Fall 2013 Happiness Grade norming exercise
Return to Happiness
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Try to answer the question in about 7-8 minutes. The recommended due date is Wednesday at 5pm.
The basis of the Epicurean view is that pleasure is the key to happiness. Unfortunately for Epicurus, perhaps, picturing the practice of this philosophy can make us think of such adjectives as selfish, lazy, and immature. As Epicurean philosophy progresses, however, we can see that this picture of how to unlock happiness is not as superfluous as it seems at first glance. The pursuit of pleasure, Epicurus elaborates, is simply an attempt to fulfill one's desires--just as we all do every day, working towards some future goal or desire. In order to get more happiness, then, we must either fulfill more desires (difficult) or take the easier road proposed: desire less and simpler things. According to an Epicurist, the latter path makes us happier because simpler desires are easier to fill, thus we will have more pleasure and more happiness. A criticism of this solution is that simplifying our desires takes away the element of reaching and risk-taking inherent in progress and invention, perhaps making us happier in a simple little way but preventing us from reaching our full potential and greater joy at higher achievement. Epicureanism does however shed light on the fact that much of our unhappiness comes from yearning for things we do not yet have and the anxiety that we may never have them, and that desiring things that come easier dispels much of that anxiety allowing us greater satisfaction.
Epicurean’s thought that the things that are good in the world are easy to get. Know what we desire, what we really want, is where it gets complicated. Epicurean belief requires us to re-evaluate what we truly want through reflection and contemplation. In the end, they believe that the basic pleasures (company of others, food, sex, etc.) are the ones that will give us the greatest happiness. They do not believe that desire is a bad thing like many other philosophies do. Epicureans also diminish the value of worrying because what we worry about is not in our control and we won’t really experience it. For example, they instruct us to not worry about death because death is not here now and when it is, we really don’t experience it because when we die we are gone and that is it. This perspective relieves a lot of anxiety about the unknown because it recognizes the fact that we do not know what will happen and that acceptance relieves the anxiety. A criticism of this philosophy is that it is too simple – that the things that are really desirable require work and focus to achieve. An insight of this philosophy is that the good in the world is truly basic and if we alter our perspective, happiness is much easier to achieve than previously thought.
The Epicurean view of pleasure begins in an understanding that pleasure is necessary and good. This view however, does not promote the pursuit of pleasure through extremes. Instead, it believes our necessary desires can be fulfilled with the simplest of life’s pleasures. In seeking and expecting less, Epicurean thought says our desires can be maximized. The Epicurean practice also calls one to focus his or her desires on those that are absolutely necessary—which are often the most simple. One potential criticism of this philosophy is that it may discourage ambition and drive to reach potential desires if they are not “necessary” or entirely plausible desires. One potential insight of this philosophy is that it may allow people to find pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment of desires in the simplest events of life—such as eating a good meal, enjoying the sunshine, or playing a card game.
The Epicurean analysis of desire entails that achieving desires will result in happiness. Epicureans, however, do not belief that the desires we should attain are equal to overindulgence in food, alcohol, sex, etc. Rather, they believe that we should train ourselves to desire simple pleasures that are easy to attain. We should be happy with what we have or can easily get so that we don't have to stress ourselves in trying to get what lies beyond our grasp. One potential criticism is that this way of living requires us to settle for things that are not as good and pleasurable as those that we could potentially attain with just a little more effort. One potential insight is that by following the Epicurean lifestyle, we would prevent ourselves from getting on that hedonic treadmill on which we reach for something more than we have, reach it, adapt to it, and then reach for something even more.
Epicurean thinks that desires are important for the happiness of a person. He believes there are three types of desires: the natural and necessary, natural and not necessary, and finally the unnecessary. The epicurean analysis of the different desires tells us that if the unnecessary desires drive you then with that pleasure will come pain. Epicurean analysis states that there is a connection between desire and pain. He says that psychological and physical needs, which can entail absence of pleasure, can cause pain. In order not to feel pain one must re-orient the desires of the unnecessary to the simple things. Desire only leaves good when they are natural and necessary desires otherwise they cause harm and pain. An insight about his analysis of desire is that he understands that we cannot get rid of all desires. He says that desire motivates us and pushes us to do things in life, however, unnecessary desire can cause more harm than good. I think that Epicurean analysis of desire also helps to control anxiety of the future because we must yearn for the simple. A criticism to his analysis is that some of those unnecessary desires sometimes are what helps us learn lessons in life and find what we would not have found about ourselves.
We are deceived by what we think are our desires and should rethink them. Because of this, people misunderstand happiness. We should always try to see how our experience of desire is in line with our theory of pleasure. By rethinking our desires, this calls us to perhaps simplify them by reorienting desires to basic things. The reasoning implied behind this is that one can receive more pleasure from simple things. A potential critique of the Epicurean analysis of desire is that it would be terribly difficult in a materialistic society like ours, that is chock full of “status anxiety.” We are simply too adapted to living with things that are above "basic". A potential insight is that if we can re-train ourselves to desire basic things, we would have more money and be satisfied with less.
Epicureans believe that pleasure is the greatest good, however it is not like robust hedonism where it is the pursuit of any and all pleasure with no restraint. In fact, Epicureanism proposes that greater pleasure can be achieved through the limiting and focusing of desires and pleasures. They propose that a person should hold themselves back from desires and wants so that they can focus on simple pleasures, such as waiting until thirsty to drink so that even water tastes wonderful. One criticism is that the Epicurean way of thinking could stifle ambition, since they propose only seeking things that are easy to get. On the other hand, if you do as the Epicureans and train yourself to be happy with simple things, you could avoid adaptation and take greater pleasure from what you have.
According to Epicureans, pleasures are fulfilling our desires and is the greatest good which leads to happiness. Some desires are natural and necessary, and the ones we need to pursue. On the other hand, the desires that do not have virtue and fulfill unnecessary pleasures are what we need to avoid. Our mind set has a lot of influence over our desires, and Epicureans believe we need to retrain our minds to focus only on the necessary desires. A criticism of Epicurean philosophy of desire is that we are simply encouraging ourselves to settle for our desires. Instead of fulfilling all of our desires, the critique is that we are only focusing on basic desires that do not fulfill our desires. To counter this argument, the understanding could be that Epicureans value understanding the important things in our life and reevaluating our desires to focus on ones that better ourselves but those around us. Reevaluating our mind to focus on pursuing necessary desires will lead to a happier life.
Epicureans are often regarded as indulgers who focus on the senses and satisfying them as a means to happiness. Though partially correct, this is often the interpretation of those who use the term pleasure in a modern context. The key idea of Epicureanism of pursuing pleasure is based on the ancient world’s understanding of pleasure rather than that of today (and noting the difference is central to understanding the philosophy). In order to achieve pleasure, one must also re-orient one’s notion of what pleasure is to find the more basic things satisfying. A key criticism of this idea is that in re-orienting our notion of pleasure we are really just settling for something less than we are capable of experiencing. An insight, however, is that we can truly be happy with the more basic things, and thus find happiness more readily (i.e. when we are extremely thirsty and plain water is the best thirst-quencher)
Epicureans believe that paying attention to one’s experiences and maximizing pleasures is the key to happiness. By doing this, it is possible for someone to achieve happiness from simple pleasures, since they focus on these alone and once they are achieved, are able to move on to the next simple desire. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse; on one hand, being able to take pride and achieve happiness is a constant desire. However, this does not allow us to reach our full potential of setting goals that may take multiple attempts and hardships to endure, yet in the end is more satisfying because of the journey taken to achieve this sense of accomplishment.
The Epicureans believed not that it was bad to desire something, but the false beliefs that desire can give us. Through false images we set higher expectations for ourselves, which ultimately leads us to failure, or so what we think. Instead of being happy with a good situation, we think of it less influential because of the desire we had at the beginning of the experience. Epicurius believes that we should learn to enjoy both “natural desires” and “empty desires” for what they are with no preconceived expectations. If we can do this, we will eliminate false and delusional beliefs and be satisfied with the experience for what it is.
One potential criticism to this teaching is that once we associate an experience with pain, we will always look back on that with suffering, whereas it could be a good experience but we will not allow ourselves to find the pleasure in it. However, a potential insight is that once we can eliminate these negative and false beliefs from our subconscious, we will be able to live better lives associated to happier experiences.