[SydPhil] James Collins Seminar Monday 29th October 12.15pm

Ben Brown benjamin.brown at sydney.edu.au
Fri Oct 26 15:35:26 AEDT 2018

Lecturer and Undergraduate Curriculum Coordinator (CAH & SOPHI)
Classics and Ancient History | FASS (SOPHI)
Ph.: 9351 8983; Office: Main Quad J6.07
E benjamin.brown at sydney.edu.au<mailto:benjamin.brown at sydney.edu.au>
W http://sydney.edu.au/arts/classics_ancient_history/staff/profiles/benjamin.brown.php

Recent Book<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/Di64C0YZWVFR6wO6FwmKIh?domain=bmcr.brynmawr.edu>

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Department of Classics and Ancient History invites you to attend the next instalment in our seminar series. Please join us on Monday the 29th October to hear James Collins, a Fellow in Greek Literature and Philosophy at the Centre for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University. James will deliver a paper entitled:
The Deep Therapy of Epicurean Practice

The philosophical communities of the Hellenistic period offered pathways to tranquility, to freedom from the daily disturbances of both obvious and hidden anxieties and frustrations.  At first glance, all of these pathways appear to consist of the application of therapeutic arguments. Our regular anxieties and frustrations are entirely diseases of belief and judgment. As such, arguments that are critical of those beliefs and capable of substituting others that are instead sound must surely be necessary for restoring our health. Treat the belief in order to treat the behavior.  Apply all sorts of arguments and discourse in order to correct the internal guidance system of a troubled individual, and steer her into more tranquil waters.

The problem with this vision of philosophical therapy—treating beliefs with philosophical arguments—is that so much of our daily behavior is not motivated by our beliefs. A growing body of work in behavioral psychology and cognitive science describes how we are instead overwhelmingly creatures of habit. In familiar places, our behavior is determined more by habit than by beliefs or intentions. What is perhaps more surprising is how much these habitual behaviors are driven by our environment. We “outsource” the control of much of our behavior away from our intentions to contextual cues. Habit and environment become our guidance systems for a good part of our day, so much so that they keep us doing what we have always done in spite of our desires and best intentions to act otherwise.

So alongside their ethical and physical systems and their therapeutic arguments, the Epicureans appear to have developed social practices that curtailed troubling habits. They provided new environments and disrupted familiar contexts, which offered occasions for rehearsing new behaviors. In unfamiliar spaces and relationships, the initiate encountered new patterns of consumption and social interaction that Epicureans theorized had the capacity to overwrite even the most vicious dispositions. These therapeutic interventions into habit and environment directly produce changes in the body—in its feelings and action sequences—without necessarily addressing beliefs and attitudes. In these instances, then, the initiate is trained in an ataraxic lifestyle not through argument and acts of interpretation, but primarily through regular exposure to, and rehearsal of, new philosophical routines.

The paper will commence at 12.15pm at the Centre for Classical and Near Eastern Studies of Australia (CCANESA) Boardroom, Madsen Building, University of Sydney. The paper will be followed by light refreshments.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact either Daniel Hanigan (daniel.hanigan at sydney.edu.au<mailto:daniel.hanigan at sydney.edu.au>) or myself.

All best wishes,

Kirsten Parkin | Postgraduate Representative
Department of Classics and Ancient History
T +61 4 08505686
E kpar0133 at sydney.edu.au<mailto:kpar0133 at sydney.edu.au>| W sydney.edu.au/arts/classics_ancient_history<http://sydney.edu.au/arts/classics_ancient_history>

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