Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Justice #2: How to Measure Pleasure

Dull, dry, uncomfortable - while these words could accurately describe a host of gross medical conditions, that's what we're not referring to here, thankfully. Instead, these words describe seem to reflect common complaints about ghosti. If you've encountered this situation, keep reading.

We first posted this neat find about a week ago, but in case you missed it, we have an update. In short, Justice is the name of a class taught by Dr. Michael Sandel at Harvard University, and it's so good, they've posted full lectures online. He's excellent at asking questions and garnering feedback from his students.

The second lecture delves into utilitarianism, the idea if faced with options, we should select the one that gives us the greatest happiness or pleasure (utility).

However, we know that pleasure is not always accurate in taking account our goals and priorities; for instance, it may be awesome to watch a 12-hour marathon of House, MD but that to-do list wouldn't clean itself up.

So how can we better define pleasure?

Dr. Sandel provides in the answer in an sticky way, from 38:55-48:21. Watch below to see what we mean.

Here's our dissection.
  • Simple - The educated are able to discern higher and lower pleasures. 
  • Unexpected - Use of video clips breaks people's expectations of boring old philosophy.
  • Concrete - He references and reiterates key examples.
  • Credible - You bet - they're discussing one of the great utilitarian philosophers of all time!
  • Emotion - There was some humor.
  • Stories - It was missing but could have been integrated.
Best yet - it's an easy link to answering the age-old question, "How can anyone enjoy niyams?" Essentially, our understanding is lacking; we lack that spiritual enlightenment.John Stuart Mills, that great utilitarian philosopher from above, writes,
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. We started sabha off yesterday by showing three video short clips - Looney Tunes, Seinfeld, & Joli Parva video from Youtube - while asking the audience which show they'd most enjoy on a Friday night. Most of the hands went up for Looney Tunes though we were hoping that some of the K2 would go for Seinfeld - a more current show would have probably piqued their interest more.

    Then, we linked this activity to understanding how we assign different values of pleasure to different activities, and for Gunatitanand Swami, he would always prefer that which is related to Shriji Maharaj which was the foundation of his nirgun bhakti.

    Practice making the link beforehand; if it's not clear, this unexpected activity will flop.