Sunday, November 13, 2005

December Meeting

Did anyone suggest a topic for the December meeting?


Blogger CSC said...

We chose to discuss happiness (is it different from pleasure?), or, put differently, 'what makes for a well-lived life?'. We keep coming back to this question and we've had a hard time getting anywhere with it. I thought we'd hit it directly. Any thoughts for where to begin?

7:53 AM  
Blogger LD said...

How would last month's discussion fit with this one?

Did y'all get to talk about the issue of jealousy Dr. Ciocchetti?
The idea that jealousy is necessary for romantic love still doesn't make sense to me.

Is romantic love necessary for a happy life? I do not think that it is necessary. As it stands right now, I think that most people would be better off if they stayed away from romantic, committed relationships. Society is too overrun with contradictions. Most people seem confused and end up getting hurt and causing more harm than good.

I know of too many people who equate happiness with pleasure. I do not buy it. Pleasure seems much more fleeting than happiness.

I think in the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle stated that we cannot judge whether or not a man is truly happy until after he is dead. Something along those lines... Was Mother Teresa happy?

11:51 AM  
Blogger CSC said...

You'd raised a lot there, Lacey. Let me give it a shot:

No one bought that jealousy was necessary. In fact, that is what pushed me towards this issue. Everyone felt monogamy was right for him or her, but no one was willing to question someone who felt good in a non-monogamous relationship. I wanted to push deeper. Is this just pleasure but not happiness?

I think a connection between feeling threatened and jealously needs to be drawn. We feel jealous when we think we might lose, or never gain, something valuable to us. A loved one spending time loving another can threaten us in many way—less time with us, more love elsewhere, prelude to leaving, etc. I don’t think that it is necessarily threatening, but it is very likely to be threatening, and you risk a lot to find out.

As for the romantic love being necessary for happiness, I forgot to raise that point! We should definitely add it to the list. Friendship, in the Aristotelian sense, is surely necessary (I’d think) and I’d think erotic love—love and sex—would be very helpful for happiness if not essential. I’m not saying it is easy, because it isn’t. It exposes you to profound loss and harm, but if you never engage with another, mind, body, and soul, I think you’d miss something valuable. (Maybe you can make up for it with something else.)

Any idea how to drive home the point that pleasure and happiness aren’t the same? The main character in Lolita has sex with Lolita’s mother while thinking of Lolita, an underage girl. I’d bet he feels pleasure, but he strikes me as unhappy. Surely, though, there are better examples. I need some to help make the next PDG work.

7:12 PM  
Blogger devin said...

I missed the discussion, but I don't believe monogamy is necessary for a happy relationship.

I see the concept of monogamy coming from two different areas. The first of which is a social construct that we are to be in a relationship with one person at a time, all the while being faithful to the other. This construct is probably most deeply rooted in religion and has since moved away from solely being a religious must to a social normality. It was not too long ago in our society that adulterous wives were put to death or forced to suffer great humiliation at the hands of their peers while men were merely reprimanded or allowed to indulge in activities with others.

The second area that I see monogamy being stressed is in minimizing jealousy. If a couple thinks that the ideal relationship is one which entails monogamy, then, the threat of another person disrupting that can cause problems. Could jealousy exist without the notion that there must be a monogamous relationship? I would think that if a man had several wives, and spent the majority of the time with one, that the others would become jealous, but I cannot be certain. Jealousy just seems like it can be so situational. If the wives have been raised in a society in which polygamy is normal, then they probably won’t be jealous because they won’t really know any different.

If we lived in a society where a happy relationship involved the two parties being in the relationship for the sake of friendship and bettering one another (this is much like Aristotle’s idea of the perfect friendship), then monogamy wouldn’t be an issue. A man could be married to a woman and they could both be happy in their notion of each other’s love. Suppose the man were to have a relationship with another man. As long as that friendship is still being attended to, the woman should probably not be jealous at all. However, I do think there would be a cap to the amount of relationships you could have because you can only devote so much time into building that perfect relationship.

So, monogamy isn’t necessary for a happy relationship in call cases, but in some cases it is. It seems to me to be more of a societal thing than anything. If anyone is to function in their society, they normally have to abide by its norms. When i think of relationships now i like to think of the caring approach that we went over in ehtics that was something like... caring about a person is reflecting their needs and desires onto yourself. When the other is hurt, you are equally hurt, when the other is happy you are too. If engaging in acts with others hurts the person you are in a relationship with you should understand their feeling, and as a result, probably not engage in those acts anymore.

This may be gibberish, but I wrote it late last night!

1:44 PM  
Blogger CSC said...

It seems to me, though, that the argument you (Devin) give implies significant components that aren't merely social. When you suggest that time places a limit on the number of people you can be real friends with, and if you accept that romantic love is an especially intense friendship, then I think you naturally get pretty close to monogamy. Situations where you can pursue other activities and maintain two loving relationships are rare. If so, then a normal person would be threatened by his loved one taking another lover. Jealousy implies a sense that this is a dangerous thing to do, and it is. Perhaps that danger can, in extraordinary circumstances, be overcome, but the danger is real and remains real across all social circumstances I can think of. The danger stems from a natural fact about time and our attention span and not just social norms. (Though social norms can exacerbate the harm done.)

I think the same thing can be said for caring about another. Time and attention place natural limits, and the unknown danger that they might be reached makes another relationship a threat even if it that limit isn’t actually reached. It might be. One can never be sure.

5:39 PM  
Blogger LD said...

Ok. How did sexual intercourse come up at the meeting last month? Is sex just sex, or is there something special about it?

Devin raised an interesting point that came up in a conversation that I had with Mike. The issue of time. It seems like only independently wealthy people are capable of having multiple romantic relationships. Americans seem to be especially busy. Work 9-5 Mon-Fri., house work, tending to the children, etc. How could the average person have enough time for two deep relationships? If three people lived in the same house and followed basically the same schedule this could easily be possible.

It's not that simple though, is it? It seems highly unlikely that those three people would all be equally attracted to one another. All three people would have different personalities resulting from different life experiences, so two people may be more attracted to each other and the third person is left out to a certain degree. That would certainly lead to jealousy. Granted, person A could appreciate the beauty of both persons B and C, but it seems that one would end up being "better than" the other.

Ok. But what if there is just sex and then there is the "union of two kindred spirits"(HA!). Can a person be in a romantic relationship with only one person and also be "allowed" to have sex with other people as an extracurricular activity? Those activities would of course be open for discussion in the romantic relationship. Person A sleeps with person C (more or less on a whim, not regularly) but goes home to person B every night. I don't have a problem with this sort of relationship. It seems clear enough. But of course there is a big problem associated with this lifestyle-- what did person A catch from person C and then possibly pass on to person B.

So, I'm still for monogamy if a person chooses to be in a relationship at all. Anything else is too messy. that is, unless you have lots of money and a good doctor... oh, to be a rockstar.

Happiness-- I'm cynical. I think the proper relationship described in Ethics was beautiful and ideal, but in no way realistic. I think that in Ethics Aristotle focused on a 2-person relationship, and he stated that one cannot have many friends. The 2-person relationship is great. Each person is pushing the other one to achieve. One person is there to correct the other if he mispeaks. If you are all alone, you don't have anyone there to tell you that you're wrong! Didn't he also say that living together is a plus? But of course having a relationship with only one other person is limiting. That one person will not be interested in everything that you are. This opens the door to having more than one relationship. But if a person is involved with two or more people and genuinely cares about both, how does that person choose a sex-partner? What if he/she is attracted to both people. ehk. it gets messy. WHat if he/she is not attracted to either one?? why is sexual intercourse necessary.... it's not.

11:15 AM  

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