the good-life. Tying it all together: the ethics of the Greek
philosophers, utilitarianism, and how to transcend the self by tapping
into the emotion of love. http://www.skeptically.org/ethicsutility/id14.html
on how to obtain the good-life http://www.skeptically.org/ethicsutility/id27.html
and others listed there.
Sermon on the Mount states “to love thy
neighbor as thyself”. This requires
being full of love. A loving personality
is at its core. Such person above all
tries to cause no harm and promote the good.
This lies close to the center of Greek wisdom as taught by their
philosophers concerning the good-life.
of love entails a way of living life that is not bound by a romantic
relationship, but extends beyond to encompass the world. Like the Greek use
of “philo”, we have
love of pets, sports, parents, country, and so on. (Philosophy
means the love of wisdom). Universal
love is a feeling about all
things. Universal love is an emotional
state for which hostile & violent emotions stand in opposition. The gospel1
of love requires the
maximization of the warm emotions with a minimization of the hostile
emotions. The lover seeks not merely to
live without violent thoughts, but also to act from the dictates of Love Of All Things (hereafter
LOAT); viz., from the desire to make things better. LOAT
is a way of thinking and doing, a truly golden approach to living. What follows
are reflections on LOAT.
To live LOAT, seek to optimize the purification of the heart: makes it a
temple so as to inspire others to be good.
This entails considering the well-being of society and friends as
important as one’s own. The person who strives
for LOAT seeks a mate with similar
character. Their relationship is the commitment to strive towards the
perfection of love in all forms. They
become a team, and the “I” in actions is replaced with “us”; our
happiness is the goal. Similarly in their dealings with others, they
are focused on their well-being. The
lover of all things is dedicated to maximizing the good and to minimizing harm
within practical limits. The ethics of LOAT
is an improvement on the “Sermon
on the Plain.”
is an approach to life that can be broken down into 3 areas: personal well-being
including one’s spouse, wellbeing
of associates (brethren), and that of humanity.
Actions for personal well-being would consist of maximizing those things
that are clearly good for health, wisdom, financial security, relationship, and
inner tranquility. Actions for the
beloved’s: it is to function as a team
player in all ways seeking his/her well-being.
Actions for associates: a
desire to promote their well-being both
physical and financial. Actions for
humanity: centers upon the improvements in education, politics, social
fabric, and economics. LOAT entails a life much different
which is taught in churches, family, media, schools, and shaped by society’s
LIVING THE LIFE OF
To commend with homilies has little effect. There is a proven path in which the logical
part of the brain plays an essential role.
Awareness of the benefits of LOAT
motivates. First among them is a greater
portion of happiness through inner tranquility.
The ancient Greek philosophers called this ataraxia, translated
in English to mean calmness of mind, tranquility, but it also
includes the inner happiness that comes from LOAT and happiness obtain through
right action (eudemonia). Both Greek terms are in the English
language. It is close to nirvana used
in Buddhism. The Greeks philosophers asked a chain of
questions and supplied answers. Their logical
propositions on inner tranquility are more than a set of rules/homilies (like
don’t steal and lie); they are also design to empower their students with the
ability to direct their life to obtain ataraxia and the other facets of the good-life. By teaching about ataraxia, they also
Their insights into good and the
good-life form the core for LOAT.
So I will start with the Greek wisdom then add the
missing piece. The good-life is at the
core of the complex question of quality of life, moral obligation, what good
is, and why to be moral. Many of them
held (Epicurus, Zeno the Stoic, and Plato in his Phaedra) the ultimate
stated: “Without it we do all to get it
back.” We seek for example wealth and
health because they promote happiness; they are not ends in themselves. Epicurus in this maxim argues that pleasure is
the essence of good.
The education system in the Greek world (from about 600
BC until 300 AD ) was ran the philosophers who set up school in all the leading
cities, and to which the affluent citizens sent their teenage boys. They received a rounded education with
emphasis on rhetoric, ethics, logic, social questions, the sciences, and mathematics.
The main goal of these schools was the
development of balanced character that would be at peace with themselves and
from which ideal leaders such as Solon would immerge. They laid the foundation
for a way of being
that spread throughout the classical world, including the Roman world. Socrates,
Zeno of Elia, Epicurus and others were
revered like the Buddha. The Greek wisdom was rediscovered in the 1200s and
laid the foundation for the Renaissance. Their vision of the good-life has been
Epicurus, e.g., distinguished between pleasures of the
flesh and pleasures of the mind.
Pleasures of the flesh are less pure than those of the intellect, for physical
pleasures come with a price that can include desires, discomforts, labors,
expenses, and disturbances of inner tranquility. “No
pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain
pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures
themselves.” Most philosophers commend selecting the purest of physical
pleasures and having them in a reasonable amount and with a detachment so that
the desire for them doesn’t upset inner tranquility. Epicurus on detachment and
control of desires wrote: “To him who a
little is not enough, nothing will be enough”. Pleasures from pride of
wealth and its display
such as haute cuisine are good, but not very good because of its expense,
consumption of time, type of people associating with, and that ostentatious
behavior is reinforced. Animal pleasures
are to be enjoyed, but in the right proportion and with the right attitude, and
in ways that has the best consequences as decided by the trained-rational
faculty. Man is a rational animal and should act in a way to satisfy both of natures.
There is an intellectual side, and the satisfying of this
yields long-lasting pleasures with minimal discomforts. Pleasure from right
type of studies from
learning ones place in the universe brings peace and the longest lasting
pleasure. They concluded activity that resulted in ataraxia with eudemonia form
the core to living the good-life, which
is the foundation of ethics.
Reduction in boredom is a consequence of having many
intellectual interests. Boredom
is like a dull toothache, it
makes the activities such as work, conversation, etc., worse. Boredom blocks
happiness. The person full of intellectual interest
finds much to investigate, people to talk to converse with about interesting
things. Learning has the reward of not
only of making the ration side a better guide, but also of the reduction in
They wrote extensively on inner tranquility: Aristotle
devoted over 1/3 of Nicomachean
Ethics on the topic of friendship.
He wrote that the right sort of friends promotes inner tranquility. We
are a group animal. Thus Epicurus warned his students to avoid
the public life. “We
must free ourselves
from the prison of common
herd and its politics”. Association shapes behavior; the educated high-minded
friends is superior to those from the common herd. They held that the academic
taught laid the foundation for living the good-life.
Another ingredient for ataraxia is being free of fears of
the imagination. The principle cause of
such fears is ignorance of the nature of
things, which was far more an issue in pre-scientific times. Religion with
its divine causes promotes
fears. But rather than deny the ethereal
world, they politely removed the vengeful
gods. They held that the priests and
poets told monstrous lies about the gods including their involvement with human
and the area called Hades (hell). The
gods are pure beings (animus) and thus without the corruption of animalistic
natures--such as the anger and jealousy of Yahweh. They are blissful because
that comes from
being a pure-rational spirit. Thus
certainly there were no demonic gods (devils) nor would gods act to harm
mortals, for this would be inconsistent with their nature. Moreover, being blissful
entails that they do
not desire man’s worship or temples.
Gods prefer their own kind and are not concerned with the world of
mortals. Epicurus—see Lucretius--argued based on observations the religious are
not blessed on earth. Epicurus taught
that because our mind (animus) is matter there is no existence after
death. Also that disease and storms are
natural phenomena. The Greek
philosophers wrote extensively on the nature
and these writing developed into the sciences. Aristotle & Zeno also wrote
on science. Two causes of fear, hell and
Gods causing adversities were denied. Epicurus
also wrote that the period after life was no worse than the period before
life. This scientific view of the nature
of things stands in opposition
to the common people’s frightful beliefs about the ethereal realm and the
causes of misfortunes.
Besides the benefits listed above from studies is that of
long periods of peaceful, pleasant contemplation. The educated person has many
things to investigate, puzzle over, and converse about, while the uneducated
are limited. The educated person as a
social animal among his own kind will be less influenced by the common herd as
to the pursuit of lower pleasures. Those
with the spirit of philosophy (love of
wisdom) through their study of moral philosophy have developed a love for
eudemonia that contributes to inner tranquility.
Ataraxia is an essential ingredient of the good life,
because as the philosophers would put it:
one who has obtained all sorts of physical comforts yet is not at peace
with himself, such person could not be counted among the fortunate. Neither
the tempestuous or greedy person be
considered truly fortunate because angry thoughts disrupt
inner tranquility. They disturb others and
thus associate with their own kind. They cannot be counted among the
All people praise purer pleasures, ethical behavior, and
being free of fears, but control of behavior is difficult. The obese person
(30% above their thin body
weight) wishes to lose weight, but lacks enough rational force to control their
eating behavior. The intellect wills but animal side hinders.
To improve the obtainment of the good-life
thus entails increase the input into subconscious
decision process sufficient so that reason prevails over the other vector
conflicting forces from the animal side. It is accepted as an observational truth that
training in philosophy produces
greater control of the animal side. (Aristotle
classified man as an animal with
the distinguishing feature of reason/rationality). The skill of analysis through
promotes analysis carries over into matters of personal importance such as in
business, personal relationships, and the quality
of being. The lives of the leading Greek
philosophers are evidence of these benefits, and
the same can be said of philosophers of the last 2 centuries.
Areas of studies that promote more directly the goal of
living the good-life: ethics, behaviorism,
and utopia. Since human behavior is the product of the
summation of vector forces, academic studies increases the vectors on the
rational side. Schooling is good, but
schooling that develops the skill of analysis is better, and best are those
which raise questions about the good life.
We thus should turn to the Greeks.
For example both Plato and his student Aristotle were quite critical of
democracy. Aristotle wrote: “A democracy exists whenever those who are free and
poor are in sovereign control of the government; an oligarchy when the control
lies in the hands of the rich and better born.” Plato held that the state
should function as a good parent to promote through social justice the
well-being of the citizens. Plato wrote
Republic how a political structure could be designed to promote the
common wheal. His design would
not permit them to abuse their power for personal advantages. Government as
a good parent is a vital for the
happiness of the population. Utopia is
but a distant dream.
completes a concise summary of the Greek Philosopher’s ethics pertinent to the good-life
and LOAT. Being
the first philosophers entailed that they didn’t
have the last word. I would add to
this a prohibition against negative emotions.
When the mind drifts onto artic topics, do so with the detachment of an
oncologist looking at melanoma. A loving
spouse on the same path is important. Functioning
as a team, each will positively
reinforce behavior that promotes inner tranquility and LOAT, and negative reinforce
the wrong conduct. As a team the couple will focus on love. Happiness comes from the stimulation the
emotion/drive, what David
Hume called fellow feeling. Fellow
feeling is a generalize pleasure connected to the emotion of love; it is stimulated by good actions including
thoughts. It is a basic drive that
causes animals to form groups. It makes
the mother cat enjoy her kittens; there are similar examples for humans. We
are spouse, family, friends, country, town, friends, pets, etc. To promote
the loving, pleasurable emotion
thoughts and actions, and avoid those like the north wind that chill the
spirit. The day is brightened when
actions stimulate the emotion of fellow feeling. In the 18th century
there was a
refinement of the ethics centered on happiness/pleasure as good: the utilitarian
held that an act is obligatory when it promotes more of the general happiness
than other choices. Jeremy Bentham
developed utilitarianism from the hedonistic ethics of Epicurus. LOAT
maximizes the pleasure coming from fellow feeling, stresses felicity, promotes
a loving marriage, explains why to be moral (greater happiness), promotes
public service, and builds upon Greek wisdom.
LOAT, along with the wisdom
of the Greek philosophers, best promotes the good-life.
 I have a much different concept
teacher Christ then presented in the Christian Gospels, which pastes the
religious fanatic with a person full of Greek wisdom from the Alexandrian
culture. To me he is the Hellenistic
prophet of love found in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Matthew’s Sermon on the
Mount). Onto this was pasted the
apocalyptic fanatic Christ: “But woe to
you who are rich. . . Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve. . .
.” The Greek Alexandrian (Hellenistic)
wisdom is mixed into the later books of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Song of
Songs, Ecclesiasticus, Book
of Wisdom, Tobit, Sirach, Ester, et al.
 A vacuous answer is “through
the use of will
power.” By saying that one drinks water
because one willed adds scant little to our understanding of this
behavior. One does things because of the
context (situation) and influenced by personal history (pattern of
reinforcements over a lifetime) and genetics of the human species and that
some of the people who are wealthy but not happy commit suicide. Some
healthy people commit suicide. But the happy person does not end his life
for lack of wealth or health (of course he could not be happy if his body is
wracked with pain).
 Will and
Ariel Durant, The Life of Greece,
offers the best account of the education system during the Hellenistic
period. By 300 BC they occupied a place
comparable to the modern elite universities in the early 1900s.
 Lucretius, the Roman Epicurean,
verse De Rerum Natura, The Nature of Things. It presented a materialistic scientific view
of the world with natural causes including psychology. Bother were based upon
the movement of atoms.
.Its rediscovery had a profound influence upon the Enlightenment. The materialistic
scientific outlook is found
in books by Galen, Claudius Ptolemy, Aristotle and works of mathematicians
& astronomer and again upon the scientists during the Enlightenment and
 The common people enjoy
frightful, cruel, and vengeful gods, for like horror movies, they reinforce
through stimulation caused by fright.
Thus religions with fright are popular, and those without, such as
Unitarianism, have few followers.
are an action, like talking in an empty room.
B.F. Skinner defined
thoughts as silent whispers.
from American Scientist using experiments to expose the illusion of free will
 The philosophers taught in
those days not
just ethics, metaphysic, and epistemology, but also astronomy, natural science,
geometry, political science, physics, rhetoric, and related subjects.
Accounts are given by the Greek Diogenes Laertius “Lives and Opinions Eminent
Philosophers, about 230 AD
 These omissions are a product of
world. It was a period of violence
between states, and between groups of citizens.
Justice often entailed retribution by the injured party or his
associates. The state of women was in
the shadow of man (with a few exceptions in some city-states). Plato, however,
argued that it is not right
that a state count only half its people; women should be fully involved
included as guardians of the common good (see The