NEW: Now in Second Draft. Please read and comment here.
Please check out a significant new article at Epicureanfriends.com entitled “On Pleasure, Pain, And Happiness” by Elayne Coulter. Here is the opening:
On Pain, Pleasure, and Happiness
Not “absence of pain” as a full statement of the goal of life, but “the Feelings are two, pleasure and pain” and “Pleasure is the beginning and the end of a happy life.”
Brief: The feelings are only two, pleasure and pain—there is no true third state such as neutral, except after death. Because there is no neutral, removing all pain in life is only possible with maximal pleasure. The extent of pleasure can be maximized by making sure to attend to all parts of one’s body, including the brain. Happiness is itself a pleasurable feeling, most easily described as the condition of a person who has maximized pleasure in all areas of life. The capacity for pain is a valuable warning system and should not be disabled except in unusual conditions, but the experience of pain is to be avoided unless it is chosen for the sake of greater pleasure/ lesser pain over the lifespan. Humans have many shared responses of pain or pleasure to specific experiences, and they also have individual variations. The standard of pleasure in one’s life must be one’s own subjective feelings, not a generic advice. There are many pitfalls to avoid if one desires a happy, pleasure-filled life, such as a false belief in a neutral state, practices which attempt to disable the normal capacity to feel pleasure and pain, and failure to consider the long-term pains and pleasures resulting from actions. In discussing pain and pleasure, Epicureans stick to real life situations, not hypothetical philosophical puzzles.