Epicureanism did inspire libertine culture in isolated sects, but Epicurus himself rejected an ethics of sensory indulgence, and he would have disowned latter-day 'Epicureanism' as a fussy, expensive, unphilosophical approach to eating and drinking.

— Catherine Wilson

The most belligerent Catherine Wilson quotes that are new and everybody is talking about

Maybe we will get to this point and reach a decision one way or the other with 'Human cloning is acceptable,' but I doubt that it is ever going to happen for 'It is morally permissible to eat shrimp' or with the general formula 'Adultery is wrong,' whose intended extension is again very unclear.

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The moves to contractualism and utilitarianism required some extra ingredients besides mortalism, the denial that God is in charge of the world, and the doctrine that physical and psychological pain are the greatest evils.

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The higher the coefficient of inequality (Gini coefficient) in a society, the worse things tend to be for those at the bottom.

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In the old systems, hierarchies emanate power from above to below through forms of line management and are ideologically supported by cosmologies and theologies featuring celestial rulers and their deputies - the 'rule of the best.'

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You can find many philosophy papers on the themes of 'love' and 'friendship,' most of which are cheerful and somewhat anodyne; you don't find many on the loss of friends, relatives, and lovers from death or alienation, though it happens all the time.

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'Contract' succeeded 'status' as the basic organising principle in modern political vs. ancient society.

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Atomism had no absolute 'above' and 'below' and no such rulers, so favoured the undersranding of justice as an agreement amongst equals.

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Oddly, since by now I've written quite a lot on early modern philosophers, I didn't care for the history of philosophy, which I thought dull and obscure, until I got a minor job writing articles for a children's encyclopedia in the history of science and began to make connections between science and philosophy.

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Moral claims aren't, as a class, truth-value apt or not.

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Leibniz accepted the argument that there must be indestructible simple entities if there is to be a complex world, but Epicurean morals and politics and anti-theology dismayed him. His 'monadology' which said that the true atoms of nature were unextended 'living mirrors,' was an imaginative and beautiful system, and even in many ways more modern than Epicurean atomism, than Epicurean atomism, but there was a reactionary aspect to it.

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There's nothing a priori good about equality.

One person has three televisions, the other has two, so what?

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Aristotle saw nature as intelligent and purposive, whereas for the Epicureans, and the 17th century 'mechanical' philosophers, there is no intentionality in nature except where there are animal minds and bodies.

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About Catherine Wilson

Quotes 52 sayings
Birthday 1822

A moral rule is essentially 'advantage-reducing.

' It prohibits you doing something you could do that would serve your interests at someone else's expense.

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There are people who organise the contest, winners, losers, and people who benefit from the contest taking place.

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I think we do have a better understanding now of how moral thought and discourse function.

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The life-world of human and animal experience, with colours, tastes, solid objects, is a perceptual effect of massed atoms.

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Claims like 'Slavery is wrong' are not fully common-sensical, so they must be at least partly theoretical.

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We use and need to use both systems in complex political societies, and we oscillate in our commitments, because both oligarchy and rule by the will of masses have their bad points, as the ancient philosophers all knew.

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Epicurus recommends bread and cheese as the staple, and his emphasis is more on avoiding pain than on seeking pleasure, insofar as pleasure-seeking tends to be followed by painful after-effects.

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I don't see how being a faster runner, or a better mathematician makes you 'deserve' access to a better life, or more influence on policy, in the absence of a social decision to play that game in the way it's proposed to be organised for some set of benefits.

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I had the idea that there were secret laws of the universe that could explain the baffling human reality around me, and that philosophers maybe had the key to them.

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People's wants are not fixed; they generally want what others in their chosen comparison class appear to be enjoying and what advertising presents to them as attainable for them and as bringing happiness.

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Epicurus was in favour of friendly sex but not of grand passions or marriage and children, viewing them as sources of trouble and vexation.

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Epicurus was not at all interested in what we would call the problems of mass society, and he thought civic politics was just trouble and to be avoided by the wise.

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Even if the gods did exist, the Epicureans argued, they didn't care about us.

Rather, everything comes from nature, and all that really exists are atoms and void, moving and congregating.

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In the academic setting, you take (typically) lonely, interesting middle-aged men and beautiful, intelligent young women, and everybody's motivations for display and conquest are engaged to the max. Sublimated, this can be a powerful force for the good - Plato had a lot to say about that - but acted upon it can bring evils without end.

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For the chemists, who wanted to manufacture new medicines and elixirs and transform base substances into noble ones, the notion that there was no metaphysical barrier to doing so - it was just a matter of getting the particles into new arrangements - was encouraging. That was the Baconian programme.

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Outside of mathematics and logic, there are common sense truths, such as that it is snowing that normal observers, in a specified context can agree on, subject to vagueness considerations, and theoretical truths, such as that snow is crystallised water vapour, and maybe in-between truths.

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The Epicureans denied that the gods had created the world and also denied that they played any role in it.

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Morality has in the past made progress when we broadened the category of things we weren't permitted to harm (animals, 'infidels'); saw through some delusions and rationalisations about what harms are good for people themselves (prison punishment, hysterectomies for unhappy 1950s wives); and readjusted our for-the-good of others criteria so as to demand only reasonable sacrifices (ceasing to use children as handy chimney sweeps).

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Epicurus thought of justice as an agreement to prevent people harming and being harmed.

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In Western Europe and North America some things are better than they were - at least relative to their moral nadirs - such as labour legislation, the opening of the professions to women, intolerance for domestic violence, but so much is still morally unacceptable - the weapons trade, cruel and unusual punishment, economic parasitism.

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People should be able to develop their abilities and interests and have access to such goods as friendship, artistry, and nature and a political voice. It's possible to be poor and yet have all this, but in a polarized society, and one where culture and adventure have been thoroughly monetised, it is a lot more difficult.

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If you live in an acquisitive society you are likely to be acquisitive, but it isn't deeply rooted in human nature, except in the sense that it's deeply rooted to be psychologically receptive to your peers and to advertising.

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The (atomic) soul is mortal, and the best life is the one with the least pain and the most pleasure.

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Moral theory develops from the divine command theory of medieval Christian philosophy, mixed up with a bit of ancient pagan virtue theory, to the purely secular moral sentiment and interpersonal reaction theories of Smith and Hume, to Kant's attempt to restore command theory but with something supersensible in the individual rather than God as the source of authority.

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Order can arise from chaos without anyone or anything directing the process when unstable combinations of atoms perish and others persist. In the 17th century, Descartes applied this insight to cosmology, and long before Darwin presented his more rigorous ideas about variation and selection, people began to speculate more openly about the origins of life and the species in Epicurean terms.

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There's Hobbes, who understood in the 1640s that the sovereign is not an appointee of God, or even a figure of superior virtue and wisdom, but just a functional device whose role is to keep people from hurting and killing each other.

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I have to say that some philosophers such as the late Bernard Williams, and I would include myself in this group, would say that tranquillity is overrated as the goal of life.

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It used to be that nobody would really argue with a woman, because what she thought (unless it was by way of providing helpful comments about one's own work) just didn't matter.

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We need grief as a precursor to emotional refreshment, and so consume it vicariously in somewhat titrated but powerful enough form through engagement with the arts.

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We have to gamble, and sometimes lose as George Ainslie argues;

this keeps the appetite for life sharp.

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People formerly seemed unable to evaluate a woman's c.

v. or to accept a range of personal and communicative styles from the exuberant and confident to the sober and pedantic. It's much better than it was, and a number of male philosophers have been extraordinarily helpful in detecting and criticising everyday sexism in the profession.

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For seventeenth-century astronomers, the Epicurean doctrine of multiple worlds separated by void space was seen to fit with the new Copernican system in which every star was a sun, and the universe was a vast place with no centre.

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There is no single test or formula for producing moral progress anymore than there is for generating scientific truths. It is a process involving theoreticians, fact-gatherers, protestors, martyrs for the cause, authors of first- person narratives who change the way we see and evaluate the distribution of harms and benefits.

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You can reasonably make the intellectual journey from thinking it's permissible to eat shrimp to thinking it's not permissible, or vice versa, whereas our slavery journey was uni-directional. We are as certain we are not going back to that old kind of slavery as we are that we aren't going back to the geocentric universe.

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Gentlemanly, principled, helpful behaviour by older men vis-a-vis young women goes unnoticed, but it deserves real moral credit, and we could use more first-person testimony from the beneficiaries and practitioners about that too.

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We are now returning to the 18th century empirical approach with the new interest in the evolutionary basis of ethics, with 'experimental' moral philosophy and moral psychology. As a result, we understand better why moral formulas are experienced as ineluctable commands, even if there is no commander and even if the notion of an inescapable obligation is just superstition. So moral philosophy has made huge progress.

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Epicurus thought that friendship and conviviality, which require present attention rather than being in an alcoholic stupor, as well as trying to understand and explain things, were the greatest sources of satisfaction in life, so there go most drugs.

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