📰 Body Pleasure
Full Title: Body Pleasure
As non-human intelligences get more sophisticated, it may be the case that human work remains extremely important; however, it may also be that humans are faced with increasing leisure. If that is the case, the critical problem facing humanity will be how to enjoy ourselves.
Consider, rather, that energy and effort may increase with increasing pleasure, and that a person who experiences a lot of pleasure may be more inclined to deny his baser instincts (including laziness) for the good of others.
Any person who accepts a life of low bodily pleasure and poor affect, even if he does so for beneficent reasons, is failing to contribute to group learning about pleasure, and failing to contribute to a cartel in which humans demand a floor level of bodily well-being – in a sense, scabbing against humanity.
Certainly, the idea that feeling good is a problem is reflected in the fact that “euphoria” is considered a negative side effect of pharmaceutical drugs.
Pleasurable sensations are often packaged with health and spirituality messages (massage, yoga); this provides moral cover for pleasure, but also suggests that physical and “higher” pleasures often go together.
The “groove” of music is a bodily pleasure connected to the more social, abstract pleasure of group rhythmic entrainment.
What are the best strategies for people who want to maximize pleasure in the long term? What is the best that human life can offer, at a very concrete and foundational level? These questions are little considered, in part because of Puritanical cultural norms, and in part because nobody thinks they are important.
Markets are, at best, lurching blindly in all directions – offering “luxury” goods that are poorly connected to pleasure, and the same old sex toys, and an array of psychoactive substances limited by contemporary prohibition fashion.
Nociception is the sense of pain; there is, to my knowledge, no equivalent for pleasure. Pleasure is more complicated than pain.
Pleasurable states that are highly sustainable, potentially taking up a lot of hours that would otherwise be spent in a neutral or painful state, are especially valuable.
And the best pleasures would be ones that increase appetites for complementary pleasures.
The beauty of the night sky, the smell after rain in the desert, the pleasurable tired-soreness after exercise, massage – these are bodily pleasures, though they may be associated with intellectual pleasures: astronomical awareness, environmentalism, health, high status.
t didn’t feel good in the sense that I felt “proud” of exercising. The pleasure was purely physical; the soreness in my muscles felt as if it were being massaged out with each step. I am left to wonder if there are major categories of pleasurable experience that many people don’t know about.
Appetite also increases the pleasure that can be derived from a given food; freeze-dried pasta, prepared on a peak after a long climb with a heavy pack, is more pleasurable than the most expensive meal at a restaurant.
Well-designed human spaces allow for a balance between togetherness and solitude, recognizing that different people are most comfortable at different levels of exposure.
Co-consciousness is the social experience of being conscious along with others. Part of what you’re paying for when you get coffee in a coffee house, in addition to caffeine and work space, is the feeling of being in the company of others.
Muscle pleasure from stretching, massage, and saunas is most intense and available after moderate exercise.
Massage as a cultural Ritual uses techniques to make touch more pleasurable and less intrusively intimate: covering the body, eschewing eye contact, limiting speaking, ensuring that massage strokes are away from rather than toward the breasts and sex organs, etc.
I’m not sure why saunas and steam rooms are pleasurable.
Proprioception is the feeling of where one’s body is at. By “proprioceptive pleasure,” I mean the exhilarating feeling of gliding while downhill skiing or ice skating; the pleasure of riding a motorcycle; the pleasure of Disneyland rides, of soaring or weightless falling; the pleasure of hang gliding; the pleasure of swimming underwater.
Drugs that are administered too rarely for habituation to take place (e.g., psychedelics, ketamine trials for depression) might be the best candidates for long-term better feeling.
The pleasure domain that I see as undergirding all the other experiences of pleasure is exercise pleasure. Yet most people hate exercising, and associate it with pain.
Most people who do low-intensity exercise feel better during the mild exertion. At the point when the body can no longer maintain levels of oxygen and (separately) lactate in the muscles, the exercise becomes so intense that basic affect (feeling good or feeling bad, the lowest-level evaluation of anything) plummets. Everybody feels terrible when they exercise too hard.
I think that the best we can do is to take pleasure seriously, to share strategies for body pleasure management, and ideally, to increase the ease with which everyone can pursue a pleasurable and pain-free life – not just a meaningful life.
Just as there are potentially pleasure exploits – ratchets, such as low-intensity exercise, that increase the amount and duration of pleasure – there are potentially traps that decrease pleasure even as people seek to increase it.
📝 The Teleological Archeology of 📰 Body Pleasure
Another great piece of teleological archeology is Sarah Perry's 📰 Body Pleasure. It's devoted to disclosing the sustainable flourishing of the body's pleasure. Isn't this the most fundamental teleology, what we are essentially meant to pursue, even in religious worldviews?
The wise practicality of 📰 Body Pleasure seems to make it a candidate for a kind of root source of Virtue Ethics, a sketch for a basic curriculum in Flourishing. Why does this seem outrageous? Because Aristotle is dead, and we killed him.
So in 📰 Body Pleasure, we see a methodical and intelligent approach to taking bodily pleasure as a primary domain of inquiry and pursuit—a kind of "selfish" project that's been repressed for centuries.