Mark Alfino

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Fall 2007 Grad Seminar Page for Mark Alfino

Research Project: Epicurean and Stoic Joy

My goal is to make a comparative investigation of major Hellenistic attitudes toward pleasure and joy. I think I'm going to find that Epicureanism has more scope for the pursuit of joy as a specific peak pleasure than typical accounts grant. I'll have to see how solid the scholarly consensus is on that. I might need to argue that a logical variant of Epicureanism could allow a more robust hedonism in light of what we are learning about pleasure from hedonic psychology. I also have a hunch that "joy" for both Epicrueans and Stoics involves a different kind of pleasure that may not be wholly static. Even showing this might be noteworthy, since we tend to make to make a fairly blanket rejection of sensual pleasure in our reconstructions of Epicurus. I noticed in Hadot, for example, that there was more emphasis in his account of Epicurus on enjoyment of the present moment. That's another lead to follow, I guess.


Here's my initial literature search:

Pleasure and the Good Life: Concerning the Nature, Varieties, and Plausibility of Hedonism, Feldman, Fred Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 222, pp. 152-154, January 2006

On Being Happy or Unhappy Haybron, Daniel M Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 287-317, September 2005

What Kind of Hedonist Was Epicurus? Woolf, Raphael Phronesis: A Journal of Ancient Philosophy, vol. 49, no. 4, pp.303-322, 2004

Updating Epicurus's Concept of Katastematic Pleasure Splawn, Clay Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 473-482, 2002 Media:Splawn_UpdatingEpicurus.pdf

Managing Mental Pain: Epicurus vs. Aristippus on the Pre-Rehearsal of Future Ills Graver, Margaret Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, vol.17, pp. 155-177, 2001

Epicurean Hedonism Striker, Gisela Nussbaum, Martha C.(1993). Passions and Perceptions, Nussbaum, Martha C (ed). New York: Cambridge Univ Pr.

Epicurus on Pleasure and the Complete Life. Rosenbaum, Stephen E Monist: An International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 21-41, January 1990

Reading Log

9/11: Here are some notes I've been working from: Media:General_Notes_on_Stoicism.doc

I'm going to focus on AA.Long's opening chapters on Epicureanism for the 9/4 class. I should have something to offer from my responses to that reading. Alfino 10:37, 29 August 2007 (PDT)


Here's my reading notes, with ample suggestions for place we might raise some questions together:

"Chapter 35: The Garden of Epicurus", Green, Peter. Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age. Berkeley, Calfornia: University of California, 1990.

Chapter 35: The Garden of Epicurus

Athens, Spring 306, Epicurus' main philosophy set.

Important that Epicurus' system was a quasi-religion: mem. texts, no alternative views.

-"he suffered from chronic intestinal complaints. and died, finally, in great pain, of strangury and renal calculus." 619

-motivations for empircal knowledge exclusively practical, to show how ataraxia follows from understanding nature and the gods (similar to Stoics)

Green says he's not really an empiricits, but I think we can look at his empirical reasoning abilities in admiration. Good research question.

Green's indictment: "Whether ataraxia could be described as an ideal or a noble goal is debatable: a Buddhist is more likely to assent to the proposition than a Western humanist. Epicurus certainly believed it was. But a major achievement? There is (one wants to protest) more to Hfe than conquering the fears and superstitions associated with death, the jealousies and failures inherent in ambition. What Epicurus offered was mere quietism, near-total negation, a wholesale repudiation of Hellenistic life, politics, society, eschatology. With no afterlife to look forward to, the best that Epicurus could still do with this present existence was to sit Still and try to achieve a state of negative harmony, untroubled by the demons of unreason or power, and, like Gerard Manley Hopkins' nun, "out of the swing of the sea." 626

629: " der. As De Witt says, "the first missionary philosophy was a natural preparation for the first missionary religion. ... It would have been singularly easy for an Epicurean to become a Christian.""'

630: "To kill fear, to pursue happiness and friendship, in a world where the former was considerably more widespread than the latter, was an objective as praiseworthy as it was elusive. There is a ringing defiance about the "fourfold remedy," the tetrapharmakos: "The gods are not to be feared, there is no risk to run in death, the good is easy to get, the bad easily borne with courage.""'* A hint of Nirvana here, though no Greek would ever tolerate that kind of voluntary self-eclipse. There is more to life, in the end, than ataraxia.

Long, A. A. Hellenistic Philosophy. 2nd ed. California: U of California Press, 1986.

Notes: Chapter One: Introduction

Hellenism: 323bc - 31bc : victory of Octabian over Mark Antony

-major writers of Hellenism were immigrants to Athens from Other places? Where? What do we know about these places?

-Long downplays the thesis that Hellenistic philosophy is a response to instability: p. 3

-Some details about Alexander and Diogenes. discuss a bit.

-Both Epicureanism and Stoicism principally recommended themselves as philosophies for reducing suffering and achieving happiness.

-Early or pre-Epicurean: "Aristippus' importance rests on his claim that pleasure is the goal of life. He advanced this thesis long before it was adopted by Epicurus, and Epicurean hedonism, though possibly influenced by Cyrenaic views, differs from them in significant respects. " p. 8

Interesting point on p. 9 that Platonists and Peripatetics never achieved wide appeal and were beat in popularity by Stoic and Epicurean ideas.

Stoics were trying to retain some version of the declining Olympian gods, by giving them allegorical itnerpretations.

"Eastern religious ideas infiltrated into the Mediterranean world. Some embraced them; others chose Stoicism or Epicureanism instead." 12


Chapter Two: Epicurus and Epicureanism

"his slogan 'live quietly* was not a revolutionaiy denundation of contemporary society but a prescription for attaining tranquillity. "16

17: spread of Epicureanism in Med. world.

Oenoanda - note.

Epicurus 341-270 Lucretius 94 - 55, after that: DL, Cicero, Seneca and Plutarch.

19 and ff: good intro to Epicurus as empiricist.

first glance at his cosmology and willingness to trim metaphysical claims to closely match empirical evidence.

transmission theories of perception 21, atomist sense theoyr, 23: sounds like a neural network view of consciousness.

24: Direct Images - weird

disembodied causally efficacious direct images.  ???? Explanations?

(maybe made clearly by the film-strip view of consciousness coming later)

-interesting evidence, especially at p. 27 of empiriciaal reasoning advances. Epicurus really comes across as more inductive than Aristotle. and, in the following.

32ff: background in atomism, how you do ontology in ancient materialism.

finite / infinite divisibility37: the swerve. importance to theory of free will. what does this look like today? compatiblism?

41: arguments against divine involvement: (this would be great to have summarized in a short handout. Anyone?)

46: problem of god's body. why he can't have one. Hard to act with a body.

- add/losing atoms, not something that happens for god.

48: again with the "direct images" someone help!

views on death 49

view of self, view of special "no name" atoms of the soul. round ones!

film strip view of vision and thought 55

57: we are sources of swerves! (need for an open system) --relation of body/thought great description p. 57.

ideas of pleasure in relation to cessation of pain - v. important p. 61

67: limit to pleasure

Justice, friendship,theory of society.

74: remarkable passage at the end here, but also a little weird. Anyone?

"Next Morning Blogs"

Method and more topics in Stoicism 9/12/07

9/12/07

Class:

Thanks for a good class. I like the way you guys follow up on each other’s views and raise problems and criticisms for the philosophy we’re discussing. Good use of the history of philosophy, too.

We haven’t really talked about method much. I think you guys are showing some great intuitions and graduate level skills in the early stages of a critical method that I’ll call (without prejudice) “standard academic work”: careful study of (at this stage, secondary and reference) sources, careful statement of main concepts and ideas. Maybe because it’s early still, we’re not always formulating strong theses about these philosophers, but I do think we’re identifying crucial problems. And some of you are starting to find theses to pursue. You don’t want to rush that process, but you don’t want to be doing only exegesis at the end of the semester, in my opinion.

Another note on method: We have discussed the difference between, say, Stoicism as an historical philosophy, and Stoicism as a “type” of philosophy. In the former project we are attentive to historical sources in a search for the “essential logic” of the position. From the latter standpoint, Stoicism is a kind of philosophy that we might review with respect to our interests and theoretical resources. The goal could be the best reconstruction of the philosophy as a whole, or even just of specific insights it has. For example, we’re in a position to bring in contemporary science, comparative culture, specific arguments from later in the history of philosophy to see what a contemporary Stoic perspective would look like. That’s very different from historical recovery, but for myself, both activities are valuable.

I do regret that we didn’t get more time to breeze by stoic epistemology/logic/language. Crucial issues there include their anticipation of Frege’s sense/reference distinction, their anticipation of propositional logic, their rich empiricist notion of self-certifying impressions, and their interesting view of sentence meaning and the way language mirrors reality. There are some real connections here to early twentieth century positivism and sense-data theory.

I also think there’s more discussion to have about the Stoic “faith” in purposiveness. Because the contemporary discussion of teleology is so complex (connected to the conflicts between some contemporary monotheologies (and their philosophies) and contemporary science (esp. evolution)), it’s a hard topic to approach. But you should let me know if you want to take a run at it. I could put some readings together. You should be somewhat familiar with Dennett’s objection to “mind-first” cosmologies and his constructive arguments about how we can appreciate design in nature. We could fill that in with a little seminar time.

Finally, I’d like to make a suggestion about our September 25th class. I still want to give you a week off of preparations for class while we meet individually to discuss your projects, but I think we should use the 25th for a discussion of research and philosophical method. We could combine that with a dinner, if you’d like.

As long as you’re getting back to me about 9/25, could you also drop me a line about how the seminar is going for you. My days seem unusually uncluttered right now, so please feel free to drop in to talk as well.

Mark

Unfair to Epicurus? Applied philosophy and foundational philosophy 9/5/07

Some of you are noticing, even at the speed of our "drive by" treatment, that we have in Hellenistic Philosophers a different breed. Why aren't they giving systematic foundational accounts? Epicurus pretty much cribs Democritus, though there is an original expression of it in both the "film-strip" idea of csness and the swerve. He seems interested in epistemology, but doesn't find the need for all the machinery of Aristotle's Theory of Soul. Like the Stoics, he's not too worried about giving a wholly materialist account of soul. Weren't there supposed to be insuperable difficulties with that? But then, isn't that the research agenda (naturalism) that is producing such great results in neuro-philosophy?

If Epicurus looks "unsophisticated" or unconcerned about lots of the more speculative metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, it may be because he's doing applied philosophy. (Also, I think he sees in Plato and Aristotle the philosophical machinery of empire, and he's rejecting all that.) In applied philosophy, you often avoid filling in too deep a metaphysical grounding because you want your analysis to be a "negotiated solution" (especially in business and medical ethics issues in which there are clear and fundamental compteting values, and the patient (or business deal) is waiting). Another way of putting this is "you don't wait for the system" (Kierkegaard made fun of Hegel's "system" which was, of course, never complete). You especially don't wait for a complete philosophical system that will yield a deductively arrived at result.

So what are Hellenistic applied philosophers doing and how do we evaluate them? The difference between our Hellenistic philosophers (at least the Epicureans and Stoics) and modern applied ethicists is that Epicurus isn't just trying to settle a business ethics problem. He's trying to suggest a philosophically grounded way of living that will be demonstrably efficacious within one's own lifetime. That poses a significantly different problem than "creating a system" (from which you might infer an ethic for living). That doesn't mean you cut him slack on foundational issues, but it does mean acknowleding that his focus may be elsewhere. We should ask whether some reconstruction of his practical concepts would provide a more complete set of recommendations for hedonism. (I think there are philosophers who have pursued this project and it would be a great topic for someone.) The standards for evaluation of a practical philosophy need to engage the assumptions that must be made when one's goal is "advice for living". As a case study, you look at Plato's dismal efforts to be an applied philosopher with Dion in Sicily. It just wasn't his strength!

So, for evaluating an applied philosopher, additional thought on friendship and how that fits in with tranquility might be in order. We should also add a more complete analysis of types of pleasures in addition to sensual and social. There's intimacy, community, pleasures of achievement, pleasures of concentration. Epicurus' radically simplified world may have room for these. Remember, any empirical results from hedonic psychology would be in the spirit of Epicurean epistemology. That something you dualists have more trouble availing yourselfs of!

In the end, I don't really evaluate an ancient philosopher in a comprehensive way, as if I'm lining him or her up with contemporary ones, and putting him on trial. But I do think we can "mine" these philosophers for intrinsically fascinating issues, some really different thinking, and some resources for our contemporary projects.

Please shoot me a quick email about how the seminar is going for you at this point. I've got tons of time to meet with students, so don't be shy about coming in. Hope O'Dougherty's was fun. I'll look forward to joining you all some time.

Mark


Pyrrho, Epoche, Ataraxia 9/18

Well, gang, I hope we brought Pyrrhonism to life a bit. It's a tantalizing view for me, not only because of the possibility of cross cultural influences in Pyrrho, but also because I have trouble understanding how sceptics resolve the "criteria of truth / criteria of action" divide. The best I could come up with is that there really are two worlds for Pyrrhonists and so they find it less surprising than I do that the epistemology of truth is separate from the criteria for acting. But I must acknowledge that further reading might present other solutions.

I did want to return to the relationship between epoche and ataraxia, because this is really the focus of the practice, maybe more so than theoretical consistency. We made some progress on this with our various examples. It occured to me this morning that Pyrrhonists might be telling us to try seeing the world through our actual certainty about it rather than through an assumed certainty. So, for example, perhaps we can determine (whether Pyrrho would have allowed us or not) that we have relative certainty about the importance of some practice in our lives -- church, fitness, you name it. Maybe Pyrrho is telling us that we exceed this actual certainty by assuming that we have deep foundational knowledge (with absolute certainty). What would it be like to see the world only through the knowledge that we have certainty about? Sometimes I think it would be terror, but in a couple of cases, meditating on an example changes my view to ataraxia. So, the fear of something bad happening is somewhat moderated if I carefully inspect what I actually can or can't know about this event occuring.


Perhaps apropos of this, that book reference I've been dying to make (for Aaron's project?) is Kirsch, Jonathan. God Against the Gods: the History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2004. Kircsch gives a pretty well documented account of how monotheism changed the landscape of the Mediterranean world. He looks about monotheisms in ancient Egypt and among the Israelites, but focuses heavily on Christian monotheism. His overall thesis is that monotheism generally requires considerable violence to enforce and generally limits an otherwise rich set of cultural practices which included magic and multiple local gods. (Of course, a counter thesis here might be that there is a trade off for monotheism Some argue that Christian monotheism, in combination with the Greek metaphysics, positioned the West ultimately to discover science. That's pretty speculative, but you do have to wonder if there is an upside to monotheism since on the face of it it appears to come with considerable negatives. The ability to unite religion and state might thought of as another "up side," but one with ambiguities.) Kirsch will lead you to two other books, which I have at the moment: Klauck's Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity and Fox, Pagans and Christians.

Well, I'll get working on two short presentations, one on method and the other on research, for next week. Enjoy your break from class preparation, but don't forget that you are supposed to be pulling together some preliminary material for our conference on your topic. I've heard from a couple of you about topics. At this point its almost better to have a general interest and start browsing the literature. Unless, that is, you're already further down the road. It wouldn't hurt to get an email from each of you letting me know where you are on this. I'm generally free Monday and Wednesday mornings and early afternoons for conferences. Friday's have been a little sacred lately, but that gets called on a weekly basis!

Thanks to Rebecca for helping with the dinner organization. Please let her know what you're available to do. I'll take care of plates, forks, knives, etc. Ok? And maybe more beverage. There's cooking equiptment in the kitchen, so check out what you each need.

Making the Turn 9/25

Class,

What a great feast. Thanks. Let's do some more dinners.

I hope you found the research tips and methods useful. By the way, please add hermeneutic method to the list and look it up if you're not familiar with what it is. It's arguably an important method for our work since one of the central problems of hermeneutics in, say, Gadamer, is the interpretation across time horizons. So you history of philosophy types and literary/philosophic folks need to know about that.

I'm eager and a little anxious about our upcoming challenge to make the "turn" and become a true seminar (we're close!). One reason I recommended that we cancel class next week off is that I didn't sense that we were quite ready to block out our seminar sessions, but I think we can do it. The key idea here is that each of you present some issues and material for us to work with you on, supply some reading for us ahead of time (oh no!), and take us into the issues quickly and efficiently. The seminar model can be a powerful incubator of good philosophy, but you've got to plant the seeds.

Several of you have identified topic interests, some of you need to take your interests and do some browsing in the literature, either to find resources or let the literature refine your topic a bit. Others are lurking. I hope all of you will find time to do develop your topic interests prior to our individual conferences next. By the way, here is some time I've blocked out for you guys: 9/28 open, 10/1 1-3, 10/2 6-9pm, 10/3 10-12 and 10/5 open. If you can pick from that great. There are other times.

The seminar sessions you plan for us should include some short readings or excerpts of readings. Something that gets us into your work and lets us have a deep philosophical conversation about it. Plan on taking about 1/2 the class period on the night you select. As we said, if you do this early on (October), you can come with more exploratory ideas. If you do a seminar for us in late November, hopefully things will have progress. Feel free to choose your preferred dates. Of course, your seminar topic doesn't have to match what we're reading in the other part of the class time.

The short topics you contribute can be decided about 1-2 weeks ahead of time. If you do one short topic, a seminar, and participation, you could have a grading scheme with weights of 30%, 40%, 30%. If those seems like large numbers, you could do a second short assignment. We'll do a semi-formal evaluation of participation in late October. I've got a rubric for participation on the assignments link.

I really appreciated learning about some of the places you guys go for information and about that pop-philosopher guy. I'll check him out. I hope my information source biases aren't too old fashioned for you!

See you guys next week for conferences.

Mark


Oct 9th - First Student Seminar on Death in Epicurus and general reading in Epicurus

Class,

Sorry about the delay on this. I hope the vividness of the discussion hasn’t faded too much. Here are a couple of thoughts about our seminar last Tuesday.

Big thanks to Dave for the Thanatology seminar. I think we can take this as a model for seminar work. Get some readings to the class, set up some problems and have the discussion. Good job getting us focused.

I felt like I couldn’t really give much substance to Epicurus’ “ghostie” gods, but the next day it occurred to me that, to be fair, he doesn’t really need much of a theology. That sort of fits with the view we discussed – that his theological references are an accommodation to his audience – but it has a more positive spin, maybe.

I thought our discussion of intelligence was really good. We did a good job of isolating charactertistics like self-consciousness once we started to imagine the possibility that collective intelligence could be the product of relatively dumb material processes. This is going to be important for the stoics too, since it would set up a material basis for their claim that we can participate in cosmic intelligence and purposiveness. The only followup I would suggest is that we avoid mystifying self- consciousness. It’s as plausible that we might have a decent neural account of self-consciousness as we might have of vision. So while I think our cognitive differentia are special to me, I can’t really say there’s evidence that they are different in kind. If matter can be intelligent, it can have that attribute of intelligence we call self-consciousness, maybe.

Sorry I fumbled presenting the idea of a “complete life” in Epicurus. It’s pretty counterintuitive, and I’m not sure what I think about it, but a secondary source I was reading (Rosenbaum, n, S. (1990, January). Epicurus on pleasure and the complete life. Monist, 73(1), 21) took a good run at giving Epicurus’ argument that a happy life cannot become better by added duration. The text here is Kuria Doxa (Key Doctrines) #19: “Infinite time and finite time contain equal pleasure, if one measures the limits of pleasure by reasoning.” The key idea seems to be that if there are katastematic pleasures in addition to kinetic, and if you regard kinetic pleasures as inherently limited in quantity (not how one would argue that except relative to a some duration), then somehow the katastematic pleasure is “complete” at any moment. That makes some sense since there’s no “motion” to it, but it doesn’t help with my “joy thesis”. Arguably there’s no change within katastematic pleasures of mind, so it’s sort of like being God. You’re kind of outside time, as many people report feeling during flow, religious experience, meditation, etc. To connect to the death topic, it also makes sense of our different responses to the loss of a “complete” life vs. the tragic loss of a young life. (Joy, by the way, appears to be a kinetic pleasure of the mind, not katastematic). The upshot of this is that there is a way of making sense of KD 19, but it may be tortured in the end. I still think it has some promise.

On Method: I’d like to briefly underscore that point about philosophy being sort of like a creative endeavor in which you start with a hunch that you can “make” some argument, but also something scientific in the sense that you are engaged in an investigation, and you should be open to disconfirmation of your original idea and, best of all, open to surprises that may be disclosed by the investigation. Some kind of balance here is needed.

Thanks to Daniel for taking some teasing about grinding an axe. I’ve got a collection of them. I’ve also got an interesting looking email from him to go read and we’ll get back to you on the issue of Epicurus and causality.

That’s most of what I can remember to comment on. Feel free to “reply to all” if you have “next morning” items. I’ll post Tony’s readings to the schedule, but you should already have them by email. Let me know if you don’t.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Mark

Oct 16th - Second Student Seminar on Levels of Being/Sagehood in Epictetus and general reading in Epictetus

Class,

Thanks for a good presentation, Tony. I think you can tell from the discussion that you have found a framework that animates a number of basic commitments in Stoicism that we need to understand better. I found myself questioning a number of things in my own “framework” for Stoicism. That’s something a “strong reading” is good at doing.

For example, I might be over reading the materialism in Stoicism. Here’s a good passage from Sedley’s article in Routledge in this regard, “Virtually everything in the Stoic world is a body (for the few exceptions, see §7-8). This should not be misunderstood as reductive materialism. At the lowest level, 'god' is a body, but not a mere body: life and intelligence are his irreducible properties. God has corporeality in addition to these vital properties simply because only thus can he have any causal role in moving and shaping matter.”

On the one hand, I think Epictetus is committed to the standard view that theos is only seen through corporeality. Pneuma and fire are two places you can observe theos pretty clearly. (And you pick up the Zorastrians that way.) On the other hand, with their commitment to matter and theos being thoroughly “mixed,” there is also room to talk about degrees (or levels for Tony) of the mixture. Since god basically is causation for stoics, they can also recognize that when we are acting rationally, we are acting in the image of god.

It’s not a long step from that to conceiving of a collective personality for god, and a transcendent home for him. And again, I can’t imagine a stoic minding making contact with local religious cultures, though I’d be interested in hearing what religious points of view he would be integrating, or if, as you guys suggested, he might just be striking off on his own here, and in a way that providentially looks rather transcendental. To get an idea of how fluid the situation on the ground might have been, consider this, again from Sedley,

“By 'god' the Stoics meant, primarily, the immanent principle governing the world, variously also identified with 'creative fire', with 'nature' or with 'fate' (on which see §20). Second, the world itself was also called 'god'. But - characteristically of Greek religious thought - this apparent monotheism did not exclude polytheism. Individual cosmic masses were identified with individual gods: for example the sea and the air were linked with Poseidon and Hera respectively, and the remaining traditional gods were likewise assigned specific cosmic functions. By means of allegorical rationalization, Stoic theology incorporated and interpreted traditional religion, rather than replacing it. Etymology (sometimes highly fanciful) was one tool used in this process. For example, two common forms of the name Zeus were 'Zēn' and 'Dia', which could also mean respectively 'Life' and 'Because of': this made it easy to interpret the traditional head of the pagan pantheon as symbolizing the Stoic primary deity, who was the world's life-force and causal principle.” SEDLEY, DAVID (1998, 2005). Stoicism. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved October 17, 2007, from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/A112SECT5.

But we should get past general claims like this. Tony might wind up looking at this for his topic, but we need a short presentation, perhaps a short paper for someone, on the question of the relationship between stoicism and religions of the time and/or stoicism as an anticipation of Christianity. After all, if church fathers could infuse Aristotlean thinking into Judaism, then certainly stoics could do the same. It could be that Epictetus represents this version, or he could just be accommodating popular relgion of the time. It would be great to know more about this. We could also use something on pantheism and panentheism.

Thanks for trying to read books 3 and 4 (and maybe retrospectively, 1 and 2) as part of a regimen of stoic self-perfection. Would it be good advice? What would is look like on an everyday level. Try it out. There are aspects of it I’ve come to reject, but there’s some remarkable advice in here.

By the way, the website is ready for you to put a grading scheme together. Just log on using the email address that shows in the roster and “bulldog” for a password. And select items for your grading scheme and assign percentages within the ranges suggested. It looks like I gave everyone a default scheme, but you can edit that as well. Thanks for doing that between now and next class.

Alfino

Oct 23th - Stoic Invulnerability

Class,

Thanks for a great class last night. The short presentations (sorry we didn't get to them all) were just right. Basically, you're doing a graduate level wiki page. In fact, Aaron, if you write up what you've got you could be a Musonius Rufus wikipedian. Adriana's presentation maintained what we can now call a "tradition" of fine presentations.

Stoic Invulnerability

Our discussion (or approach) to the advice in the Arian's Discourses focus on a significant criticism of Stoicism -- the "men of stone" or "invulnerability" objection. (I've called it the "self-hypnosis objection" too.) We are rightly suspicious of any teaching which appears to counsel a disconnection of emotion from experience. Last night I suggested that Stoic advice might not result in a disconnection of the individual from his or her emotional surroundings, but a heightened awareness of them. Presumably the awareness is heightened by the absence of fear that comes from overattachment. It is heightened by awareness of fragility.

Much of your assessment about stoic invulnerability depends upon what you think of the typical strategies of emotional attachment that the stoic is telling you to discard, and whether you think people generally suffer from their emotions unduly and in a way that hinders the development of moral virtue. It's not like we don't already have strategies for maintaining the ego in everyday life. It's just that, to the Stoic (think Socrates here), we care about the wrong things. We should be focused on excellence and virtue, not the ego, according to Stoics. The image of a "wall" of invulnerability suggests a lack of sight, but the Stoic claims that correct judgement is 20/20. Of course, you could say that he decieves himself, but then the place to make the argument is in the Stoic analysis of value. I think you (Adriana) could argue, for example, that we need to update Stoicism with an understanding of erotic rationality. I suppose I'm trying to update Epicurus with what we know about "hedonic psychology".

We might also be missing some of the practical consequences of the virtues Stoics recommend. I've be reading lately about Philodemus'"On Frank Criticism" (peri parresias). It's a text I'll be telling you about more (as soon as I know!), but it's interesting here because the term "parresia" has significance in both the political and personal realms. It relates to "free speech" as a citizens right and duty to speak candidly about public affairs and, on a personal level, it refers to the way friends should be able to speak candidly to each other. Philodemus was an Epicurean (near Naples), but on this I think the Stoics are in agreement -- becoming a sage will require you to be brutally critical of yourself and to invite criticism from others. Ok, it's a little on the manly side. The invulnerability objection doesn't go away, mind you, you guys got that right, but it requires exploration.


Oct 31 - The Next Morning - Stoic Askesis

Class,

Thanks to Rebecca, Dave, and Tony for reports. They all gave us some basic understanding quickly and opened some good discussion and critical evaluation.

I think we also gave “stoic askesis” a good run. In my own thinking, we articulated a few possibilities for this model, which I’ll venture to distinguish:

a) Stoic askesis reduces somewhat to the everyday (almost banal) advice we take and give each other about how to regulate desires and get over negative emotions.

b) Stoic askesis, along with Stoic thought in general, is directed toward a coherent and distinctive image of virtue which continues to inform our idea of the individual. We may have new psychological theories and better understandings of the limits and pitfalls of askesis (where is borders self-hypnonsis or departs from a “healthy” model of emotional life), but the basic exercises Stoics are recommending could be adapted to this contemporary knowledge.

c) there is neither a reduction to the banal nor an image of virtue in stoic askesis, but rather just a very (powerful, scary, unnatural, ill defined – your word here) practice.

d) your own answer

I realize c is kind of a grab-bag, but that’s where I’ll leave it. Could I ask you all to collect your thoughts on this and reply to me or the group. I got the feeling some of you know where you are on this and others are still mulling it over.

Thanks.

Mark

Dr. Mark Alfino Professor, Department of Philosophy International Program Development, Academic Vice-President's Office

Gonzaga University 502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0049 509.323.6753 direct 509.939.4225 cell http://www.gonzaga.edu http://alfino.org


Original Message-----

From: Alfino, Mark Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 8:49 AM To: Alfino, Mark; 'abrown2@gonzaga.edu'; 'infinite.monad@gmail.com'; 'ageorge2@gonzaga.edu'; 'david_huntley@q.com'; 'akowal@gonzaga.edu'; 'lisalayera@yahoo.com'; 'mrankin@gonzaga.edu'; 'rschwartz@gonzaga.edu'; 'jstewart2@gonzaga.edu'; 'dwagner2@gonzaga.edu'; 'alfino@gonzaga.edu' Subject: Updated Email List and "Next Morning" Blog - October17th

Class,

Thanks for a good presentation, Tony. I think you can tell from the discussion that you have found a framework that animates a number of basic commitments in Stoicism that we need to understand better. I found myself questioning a number of things in my own “framework” for Stoicism. That’s something a “strong reading” is good at doing.

For example, I might be over reading the materialism in Stoicism. Here’s a good passage from Sedley’s article in Routledge in this regard, “Virtually everything in the Stoic world is a body (for the few exceptions, see §7-8). This should not be misunderstood as reductive materialism. At the lowest level, 'god' is a body, but not a mere body: life and intelligence are his irreducible properties. God has corporeality in addition to these vital properties simply because only thus can he have any causal role in moving and shaping matter.”

On the one hand, I think Epictetus is committed to the standard view that theos is only seen through corporeality. Pneuma and fire are two places you can observe theos pretty clearly. (And you pick up the Zorastrians that way.) On the other hand, with their commitment to matter and theos being thoroughly “mixed,” there is also room to talk about degrees (or levels for Tony) of the mixture. Since god basically is causation for stoics, they can also recognize that when we are acting rationally, we are acting in the image of god.

It’s not a long step from that to conceiving of a collective personality for god, and a transcendent home for him. And again, I can’t imagine a stoic minding making contact with local religious cultures, though I’d be interested in hearing what religious points of view he would be integrating, or if, as you guys suggested, he might just be striking off on his own here, and in a way that providentially looks rather transcendental. To get an idea of how fluid the situation on the ground might have been, consider this, again from Sedley,

“By 'god' the Stoics meant, primarily, the immanent principle governing the world, variously also identified with 'creative fire', with 'nature' or with 'fate' (on which see §20). Second, the world itself was also called 'god'. But - characteristically of Greek religious thought - this apparent monotheism did not exclude polytheism. Individual cosmic masses were identified with individual gods: for example the sea and the air were linked with Poseidon and Hera respectively, and the remaining traditional gods were likewise assigned specific cosmic functions. By means of allegorical rationalization, Stoic theology incorporated and interpreted traditional religion, rather than replacing it. Etymology (sometimes highly fanciful) was one tool used in this process. For example, two common forms of the name Zeus were 'Zēn' and 'Dia', which could also mean respectively 'Life' and 'Because of': this made it easy to interpret the traditional head of the pagan pantheon as symbolizing the Stoic primary deity, who was the world's life-force and causal principle.” SEDLEY, DAVID (1998, 2005). Stoicism. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved October 17, 2007, from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/A112SECT5.

But we should get past general claims like this. Tony might wind up looking at this for his topic, but we need a short presentation, perhaps a short paper for someone, on the question of the relationship between stoicism and religions of the time and/or stoicism as an anticipation of Christianity. After all, if church fathers could infuse Aristotlean thinking into Judaism, then certainly stoics could do the same. It could be that Epictetus represents this version, or he could just be accommodating popular relgion of the time. It would be great to know more about this. We could also use something on pantheism and panentheism.

Thanks for trying to read books 3 and 4 (and maybe retrospectively, 1 and 2) as part of a regimen of stoic self-perfection. Would it be good advice? What would is look like on an everyday level. Try it out. There are aspects of it I’ve come to reject, but there’s some remarkable advice in here.

By the way, the website is ready for you to put a grading scheme together. Just log on using the email address that shows in the roster and “bulldog” for a password. And select items for your grading scheme and assign percentages within the ranges suggested. It looks like I gave everyone a default scheme, but you can edit that as well. Thanks for doing that between now and next class.

Alfino


Dr. Mark Alfino Professor, Department of Philosophy International Program Development, Academic Vice-President's Office

Gonzaga University 502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0049 509.323.6753 direct 509.939.4225 cell http://www.gonzaga.edu http://alfino.org


Original Message-----

From: Alfino, Mark Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2007 11:42 AM To: Alfino, Mark; 'abrown2@gonzaga.edu'; 'infinite.monad@gmail.com'; 'aforeyt@gonzaga.edu'; 'ageorge2@gonzaga.edu'; 'david_huntley@q.com'; 'akowal@gonzaga.edu'; 'lisalayera@yahoo.com'; 'mrankin@gonzaga.edu'; 'rschwartz@gonzaga.edu'; 'jstewart2@gonzaga.edu'; 'dwagner2@gonzaga.edu'; 'alfino@gonzaga.edu' Subject: RE: OOPS!: Three Mornings After

Class,

You should have Tony’s readings for Tuesday’s seminar. They’re also on the course website.

With the Epictetus reading, please try to identify a passage or two of particular interest or a theme you find of interest in the reading. If you think to send those in before Tuesday, I can use that to structure our discussion of Books 1 and 2 of the Discourses.

Mark

Dr. Mark Alfino Professor, Department of Philosophy International Program Development, Academic Vice-President's Office

Gonzaga University 502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0049 509.323.6753 direct 509.939.4225 cell http://www.gonzaga.edu http://alfino.org


Original Message-----

From: Alfino, Mark Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 10:51 AM To: Alfino, Mark; 'abrown2@gonzaga.edu'; 'infinite.monad@gmail.com'; 'aforeyt@gonzaga.edu'; 'ageorge2@gonzaga.edu'; 'david_huntley@q.com'; 'akowal@gonzaga.edu'; 'lisalayera@yahoo.com'; 'mrankin@gonzaga.edu'; 'rschwartz@gonzaga.edu'; 'jstewart2@gonzaga.edu'; 'dwagner2@gonzaga.edu'; 'alfino@gonzaga.edu' Subject: OOPS!: Three Mornings After

That’s funny. I left the “Big thanks to Dave” kind of hanging. Multitasking this with making reservations for students to living in London next summer doesn’t work, does it? See complete email below:

Dr. Mark Alfino Professor, Department of Philosophy International Program Development, Academic Vice-President's Office

Gonzaga University 502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0049 509.323.6753 direct 509.939.4225 cell http://www.gonzaga.edu http://alfino.org


Original Message-----

From: Alfino, Mark Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 10:43 AM To: Alfino, Mark; abrown2@gonzaga.edu; infinite.monad@gmail.com; aforeyt@gonzaga.edu; ageorge2@gonzaga.edu; david_huntley@q.com; akowal@gonzaga.edu; lisalayera@yahoo.com; mrankin@gonzaga.edu; rschwartz@gonzaga.edu; jstewart2@gonzaga.edu; dwagner2@gonzaga.edu; alfino@gonzaga.edu Subject: Three Mornings After

Class,

Sorry about the delay on this. I hope the vividness of the discussion hasn’t faded too much. Here are a couple of thoughts about our seminar last Tuesday.

Big thanks to Dave for the Thanatology seminar. I think we can take this as a model for seminar work. Get some readings to the class, set up some problems and have the discussion. Good job getting us focused.

I felt like I couldn’t really give much substance to Epicurus’ “ghostie” gods, but the next day it occurred to me that, to be fair, he doesn’t really need much of a theology. That sort of fits with the view we discussed – that his theological references are an accommodation to his audience – but it has a more positive spin, maybe.

I thought our discussion of intelligence was really good. We did a good job of isolating charactertistics like self-consciousness once we started to imagine the possibility that collective intelligence could be the product of relatively dumb material processes. This is going to be important for the stoics too, since it would set up a material basis for their claim that we can participate in cosmic intelligence and purposiveness. The only followup I would suggest is that we avoid mystifying self- consciousness. It’s as plausible that we might have a decent neural account of self-consciousness as we might have of vision. So while I think our cognitive differentia are special to me, I can’t really say there’s evidence that they are different in kind. If matter can be intelligent, it can have that attribute of intelligence we call self-consciousness, maybe.

Sorry I fumbled presenting the idea of a “complete life” in Epicurus. It’s pretty counterintuitive, and I’m not sure what I think about it, but a secondary source I was reading (Rosenbaum, n, S. (1990, January). Epicurus on pleasure and the complete life. Monist, 73(1), 21) took a good run at giving Epicurus’ argument that a happy life cannot become better by added duration. The text here is Kuria Doxa (Key Doctrines) #19: “Infinite time and finite time contain equal pleasure, if one measures the limits of pleasure by reasoning.” The key idea seems to be that if there are katastematic pleasures in addition to kinetic, and if you regard kinetic pleasures as inherently limited in quantity (not how one would argue that except relative to a some duration), then somehow the katastematic pleasure is “complete” at any moment. That makes some sense since there’s no “motion” to it, but it doesn’t help with my “joy thesis”. Arguably there’s no change within katastematic pleasures of mind, so it’s sort of like being God. You’re kind of outside time, as many people report feeling during flow, religious experience, meditation, etc. To connect to the death topic, it also makes sense of our different responses to the loss of a “complete” life vs. the tragic loss of a young life. (Joy, by the way, appears to be a kinetic pleasure of the mind, not katastematic). The upshot of this is that there is a way of making sense of KD 19, but it may be tortured in the end. I still think it has some promise.

On Method: I’d like to briefly underscore that point about philosophy being sort of like a creative endeavor in which you start with a hunch that you can “make” some argument, but also something scientific in the sense that you are engaged in an investigation, and you should be open to disconfirmation of your original idea and, best of all, open to surprises that may be disclosed by the investigation. Some kind of balance here is needed.

Thanks to Daniel for taking some teasing about grinding an axe. I’ve got a collection of them. I’ve also got an interesting looking email from him to go read and we’ll get back to you on the issue of Epicurus and causality.

That’s most of what I can remember to comment on. Feel free to “reply to all” if you have “next morning” items. I’ll post Tony’s readings to the schedule, but you should already have them by email. Let me know if you don’t.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Mark

Dr. Mark Alfino Professor, Department of Philosophy International Program Development, Academic Vice-President's Office

Gonzaga University 502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0049 509.323.6753 direct 509.939.4225 cell http://www.gonzaga.edu http://alfino.org


Original Message-----

From: Alfino, Mark Sent: Friday, October 05, 2007 8:58 AM To: Alfino, Mark; abrown2@gonzaga.edu; infinite.monad@gmail.com; aforeyt@gonzaga.edu; ageorge2@gonzaga.edu; david_huntley@q.com; akowal@gonzaga.edu; lisalayera@yahoo.com; mrankin@gonzaga.edu; rschwartz@gonzaga.edu; jstewart2@gonzaga.edu; dwagner2@gonzaga.edu; alfino@gonzaga.edu Subject: RE: Hellenism Seminar: Email List - Sharing Project Descriptions - Mine

Oh, pay particular attention to Sections 20-25 of Long/Sedley. Try to read all the short documents. Diogenes Laertius has most of the Letters.

Mark

Miscellaneous

research exercise 9/18/07

Class,

Ok, here's a low key assignment to work in with your recipe for next week: Go the Foley research page on Philosophy (yes, there is one and it's really good). Click below or from www.foley.gonzaga.edu, click on research guides and then “philosophy”.

http://www.gonzaga.edu/Academics/Libraries/Foley-Library/Subject-Guides/Arts-Humanities-Subject-Guides/Philosophy.asp

Then browse through the guide and follow many of the links. Make sure you visit the Suber link, “Guide to Philosophy on the Internet”. I thought this thing was dead but it is apparently still updated. Drill down a bit at this point and follow some of the figure and movement specific material. Make sure you’re comfortable with the online text sites. Look at several issues of the Philosopher’s Magazine. This is a pretty interesting vehicle.

On the APA site look at the link on “Conferences” This is a pretty good indication of who’s talking about what and where. Not as exciting as the music listings for an average weekend in Portland, but, hey, this is philosophy.

If you have time, look at the “Online Information about Journals” This gives you access to information about the editorial and topical focus for many traditional print journals. You should also look at online journals, probably linked through Suber.

I don’t want to be presumptuous about your writing goals, but it you are thinking about doing publishable academic writing these are good resources for locating a community of scholars and style of writing that might be a good match for your interests.

Alfino

Notes for October 23

Core Rationales in Stoic Thought

Stoics tell us that training of the emotions involves making correct judgements about reality and aligning our responses to those judgements. So what must they believe, such that they find this a compelling practical goal? Or, what is their specific rationale for pursuing this goal?

Basic Premises:

1. Cosmic: We are suffused with theos (for contemporary gloss on theos as energy see Long p.158). Everything is corporeal, including theos, but divine stuff is irreducibly intelligent and rational. We recognize the divine in each other through the exercise of intelligence and virtue. That exercise is directed toward helping us understand how the cosmos works, from a purposive standpoint. Purposes can be understood and duties can be based upon fulfilling them, from the projects and goals that we choose to the situations which fate creates for us.

2. Personal: The strength of the divine in us varies. Through practice we realize our capacity for wholistic understanding, first by calming our fears and quieting the mind -- never simply by reading the words of philosophers, but by testing truths and living their implications. Emotions are judgements. Allowing for "first movements," the emotions are ultimately judgements and our emotional responses can be altered by altering these judgements. The therapy of the emotions is a cognitive one, but it demands that we make assessments of significant practical import, such as regarding the relative value of different kinds of pursuits (reading philosophy vs. bungee jumping).


Misc. points:

  • The Gaze and the appearance of individuality: we might theorize individuality very differently if we taking into account the role of the gaze in society. Bartsch's perspective suggests that we are seeing a story of the expression of the individual against a background of communalism. She cites, for example, the common belief that the soul shows itself through a person's appearance.
  • Aristotelianism in stoicism: Stoics adopt a view of matter and accidents from Aristotle, (Long 157)
  • Slogan: "The path to immaterialism goes through wholism"
  • Check out Long, Hellenistic Philsophy, p. 158 for interesting conjecture on stoic physics. Sambursky, Physics of the Stoics, might be good for a short topic.