Is well-being of conscious creatures sufficient? Perhaps depends on what well-being means…
“‘A New Theory of Biology’ was the title of a paper Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. He sat for some time meditatively frowning, then picked up his pen and wrote across the title page.
‘The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose
is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present
social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED.’
He underlined the words. ‘The author will be kept under supervision…’. A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose—well, you didn’t know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily recondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes—make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true. But not, in the present circumstances, admissible.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1931) pp. 155-156.
The Controller was right.
The Controller was right.
Have another cup of Soma.
Currently my vote goes to: The Golden Rule with a decent dollop of hedonism stirred in.
Thanks for the reference, burt.
I’ve thought for a while that happiness and pleasure were insufficient causal factors in either ethics or biology. There must be reasons that particular events and states came to generate happiness or pleasure, just as there must be reasons that particular events and states came to generate anxiety and pain (or fill in your own words). Perhaps I picked up on the idea from my initial reading of Brave New World when I was in high school, despite (it seems) completely forgetting about the specific selection you quoted.
Panksepp’s work indicates that all mammals (and I’d guess at least parrots and crows), have an innate “play drive”. My wife offers a very successful horsemanship program, and making use of the horse’s play drive is a key aspect of the program.
Specifying consciousness is useful and helps to trim some fat. Otherwise its just rephrasing an old objective. It doesn’t carry nearly as much water as the author implies. Most our dilemmas remain as they ever were.
“The truth shall make you free.”
“The full quote as rendered in the King James Bible, “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” is inscribed on the main building of the University of Texas. A famous variant is attributed to Gloria Steinem: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
Is it safe to say that most conscious creatures don’t like to be pissed off so they never learn the truth? For example, at every turn our society encourages us to buy stuff - the ads show new stuff making us happy. A $10,000 diamond ring makes a girl ecstatic. A new car makes a listless family and their dog joyful. But stand in a Walmart and visually take it all in. Soon all that stuff will be in a landfill. The truth really pisses us off.