An Attempt to Reconcile Epicurus' Hedonism with His Epistemology and More Particularly with His Physics (Critical Essay) by Nebula

An Attempt to Reconcile Epicurus' Hedonism with His Epistemology and More Particularly with His Physics (Critical Essay)

By Nebula

  • Publication Date: 2008-03-01
  • Genre: Reference

Book Synopsis

In Book III of his Rhetoric, Aristotle outlines four types of forensic questions for cases in which accountability is sought to be derived from actions, otherwise known as stasis theory. These are: 1) was the act committed? 2) If so, were there harmful consequences? 3) If so, to what degree (or intensity) of harm? 4) All things considered, was the act justified? Ethics, in order to be substantive, must endeavour to forge its link between theoretical postulates and practical application, allowing passage from an epistemic process of beliefs or reasoned-out maxims to the arena of action (or inaction, as the case may be, which can in itself be considered a mode of action). It is not the intention to distort the analysis of the foregoing with a heavy-handed Aristotelian perspective, but to posit this initial forensic detail as ancillary to a deeper understanding between the seemingly disparate Epicurean hedonistic ethics (the privileging of the pleasures of the mind as enduring over that of the body, which is ephemeral) and his various assertions made in his physics and epistemology. In the process of our analysis, we will return to this fourfold question set, reframed in so far as it can elucidate more normative claims. It proves difficult to set Epicurean ethics upon the foundation of his physics, for pleasure and pain are not atomic qualities. They are epistemic "movements" (and we use this term with reservation), for the pleasure that Epicurus endorses is that of the catastemic, or tranquil variety. However, we cannot be cavalier and ignore the suspiciously analogous links between the physics and the ethics, for even if constructing this bridge be a task worthy of Sisyphus, it may provide us with an understanding of a continuity among the mental processes of Epicurus as an attempt to remain as consistent as possible with his principles. These analogies will be put forward in a tentative and speculative fashion, but not as a decisive means of imputing to either his physics or ethics a causal relation that is firmly established.

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