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*** November 2012 low content thread ***

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To anyone:

I've heard from Clayton that Epicurus is the most libertarian of the ancient Greek philosophers. What should I read by him?

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Bert replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 2:13 PM

V.R. "staff" I got something awaiting some feedback.  Other than that it's ready to post.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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SM:  His entire surviving works are pretty scant (though he supposedly wrote the most of all ancient philosophers), so you might as well read everything.  Have a look here: http://www.epicurus.net/

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:00 PM

@SkepticalMetal: There isn't actually a lot of surviving material by Epicurus and there isn't even a lot written by his students and critics. So basically, you should read everything. I would say start with the Letter to Menoeceus and On Ends.

Epicurus's physics has his characteristic lucidity and is pretty damn good for 2,500 year old physics but I think we have in the last century or two developed such superior understanding of physics that almost all of Greek physical philosophy is irrelevant except for its historical value. In particular, Epicurus erred with his "swerve" (despite the accolades that quantum indeterminists tend to heap on him for this very mistake). Followed to its conclusion, it is a fatal blow to causality (and, thus, rationality itself).

I believe Epicurus's primary contribution is his moral theory, particularly its clarity, directness and longevity. His is no flash-in-the-pan, crackpot theory of free love society. Countless people over the course of more than two millenia have taken to heart his moral insights; they have directed their own personal affairs in accordance with them (no collective action problem, here) and have even formed small, peaceful, successful communities centered around these ideas (in other words, his vision is no unrealizable Utopia).

Two of the most contentious ideas of Epicurus are his atheism (actually, he wasn't atheist, he simply held that the masses had impious supserstition regarding the gods, a charge that was doubtless true and is still true today in virtually any religion one could care to name) and his denial of the afterlife. The denial of afterlife is the most interesting as it is what ties together his physics and his ethics - fearing death and what follows is folly (pointless infliction of angst and worry upon oneself) because we are just comprised of atoms-in-motion (his physics) and when our body ceases to be alive, so does our consciousness, completely.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:02 PM

@Aristippus: A lot of the ancient manuscripts we have today actually came from the Church... what do you think the odds are that the Vatican might have some never-before-seen manuscripts written by Epicurus or one of his subsequent students hidden away in the Vatican secret library?

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Wheylous replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:15 PM

I've read De Rarum Natura. It was certainly interesting, although I didn't get anything out of it.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:20 PM

De Rarum Natura

The translations I've read are pretty rough going but it's actually quite witty if you spend enough time parsing the butchered grammar. I recommend reading On Ends and Letter to Menoeceus. You should be able to finish both - with notes in the margins - in two hours flat.

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I'd say it's certainly a possibility.  The archives there are enormous and most of the stuff there has probably never been looked at since being entered.  Also, the works of the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus are still being published, and there is the possibility of further Epicurean works being recovered from Herculaneum.

Btw Bert, I've posted some edits to your VR article on the relevant VR board thread.

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Somebody commented on a Venus Project video that we should eliminate money, because if one person has more money than another, that's inequality, and inequality is bad.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 5:48 PM

Unsame is doubleplus ungood!

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It sounds like Epicurus was a hedonist.

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In what sense a hedonist?  I'm pretty sure I've had this discussion with you before.

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The classical, Cyrenaic sense.

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Yes, of course, since pleasure ('hedone' in Greek) is taken to be the ultimate good (although Epicurean 'hedone' is really 'aponia', the absence of pain).

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 6:03 PM

Epicurus contrasted with the Cyrenaics.

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Okay, but what about something like exercise? In order to not aches and pains throughout life, and in general live a healthy lifestyle, you have to experience that certain pain through exercise. So thus it becomes that some pain is necessarily to obtain pleasure, i.e. evil to achieve good.

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Well you have to consider whether or not the pain in exercise reduces pain overall.  Also on Epicurus on the Cyrenaics, there were some in the latter school that considered mental pleasure at least as signficant as physical pleasure.

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Kind of reminds me of Aldous Huxley in a way.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 6:30 PM

@Skeptical: Epicurean philosophy does not ignore the capacity of the human mind to foresee the long-run consequences of choices. Hence, if you sit around and do not exercise, leading to foreseeable health problems, you are not choosing wisely. Moderate exercise suitable to maintain good chance of health into old age is only sensible. And even there, the body was designed to be exercised, so exercise is not merely strain... there is a "wholesome feeling" that comes from putting one's whole effort into something, at least for a short duration.

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Why? Are you assuming 'pain' refers to physical pain only?

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Well when they talk about physical pleasures, is that advocating things like sex and drugs? (Relating to the philosophy in today's world)

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@ Aristippus

No.

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Not necessarily.  They are not advocating any pleasure in particular.  In fact Epicurus advocated abstaining from sex for the most part.

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And why is that? I mean, I was mostly referancing to the Cyrenaics, as I read that they placed physical pleasures in a realm of extreme importance (and sex is a pleasure).

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 6:46 PM

Well when they talk about physical pleasures, is that advocating things like sex and drugs? (Relating to the philosophy in today's world)

Epicurus is reported to have practiced celibacy because of what Buddhists call the suffering of impermanence - the pain of having something very pleasant and then having it taken away can be worse than not partaking in the first place. You can see how this would easily apply to many of the more addictive drugs like cocaine. There is an economic theory built into Epicurean philosophy of pleasure. In order to avoid the suffering of impermanence, it is not enough simply to choose what is pleasant but to acclimate oneself only to those pleasures which he can reasonably expect to maintain. This is the idea of what we today call a "standard of living".

Pot is a very Epicurean drug - it is inexpensive meaning its enjoyment is easy to maintain and the pleasure that comes from smoking it does not cause a withdrawal or "pang" if one does not partake again for a long time. Cocaine is almost precisely the opposite. Opioids are also Epicurean except they are more costly and can lead to excessive sloth which beomes a self-reinforcing problem. Except for cases of absurd overuse (self-injection of the highly addictive heroin), however, the dangers of opioids are vastly exaggerated. Alcohol is somewhat Epicurean, particularly in its capacity to "loosen up" conversation and help people feel more sociable around one another. Its dangers are well understood from many millenia of human experience. Nicotine and smoking of any kind (peyote) is also Epicurean particularly as regards its social aspects. Its danger is that it invariably produces a withdrawal when taken in cigarette form. Human beings have smoked something or other from time immemorial. However, the cigarette is the least Epicurean way to enjoy nicotine, in my view... very concentrated levels of nicotine and a short burn time meant to be "dragged" to the finish and leave the smoker wanting a follow-up very soon. Cigars and pipe smoking are more natural, pose less danger to the lungs (and low danger of cancer when smoked in moderation), and cause very little, if any, "pangs" later on.

</pontification>

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Why? Because he thought that a lot of sex could be detrimental to overall happiness.  As for the Cyrenaics, we don't know their exact position on this but I suspect that it would be similar to that of the Epicureans since the overall goal of both schools is to maximise pleasure and avoid pain.

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The question of whether or not pot is dangerous is a question that is still rolling around in my mind like a log rolling down a hill. It takes a while for those government propaganda videos they show in school to wear off. First I hear pot causes lung cancer, next I hear it doesn't, then I hear it contributes to mental disorders, next I hear that it fights against them...it just goes on and on and on.

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@ Aristippus

True, although this sort of problem subsides when one is married.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 6:55 PM

Any sentence that makes a definite claim and begins with "Pot causes ..." is obviously false because it says nothing about dosage. Every substance is benign  in vanishingly small enough quantities and every substance (even water!) is detrimental in excessive quantities.

I'm not encouraging you to use it. If you have no reason to, why bother? My posts are addressing the social question on the collective scale... should we view pot as dangerous or beneficial? Like anything that is pleasant when used in moderation, it is beneficial.

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"I've done all of the big three Senator, I've done tobacco, I've done alcohol, and I've done pot. And let me tell you Senator, pot is the least of the three." - Jesse Ventura

 

I think I heard something that you'd have to smoke a thousand joints in ten minutes for pot to even come close to being toxic. There's also a big conspiracy out there that says that pot is criminalized because it makes you a pacifist, and the government can't have that.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 7:13 PM

This is why Epicurean philosophy has never had much currency with the Elites:

Epicureanism addressed itself to a frailer and humbler multitude, who neither in circumstances nor in personal endowments were equal to making the world comport itself to their demands. It proposed to enable them, by discipline, to gain all that the others acquired by wealth, position, and innate force. It preached that pleasure was not restricted to the rich or to the might, but was equally attainable by the poor and the lowly. It levelled all ranks and equalized men, by showing that it is the variety and superficial glitter of pleasure and not its essence which imposed upon the powerful and their admirers.

Source here.

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I'm still debating with myself on whether or not I should try it in the future. Honestly, the only thing I've heard of it doing as a side-effect is making you hungry.

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Neodoxy replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 8:02 PM

Wow, that's really telling that pro-civil rights groups never talk about his record.

Edit

Skeptic, I advise not worrying about it. I think that trying something simply for the sake of trying something is pretty dumb but if you want to know what it's like then go for it. I had a few friends who were nervous back in the day but they got over it and they were fine... They also refrained from becoming cocaine addicts. Shocking, I know.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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I wouldn't try it "just for the sake of trying it." Lately, I've had a lot of thoughts going through my mind about living life to it's full extent, actually living, and vices in moderation that aren't addictive or harmful I think are a part of that philosophy. That's why I'm wondering if it is or isn't dangerous, or something. I don't know. Back when I was in public school, they made us watch these retarded videos where these kids would do pot and then start throwing up, or acting insane.

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Anenome replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 9:39 PM

I haven't ever smoked pot. Back then it was out of (misguided) respect for the law, but now obviously I could care less about that particular law and would never look down on someone else for it. Now I would, if I wanted to or needed to.

My only thought now is pot's likely cancer-causing effects, which are said to be less than cigs, but still actual. Obviously if you're dying of cancer and need to get apetite back during chemo, it's worth the risk.

And if they'd made the stuff legal finally we could get actual filtered cigs premade, which would ostensibly go a long way to reducing some of the more negative particulates.

There's the memory effects too. And the monetary cost. It's expensive while still illegal.

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I was watching this documentary earlier today. A real eye-opener. According to it, the cancer comes from a certain part of tobacco which isn't even found cannabis, and therefore there is virtually no cancer risk.

I honestly don't think there has ever been a pot-related death (strictly speaking of the effects of the drug itself). I guess if there is a cancer risk from the smoke even that could be taken away if you do like some people do which is bake the stuff into things like cookies, which I've always found to be a little strange.

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Groucho replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 9:44 PM

Pot's harmless. Although a few people get exceedingly paranoid on it (they are the ones who usually never do it again).

Unfortunately, the fact that it's illegal is not harmless. There's a lot of shady characters in the black market.

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Anenome replied on Sat, Dec 1 2012 1:14 AM

Biggest pothead I know died of lung cancer last year in his 30's. But he was doing absolutely everything. Smoking, drinking, crack, coke, heroin, these things are likely to have unstudied effects on the cancers that normally develop inside us every day and are normally snuffed out by a healthy immune system.

Well, smoking and drinking are studied at least, but not in combination with the others :P

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If you vaporize your weed, you will be fine. Same with eating it (beware though since this is more intense than the other options in someone I might have known's experience). Smoking is the easiest way but obviously much less healthy.

 

However if you want some real fun, try salvia if it's legal in your state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anenome replied on Sat, Dec 1 2012 3:54 AM

Seen far worse than that. Don't do salvia without a watcher to keep you safe from yourself.

Saw a vid of two peeps heavy hitting, one is okay, the other freaks out about the ground, breaks a window with his bare hands and dives through head-first, down an indeterminite number of floors.

RIP. Or maybe he just landed in the rose bushes :P

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