March 28, 2011


GW: ... pleasantest is it to win what we love.



In 2009 I started a series in Nederlog called GW  - favourite quotations with some explanations, notes, or comments by me - that did not grow into much, because as it happened I wrote last year mostly about ME, but that I continue today, because it still seems a good series to make, that also doesn't take too much energy, effort and time.

The reason to pick up GW again today is mostly yesterday's "The Principal Doctrines of Epicurus, with my comments" and my realization that there are three favourite quotes of mine about happiness. Here are the second and third:

The fairest thing of all is to be just;
The best to live without disease; most sweet
Power to win each day the heart's desire.
-- Sophocles

 Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health;
 But pleasantest is it to win what we love.
-- Greek inscription at Delos

It seems to me that men (and women, and children) do not so much want happiness as that they desire to do as they please: They want to do as they desire, first and foremost, and often choose for pleasure, but not necessarily so.

It is not so much happiness or pleasure that people seek, but power - the ability to do as they please when they please. And indeed, it is true that the main motive for this is that power gives greater chances for happiness, which again needs not to be pleasure itself, but may be any feeling of well-being produced by seeing an end one has satisfied.

It is noteworthy, not only logically speaking, that this is second order, in the sense that it is a desire about one's desires, and that it can be defined thus if one wants to conflate happiness and power:

  • One is happy if one does what one desires to do if and when one desires.

And obviously, since this is so for each and all, and all seem to aim at happiness thus defined, it follows cooperation and agreement are  necessary for human society.

This also underlines the fact that what motivates men in general, if they have sufficient self-control, are their values rather than their feelings: people's lifes are oriented around and directed by their judgments of value, possibly guided and constrained by judgments of probability.

Finally, both quotations show the ancient Greek facility to phrase the core of a subject clearly, without illusions, without confusions, and without pretensions.

There is more on the basic ideas in my notes to Mill's Utiliarianism; to Aristotle's Ethics; and to Edwards' The Logic of Discourse.

P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence".
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)

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