Selflessness, The Good, and Happiness--jk
Happiness & Scientific Psychology--jk
The Art of Loving: A Behaviorist Approach--jk
A Lesson on Love from Cats--jk
THE DECALOGUE: Greek Moral Philosophy Modernized--jk
THE GOOD LIFE--Greek Philosophers Teachings
No Free Lunches: The Role of the Stock Market--jk
Plato's Dream Fulfilled by Science--jk
The lessons from the previous essay, How Congress Works--jk
On Dying Atheist: A Doctor's Words

Tying it all together:  utilitarianism, ethics of the Greek philosophers, and how to transcend the self so that you may tap into the emotion of love and thus greatly increase your happiness--and your spouse's.

  Gospel   of   love

Living 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  9/3/15 

Thoughts on how to obtain the good-life  http://www.skeptically.org/ethicsutility/id27.html and others listed there. 


 The 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. The gospel[1] 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.”[2]

          LOAT 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 than which is taught in churches, family, media, schools, and shaped by society’s mores.  


To commend with homilies has little effect.[3]  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 promoted it.  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 good is pleasure/happiness.  Epicurus 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.[4]  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.[5]  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 preserved.       

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 boredom.  

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 subjects they 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 of things[6], 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[7] 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 interesting 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[8] disrupt inner tranquility.  They disturb others and thus associate with their own kind. They cannot be counted among the fortunate. 

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.[9]  It is accepted as an observational truth that training in philosophy[10] 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 education that 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[11], 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 in The 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.   

This 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[12]  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 love 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[13] 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.   

[1]Gospel is used to mean a “doctrine regard as of prime importance” # 5 at www.dictionary.refernce.com.

[2]  I have a much different concept of the 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.       

[3]   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 person’s inheritance.

[4]    Proof:  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). 

[5] 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. 

[6]   Lucretius, the Roman Epicurean, wrote in 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 subsequent. 

[7]    The common people enjoy stories about 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.

[8] Thoughts are an action, like talking in an empty room.  B.F. Skinner defined thoughts as silent whispers. 

[9] An excellent article from American Scientist using experiments to expose the illusion of free will

[10]   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. 

[11] Accounts are given by the Greek Diogenes Laertius “Lives and Opinions Eminent Philosophers, about 230 AD

[12]  These omissions are a product of their 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 Republic).  .       

[13]   For Bentham’s life, a work on punishment

After Word

          Those of you with spiritual beliefs & who believe that your gods are gentle and loving will find the LOAT another way to justify that which your gods assent to[1].   The issue is not what is approved by the gods, for as Plato eloquently shown in the Euthyphro, that what the gods approve is not made good by their approval, but rather the gods approve what is already good.  Thus the pursuit of the good life as describe here is consistent with enlightened religion.  The gods would approve of human happiness through living the good life.  And as Epicurus persuasively argues (see above) they would also  

          The Buddhists sought to transcend the self, but their approach is full of the foolishness of religious-ascetic fanaticism.  With LOAT, one transcends the self, by measuring all actions by the promotion of good.  LOAT takes the “I” from its central role in moral deliberations.  No longer does a person constrict the good by considering first the doing the will of an imminently hateful god[2] (the one who created hell).  The LOAT is consistent with utilitarianism:  an act is morally right when it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number.  LOAT creates a global awareness which leads to an unleashing of the happiness of love.  In a community where LOAT has become the norm, the brotherhood of man is established with all its benefits.  And from living in such a community living up to the utilitarian standard is reinforced by peers:  it becomes a way of life.  The joy generated from being in harmony with the loving emotions is far greater than our competitive, violent, aggressive capitalist dominated system.  LOAT would establish the Tibetan Shangri-La without The Buddhist blather about pain, suffering and spiritualism.  By constantly measuring one’s actions by the promotion of the greater good, there is a tapping the well of loving feelings, with its many, many rewards.  LOAT is part of the mature concept of utopia. 

Again I must stress the importance of having a mate with the same consciousness, one who has transcended his/hers self and measures actions by the resulting good, they transcended the selfish “I”, and thus can function as a harmonious team seek the best for both. The choices are made for the benefit of both.  The happiest couples follow this pattern.  Thus having a mate on the same goal of generalized love will build the feeling of being part of a team.  Such mate on your wave length will reinforce your global consciousness.  The squabbling over pleasures (the poison of relationships) will be minimal.  The us-decision process will become natural and pure.  The loving team enjoys far more the hours spent together compared to average couple.  A spouse who is a utilitarian will who hold your happiness as important as theirs.  They are, by the principle of promoting the universal good, naturally attuned to your happiness. It is a relationship where negative reinforcement and aversive reinforcement[3] are consciously avoided, and the quarrels and negative energy (so typical of ordinary relationships) are rare.  This mindset makes love-making loving.  To bond with such a person is incredible wonderful. Love is the foundation for the good life. 

[1]   The Jews never denied other gods:  Yahweh had his heavenly host, and the Ten Commandments demands of them not to worship the other gods.  Exodus illustrates that Yahweh is stronger than the Egyptian gods. Yahweh had his consort Asherah.   Angels and Devils and angels are lesser gods.  The Christians have trouble counting.  The Arian heresy held that the father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are individual gods.  The Gnostics Christians held that Yahweh, a lesser god, made man--not the work of the highest goddess Sophia.  The Hebrews believed in other gods, thus Yahweh had guards for his thrown, and they were only to worship Yahweh. 

[2]  A point eloquently well made in John Stuart Mill’s autobiography. 

[3]  These are technical terms used in behaviorist psychology.

The wisdom of the Greek philosophers has not dimmed.  Its progeny include the sciences, modern medicine, psychology, and higher mathematics.  In the above essay, I have preserved their approach to the topic of moral behavior (ethics).  And to this discourse, I have added to their discussion of inner pleasures the idea that we all to love all things.  It is taking the utilitarian maxim that we ought to maximize the balance of pleasure over pain and internalized it.  The Greeks did this with their inquiry about the good life.  I have added a psychological dimension, namely that there should be beneficent attitude towards the environment one lives in.  And I have used their answer as to what are the prerequisites for this beneficence.

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