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The power of absence can be a vital, productive life force, as well. This is particularly true in spiritual and religious enterprises, and it may also be true in the arts. Human beings, stuck in mortality with its partial, limited view, long to see the total picture. One might say that the human search for immortality, or the eternal, or God, is, just on another level, a search for the piece that will complete the puzzle. We can only know this fragmented and incomplete reality, so we are continuously frustrated by what it lacks.

Ours is a world made of fleeting moments, and we yearn for the whole picture. The unmet need, the yearning for wholeness, has been a productive force in human history. The power of absence is what fostered the development of marvelous religious civilizations, with all their art, culture, morality and spiritual practices. The religious imagination continues to draw on the power of absence for its creativity and drive. Our nation is addicted to guns, with increasingly deadly consequences.

Congress may have moved on but the challenges of an aging population have not. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Back Magazine. Subscribe Issue Archive. Back Today. Consider Sleep and Screen Time. Inflammation and the 3 Paths of Depression in Older Adults. Renee Garfinkel Ph. The Power of Absence What isn't there captures attention and traps in in an emotional embrace. Comment Post Comment Your name. E-mail The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Notify me when new comments are posted. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful — which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them? This type of trilemma argument God is omnipotent, God is good, but Evil exists was one favoured by the ancient Greek skeptics , and this argument may have been wrongly attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius, who, from his Christian perspective, regarded Epicurus as an atheist.

Glei , it is settled that the argument of theodicy is from an academical source which is not only not Epicurean, but even anti-Epicurean. Parallels may be drawn to Jainism and Buddhism , which similarly emphasize a lack of divine interference and aspects of its atomism. Epicureanism also resembles Buddhism in its temperateness, including the belief that great excess leads to great dissatisfaction. Epicurean physics held that the entire universe consisted of two things: matter and void. Epicurus holds that there must be an infinite supply of atoms, although only a finite number of types of atoms, as well as an infinite amount of void.

Moreover, the sum of things is unlimited both by reason of the multitude of the atoms and the extent of the void. For if the void were infinite and bodies finite, the bodies would not have stayed anywhere but would have been dispersed in their course through the infinite void, not having any supports or counterchecks to send them back on their upward rebound.

Again, if the void were finite, the infinity of bodies would not have anywhere to be. Because of the infinite supply of atoms, there are an infinite amount of worlds, or cosmoi. Epicureanism states that atoms are unable to be broken down into any smaller parts, and Epicureans offered multiple arguments to support this position. Atoms are constantly moving in one of four different ways.

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Without the swerve, the atoms would never have interacted with each other, and simply continued to move downwards at the same speed. Epicurus also felt that the swerve was what accounted for humanity's free will. Epicureans believed that senses also relied on atoms. Every object was continually emitting particles from itself that would then interact with the observer.


Epicurean philosophy employs an empirical epistemology. Since Epicureans thought that sensations could not deceive, sensations are the first and main criterion of truth for Epicureans. For example, when one places a straight oar in the water, it appears bent. The Epicurean would argue that image of the oar, that is the atoms traveling from the oar to the observer's eyes, have been shifted and thus really do arrive at the observer's eyes in the shape of a bent oar.

An individual's preconceptions are his or her concepts of what things are, e. If something is pleasurable, we pursue that thing, and if something is painful, we avoid that thing. The idea of "presentational applications of the mind" is an explanation for how we can discuss and inquire about things we cannot directly perceive. Tetrapharmakos, or "The four-part cure", is Philodemus of Gadara 's basic guideline as to how to live the happiest possible life, based on the first four of Epicurus ' Principal Doctrines. This poetic doctrine was handed down by an anonymous Epicurean who summed up Epicurus' philosophy on happiness in four simple lines:.

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Don't fear god, Don't worry about death; What is good is easy to get, and What is terrible is easy to endure. One of the earliest Roman writers espousing Epicureanism was Amafinius. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace , whose famous statement Carpe Diem "Seize the Day" illustrates the philosophy, as well as Lucretius , who wrote the poem De rerum natura about the tenets of the philosophy. The poet Virgil was another prominent Epicurean see Lucretius for further details. The Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara , until the 18th century only known as a poet of minor importance, rose to prominence as most of his work along with other Epicurean material was discovered in the Villa of the Papyri.

In the second century CE, comedian Lucian of Samosata and wealthy promoter of philosophy Diogenes of Oenoanda were prominent Epicureans. Julius Caesar leaned considerably toward Epicureanism, which e. In modern times Thomas Jefferson referred to himself as an Epicurean:.

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If I had time I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side. And I wish I could subjoin a translation of Gassendi's Syntagma of the doctrines of Epicurus, which, notwithstanding the calumnies of the Stoics and caricatures of Cicero, is the most rational system remaining of the philosophy of the ancients, as frugal of vicious indulgence, and fruitful of virtue as the hyperbolical extravagances of his rival sects. Christopher Hitchens referred to himself as an Epicurean. Humanistic Judaism as a denomination also claims the Epicurean label.

In modern popular usage, an Epicurean is a connoisseur of the arts of life and the refinements of sensual pleasures; Epicureanism implies a love or knowledgeable enjoyment especially of good food and drink. Because Epicureanism posits that pleasure is the ultimate good telos , it has been commonly misunderstood since ancient times as a doctrine that advocates the partaking in fleeting pleasures such as sexual excess and decadent food. This is not the case. Epicurus regarded ataraxia tranquility, freedom from fear and aponia absence of pain as the height of happiness.

He also considered prudence an important virtue and perceived excess and overindulgence to be contrary to the attainment of ataraxia and aponia. Instead, Epicurus referred "the good", and "even wisdom and culture", to the "pleasure of the stomach". When Epicurus sought moderation at meals, he was also not averse to moderation in moderation, that is, to occasional luxury. His community also became known for its feasts of the twentieth of the Greek month.

Francis Bacon wrote an apothegm related to Epicureanism:.

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  7. There was an Epicurean vaunted, that divers of other sects of philosophers did after turn Epicureans, but there was never any Epicurean that turned to any other sect. Whereupon a philosopher that was of another sect, said; The reason was plain, for that cocks may be made capons, but capons could never be made cocks. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Epicurean disambiguation.

    Schools of hedonism. Key concepts. Related articles. Paradox of hedonism Hedonic treadmill. Main article: Tetrapharmakos. Philosophy portal. Oxford, United Kingdom. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Happiness or Its Absence in Art

    The Philosophy of Vegetarianism. University of Massachusetts Press. The Ancient World. XLIII : — The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy. Robert Pinsky, The Inferno of Dante, p. University of California Press. Epicureanism: A Very Brief Introduction.

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    United States of America: Oxford University. This tendency is functionally useful when it leads to persevering at a task until it is done. But the power of absence extends well beyond tasks. It is an important dynamic in relationships, in therapy , and even in spiritual matters. The power of absence lies in the longing it engenders. An absent parent might be romanticized, a birth parent sought, an estranged or dead relative's life fictionalized into a narrative of what-might-have-been.

    Occasionally, someone will meet the absent parent or relative, and then the longing disappears. It doesn't seem to matter whether or not a relationship ensues; when the mystery is gone, the longing evaporates. The puzzle piece has been found. It may turn out not to have been an important piece at all.

    Why You Should Strive for a Meaningful Life, Not a Happy One

    What was important was its absence. Absence is so powerful it can evoke a kind of trance. Loss, death and grieving were pathologized and normal variations misunderstood. Conventional clinical thinking gave rise to the invention of bereavement counselors and de-briefing specialists. When the ideas about how people manage grief and loss were finally examined systematically, it turned out that the experts' conventional wisdom couldn't have been more wrong.

    Happiness or Its Absence in Art by Ronit Milano, William L. Barcham -

    When George Bonanno conducted a prospective study of bereavement he found three styles of grief: common grief, in which people showed an elevation of symptoms of depression which abated in the first year or two after the loss; chronic grief, in which there was a high, dramatic level of depression that did not resolve for several years; and—the most surprising finding— absent grief, in which people showed no disruption in their functioning at all.

    They might be sad about the death, they might miss the person, but they kept functioning. As much as half the subjects fall into this group. Because the researchers knew a lot about the subjects before their loss they concluded these were healthy people, resilient —and they did not follow the clinician's script about the way people grieve.

    They were not in thrall to the power of absence. For more on this research, see Bonnano, George A. The power of absence can be a vital, productive life force, as well. This is particularly true in spiritual and religious enterprises, and it may also be true in the arts. Human beings, stuck in mortality with its partial, limited view, long to see the total picture.

    One might say that the human search for immortality, or the eternal, or God, is, just on another level, a search for the piece that will complete the puzzle.