Posts Tagged ‘material’

HAPPINESS An Epicurean Approach

November 22, 2009

HAPPINESS

 

The Epicurean Approach

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Musings on the Art of Happiness

 

HAPPINESS & PLEASURE

 

 

Are Happiness and Pleasure correlated?

 

 

They say:

 

1.  Pleasure is Quantitative; Happiness is Qualitative.

 

2.   Happiness is a lifelong goal.

 

3.       Happiness requires cognitive judgment.

 

4.       Pleasure is not essential to achieving happiness – here I do not agree. I feel happiness and pleasure are not mutually exclusive; in fact genuine pleasure can be the source of much happiness.

 

 

No philosopher has better explored the distinction between happiness and pleasure than Epicurus, a Greek Philosopher of the Third Century BC. Epicurus (341-270 BC) espoused a strategy for achieving genuine human happiness by emphasizing the delights of the mind (over which a person has control) rather than the delights derived from material things (which are so often beyond one’s personal control).

 

 

Epicurus’ name survives in the team “epicurean” which is used to refer to someone with elevated tastes and a lifestyle centred on pleasure. However, if you peruse his philosophy thoroughly, you will realize that Epicurus counsels a way of life very different from what the popular use of the term “pleasure” implies.

 

 

You may feel that Epicurean philosophy champions the pursuit of pleasure as the supreme goal of life, but this does not mean the unrestrained pursuit of excesses of any kind. Instead, Epicurus argues for a life of sober restrain and moderation in all things. The pleasures Epicurus recommends are those that are easy to achieve and simple in nature. The prolonged pursuit of pleasure is best achieved by restraint and enlightened choice.

 

 

It may be the prudent to moderate our single minded pursuit of “outward” success and achievement, the mindless acquisition of material possessions and accumulation of wealth, tendencies to showing off and ostentation, conspicuous consumption and lavish unrestrained pleasures; and focus more on the more authentic “inner” pleasures of life such as happy family life, enriching relationships, cultivating the mind and intellect, enjoying the pleasures of friends and companions, and living on the higher plane.

 

 

Epicureanism does not advocate the wanton pursuit of pleasure. Also, you must remember that pleasures and pains of the mind are of greater importance than those of the body. Epicurus set forth a strategy for achieving authentic human happiness by emphasizing the delights of the mind (over which a person has control) rather than the delights derived from material things (which are so often beyond one’s personal control). The fundamental premise is that presence of pleasure is synonymous with the absence of pain.

 

 

Genuine happiness emanates from pleasures that are easy to achieve and simple in nature. If you have only a few things, we will enjoy them more than if you had many things, and if you do not become used to rich and expensive foods, then simple fare, which is easier to obtain will satisfy you more.

 

 

In a nutshell: “The Art of Happiness is in keeping your Pleasures Mild”.

 

 

And how do you keep your pleasures mild?

 

 

 

DESIRE & PLEASURE

 

 

Are pleasures in any way linked to satisfying your desires?

 

 

There are two different types of pleasures:

 

  1. Moving Pleasures

 

  1. Static Pleasures

 

 

“Moving” pleasures occur when one is in the process of satisfying a desire – like eating delicious food when one is hungry.

 

 

These pleasures involve an active enjoyable titillation of the senses which most people call “pleasure”.

 

 

However, Epicurus says that after one’s desires have been satisfied, like suppose you are fully satiated after eating a heart meal; this state of satiety, a state of no longer being in need or want, is itself pleasurable. Epicurus calls this “static” pleasure, and says that these static pleasures are the best pleasures.

 

 

Hence, Epicurus says that there is no intermediate state between pleasure and pain. When one has unfulfilled desires, this is painful, and when one no longer has unfulfilled desires, this steady state is the most pleasurable of all. There is no intermediate state between pleasure and pain – either your desires are fulfilled or they are not.

 

 

Epicurus also distinguishes between physical and mental pleasures and pains. Physical pleasures and pains concern only the present, whereas mental pleasures and pains also encompass the past (fond memories of past pleasure or regret over past pain or mistakes) and the future (confidence or fear about what will occur).

 

 

The greatest destroyer of happiness is anxiety about the future, especially the fear of death. If you can banish fear about the future, and face the future with confidence that one’s desires will be satisfied, then you can attain a most exalted state of tranquillity.

 

 

This we see that the key to happiness is the effective management of your desires – Desire Management.

 

 

 

DESIRE MANAGEMENT

 

There is a close connection between pleasure and desire-satisfaction.

 

 

If pleasure results from getting what you want (desire-satisfaction) and pain from not getting what you want (desire-frustration), then there are two strategies you can pursue with respect to any given desire: you can either strive to fulfil the desire, or you can try to eliminate the desire.

 

 

Epicurus advocates the second strategy of scaling down your desires to the basic minimum which can easily be satisfied.

 

 

Epicurus distinguishes between three types of desires:

 

1.      Natural and necessary desires,

 

2.      Natural but non-necessary desires,

 

3.    “Vain and Empty” or unnatural and unnecessary desires.

 

 

How we tackle each of these three types of desires determines our tendency to happiness [or unhappiness].

 

 

Examples of natural and necessary desires include the desires for food, shelter, health, sense of security and basic physical needs, cravings which will necessarily lead to greater pain if they are not fulfilled.

 

 

These basic desires are easy to satisfy yet difficult to eliminate (they are ‘hard-wired’ into human beings naturally) and bring great pleasure when satisfied (“Happiness begins at the stomach”).

 

 

Furthermore, they are necessary for life, and they are naturally limited: that is, if one is hungry, it only takes a limited amount of food to fill the stomach, after which the desire is satisfied.

 

 

Epicurus says that you should try to fulfil natural and necessary desires.

 

Vain, unnatural and unnecessary desires include desires for excessive power, wealth, fame, and other egoistic ambitions which have all the trappings of status and prestige.

 

 

Vain desires are difficult to satisfy, in part because they have no natural limit. If one desires wealth or power, no matter how much one gets, it is always possible to get more, and the more one gets, the more one wants. These desires are not natural to human beings, but inculcated by society and by false beliefs about what we need; (e.g.) believing that being very powerful or wealthy or famous will guarantee us happiness. In fact, Opulence attracts thieves, and power and fame attract sycophants.

 

 

Epicurus says that such vain and empty desires should be eliminated.

 

An example of a natural but non-necessary desire is the desire for luxury food. Although food is needed for survival, one does not need rich expensive gourmet food to survive. Thus, despite his hedonism, Epicurus advocates a surprisingly ascetic way of life. Although you shouldn’t spurn extravagant foods if they happen to be available, becoming dependent on such food ultimately leads to unhappiness.

 

 

These natural but non-necessary desires are those cravings that do not necessarily lead to greater pain if they are not fulfilled. These desires are typically recreational in nature: Sexual gratification, aesthetic desires, entertainment, pleasant conversation, the arts, sports, travel etc.

 

 

In the case of natural but non-necessary desires you must approach life as a banquet. Think of your life as if it were a banquet where you would behave graciously, when dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. And if a dish hasn’t being passed to you yet, patiently wait for your turn.

 

 

To paraphrase Epicurus, “If you wish to make a man wealthy, don’t give him more money; rather, reduce his desires”.

 

By eliminating the pain caused by unfulfilled desires, and the anxiety that occurs because of the fear that one’s desires will not be fulfilled in the future, the wise Epicurean attains tranquillity, and thus happiness.

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

 

Appetite for a Stroll

 

http://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-for-a-stroll/default.htm

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

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NANO The Essentials

December 9, 2008

In his insightful memoirs, War As I Knew It, General George S. Patton, one of history’s most charismatic, famous and successful generals, gifted us an priceless gem of his human resource management wisdom: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity”.

 

Ever since I read this illuminating book more than thirty years ago, I have followed this adage with great success in my multifarious avatars as a Human Resource Manager, a Project Manager, a Design Engineer, a Teacher and a Mentor.

 

A few days ago, a young lady, Prachi A Deshmukh, a fresh engineering graduate, joined our department as a research fellow; and I gave her a book from my bookcase, told her to review it and email me her book review by the end of the day. [As per my style, I just curtly told her what to do, not how to do it].

 

When I opened my email early next morning, the book review was there, waiting for me, and yes, Prachi Deshmukh had indeed surprised me with her ingenuity. I am truly proud of my young colleague and mentee.

 

A delight to read, written in a refreshingly youthful vibrant style, breathtaking in its simplicity, I liked the book review so much that I am placing it below as it is, with minimal editing, for you to read. We look forward to your comments and feedback; do tell us if you enjoyed reading the review, and the book. 

                                                                             

Name of the book: Nano: The Essentials – Understanding Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Author:  T. Pradeep

Publication: Tata McGraw-Hill, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0-07-061788-9

ISBN-10: 0-07-061788-0

 

[Reviewed by Prachi A. Deshmukh]

 

At the root of every invention, there is a seed of a thought which was unbelievable at that time. Yesterday’s dream is today’s truth; yesterday’s imagination is today’s reality. Let us take an example of ATM. Today we use ATM as if its ‘Any Time Money’ machine; but if we had told about this to somebody in the last century, he might had thought that we have gone mad! The same thing happened in December 1959, when Richard Feynman gave an after dinner speech at the annual meeting of the ‘American Physical Society’. He took the audience in the amazing world of his imagination. He was telling about the future where everything will be so small that there will be machines smaller than the tip of a needle. People were laughing, enjoying his ideas but no one knew the real meaning of his words-“There is plenty of room at the bottom.” Feynman is now credited for his great foresight which made him the first prophet of nanotechnology.

 

21st century is the era of great revolution in technology. Information Technology, Bio Technology and Nano Technology are some of the great windows which have tremendous capabilities to change the world around us. Especially Nanotechnology is a promising field in the near future which will provide us with many breakthroughs in a wide range of applications. It has been predicted that by the year 2015 the market share of nanotechnology and nanoscience will be worth 350 billion dollars. This calls for new investments in human resource development. These people must have strong foundation to build strong building. For those who are interested in this new technology, the book ‘Nano: The Essentials’ will prove to be a true guide.

 

The author of this book- Prof. T. Pradeep is with the IIT – Madras [Chennai]. Being a professor, he has structured this book so nicely that the reader gets his concepts clear right from the beginning. Starting from the preface we get more and more interest in this amazing world of nanotechnology and nanoscience.

 

The content of the book is well organized into five parts. In the first introductory part the author takes us in the world of nanotechnology with its relation with the nature. This part is enriched with the details of the technological inventions of 20th and 21st century.

 

In second part, we move towards the experimental methods. The author introduces us with the different types of microscopies . The neat diagrams, graphs and pictures in this part make it easier to understand the different experimental methods.

 

In the third part, we enter into the world of fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, gas phase clusters, nanoshells etc. In this section also, author addresses us with his simple language. There are sufficient diagrams and graphs to understand the concept properly.

 

In fourth part we become familiar with nanobiology, nanosensors,  nanomedicines , nanotribiology and molecular nanomachines.

 

Whenever some new technology comes into picture it’s the duty of every conscientious technologist to study the societal implications of it. In the fifth part we go through the relationship between nanotechnology and the society.

 

The most appreciable thing in this book is I think the ‘History of nanoscience and nanotechnology’ which tells us about all the important events in the development of Nanotechnology. Hats off to the author for this effort. The glossary of nanoterms at the end of this book summarizes all the important terms used throughout the book.

 

The author has given the references and additional related reading books at the end of every chapter for the keen readers to know more about the things.

 

In simple words, the book ‘Nano: The Essentials’ is really essential for those who are keen to know about nanotechnology and nanoscience . With his simple language the author has maintained the flow throughout the book. There are plenty of diagrams, graphs, tables and pictures which make the study more meaningful. If you are really serious about nanotechnology, then I will insist you to have a copy of this book. It’s easier for understanding if you have enough base of science and technology. I recommend this book to students, engineers, teachers and technologists who are willing to enter in this amazing world of nanotechnology and nanoscience.