Epicurus’ “Kinetic” and “Katastematic” Pleasures. A Reappraisal

Yosef Z. Liebersohn


In this paper I shall offer new definitions for what seem to be the most dominant terms in Epicurus’ theory of pleasures - “kinetic” and “katastematic”. While most of the scholarly literature treats these terms as entirely concerned with states of motion and states of stability, I shall argue that the distinction concerns whether pain is or is not removed by this or that pleasure. As the removal of pain is a necessary condition for the Epicurean goal of ataraxia and aponia, “katastematic” pleasure, having to do with the removal of pain, is the necessary pleasure pertaining both to the process of removing pain and to its result, namely the absence of pain, while “kinetic” pleasure is an unnecessary pleasure having nothing to do with the removal of pain, e.g. it starts after pain has been removed. If my analysis and interpretation prove correct, the two conventional classifications - “kinetic-katastematic” and “necessary-unnecessary” - turn out to be referring to the same phenomenon and are aspects of one classification. Moreover, this new interpretation resolves some of the main problems arising from our testimonia concerning “kinetic” and “katastematic” pleasures.

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