Dry November: Day 23

November 23, 2019

Today a discussion of pleasure ex negativo, of whether pleasure can be thought of as absence of pain. Seems plausible, though phenomenologically, when one feels pleasure it feels like a presence, not an absence.

Then again, there are at least two types of pleasure, the fleeting kind that comes from indulging a desire, and the longer-lasting kind that could be called contentment. Perhaps the former is best described ex negativo, the absence of craving, while the latter is a presence: satisfaction.

The WHO: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And absence of sickness is not quite thriving, not quite flourishing, is it? It seems to me that positive flourishing, beyond just health, is possible. Perhaps beyond rude health too.

Eudaimonia isn’t mere absence of problems, nor is it merely happiness, but it entails action.

The question of reducing craving (swallowed bait?) might relate to the free energy principle, the idea that action is motivated by a desire to reduce uncomfortable energy, something like the libido, which Freud said was analogous to hunger. Hunger, too, feels like a presence, one which one wishes to reduce, rather than a lack, precisely.

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter or see more here.