Sept 20

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5: SEP 20


  • Epicurus, Letter and PD (9)
  • McMahon C1, “Highest Good” (50-65)

Lecture Segment

Gilbert, 7, Time Bombs (127-133)

Space, Time and Future Preferences

  • Hedonic adaptation (also, hedonic treadmill) -- the declining marginal utility of addition units of consumption, all other factors being equal --
  • We spatialize time because it's an abstract thing and thinking of its spatially helps make it concrete. But Gilbert thinks this leads to mistakes in "affect forecasting" - predicting how you will feel about a hedonic in the future.
  • False prediction of future pleasure -- p. 130 study on snack predictions. (no variety condition happier)
  • Gilbert's hedonic adaptation thought experiment -- Imagine you are preordering from a restaurant for the next few weeks.
  • favoring assumption (how much you like each dish)
  • habituation rate assumption (how quickly pleasure declines or habituates)
  • consumption rate. (the time scale of the consumption)
  • See diagrams
  • Gilbert's partial point -- variety has a cost… [But it doesn't follow that it's not in your happiness-interest to pay it sometimes.]
  • Slogan for the day: "Pleasure isn't linear."

Hellenistic Hedonism: Epicurus -- Letter to Menoeceus and Principal Doctrine

  • Key Idea: Pleasure is the Good ("Alpha and Omega of a happy life." - Letter)
  • Fundamental distinction between Katastematic pleasures and kinetic pleasure.
  • Accepts reality of gods, but thinks it's human error to think that the gods bestow blessings and punishments. They're not thinking about you.
  • Death is nothing to us. Arguments: good and evil dep on awareness, no terror in ceasing to live. Assess: "The wise person.... Also PD2
  • natural desires vs. groundless desires, of the natural, some necessary some only natural. Of the necessary, some for happiness, curing disease, surviving. Direct yourself toward satisfying the natural necessary desires.
  • "For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid to rest" (The desire for pleasure is also a kind of pain.)
  • Epicurus is telling us that while we think pleasure is endless stimulation, but it is really found in satisfaction, which is a state of non-desire (rather than lack of desire).
  • "They have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it."
  • "Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet." "When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean..."
  • Small Group Discussion: Consider Epicurus' advice about pleasure in light of the hedonic treadmill, and the distinction between kinetic and katastematic pleasures. Should you literally accept that "water is as good as wine" and "plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet" or, is Epicurus making a different point, or, should we just reinterpret him?
  • Tetra-pharmakos:
  • 1. Don't fear gods.
  • 2. Death is nothing. - note his arguments here (see above).
  • 3. What is good is easy to get.
  • 4. What is evil is easy to endure.
  • PD 3: Limit of pleasure is removal of pain. Note how this could be true given a view of desire. (also, PD18.)
  • PD 5: Relation of virtue to pleasure (wisdom to happiness!)
  • PD 8: Pursuit of pleasure complicates your life.
  • PD 18: close to adaptation. hedonic treadmill.
  • PD 25: something akin to mindfulness.
  • PD 27-8: priority of friendship. (This is a major type distinction for Epicurus. Does friendship habituate?)