Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Hedonism in moderation

What better life is there to live than a life of indulgence? What better reason yo live than for pleasure?

Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the only intrinsic good in life and to maximise pleasure is the only thing worth working for.

To soothe our existential nausea we look to many things, but what better way is there to find happiness than to do what makes you happy? If we are left to make our own meaning for life than what better meaning is there than to enjoy ones life. But is to simply indulge your desires non stop the best way to maximise your pleasure, the best way to enjoy your life? I would argue no, drugs can bring you immense pleasure but overuse can bring you great pain, both physical and emotional. Eating unhealthy food may bring you pleasure in the short run but the long term detriments are well known, And is that momentary pleasure really worth it? If our goal is to maximise our pleasure them should we not do things to better ourselves overall, to maximise our pleasure overall and reject things that bring us only momentary happiness? Should we not make ourselves into an aestheic phenomenon not for the mere sake of it but to best enjoy our lives? To exercise and eat healthy may bring displeasure in the short run but in the long run will you not feel much better?



Suffering, Schopenhauer, and Strings -Dylan

This past week and a half’s explorations into the world’s being and the way that we perceive it as human beings has been a whirlwind joyride of amazing discussions and surprising personal discoveries. Dissecting ideas of the very nature of reality and the root of our world’s mysterious nature has lead me through many different paths in which some contradict each other, whiles others agree,  but all connecting. Exploring the minds of various philosophers, and being graciously allowed into the minds of my fellow classmates has helped me to hash some things out in my own mind. At the very beginning of this expedition into the basis of the world, everyone in the class studied a certain philosopher  who has acted as a somewhat a guide to our individual Metaphysical journeys. We then found others in the class who’s philosophers were connected to our own in some way. Through discussions within the various groups, certain themes seem to arise from each individual group. This became the basis for our group discussions. My own philosopher and the philosophers I was introduced to through other group members seemed string together a common theme on the ideas of suffering and pleasure. We delved into many different paths of this theme, but we kept coming back to one idea in particular that seemed to resonate with us in some way, and continued to circle back to the questions of the nature of the world. In consideration of how connected they are in the root of reality, are suffering and pleasure dependent on each other? Can the two exist simultaneously or together at all?

Through discussions on this theme of the codependency of suffering and pleasure, there is a contradiction of sorts that was found at the root of it. The very nature of suffering opposes pleasure, and thus the very nature of pleasure opposes suffering. This can cause two different ways to view the two ideas and how they are connected to each other. One side of thought says that through suffering we are able to achieve and know pleasure. It says that by going through ordeals and hardships, we are able to grow and learn more about the nature of the thing that made us suffer, and thus we are able to have more pleasure. The inclusion of suffering in this case is the thing that leads us to pleasure, and without suffering, we can’t have pleasure. The other side to this argument would be that the extraction of suffering is what leads to pleasure. In this view, the total ignoring and disregard of suffering is what gives us a pleasurable life. If we don’t regard as suffering as a thing to take notice to, and instead become ignorant to it, there is nothing stopping us from having a pleasurable life. http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/kunst/chris_king/theatre_masks_happy_and_sad_hi.jpg

These two contradicting statements leave a very ambiguous path in a way of finding a way to come to terms with both of them. It’s hard for me to totally ignore suffering and pretend that it doesn’t exist. But I also find it hard to agree with the idea that pleasure can only and solely come through suffering. I think that I come to term with the two ideas in a way of bringing the two together in a way. I view suffering as a negative thing, but I also think that going through suffering can lead to more pleasurable things in the future in the way of growth and learning things from that experience. The absence of suffering is pleasure in this way, but suffering can also lead to pleasure. So I think that in the way that it makes sense to me, and I can come to term with these two ideas, suffering can lead to more experiences where suffering is absent, which is a pleasurable thing.

While this may be how I come to term with these contradicting ideas, I can’t help thinking that someone that I’ve gotten to know over the last week or so would have something to say to me about all that. I feel as much as I studied Arthur Schopenhauer’s ideas, and as much as I’ve taken a lot of his ideas into my own idea of suffering and pleasure, when it’s come down to this final distillation of the nature of suffering and its place in the world, we would disagree. Schopenhauer would say there can be no long term exclusion of suffering in our lives, only temporary moments of pleasure.  He would say that our human desires to live make it so that we are always going to suffer and that there is no way that we can have a life long pleasurable experience or experiences. We would agree in the fact that suffering is a negative thing, but while his thinking about it ends there, and through that he believes that life is ultimately a negative thing, we disagree where my belief in trying to turn suffering into a thing that may lead to less suffering comes into play.  The group I’ve been discussing these ideas with and their respective philosophers of study have some interesting opinions on this theme as well. Aman and her post on Anne Conway shows that Conway would agree with the side that suffering is pleasure, and that only through the inclusion of suffering may we experience pleasure. Aidan’s explanation of the Epicurean train of thinking shows that the Greek philosopher Epicurus saw suffering as an evil thing of the world, and something to be avoided at all cost. It’s amazing to see how different these ideas are on the same topic, but just how much they are connected to each other in the way of the process of coming to those different ideas.

One day, I made a bus trek by bus up to household jam session as part of the Phils Day Off endeavor. I went up there to contemplate Schopenhauer’s ideas while enjoying some music (which, I’m sure, Schopenhauer would have been more than happy to participate in.) At the beginning of the night, a friend and fellow bass player took me over to the side to show me a trick that allowed the string’s on my bass life span to be extended, making it so that you wouldn’t have to buy strings as often. What he did was loosen the strings on the bass so that they were still on the instrument but loose enough that he could pull it up away from the fretboard a good distance. He loosened the string, and continue to pull the string up and then smack in back down onto the fretboard. He would do this over and over again on each string for a few minutes at a time. What this was doing, he later explained, was releasing all of the dead skin cells and extra debris that was caught in the strings, making it so that the strings became cleaner again, and thus could be repeated whenever the string would go dead or dull and wouldn’t need to be replaced as frequently. Other than being a sweet tip for a young-unemployed musician such as myself, it also came to be a great metaphor for all these talks of suffering and pleasure in my mind. You can look at life as a dead bass string, and you can view the debris as suffering. You can see it as Schopenhauer would, as something chokes life and ultimately makes life worthless. And no matter how much we clear up the debris temporarily, it will become dirty and dull again soon after. You can look at from one who would not worry about the suffering, and instead of focusing on the dirtiness of the string, would completely ignore it and go out and buy a new string right away. Or, you can look at it from the cleaning method that my friend taught me about the strings. Acknowledging the dirt and debris and how it’s affected you, and then turning it around and cleaning it up and turning it into something that is pleasurable.




Aman’s Metaphysics

“The basis of reality is suffering and pleasure which are fundamentally linked so that we may experience pain to gain happiness.”

-Aman, Dylan, Aidan

What are the contradictions? While it’s quite simple actually, the statement says you have suffering which leads to pleasure, but the contradiction is there no suffering and it leads you to pleasure. In a perfect world there would be no suffering, but we don’t live in an utopia and we don’t have that privilege.

Is no suffering a privilege though? It would be a wonderful thing but would we learn anything without suffering? How will we know what we have without loss? How will we know that “things get better in time” without pain? How will we find love without heartbreak? Or find true friends without backstabbing? Don’t the things that break us, make us?

I’m guessing most readers are going to agree with the fact that yes, the pain paves the way to greater things. And that is why we can live with this contradiction of life. I’m openminded to opinions here so please, if you can, tell me how we would know of things like happiness without the opposite? Ying and Yang, black and white, “good” and “bad”, life is all about balance. We learn that as a lesson, we learn that as a fact in science. Balance is key because it keeps us steady in a world that’s like the biggest and longest roller coaster ride ever. So, because balance is a lesson in life, it’s what it ingrained into us from a very young age. Because of this lesson of balance, we are confined to think that good things can’t come without bad and that black and white are complete opposites. This is why we can live with both ideas, because we know that one only happens in our stories, dreams, and ideas. That is how we go on.

Anne Conway in her book states:

“He [God] made all ‘nations’ of human beings to be ‘of one blood’ so that they would love one another, would be united by the same sympathy, and would help one another. In implanting a certain universal sympathy and mutual love into his creatures, God made them all members of one body and all (so to speak) brothers who all have the same Father, namely God in Christ, i.e. God made flesh. They also have one mother, that unique substance or entity from which all things have come forth, and of which they are the real parts and members. And although sin has greatly weakened this love and sympathy in creatures, it hasn’t altogether destroyed it.”

From this I infer that my philosopher felt that sympathy is how humans connect with each other. Again, I’m open to ideas and suggestions, but how is there sympathy in this world without suffering or pain of some sorts that the majority feels?  Personally, I don’t believe sympathy or empathy for that matter, is felt without the mutual connection of suffering. How do we feel what others are going through without going through it ourselves?  So in terms of my philosopher, I agree that sympathy links humans and from this I concur that suffering is present in life.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Dylan’s philosopher, believed that “The Will” is the root cause of suffering. He believed suffering is there, but not that it leads to pleasure. I guess another contradiction to my groups theme would be this: suffering is present but it’s what hinders our life without any pleasure as a byproduct. But if we believed that as a society we would all need shrinks and everyone would walk around with the gloomiest aura. As well, Schopenhauer believed that there is a meaningless end and that doesn’t cohere with pleasure as the end, because to most people happiness is not meaningless and actually leads you to feel good.

Epicurus, Aidan’s philosopher, believed pleasure is a measure of good and suffering is a measure of evil. So basically pleasure=good, and suffering=bad, and Epicurus believed that we should avoid suffering. If this is true, can we link it to the balance lesson so that one cannot be without the other because they steady each other. So suffering doesn’t necessarily lead to pleasure, but they are linked and present in our world.

Using these three opinions, I have come to my own conclusion. When we present the objects I will share my metaphysics with the group. Basically though, I believe that suffering does lead to pleasure, however we are not as confined to both as we think. We can choose to avoid suffering and live our life in a state of ignorance (or bliss), or we can choose to live our life with both pleasure and pain. It depends on the person and how much they truly want to experience in life and what they want to experience in life. It’s based on how the person wants to learn and teach.



An Epicurean Philosophy – Aidan


I would do an epic pun, but that would be too easy.

Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who saw the rise and division of the Macedonian Empire, would probably have better fit in today than he did in his time.  He lived in the Aegean archipelago in Samos, Greece from 341 – 270 BC, dying at the age of 72.  He studied and was influenced by other philosophers such as Plato and Democritus.  Some of his work is comparable to a peer philosopher, Zeno, in this comedic short:

His legacy includes many teachings such as that pleasure is the measure of good and pain/suffering is the measure of evil.  It’s worth noting that he never married or had children, suffered from kidney stones and dysentery, and was probably a vegetarian.

Epicurus believed in the existence of atoms.  Imagine in 300 BC the idea of atoms being considered.  The definition was that the universe was made of tiny indivisible particles bouncing around in empty space and therefore every occurrence is a result of these indivisibles interacting with one another.  In addition, Epicurus believed the atoms have an underlying element of chaos which make their paths unpredictable and therefore affirming the idea of free will and opposing determinism.  Compared with modern theories of quantum physics, Epicurus was more clairvoyant than Nostradamus could have ever predicted!

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (i.e. agreeing neither to harm nor be harmed), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”  -Epicurus

Other legacies of Epicurus include but are not limited to:  pleasure and suffering being the embodiment of good and evil (including gluttonous pleasure as a form of suffering and experiencing some suffering as a means to greater pleasure), a formulation of the Ethic of Reciprocity (a.k.a. Golden Rule: see above), and The Epicurean Paradox (see below) since he believes that the gods are not concerned with humans.


The Epicurean Paradox:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?


Epicurus’ ideas can be seen in many aspects of society.  For example, his statement on the Ethic of Reciprocity inspired the ideas of John Locke which called for the right to “life, liberty and property” whereas property is also defined as one’s own person.  Those ideas were in turn borrowed by Thomas Jefferson, a self-described Epicurean, for the foundation of The United States of America which advocated “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I was surprised to see that a man who lived in 300 BC would be so involved in the ideas that the world consisted of atoms and that he would challenge the idea of gods so radically.  I was really inspired by his ideas of pleasure vs. pain and suffering and how he wrote in a letter to a friend as he was dying of the kidney stone pain that it was a happy day for him.  Epicurus did not believe in fearing death as being dead was of no concern to a person after having died.

Although there are other aspects of his life I have not touched upon due to the nature of this being a post on metaphysics, I highly recommend to anyone interested in a very Stoic-style of thinking to look up Epicurus and his teachings.  One of my favourite things I read while studying him was the inscription on the gate of his garden that he used to host philosophical teachings and discussions to which women were to be admitted as a rule rather than an exception.  The inscription reads as such:

“Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.”

*Tarry: v. Stay longer than intended; delay leaving a place.