samedi 17 mai 2014

Êtes-vous épicurien ou névrosé (au sens ordinaire ou à la façon wittgensteinienne) ?

" Imagine that one has a seat booked in economy class on a forthcoming flight. It turns out on arrival at the airport that there are spare seats in business class. (Let us for present purposes regard business class as a luxurious way to travel, and economy as at least allowing the satisfaction of basic needs.) The airline generously offers to upgrade a randomly selected group of passengers at no extra charge. A follower of Wittgenstein, shunning luxury as corrupting, will refuse the offer. The Epicurean, it seems to me, will accept. The Epicurean had no desire for or expectation of an upgrade, is perfectly content without one, and would remain so if unselected. Nonetheless, business class offers more opportunities for pleasure than economy, and the offer is therefore to be accepted. The good Epicurean will take these opportunities, but without any expectation or desire that they will come along again in the future, perfectly content, going forward, with economy class flights.
Consider now a third case, of someone who regards it as an ordeal to travel economy but who has booked an economy ticket in the erroneous belief that business class on this and other suitable flights was full (or perhaps it was simply too expensive). Our traveller arrives full of dread at the prospect of economy travel, is beset by anxious expectation at the possibility of an upgrade, and awash with relief at being one of those selected - but would have had despondency intensified if the offer had gone to others. Evidently this person has entirely the wrong attitude towards the situation from the point of view of maintaining equanimity in a properly Epicurean fashion ; but what determines this is not the fact that the upgrade will be accepted if offered, since (I have suggested) the Epicurean will make the same choice. Luxury is not itself corrupting, but one's beliefs about its value may be, beliefs that Epicurus will term "empty". The Epicurean, one might think, strikes rather an attractive mean between the respective puritanism and fastidiousness, equally neurotic in their own way, of the other two characters in our scenario." ( Raphael Woolf, Pleasure and desire, in The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism, J.Warren (éd.), Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 160-161)

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