative egoism that is acquired as if you would be an outer instance to yourself or a poietikon. In the strictest manner, it suggests the distance from anybody that inspires feelings of pleasure or implies, contrary to Kant’s morality, to diminish others till to the point that they will represent sources of pleasure like inanimate things.

When Epicurus recommends friendship as the highest value in reaching wisdom, we may understand that such individuality that is easily affected by pleasant feelings for others can be also creative in the process of acquiring friendship. Thus, Epicurus uses the noun ktesis when he speaks about the acquisition of friendship (philia, Doctrines, 27), implying an effort to take the friendship into possession, not simply an acceptance for the pleasant feelings it causes.  Therefore, when the friendship is the result of a creative effort, it becomes a means of expressing your own individuality, not an alteration.