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Re: The Meaning of Life

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[So I was originally going to respond with this on kaminoshiyo's blog entry The Meaning of Life, but I ended up writing a bit too much to justify posting as just a comment. So out of respect and as a means to not hijack his thread, I have created this one here as a means of response and a place to air my thoughts from that post. I would recommend reading kaminoshiyo's blog first (linked earlier) to ensure that you are seeing the whole discussion and so that this does not seem like random blathering.

This was written as a response, so the language is geared to that. I will go back and edit my thoughts to be more stand-alone and comprehensive.]

Getting into this just a little, I would like to offer you a counter proposal. Have you ever heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and then following that, Epicurus? I ask that purely rhetorically since I'm about to explain them both for the good of everyone, but hey, need to start somewhere.

Anyway, the hierarchy of needs is sort of responding to your first snippet in this; the idea that all of us have desires we need to fulfill in order to live. I think you have half of it, but you skip straight from instinct to desire. I think that there is a transition where we have to get what we *need* (like the Stones said) before we can get what we want. This is where the hierarchy is a helpful tool for understanding this, so I've attached a picture below to help us all.

So, as you might notice here, the bottom three possibly represent base needs that we as humans would require to live. From the basics of food and safety up to the need to feel connection to others, I feel this is all more or less stuff that is necessary (things we need) to survive. However, once we get to the last two I think that we start getting into the realm of desires, as you spoke of.

In an attempt to bridge a bit of a gap here, I think that we could conclusively say that a desire, a wish or want, typically would be seen as pleasurable to us when it is achieved. That is to say, once we fulfill a desire, the feeling we might describe having is one of pleasure, or we might call the experience pleasurable, etc. The point here is that if we can agree on this point, then desires are nothing more than us chasing pleasure while minimizing pain as best we can.

Here is where Epicurus comes into play.

You state that you feel the only way to experience life is through being completely and totally free, by not having any restrictions on life (let me know if that's not quite what you meant). In big, fancy words, what we might refer to this as is hedonism, or:
the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.”


Now I doubt there is any disagreement yet, so let me cut to the chase. You seem to be calling (again, correct me if I am wrong) for pure, unadulterated hedonism. Or, “we should pursue only pleasure in life, for nothing else is worth our time.”

To this, I would counter with the idea of moderation. I would not say that you should remove hedonism from your life, I think chasing pleasure (or fulfilling desires) is an important thing in our existence, it allows us to avoid that general feeling of existential dread as we look at the stars and contemplate how small we are. But I think that throwing caution to the wind and claiming the Devil -- metaphorically speaking of course -- is right might be a little too bold.

By chasing only desire and pleasure, we might not allow ourselves to expand fully as a person. What I mean is this; by looking in life only for pleasure we might miss on the expansion of mind and soul that can come from pain. I feel an example is in order. Say that we are both writers experiencing writer’s block. I say to you, “this feeling of in-completion and inability to write is painful, and therefore I feel we should abandon this cause and look somewhere else for pleasure.” To this, I am sure you would scoff and tell me I was short-sighted, after all, writer’s block is only temporary and what is this pain in comparison to the pleasure of writing freely?

In this example, we could call what you say “moderate hedonism” as you are willing to sit through pain knowing that it will lead you to greater pleasure in the future. In comparison, I would represent pure hedonism -- or metaphorically, the Devil -- as I only care for the instant gratification of pleasure.

I will stop here before we get into information overload, but please leave comments or questions below on what I have said, I would be more than happy to respond.


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Updated August 19th, 2016 at 02:22 AM by Greyson

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  1. escorial's Avatar
    the pyramid is in many a blueprint for a rational POV....a large part of life is the social economic class your born into,which can have a dramatic influence on your POV...Working class have to achieve often through adversity...Middle Class..often need to put themselves in dangerous positions to feel they have lived..and the Rich just play out life....I get the pyramid though....
  2. bdcharles's Avatar
    Moderate hedonism - I like that! Everything in moderation - the operative word being "everything".

    I'm familiar with Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs but I wonder sometimes if it is too simple, too prescriptive. Some people have few connections with others yet self-actually realise their artistic visions. Some people have the most broken form of self-esteem and yet skip past that, pour all their worries stemming from that into higher creations. Others have tons of friends but never develop themselves, existing purely in the context of others. Life is complex - let it be
  3. Greyson's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles
    Moderate hedonism - I like that! Everything in moderation - the operative word being "everything".

    I'm familiar with Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs but I wonder sometimes if it is too simple, too prescriptive. Some people have few connections with others yet self-actually realise their artistic visions. Some people have the most broken form of self-esteem and yet skip past that, pour all their worries stemming from that into higher creations. Others have tons of friends but never develop themselves, existing purely in the context of others. Life is complex - let it be
    I've wondered the same thing honestly, I like the framework it gives us as an attempt to grasp what being human actually means, but I definitely feel that there are some loop-holes or people who just thumb their noses at the whole idea and excel in their own ways.
  4. dither's Avatar
    Maybe some people don't have ​rules, or they make their own. It seems to work for them. I get what you're saying Greyson.
  5. dither's Avatar
    JFDI;

    Pushing the boundaries. Testing the waters. It's here and now ( thanks soul to soul ) and it works. Check it out. When those guys DO cause offence and are challenged, more often than not they can be very apologetic, seem to take it all in their stride, and back off, but equally as often, i would suggest, they get away with it, and go merrily on their way. Inciting much envy and resentment.
    Updated August 19th, 2016 at 08:26 PM by dither
  6. kaminoshiyo's Avatar
    In your example, I would ask you "is there an absence of desire between the two subjects"? Both desire something... "I" desire to complete a larger, written work while "you" would might desire to relieve stress or boredom or something by writing a little.

    I don't necessarily believe that we should be able to do whatever we want simply because we desire it, but that we shouldn't suppress our desires, that are not harmful. Because, really, without desire we are simply machines with no aims- programmable to do the work of someone else with a desire...a goal...a plan.
  7. dither's Avatar
    Desire is everything believe me. Lose that and there really IS no point.
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