Cyrenaic Reasonings IV: Walter Pater’s Neo-Cyrenaic Philosophy

In his book, Lampe discusses Walter Pater’s literature. Walter is the author of Marius the Epicurean, and also an advocate of naturalist and hedonistic philosophy that focuses on aesthetics as a way to capture and live life in the moment. He also calls for a revolution against habit and in favor of raw, authentic living in the moment. The following quote specifically encapsulates Pater’s philosophical musings.

The service of philosophy … is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. … Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life … How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

The theory or idea or system which requires of us the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest into which we cannot enter, or some abstract theory we have not identified with ourselves, or of what is only conventional, has no real claim upon us.

Notice the vindication of that quintessential Cyrenaic practice: presentism. Being here now is required for this direct and attentive experience of life. It was perhaps from Pater that Michel Onfray took to talking in terms of pulsations in his French literature–notably, in his Sculpture de soi.

This presentism proposed by the original Cyrenaics was discussed as monokhronos hedone (“pleasure of a single time”) in Lampe’s book, and it has its merits, although later Epicureans refute this presentism not because it’s a bad practice, but because it needlessly excludes the remembrance of past pleasures and the expectation of future ones as another legitimate practice of abiding in pleasure. In other words, it is one thing to anchor our pleasure in the moment, it is another one to limit our pleasure to the moment only.

Further Reading:

The Birth of Hedonism: The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life

Cyrenaic Reasonings

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014), 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and Epicurus of Samos – His Philosophy and Life: All the principal Classical texts Compiled and Introduced by Hiram Crespo (Ukemi Audiobooks, 2020). He's the founder of, and has written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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1 Response to Cyrenaic Reasonings IV: Walter Pater’s Neo-Cyrenaic Philosophy

  1. Pingback: Cyrenaic Reasonings – Epicurean Database

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