1. Study in depth academic-philosophic
ethics so that one may know the actual foundation of moral conduct both personal and for government, and in so doing one becomes
good not by accident of peer conditioning, but by deliberation.
2. Study philosophy especially the
art of critical thinking so that one may be equipped to study ethics and science and to follow the dictates of reason.
3. Study science so that one may know
what there is, ones place in the universe, and develop the habits of critical thought.
4. Always have logical analysis guide
5. “Meditate upon pleasure,
for without it we do all to get it back”--Epicurus. In other words consider
what it takes to promote ataraxia (the Greek and English term used to indicate an enduring, inner happiness).
seek the greatest good for thyself, for associates, and for society: the utilitarian principle. Good is measured by the greatest long-term balance of pleasure/happiness over pain/discomfort.
7. Be felicitous to others, and fill
ones mind with gentle, loving thoughts. Anger and hate are poisons that diminish
the attainment of ataraxia.
8. Delight in the doing of good and
observing good things being done, and avoid the converse causing pain for ones gratification; and do not delight in either
the causing of pain or the observation of it.
not to exploit (obtain for ones use more than a reasonable return). Be aware that the mind can justify, when personal
interests are involved, all sorts of unfair things. Do not support government policies that promote exploitation
of one class/group by another.
10. In daily intercourse with non—Utilitarians,
reciprocity is the standard; however, in general do a bit more than ones fair share, but not so much as to encourage
exploitation. With spouse, close friends, and Utilitarians there should
be no need to apply reciprocity, but rather view their happiness as important as yours—the utilitarian standard.
There are several ways in which man has sought to express right conduct. Lists have been prepared by ancient Hebrews, Babylonians, and Egyptians.
Others have written of an attitude, a prospective; for example, the stoics, epicureans, and wisdom literature of the
Hellenized Hebrews (of which The Sermon the Mount in Matthew, book 5, is an example thereof). Still others have sought through meta-rule (Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant’s
Categorical Imperative, Confucius’ Reciprocity, and Isocrates’ Golden Rule) seek to express the essence of right
conduct. Still others maintain that we are to rely upon moral instincts given
by God which reveals right actions or the list of guiding rules and principles (W. D. Ross).
The Decalogue above, as you will see, is derived from utilitarianism with an infusion of the moral philosophy of the
Greek philosophers: this expansion of utilitarianism gives guidance. It is the
expression of a dream: man risen above anger, casuistry, and exploitation to
a state of beneficence and love; and in so doing he creates a society without alienation, violence, idling, greed, conniving,
punishment, moral turpitude. With such citizens their government would promote
the public weal.
In understanding how these rules function to change man and society, one will understands
the purpose of each. Rules #1-4 are designed to strengthen and improve reason
so that it properly guides ones animal nature. Those skilled in science, reason,
and ethics--such as graduate students and university instructors—on a whole conduct themselves, even though they are
in daily contact with the pollution of the masses, with integrity, peacefully, and without excesses (such as of weight, drugs,
gambling, etc.). Studies that promote logic and ethics are their own reward.
Rule #5, a maxim of Epicurus, contains both advice and a proof. To meditate upon pleasure for the Greeks required detached contemplation of the trained mind upon
the conditions to produce the good-life. Steered in the right direction, the
Greek philosophers felt that certain conclusion concerning ataraxia[i] would follow. Epicurus’ maxim points out the pleasure
is the fundamental good, that other things are good because of the associated pleasure.
As for Epicurus’ proof for pleasure as the fundamental good, Epicurus states that
without it “We will do all to get it back.” In other words, pleasure
is the most basic thing we value: the others things that are good, they are good
because of associated pleasures. As proof, for example, health is valued because
one who is healthy is happier. One would not want medical treatment to restore
health, if one was in prison being tortured and such restoration of health would entail more hours of torture and years
of confinement to a dungeon. Wealth, health, and life are valued because of their
associated pleasures. What value would be money if the last of ones days were
to be spent with that money on a deserted island with no chance of being removed there from?
And would not one gladly give up those associations, parents, children, wife, friends, and nation, if such separation
there from were made a condition for the termination of a long prison term? From
such examples it becomes obvious that the associated pleasure is what gives things value.
Epicurus’ terse words “we will do all to get pleasure back,” filled with the above examples prove
that happiness/pleasure is the first good.
Study of Epicurus and other Greek philosophers whose works on the good life have come down to us, and also their progeny
the Utilitarians, for this will give add clarity to what is meant by pleasure. For example music and science are not good in themselves but because of the good arising
from the associated consequences. Further guidance is obtained by the limitations
imposed by utilitarianism. Thus music is good because of it is a pleasant diversion. However, like all diversion, it must be measured against alternative activities. The participation in sports such as tennis is both more pleasurable and at the same
time promotes health, which also is measured by it pleasurable consequences. Thus
tennis has long-term pleasurable consequence. So too does the study of music
have long-term consequences, for it heightens appreciation of certain types of music.
But if one was forced because of limit on time to choose between 4 ours per week of tennis versus 4 hours of guitar
playing, it is the sport that comes first. The Greek philosophers’
concept of good life would raise the same issue. Plato stated that we should
pursue both physical recreation and the fine arts (poetry and music). To do this
entails budgeting of time so that other lower pleasures would consume less time. From
those types of analysis, the standards for ataraxia and utilitarianism gain clarity.
The dominance of pleasure in our world is natural: over 32 pleasure and pain centers in
the brain have been in recent years identified. Epicurus was the first to observe
the control exerted by pleasure and pain over behavior, and B.F. Skinner, the leading proponent of behaviorism, through the
operational constructs of operant and respondent conditioning has demonstrated that negative and positive stimuli are the
building blocks of behavior. Skinner demonstrated that human behavior was essentially
the same as the laboratory animals he tested, though we were much more complex. One
of the complexities is the use of linguistic based analysis (describe in depth in his book Verbal Behavior). However, the study of behaviorism will lead to insights, and these insights will permit the manipulation
of variable conducive to the increasing the portion of the good life. In a general
way the Greeks were aware of the effects of pleasure upon behavior.
Epicurus recommends the retiring lifestyle filled with studies; a life away from the peer
conditioning of the common herd. He also, like all the important Greek philosophers,
recommended the inculcation of the love of honor. He points out that the unjust
man cannot be secure, for he will be known. What sort of friends will the brutish
and unjust have? They called the love of right conduct eudemonia. Man can through schooling use reason to prudently direct his neurophysiological inheritance
by behaving rational, justly, seeking the purer pleasures, and by avoiding the conditioning of the common herd. Epicurus noted that the pleasures from studies are both long lasting and pure, and they also freed the
mind from fear of the gods and demons. He thus recommends companions who would
encourage such studies and to avoid behavior that would reduce such studies. He
founded, as did the other Greek philosophers, a school for in depth study. There
are many pieces to promotion of the good life.
Ethics as developed by the Greeks was not an abstraction beyond the pale of human conditions
or a set of homilies such as those barring lying, theft, etc. It was about the
vision of living the good life and about the ideal society in which to seek that end.
That approach was continued by the Utilitarians who like Epicurus defined good in terms of pleasure/happiness
They developed a vision of a cooperative society whose laws and government promoted the
maximization of happiness. This of course would require fundamental political
changes (see my Eight Steps Forward). It is a dream which ought to travel far.
[i] The concept of ataraxia is a major part of the Greek philosophers’ understanding of
pleasure. Ataraxia refers to the inner tranquility that comes with freedom
from fears, the ability to enjoy physical pleasures without producing disturbance of being, and the enjoyment of contemplation. Epicurus held that the pleasure obtained from, for example, fancy cuisine and sex
as good, however, their disturbance of inner tranquility made them impure. Thus
he said that we most learn to limit these disturbances. One of his maxims: “To him who little is not enough, nothing will be enough.” Rational guidance was at the core of limiting the disturbance, and this guidance was obtained both through
studies and the love of virtue, which they called eudemonia. The good
life for the Greek philosophers was one full of activities that promoted inner tranquility.
For with inner tranquility the person will experience a greater balance of pleasure over pain during his lifetime. Ataraxia is essential to the good life.