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The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Message Board › Epicurean hedonism

Epicurean hedonism

Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 389
According to Wikipedia, Epicurus taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what are good and evil, and that pleasure is the highest good. He taught that pleasure was either ataraxia, meaning freedom from mental or emotional pain, perfect mental peace, and freedom from fear, or aponia, which was freedom from physical pain.

I tend to doubt that pleasure and pain could be the only measures of good and evil for humans. There are many possible evils that could happen to someone without them ever being aware of its occurrence. And if a drug were developed, let's say epicurizine, that would turn you into a perfectly contented, blissful zombie, would you take it? I don't think I would - well, maybe if it were reversible and wore off after a short time, but I definitely wouldn't take it if the effects were permanent and irreversible.

One of the assumptions Epicurus seems to have made is that there is nothing good or evil other than experiences, or at least conscious states or conditions, which is an assumption I tend to doubt.

In lab experiments, rats will press the 'pleasure lever' continuously, even neglecting to eat, until they die. Now Epicurus was not advocating constant indulgence in pleasure, so he would not have endorsed this rat tactic, but argued for long range pleasure maximization and pain minimization. So it seems that he basically argued that humans are just long-range planning rats and that our highest moral obligation is to keep pressing the 'long-range pleasure lever'.

Also, isn't his moral theory basically a version of ethical egoism, where the only thing that ought to matter to me morally is my own interests? What would he have said about moral obligations to others?

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