How Epicurism leads me to Anarcho-Communism

Anarchism/Anarcho-Syndicalism/Anarcho-Communis...
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As an Epicurean, I require very little to be content: Food, Shelter, Friends and the absence of pain. All these things have always been generally easy to achieve and as such they are what each person should be able to have. The fact that so many do not is a telling problem of the disfunctionality of our society.

One could ask: “As an Epicurean, why do you care what others have? After all, if you can achieve a state of ataraxia why should you care if others do the same?”. This is really a moral issue and should be looked in this light.

The question is, how do I go from the descriptive “My only needs are those which bring me in ataraxia” to the prescriptive “Everyone should be able to fulfill the needs that bring them in a state of ataraxia“. To go there, we first need to look at my reasons for doing so.

  1. The more people that desire that others are achieving ataraxia, the more likely it is that I will be able to achieve and sustain it through their combined efforts.
  2. Achieving ataraxia allows people to work on achieving the rest of their desires. Since I’m trying to make it so that one of those desires is that everyone is achieving ataraxia, then this helps spread this desire as well as happiness which comes from being in this state.

From these we can see that I have reasons to promote the desire (i.e. it is considered good) that people should be able to fulfill the needs that bring them in a state of ataraxia. It becomes a moral value.

So how does this lead to Communism? Well, Communism has the ideological proposition that everyone should be producing according to their abilities and receiving according to their needs. By itself, the second part of the sentence is not very descriptive as anyone can claim the most extraordinary things as needs. However through the lenses of Epicurism, the needs transform to something objective: The things one needs to be in a state of ataraxia.

Communism then conflates exactly with the moral value I have reached via Epicurism. Each of us should be striving to the best of our abilities to help others fulfil their needs. And since the needs one has on average1 are the very basic and most easy to create, the effort we would require from each of us for this to be achieved would be minimal.

Of course Communism is more than a ideological proposition. It also proposes the way a society would be organized (Classless & Staleless) which also follow from Epicurism since authority and inequality either lead to emotional pain or to the increased cost of basic needs, making them opposed to the moral value I explained above.

Now to be accurate, I never really moved towards the libertarian socialist quadrant because I looked at the subject philosophically, but rather because intuitively, for someone with an Epicurean mindframe, the concepts of Anarchism/Socialism/Communism fit very well to my moral values.

Only later did it occur to me how much one leads to the other and the dialectic relationship between them. As much as the Epicurean subconsiously espouses the libertarian socialist mindframe, so does the consistent libertarian socialist require an Epicurean thinking to avoid sliding into authoritarianism or crass individualism (ie Capitalism)

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  1. adding the cost of medicine which are more resource intensive but also much smaller in production scale than food []

50 thoughts on “How Epicurism leads me to Anarcho-Communism

  1. In other words, "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly."

    1. As long as they do not have valued which lead to inequality (as in, proponents on private property) I do not care about them more than trying to convince them of the error of their ways. It is they who will be having a worse life in the end.

      If they do have values promoting inequality, then obviously they are planning to dominate others and as such I am their enemy.

    1. Well, what I responded with was a quote from Epicurus, so we can assume that there weren't any non-materialistic concepts involved.

      1. Hm, didn't remember that one. I just took Honour as the higher virtue concept it has in Medieval ages not in the sense the Epicurus used it (ie Not being a dick to others 🙂 )

  2. I agree and sympathize with the Epicureanism part. But I think communism falls prey to what I would call the "utilitarianism paradox." It seems that when people have tried to do the "greatest good for the greatest number," it has often resulted in coercion against those who do not wish to participate, or who have different ideas as to what is considered good.

    I could see voluntary participants in an Epicurean community making a go of it. On the other hand, even voluntary communes have a somewhat checkered history of manipulation and abuse.

    1. It wasn't as if those people simply were left in a vacuum to attempt their experiment. In most of those cases, where something truly bottom-up was attempted, it was opposed and attacked by everyone else. See the Spanish Revolution for example.

      On the other hand, anything other than Communism is always in a state of coercion against those who do not wish to participate.

    1. I am going to decapitate you and, burn your village and hear the lamentation of your women

        1. If you want me to be serious then stop asking loaded questions that do not follow from what I'm writing

          1. You did say the following:
            "If they do have values promoting inequality, then obviously they are planning to dominate others and as such I am their enemy."

            Since it's not clear which values you think promote inequality, and you are a communist, I think it's fair to ask you how large your concept of "enemy" is. Are mutualists your enemies? Georgists? The parecon people? Anarcho-Syndicalists? Where's the line drawn exactly?

            Also, how do you propose to deal with your enemies?

            I am planning to write an entry on the topic of inter-ideological ethics, so my questions are serious. I am taking people's opinions on the subject.

          2. It is one thing to ask which values promote inequality and how I would deal with them and another to assume that your values would be considered as such and I would, by default, take violent action against you.

            The line is drawn to the concepts that I already know promote inequality. Concepts such as private property and authoritarianism. If in the future something else is proven to create inequality then it will be included as well.

          3. It just seems to me that if you're gonna define a group of "enemies," you should have a pretty darn clear criterion of how to determine who is in that category.

            Here is another question for you: (I've asked this to the host of Directionless Bones as well)

            Suppose your community needs some gold to produce microchips and you don’t have any gold. The Mutualia community discovers a gold vein and offers your community the gold you need for 50 person-hours per gram (say). What would you do?
            a) Declare war/try to steal the gold.
            b) Refuse to trade.
            c) Try to strike a compromise between both economic system so there can be a go-between.
            d) Trade.

          4. When you say "the discover the gold" you mean that they found a mine around their area and instead of using it to extract the gold themselves for trading they want to have others dig it out and give them a portion? Or do they extract it themselves and trade it?

          5. When you say "they discover the gold" you mean that they found a mine around their area and instead of using it to extract the gold themselves for trading they want to have others dig it out and give them a portion? Or do they extract it themselves and trade it?

          6. They are extracting gold from the mine (by a worker's collective, of course, after buying the rights from the inhabitants of the area if any live there) and are offering it for trade.

          7. Then I don't see a problem any more than for the workers of a factory. Obviously trading is a suboptimal arrangement as you're trying to calculate SNLT to make a fair exchange with others but it does not breed exploitation so it's not a problem AFAICS.

            It would be much better for them to simply give the gold to other worker's collectives that need it and in turn receive whatever they need themselves (perhaps some of the chips that their gold will help produce).

          8. Then I don't see a problem any more than for the workers of a factory. Obviously trading is a suboptimal arrangement as you're trying to calculate SNLT to make a fair exchange with others.

            It would be much better for them to simply give the gold to other worker's collectives that need it and in turn receive whatever they need themselves (perhaps some of the chips that their gold will help produce).

          9. Btw, define "buying the rights". You mean that someone laid claim to a mine they were not using? If so, then they would not be considered to own it.

          10. Well then I can't grasp how you would be "buying the rights" from the previous mutualist inhabitants in any meaningful sense but I don't know much about mutualism anyway.

          11. Post-revolution? I would say no? Unless you truly mean that someone would be living inside the mine itself. Remember that we're talking about a society where we can finally recognise only use-rights, not property-right.

            Further to that, I would be guessing that it would have to be the inhabitants of the area who are working the mine in the first place so they wouldn't have to buy it from anyone.

          12. That goes against my moral intuitions. I see that there is something very wrong when people who live on fertile, rich land have their natural resources overtaken by big Western corporations. That's simply not acceptable. There's gotta be some right for the inhabitants of an area to have a say in the way their natural resources are used.

          13. This all depends on the circumstances. If this land has been hoarded (remember that because of the problem of primitive accumulation, there is no fair use left for anyone) in order to breed inequality (keep others homeless and starving so that they can "voluntarily" choose to work for a wage) then I would be in favour or redistributing it.

            Rule of thumb from my PoV:

            Farms) Can one person work all his land? Yes, then he has a claim. No? Then split it among the number of people necessary to do so.

            Livable Area) Does one person need all the area he "owns" in order to live? Will that mean that other will stay homeless because of that? If not, then he has a claim.

          14. All usage rights are to an extent judgement calls. That is why we employ common sense and democratic calls when that fails.

            Or do you think that we should allow people to retain whatever they have already, even if it means one person living in a mansion while 20 others live on the street?

          15. Yes, I would rather have twenty people live on the street than have one potentially innocent person be declared guilty and expropriated.

            Freeing up all the land occupied by government and corporations right now and freeing up the credit system would make land and capital available to the people who need it. Couple this with same occupation laws and the issue of homelessness would rapidly cease to be an ongoing problem in the Western world, mansions or not.

            Once the current owners (if they are the occupants, of course, otherwise they shouldn't be upheld as the owners) of the mansion die, you can get in there and divide it any way you want, I don't care.

          16. Well then I disagree. Due to primitive accumulation, there's no "rightful owners". No "innocents". Post-revolutionary period will be a Tabula Rasa and we will have to divide it fairly. You may have the optimist vision that simply by freeing government occupied land would give enough space for everyone but there's 7 Billion people in the Earth and I'm not certain what you say if even feasible.

            If one person decided that he needed his mansion only for himself while 20 others were freezing in the street I'd damn sure ignore him and support the 20 others in claiming a right to live in the mansion as well. Let him try to convince people like you to help him reclaim "what's his".

          17. "Due to primitive accumulation, there's no "rightful owners". No "innocents"."

            You do realize this is the mindset of a dictator, right? "There are no innocents", "everyone deserves to be punished" sort of deal. Your revolution would quickly turn into a dictatorship.

          18. There's gotta be some right for the inhabitants of an area to have a say in the way their natural

            Since it's going to be the inhabitants who are going to be using their own natural resources, I think that goes without saying.

          19. Also, how do you propose to deal with your enemies?

            Depends on the enemy and the circumstances. My goal is egalitarianism, not to defeat my enemies. It is needless to say that non-violent ways will be the weapon of choice. Ways such as ignoring the claims of private property or homesteading and/or agitating workers who have been brainwashed or coerced to accept them.

          20. That seems fair. As long as you're not willing to abandon Anarchist principles in order to deal with ideologies you find unacceptable, we're in agreement.

  3. Non sequitur.

    1) Just because nobody is "innocent" in the context we were discussing does not mean everyone deserves to be punished. It simply means they have no "rightful claim".
    2) It's not the mindset of a dictator.
    3) Just because I believe everything should be redistributed fairly does not mean that it will lead to a dictatorship of the few.

    Do you know what primitive accumulation is?

  4. nice. although i sometimes try to balance the hedonist debate between epicurus and the Cyrenaics. thats why at some points it is better to delay or avoid certain pleasures or possible pleasures while other times if you have the opportunity you better go ahead with it since later you might regret it not going for it. perhaps something which goes more along with cyrenaicism is something like the essay The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything by the american situationists For Ourselves. wonder what you think about it . Maybe we need to get together and launch hedonistic communism. the great max stirner might have proposed something similar since he also didnt have much respect for private property on individualist grounds and so proposed unions of egoists.

      1. Actually, I've been rather puzzled as to why you use the term 'hedony' rather than the more precise 'ataraxia'.

        1. Hmm, you are right, Ataraxia is a better term and it seems that hedony is not as known as an epicurean concept. I didn't remember the word to tell you the truth and I am simply more used to hedony. I will amend my writings from now on however to avoid misunderstandings.

    1. well on the etimology of hedony and all of that i might have to come back later. my adhesion to hedonism perhaps is not strictly epicurean and my anarchism is very situationist. i wanted to make a point on the two classic schools of hedonistic thought, epicureanism and cyreanism and that debate. some people see epicureanism as close to ascetism. personally i do reject some things such as hard addictive drugs such as heroin and a popular street drug cocaine related drug popular here in ecuador called basuco as well as unprotedted sex or things such as mcdonalds and i also dont smoke cigarretes. such behaviors might be similar to what ecologists call "sustaintability" yet i love sex and am gladly promiscous, i do enjoy responsible drug use and love parties and music and dancing and eating.
      perhaps the main point is that i resist a little the regular view of trying to associate communism with ascetism. actually real communism will greatly improve our opportuniites for sel and collective enjoyment and pleasure by lowering working hours and helping us get rid of of annoying and exploitative bosses.

      1. I don't know a lot about ascetism so I can't really comment on that but from a general knowledge I'd have to say that Epicurism is nothing like. Epicurism is not about avoiding what you like but rather in balancing what you like with the pain they will bring later on and also making you realise that you don't really need anything other than the 3 basics to live a happy life.

        So by all means. Do a lot of sex, and be a promiscous as you like. But for example if your promiscouity would bring you into a boatload of pain (from the missus and the subsequent psychological pain), Epicurism would advise that you avoid it as you don't really need so much sex

  5. Great post, we have the right to be both lazy and greedy!

    It's funny how many An-Cap would blame the poor for their laziness, but then call Bebel's proposal to call every able-bodied individuals in society to work coercion.

  6. "Fair enough, but how do you intend to contend with people who do not share your values?"

    Leave them alone, and any time they want to join us we will welcome them with open arms.

    "On the other hand, even voluntary communes have a somewhat checkered history of manipulation and abuse."

    The same befell the private sector, individual capitalists often force their employees to work in terrible conditions so as to minimize costs.

  7. Suppose the boss be overthrown and the workers own their own factories. Because production nowadays is mass production in an assembly line, how can any workers leave their own respective position without causing a disruption disastrous to everybody else? Individuals are reduced to cogs in the collective machine because of OBJECTIVE MATERIAL circumstances, not the collective arbitrariness. Privatization CANNOT be a remedy to the situation. If the boss disappear, who will own the factories? The entrepeneurs, then we will have a regime under which intelectual thinkers with theoretical knowledge dictate the practical activities of manual workers and pay them wages to remunerate for their labour. A Technocratic wage-slavery will emerge.

    Unless industry be de-centralized so much that every body possesses their own means of production on an equal basis, then privatization of the means of production will be practical.

    1. At least an assembly-line that could democratically elect their overseer would be better than what we have now.

  8. "As an Epicurean, I require very little to be content: Food, Shelter, Friends and the absence of pain"

    Yes, let's all embrace this philosophy of bovine, mindless bliss. Who cares for higher principles of mind and spirit ? And who cares about uplifting one's condition and the condition of a society as a whole ?More importantly, why would anyone strive to transcend his mere material concerns, if this means taking ourselves away from material pleasure ?

    Let' s all ignore the obvious differences between races, peoples and ideas and be equal. After all, we all must eat, drink, defecate and enjoy some human company. Let this be our highest ideals in life. Hell, while we're at it, let's be equal with animals too. After all, what gives us the right to walk on two legs, posses higher mental capacities and use articulate language ? In the name of equality I demand that we walk on all fours and use onomatopoeia only !
    Anarchism and equality FTW ! Let us all join hands in the name of bovine bliss and well-being ! Death to higher, traditional values, and death to anyone who dares to rise higher, towards a superior condition ! Equality is the key to happiness ! Bring those elitists down to the ground and make them participate in our all-peaceful and all-happy society where only food, shelter and physical well-being matter ! The world of egalitarian, bovine bliss !

    Thank you , division by zero, for this post and this blog ! Thanks for opening our eyes to what reality actually comes down to ! Anarcho-communism FTW !!!

    1. I don't know where you silly extrapolations come, but once you're ready to discuss rather than deciding what strawmen to attack, I'll be here.

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