Epicureanism, Objectivism And The Predisposition Of The Brain

Epicureanism, Objectivism And The Predisposition Of The Brain

It is often assumed, that people either develop or adopt a philosophy and then consciously decide to live in accordance.   

I am convinced, that it is the other way around.   People first feel comfortable with a specific way of life, which is innate in their brain, and then they develop or adopt the philosophy most suitable as a conscious representation.   People following their own inclinations are prone or at risk to experience cognitive dissonance, as long as they consider themselves as deviant from what they are supposed to conform to.   The change of the philosophy allows them to be in harmony and congruence with themselves.

I speculate, that there is a bell curve of what drives human behavior.   At one end, there is the hedonist brain, which has a high urge to restore homeostasis as a consequence of instinctive needs, and which also gets the strongest stimulation to its pleasure center from physical stimuli.    At the other end is the Epicurean brain, which is guided predominantly by rationality and less by instinctive need for homeostasis, and which is most sensitive and responsive to emotional and intellectual stimulation of the pleasure center.    The brains of the majority of people are more balanced in the middle between the two extremes.  

Since the hedonistic and balanced brain is sufficiently in accordance with the Darwinian fitness for procreation and the survival of the species, people with such brains often do not need a philosophy except they just consider themselves as normal.    Only people with the predominantly Epicurean brain feel often compelled to define themselves by a philosophy, because the get marginalized due to their apparent defiance against the animal nature. 

Epicurus has done a very good job in formulating a philosophy fitting this kind of a brain.   He had the wisdom to limit his advice to telling individuals, what they can do to live a happy life for themselves and in interaction with others.    As far as I know, he does not claim, that his philosophy is equally suitable for everybody, he only offered it to those, who choose to share his garden community or who were interested.  
Someone suggested to me the objectivism of Ayn Rand.   It seems to me, that she created this philosophy to accommodate her Epicurean brain.   But in contrast to Epicurus, she projects her subjective experience of her own brain upon others and believes that her philosophy is equally suitable for all human beings.  
 "Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself."  
This quote makes a statement clearly against procreation.  Ayn Rand omits to acknowledge, that hedonistic and average brains are not suitable for her philosophy, because these brains are driven by the urge to procreate, which reaches homeostasis by the sacrifice of raising children.   Raising children is a sacrifice.    Not only the childfree, but most parents agree with this, but they consider themselves as doing a duty and earning society's gratitude.  

There is more information about her omitting evolution:

Her projecting of her own inclination to all people has lead her to propagate capitalism.   
But capitalism is a direct consequence of the urge to procreate and to favor the bearer of the own genes over other genetically unrelated people.  Capitalism is the greedy expression of acquiring control over as many resources as possible by ruthlessly competing and exploiting others for the sole purpose of supplying the own genetic offspring for as many generations as possible with the advantage of accumulated wealth.    Without procreation, capitalism would be obsolete.   Someone, for whom his own life and his genes die at the same moment, can die poor and he has no need to be greedy.

Therefore I identify as an atheistic Epicurean, but I cannot identify myself as an objectivist.

This text is a copy from my ERCP-blog:

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Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 23, 2011 at 9:03am
My answer to these comments are in a new blog entry:  Self-Interest Or Altruism
Comment by MCT on October 22, 2011 at 11:44pm


I often contemplate unconscious behavior. I have posted multiple posts about determinism and choice. Choice is dependent. Freedom and control are relative terms describing a relationship between entities. Not essential characteristics of anything. Those patterns of electrochemical neuro-transmission that are most prioritized and therefore fit within the limited number of things we can think of or focus our attention on are conscious. Not only is this not the only process that results in action, but there are many things we do by instinct or reflex. And we are wired as the final arbiter of any decision, by the singular nature of mind that emerges from a brain. Every decision is egoistic, even when it stems from compassion for another and action that helps another's end. It is not a sacrifice to help another. Cooperation, compassion and trade have evolved because they are in the participating individual's best interest. Sacrifice is giving something up that is worth more than what is obtained. Like giving up time you could be using to build a career or foster a real relationship to go pray to and chant about a supernatural tyrant. Or to give up your hard earned money and give it to someone arbitrary for nothing in return.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on October 22, 2011 at 11:10pm
MCT, as a child I arrived at the same position re altruism and self-interest. Now I somehow question the conclusion. Does it give you pause to contemplate behavior which is not conscious, deliberate "choice"? It seems like much of human behavior is on auto-pilot. Or do you simply exclude actions which are not volitional?
Comment by MCT on October 22, 2011 at 9:38pm


You assume way too much. Disgust of diapers is not stopping me from procreating. Not remotely. The only thing driving everybody is self-interest. Only some include passing on their genes as part of this. Many do not.

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 22, 2011 at 6:37pm

MCT:  This is an innate difference between breeders' and non-breeders' brains.  What is beneficial for breeders is detrimental for non-breeders and vice versa.  

For breeders, their strong urge to enable their genes to survive is as real as is perceiving this urge as complete irrationality by the non-breeders, who are not bothered, that their genes die together with their bodies.  

Just like for the breeders the progeny is worth changing the stinking diapers, for the non-breeders the disgust of the diapers is enough reason not to procreate.  

Breeders are driven by feeling dishomeostasis of the instinctive urge to procreate.   Non-breeders are in homeostasis without breeding. 

Comment by MCT on October 22, 2011 at 6:12pm


Price does not equal sacrifice. Raising your children takes work, yes but people do it because they want to. Sacrifice is giving up one value for a lesser one, like giving up one's hard earned money and giving to someone who doesn't deserve it or giving your child's last piece of bread to a stranger. No one in their right mind thinks reading a book is worth it, if baby's diaper is dirty. Sacrifice would be watching television, and feeling the guilt that goes with it, instead of what is in a parents' rational self-interest, being a good parent. Survival of genes is not the motivation for morality, survival and happiness of the individual is, which may include passing on their genetic code, for a variety of reasons. Keep in mind, many people do not wish to procreate, but must have morality none-the-less.

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 22, 2011 at 5:41pm

Sacrifice is the deliberate inflicting damage upon oneself or forcefully upon someone esle for any external purpose.   Usually it is foolish, delusional and irrational.   Sometimes it is part of a deal, when it is the price of doing something beneficial for someone else, who either has or will in the future return the sacrifice.   

Raising children is a sacrifice.  Nobody in her right mind enjoys changing stinking napkins as an alternative to reading a good book.   It is the sacrifice of one's own wellbeing during one lifetime in favor of the survival of the genes.  

Comment by MCT on October 21, 2011 at 7:27pm
No matter what, every decision a person makes is on their own behalf, even when it entails compassion, or it is irrational. It is not a sacrifice to have and raise children, it is a decision, rational or not. Sacrifice cannot be practiced consistently. It would result in the destruction of the sacrificed. Rational self-interest is moral and treating others who deserve so with respect and love is part of that. Sacrifice is not moral.
Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 20, 2011 at 2:59am
John, you have spent an admirably lot of effort into your disagreement with Ayn Rand.   I admit, that after having discarded her objectivism as not suitable for myself, I lacked the motivation to delve any deeper into it.
Comment by John B Hodges on October 19, 2011 at 1:17pm

An essay of mine on the logical structure of Rand's ethical theory


Somewhat longer and more detailed, covering much the same material is


A follow-up essay, where I consider Rand's argument for individual survival necessarily being the ultimate goal of a person's life, showing why it is totally wrong:


Having found a basic error at the very beginning of Rand's ethics, what shall we do instead? My own proposed ethics:




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