Archive | January 2015

Epicureanism

One of the most famous philosophies of the Hellenistic world is epicureanism. This manner of thinking exposes the following.

While pleasure is its intrinsic good and pain its worst evil, it is ultimately based upon sensation. The things we feel are reality. No sensation is ever bad because it is in the end part of our nature. However, we don’t live a life purely out of our senses or else we would just be dumb animals doing things without purpose. This is where reason comes in.

Reason allows us to know that pleasure is our final good for which we endeavor and pain is the greatest evil from which we flee from. Therefore, all pleasures are good, but not all are convenient because some bring greater pain than the pleasure itself. For example, getting drunk might provide pleasure, but the hangover delivers a greater pain. Pleasures that don’t last are not worth seeking and sometimes painful things bring pleasant rewards, like working to satisfy needs.

The best life worth living is the one that is free from all pains, even the pain of want. Hence those who know how to limit their desires and through reason avoid pain or sacrifice some pleasures to gain better ones, have become perfect in living a pleasant life. Also those who have been freed from fear of death, fears of the mind of celestial and atmospheric phenomena (gods, the invisible, the immaterial, and eternity), and fear of pain truly understand a pleasant life.

You cannot have pleasure without living wisely, honorably, and justly and vice versa. The flesh has no limit in receiving pleasure so the mind when it uses reason establishes the limit by comprehending bodily pleasures. Pleasures of the grandest type are those alike to friendship, knowledge, music, and so on.

I don’t agree with this philosophy. As I said in Eudaimonia?, we must not believe something just because it sounds pretty or benevolent to our ears. Living according to pleasures that enhance our reason and lives can be challenging, due to the mere fact that we try to do everything for pleasure. If real pleasure comes when free from pain, then that becomes a potentially dangerous lifestyle. Pleasure in itself is not wrong, but living for and by it is.

I know epicureans intend to establish a balance that clearly shows that someone who kills for pleasure is not understanding pleasure because he is not living honorably, wisely, or justly. However, I believe it is impossible to not fall into some sort of “extreme” sin when you live about through pleasures. I think that most human beings will find it hard to not do something stupid with this way of thought as their doctrine. A good example is today’s society. Another example is watching pornography, does it cause annoyance or pain? Actually, many people today find it very pleasant and unlike drinking, it has no “hangover” unless you are married. Someone could limit themselves in their lusty eyes and find a “balance” in that sin, have pleasure, and still live honorably, wisely, and justly in nowadays popular reasoning.

See, let’s not go to far, the mere fact that this philosophy encourages you to lose consciousness of God to deliver you of worries and fear of Him, is already taking you the wrong way. Perhaps the very studious and experts of epicureanism might mock me in these words, but this is how I understand this philosophy; it’s dumb. I know it is not “as” hedonist as the Cyrenaic philosophy, but it is still hedonist. I have said it many times before, living just through our reason to do or find whatever, will limit us to never understand the wonders of the universe.

Just as saying that there is no immaterial realm, even science is disproving that. Atoms do form the universe, but it is invisible and immaterial energy that brings them together. Beliefs can vary here, but I believe that this energy is the power of God’s voice. Anyway, all of this to say that an epicurious way of life is one that ignores God and injures Him with undeniable sinful ways that derive from different sensations that proportion different lasting and non-lasting pleasures. In the end, the only true eternal pleasure is the certainty that you have pleased God, of course Epicurus would deny this last statement.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; Romans 8:5-6

That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. Luke 8:14

Ancient and Modern Liberty

Freedom… what is it really, a concept, a theory, a reality, an illusion, something individual, particular, or universal? Is it a form, a substance, inherent, or does it have to be fought for? What is for certain is that this “thing” has been thought of differently throughout centuries.

Today, we think of freedom as an inherent right that pertains to every individual without exception. Although, many times it has to be fought for because it is interfered with and obstructed to the point that it is taken from us. Yes, we might have a rule of law known by all and applied to all that supposedly protects us from those who try to snatch our freedom, but if this functioned perfectly, why do we at times still seek liberty? In this modern world we have freedom of speech, right to use property as pleased, right to travel, right to associate with others, right to have some influence over government, and so on. Modern thought sees freedom as an individual right, though ancients saw it distinctively.

Ancient Greece viewed freedom rights as something collective not individual. It was the right of the city, state, or assembly because individuals had the absolute liberty to decide in public affairs. For instance, ancients had the freedom to discuss and make decisions about war and peace, form foreign allegiances, vote on new laws, examine magistrates’ records, call magistrates before the people in assembly, accuse and render judgments on magistrates, etc. This old world forced people to become subjective to collective decisions, even if these hampered the individual’s rights. In other words, they were free in public, but slaves in private. What you could do collectively to an individual (e.g. exile), could be done against your individuality, as well.

Now, why did these huge differences exist? What are their sources? Well, primarily, today a nation of 300 million citizens cannot go to a gigantic assembly to expose their beliefs. The bigger the country, the smaller is the political importance to any given individual, and vice versa. Therefore, ancient Greece had the ability to include all of its citizens; it had few and thus their voice could be heard in the assembly. Additionally, we don’t have slavery today. Slavery in the past enabled people to utilize their leisure time in enforcing their public liberties, like analyzing government. Presently, our focus on individual rights took us to justly abolish slavery at the cost of sacrificing leisure for acquiring political knowledge.

When it comes to commerce, it was smaller than today and there was less incentive for hostility towards the government when it intervened in private affairs. Some might claim that Athens, whom had the most developed commerce, fits the exception to the last statement. However, ostracism existed, this gave the collective decision the right to tear an individual from his country, possessions, trade, wife/husband, children, and etcetera. You were thrown out of your society even if you didn’t do anything wrong. The good of the whole was better than the individual’s.

Which freedom do you prefer, the modern or ancient? As mind blowing as it may seem, society has been little by little exchanging modern liberty for ancient liberty. A good example of this is the great power the people have given the government to educate children to its pleasure. This is done under the declaration that the ancient world accomplished extraordinary things and we must be like them. Yet, I tell you, please don’t imitate the ancient world.

Digestion Process

Before you take a bite of your favorite food, your mouth is already watery and filled with saliva containing enzymes and other chemical molecules ready to help in the mashing and dissolving of your food. Of course, one is more focused in the delicious taste of the aliment, than in what is occurring within your body. Let’s analyze the process of nutrition and digestion that takes place when we eat.

Perhaps you didn’t know this, but there are different modes of ingestion (taking food in) which are used by different organisms to adapt to their body structures and environments. There are suspension feeders, substrate feeders, fluid feeders, and bulk feeders, this last one pertaining to human beings and other familiar animals. Bulk feeders eat large pieces of food and they either chew it or swallow it whole.

In our mouth, our saliva begins to break down carbohydrates with a special enzyme called amylase. The instant we swallow our food it will go through the pharynx (throat), pass through the esophagus, and land on the stomach to initialize the real process of digestion.

Inside the stomach, a gastric juice will be secreted in its main chamber (lumen) where the food and the juice will be churned into chyme. The lumen is lined with epithelial cells specialized to secrete a mucus that protects your stomach from damaging itself with the extremely acidic substance it forms. The epithelial gastric chief cell in the stomach will release pepsinogen into the lumen. Then, the gastric juice contains parietal cells that release hydrogen and chloride ions into the lumen. Hydrogen and chloride will combine to form hydrochloric acid, which is so acidic that it can dissolve metal. This acid will kill almost all bacteria and denature most proteins.

The epithelial gastric chief cell in the stomach releases pepsinogen into the lumen. After this, the pepsinogen mixes with the hydrochloric acid and becomes pepsin. Pepsin is an enzyme that will digest proteins by breaking their peptide bonds. In this way, proteins are converted into smaller polypeptides that will travel to the small intestine.

Within the small intestine, polypeptides will be disaggregated into amino acids. The first several inches of the small intestine are known as the duodenum. This part of the intestine basically receives chyme mixed with secretions from other organs to continue the digestion process. Specifically speaking, the pancreas delivers bicarbonate to neutralize acid, trypsin and chymotrypsin to break down proteins, and the enzyme amylase to break down starches and carbohydrates. On the other hand, the liver gives bile to start breaking down fats.

Lined with villi, the nutrients in the small intestine will be absorbed into the cells of the villi by passive and active transport. Capillaries in the core of the villi will lead nutrients to the blood and carry them to the liver. Detoxifying the blood, the liver will then distribute it to the heart. Special enzymes in the small intestine will convert fat into water-soluble compounds. These compounds are absorbed by the villi and passed into the lymphatic system.

Then comes the large intestine formed by colon, appendix, and cecum. 90% of the water from chyme, digestive juices, ingestion, etc. is absorbed by the colon. Many bacteria live in the colon and are responsible for producing foul-smelling gas, most of them are the known as “Escherichia Coli”. Our feces or “poop” are about 50% of bacteria in weight. Finally, the appendix seems to play a minor role in the immune system.

In short, but this is how food becomes poop for the toilet and nutrients for the body.