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Responses to Levichi on Love and the Hellenistic philosophers

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  • Jan E Garrett
    1. In reporting on the classical Stoic view of eros, I was not necessarily saying that it was entirely correct or exhaustive of all the types of love. 2. The
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 22, 2002
      1. In reporting on the classical Stoic view of eros, I was not necessarily saying that it was entirely correct or exhaustive of all the types of love.
       
      2. The term "eros" used in the passages I was discussing was exactly the same term that Plato uses to name Love in his famous work on the topic, the Symposium.
       
      3. You tell us what you say are Epicurean views about love but do not seem familiar with the major discussion of this topic in Lucretius. For a useful discussion of this see Martha C. Nussbaum, Therapy of Desire, chapter 5.
       
      4. You write, 
      "An Epicurean sage would naver lack love, because the same principals that make him or her independant from externals, make him or her extremely appealing to the opposite gender. Besides, a blessed being can only be coupled with another blessed being. Therefore love is among the things that are easy to obtain."
       
      This assumes that an Epicurean sage would always be accompanied by another Epicurean sage. For who but a sage could recognize the beauty of soul to which you are referring. However, it is not guaranteed (especially in an Epicurean universe made uncertain by the famous atomic swerve) that a sage will always be able to find another to relate to.
       
      5. You say that love is a *need* and that it is necessary and natural. This seems not to be a classical Epicurean doctrine--if I am wrong about that, I shall welcome being enlightened. Of course, you are welcome to innovate -- we should not be slaves to ancient texts -- but one should do so keeping in mind that parts of a philosophy are not just loosely connected pieces that you can add or subtract at will without consequences to the other parts--there will be ripple effects of most such additions or subtraction.
       
      From the scholion on Epicurus Key Doctrines 29: "Natural and necessary [desires]...are ones which bring relief from pain, such as drinking when thirsty . . . "
       
      Let us suppose that (desire for) love is one of these. Using Abraham Maslow's (20th century but in part classically inspired) hierarchy of needs, love indeed is a need that kicks in as the most basic deficiency needs are met and before the "higher needs" start speaking to us. In that sense, e.g., the very young child's need for love of a parent, I agree that (to receive) love is a basic need, but it makes no sense to say that love in *that* sense is higher than virtue. That  need too is a deficiency need which, according to Maslow, is easily filled, and as the classical Epicureans knew, the desires that can be easily filled are precisely those that cease to operate once they are filled (until the deficiency, e.g., hunger, recurs). For the classical Epicureans, the need for food, when it is active, is a cause of discomfort. If there is an analogous type of love, then happiness essentially lies beyond that love, i.e., is fully present only when the need no longer operates. It is beyond me how such a (need for) love could be above virtue. Maybe there is a confusion here between the desire for love (e.g., in the child) and the disposition to give the love (e.g., in the parent). Note how different these are. Which leads to the last point.
       
      6. One aspect of the classical Stoic view to which I did not refer was the Stoic notion of divine providentia, which is a kind of generous love expressing the *goodness* of Zeus. Providence is linked to the positive concern or care that Zeus has for the universe as a whole, which in effect is His body, and for others who are similar to Him insofar as they are rational (and perhaps even more insofar as they are wise). This notion of love is close to the idea of agape or caritas, found in various Christian writers. It is a sort of virtuously directed kindness. The Stoic sage will presumably have an analogue of this sort of care or concern for those for whom he or she is responsible. (See the comments about "household economist" at 11d in the Stobaeus anthology, in Inwood and Gerson, eds., Hellenistic Philosophy, 2nd ed., p. 220. I take this to refer to the virtue-expressing capacity for wise household management.) I don't see any sexual overtones in this sort of love. I don't see any *romantic* overtones either. This sort of love is not above virtue, it is a virtue.
       
      Even in the Catholic / Thomist tradition love as caritas is a virtue, not something above virtue, although it is especially associated with God. (This is an idea the Catholics inherited from Paul of Tarsus, who was surely influenced by Hellenistic philosophy.) It is a Thomist idea that faith, hope, and caritas are theological virtues distinguished from and elevated above the cardinal virtues of justice, temperance, courage, and prudence. That distinction -- between theological and cardinal virtues -- makes sense within the context of Thomist theology, which is of course post-Hellenistic and a version of Christian theology. It is not an explicit part of classical Stoic philosophy.
    • levichi
      Your post was thought provoking! JG 2. The term eros used in the passages I was discussing was exactly the JG same term that Plato uses to name Love in his
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 22, 2002
        Your post was thought provoking!

        JG> 2. The term "eros" used in the passages I was discussing was
        exactly the
        JG> same term that Plato uses to name Love in his famous work on the
        topic,
        JG> the Symposium.

        The love between Eros and Psyche seems like an ideal of such love as
        I am referring to.

        JG> 3. You tell us what you say are Epicurean views about love but do
        not
        JG> seem familiar with the major discussion of this topic in
        Lucretius.

        You are quite right, I do not feel that Lucretius a reliable sorce on
        Epicureanism. I am only interested in what Epicurus himself wrote and
        spoke, as I don't believe that his ideas were grasped correctly both
        by later Epicureans and Stoics.

        JG> 4. You write,
        JG> This assumes that an Epicurean sage would always be accompanied by
        JG> another Epicurean sage. For who but a sage could recognize the
        beauty of soul to which you are referring.

        You would be surprised. At any rate, if we assume that love is a
        basic need without which we cannot maintain "the beauty of the soul I
        am referring", one would do what is necessary to fulfil this need.


        Using Abraham
        JG> Maslow's (20th century but in part classically inspired)
        hierarchy of
        JG> needs, love indeed is a need that kicks in as the most basic
        deficiency
        JG> needs are met and before the "higher needs" start speaking to us.

        The stomach carries the head.

        JG> analogous type of love, then happiness essentially lies beyond
        that love,
        JG> i.e., is fully present only when the need no longer operates. It
        is
        JG> beyond me how such a (need for) love could be above virtue.

        I am going to reword my hypothesis,

        Being loved is a need that unfulfilled disturbs the static pleasure
        of the soul – hedone, while affection (concern for those for whom one
        is responsible) is a natural expression of blessedness. Togeather
        these two compound 'romance'. Romance to me has the same value as the
        Tomistic love, it is a kind of virtue of the higher echelon.
      • Sam
        Some time ago, I posed the question Is there randomness in the cosmos? A great many responses followed, but I m afraid I hard a hard time following their
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 22, 2002
          Some time ago, I posed the question "Is there randomness in the cosmos?"
           
          A great many responses followed, but I'm afraid I hard a hard time following their tangents; please forgive me.
           
          Let me ask the question again, and elaborate by presenting a line of reasoning that has occurred to me and ask your critique of it:
           
          Proposition: There must be randomness in the cosmos.
           
          Indirect proof:
          If there were no randomness, then every event would be complenely determined by preceding causes, the outcome of which would be certain.
           
          In that case, whatever one does is a result of that wholly deterministic cosmos. "Free" choice is not possible. Everything that happens is already determined by the immediate prior conditions of the universe.
           
          If that is so, then we cannot say that any given act is good or bad, better or worse; it is simply an inevitable fact.
           
          Therefore, no one has moral agency: A killer cannot help himself; it 's simply "how he is" and it's not his fault.
           
          Conclusion:
          If moral agency and responsibility exist, thes our wills must in in some sense be "free," and that freedom must be some randomness in the cosmos that allows for us to choose (or have chosen) otherwise.
           
          ------------
           
          For your comfort, I have already anticipated a reconciliation of randomness with the concepts of fate and "that which is beyond our power;" (I am a trained quantum mechanic) but for now let us consider whether the present argument is a) rational and b) supported by any evidence.
           
           
          I hope you find this engaging and useful. If I am distracting, let me know, and I shall desist.
           
           
        • Keith Seddon
          Sam writes: Proposition: There must be randomness in the cosmos. Indirect proof: If there were no randomness, then every event would be complenely determined
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 23, 2002
            Sam writes:
            Proposition: There must be randomness in the cosmos.
             
            Indirect proof:
            If there were no randomness, then every event would be complenely determined by preceding causes, the outcome of which would be certain.
            Yes. It seems reasonable to suggest that either all events are determined or that some events are determined and some are not (and in not having causes are referred to as 'random').
            [1] In that case, whatever one does is a result of that wholly deterministic cosmos. [2] "Free" choice is not possible. [3] Everything that happens is already determined by the immediate prior conditions of the universe.
            The ancient Stoics believed 1 and 3 to be case, but not 2, and this is what I think also.
            If that is so, then we cannot say that any given act is good or bad, better or worse; it is simply an inevitable fact. Therefore, no one has moral agency: A killer cannot help himself; it 's simply "how he is" and it's not his fault.
            This is so only if it is not possible for free choices to occur in a determined cosmos.
            Conclusion:
            If moral agency and responsibility exist, thes our wills must in in some sense be "free," and that freedom must be some randomness in the cosmos that allows for us to choose (or have chosen) otherwise.
            I believe this argument to be invalid.
             
            It is, alas, quite common, but is in my opinion based on the mistake that uncaused events are either necessary or sufficient for free actions. But are they?
             
            A free action is one for which the agent is responsible, and for which the agent themselves will accept responsibility. Let's say you pick up the remote and intend to press button 1 for the news. A random event occurs within your nervous system and your finger jerks across and presses channel 9, which happens to showing a rather disreputable porno movie. Who would want to claim that the movie coming onto your screen was your own action for which you are responsible? And why on earth would YOU claim it as your own action! (Even if you like the movie, and would have chosen to see it if you had looked at the listings, its coming on your screen was not something you did yourself.)
             
            Worse still, let's suppose that you do manage to hit button 1, but the porno movie comes on anyway -- this time because of a random event occuring in your TV such that for the next half hour every channel you select shows the porno movie -- except for the final five minutes, during which another random event at the tranmitter results in your TV showing a bunch of penguins setting up a pizza delivery service using those little motorised scooters.
             
            But are the penguins really doing this? Probably not -- this sounds like more random events making something seem to have happened when it did not really. But how can we ever know?
             
            If random events really do occur, then the world becomes unintelligible, and we lose our powers of agency.
             
            The ideas of free will and agency make sense only in a determined universe.
             
            For the Stoic perspective on this, see my paper at Jan's site: http://www.wku.edu/~jan.garrett/seddon1.htm
             
            Live with honour,
             
             
             
          • Steve Marquis
            Keith wrote: _____________ The ideas of free will and agency make sense only in a determined universe. For the Stoic perspective on this, see my paper at Jan s
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 23, 2002
              Keith wrote:
              _____________

              The ideas of free will and agency make sense only in a determined universe.

              For the Stoic perspective on this, see my paper at Jan's site . . .
              _____________

              Keith, I read you paper. Sam's initial argument was that free will (and by
              extension moral agency) and determinism are mutually exclusive. Your
              counter argument is that moral agency implies responsibility which only
              makes since in a causal universe (ie, decisions / actions have
              consequences). If I've misunderstood someone please say so.

              I can only be held accountable if a particular cause always produces
              particular effects, is that right?

              But the problem for me is the internal cause, the decision, or the 'assent
              to a given impression', in Stoic terms. Is that assent pre-caused or
              pre-determined?

              The behaviorist would argue that it is, would she not? Certainly it
              appears, from our own life experiences, that almost all actions result from
              habit or subconscious desire / avoidance.

              So what is choice? Does it exist? If we divide everything in the universe
              into causes and effects, with any singular event being an effect of a prior
              cause(s) and a cause of future effect(s), can we somehow show choice to be
              a cause without having itself been an effect from a prior cause?

              Let's assume that 'primal' causes, those laws or one law (the unified field
              theory, for example) came into being with the 'big bang'. In our
              determined universe model everything from then on is an effect somehow
              distantly related to this first cause. If choice is cause only and not
              effect how can choice arise in a purely 'mechanistic' universe?

              If choice is not strictly cause only, but caused itself, can there be moral
              agency?

              Steve
            • joseph cris
              ... Even the Bible which says we have “Free will” proves there is none and most bible events follow “determinism”. It negates itself by prophesying
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 23, 2002
                > [1] ... whatever one does is a result of
                > that wholly deterministic cosmos. [2] "Free" choice
                > is not possible. [3] Everything that happens is
                > already determined by the immediate prior conditions
                > of the universe.
                > The ancient Stoics believed 1 and 3 to be case, but
                > not 2, and this is what I think also.
                >

                Even the Bible which says we have �Free will� proves
                there is none and most bible events follow
                �determinism�. It negates itself by prophesying things
                to happen and here, we can get a few examples. One,
                the Old Testament mentions the coming of the Messiah
                (Jesus) who will die for mankind so that sins will be
                forgiven. It doesn�t matter who played Judas, Jesus
                died as the prophesy goes. Two, Jesus prior to his
                death said to Peter that he will betray him (Jesus) 3
                times before the cock crows 3 times. He did as the
                story goes.

                Judas and Peter have a choice not to do what they did,
                unfortunately, the God has spoken and any other
                choices are impossible.

                Lastly, Revelations is full of prophesy on the outcome
                of humanity at the end of the world. If we follow
                what happened to Judas, Jesus and Peter, it does not
                matter what the believers do or not do. It will not
                change what is fated. Either you belong to 666 in hell
                (buy your sunblock lotions now)or bore youself singing
                alelluiah 24 hours a day times 365 days times forever.

                Live with Humour,
                Jcris




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              • Keith Seddon
                In reply to Joseph about prophesy: A true prophesy occurring (by whatever mechanism) in no way undermines free will. If someone yesterday had prophesied that I
                Message 7 of 8 , Jul 24, 2002
                  In reply to Joseph about prophesy:

                  A true prophesy occurring (by whatever mechanism) in no way undermines free
                  will.

                  If someone yesterday had prophesied that I would today be typing this
                  message, that has no implications either way for whether or not my actions
                  in typing this now are free.

                  Even if we want to take the line that the future is 'fixed' and in some
                  sense already 'there', we still have to answer the questions as to why just
                  THOSE events are there, located in time just where they happen to be.

                  The event of my typing this now is down to free choices and free action on
                  my part, even if the universe is fixed and if accurate prophesies predicted
                  these events.

                  Live with honour,

                  Keith
                  Visit the Stoic Foundation
                  http://www.btinternet.com/~k.h.s/stoic-foundation.htm

                • joseph cris
                  ... stated or predicted? Maybe we just want to think that we have free choices and free will ONLY to justify the existence of our reasoning brains. Ultimately,
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jul 24, 2002
                    --- Keith Seddon <K.H.S@...> wrote:
                    > A true prophesy occurring (by whatever mechanism) in
                    > no way undermines free
                    > will.
                    >
                    > If someone yesterday had prophesied that I would
                    > today be typing this
                    > message, that has no implications either way for
                    > whether or not my actions
                    > in typing this now are free.
                    >
                    > The event of my typing this now is down to free
                    > choices and free action on
                    > my part, even if the universe is fixed and if
                    > accurate prophesies predicted
                    > these events.
                    >
                    > Live with honour,
                    > Keith

                    > Didn't you just played what the prophesy accurately
                    stated or predicted?

                    Maybe we just want to think that we have free choices
                    and free will ONLY to justify the existence of our
                    reasoning brains. Ultimately, what we act on are the
                    ones that were willed. We just don't know it until it
                    happened or done.

                    Nine 1 One happened not 1 second earlier or One second
                    later. It was willed to happen at that exact moment.
                    > People have choices to do what they do and that
                    exactly what the "will" willed them to do.

                    joseph


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