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A non-intellectualist account of Epicurean emotions

Hampson, MR; (2013) A non-intellectualist account of Epicurean emotions. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis argues against the orthodox, intellectualist interpretation of Epicurean emotions, in favour of what I call an Appearances View. The intellectualist interpretation takes the Epicurean fragments to suggest that emotions are essentially based in beliefs or judgements and that it is sufficient to alter an emotion by altering the relevant belief(s). I argue, however, that this interpretation is not decisive and at best only weakly supported by the texts. Further, I believe that the reading faces conceptual and textual problems that it cannot adequately respond to, and we thus have reason to seek an alternative. To develop an alternative interpretation, I consider Aristotle's discussion of habituation and virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics, for insight into how Epicurus might understand the notion of ‘accustoming’ and what model of emotion must be assumed if we think that emotional dispositions can be altered through a process of habituation. I argue that the Rhetoric and the Ethics strongly suggest an Appearances View of emotion, in which emotion is constituted by a feeling of pleasure or pain, caused by an appearance (phantasia) of its intentional object. On this view, emotion is cognitive and intentional but not intellectual. I then explore how this model might be applied to the Epicurean fragments, drawing on Epicurus’ own account of phantasia to develop an Epicurean Appearances View. I show that both Epicurus’ physics and ethical writings can support this reading, and that the account can deal with those cases presented against the intellectualist account, thus giving us reason to prefer it. Finally, I consider how this account might be applied to the case of our fear of death, and suggest that changing the appearance of death and thus removing our fear requires that we live a good, Epicurean life and in this way achieve ataraxia.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: A non-intellectualist account of Epicurean emotions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1390695
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