On desires – A Pythagorean approach

In this article we present an excerpt from ‘Aristoxenus’ Pythagorean decisions and life’ where the issue of desires is shortly analyzed.


Ancient Greek: “περί δε επιθυμίας τάδε έλεγον. Είναι τό πάθος τούτο ποικίλον καί πολυειδέστατον. Είναι δε των επιθυμιών τας μεν επικτήτους τε καί παρασκευαστάς, τας δε συμφύτους. Αυτήν μεντοί την επιθυμίαν επιφοράν τινά τής ψυχής καί ορμήν καί όρεξιν είναι πληρώσεως ή παρουσίας αισθήσεως ή κενώσεως καί απουσίας καί του μή αισθάνεσθαι. Επιθυμίας δε ημαρτημένης τε καί φαύλης τρία είναι είδη τα γνωριμώτατα, ασχημοσύνην ασυμμετρίαν ακαιρίαν. Η γαρ αυτόθεν είναι τήν επιθυμίαν ασχήμονα τε καί φορτικήν καί ανελεύθερον. Η τούτο μεν ου, σφοδρότερον δε καί χρονιώτερον του προσηκόντος. Η τρίτον πρός ταυτά, ότε ου δεί καί πρός α ου δεί”

English: About desire so they said; that this passion is varied and multiform. That other desires are acquired and created and other inherent. That desire itself is a tendency and momentum of the soul, a mood for filling or for sense presence or for evacuation and absence and to feel not. For the wrong and vicious desire he said that three are the traits: ugliness/indecency, asymmetry, and inappropriate circumstance. Because desire is by nature indecent, importunate/insistent and illiberal or, if not all these, it is something more intense and long-lasting than it should. Or, thirdly, when it is not appropriate and for those who are not appropriate

NovoScriptorium: Let us consider in which environment people live today. Ugliness, asymmetry, and inappropriateness in desires have become dominant in our time. Where are we going really? Beware of the analysis made in the ancient text: primarily, psycho-mental problems are caused to the person who desires in the above ways; he feels ‘importunity’. Even worse, he goes deep in the roots and reveals to us that subjugation of man to desires is lack of freedom. And, of course, when one is a slave to his own passions, how likely is he not to be a slave to some others who, with their various (definetly well studied) ways, manage -for their own benefit- this inner slavery? Hence, it should come as no surprise that modern people rarely react against Power, and, when this happens, is for the wrong reasons, i.e. to ensure the continuation of their passions’ satisfaction (for the means of exchange, money).

Isidoros Aggelos



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