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Is it better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied? watch

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    "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question."
    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1863)
    What do we think about this? I think Mill is essentially asking if being an unhappy but highly knowledgeable and intellectual human is better than being an average human who's blissfully ignorant and pleased more by the simpler things in life.
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    prove it.
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    I think I am the former but often wish I could be the latter tbh.
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    (Original post by KingStannis)
    prove it.
    Prove what? I'm asking a question based on a philosophical quote.
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    (Original post by Reluire)
    Prove what? I'm asking a question based on a philosophical quote.
    What i think about it is that i don't think JSM can possibly back up the statement.
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    (Original post by KingStannis)
    What i think about it is that i don't think JSM can possibly back up the statement.
    Congratulations, you have discovered all of philosophy.

    OP, I agree with JSM.
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    (Original post by Reluire)
    What do we think about this? I think Mill is essentially asking if being an unhappy but highly knowledgeable and intellectual human is better than being an average human who's blissfully ignorant and pleased more by the simpler things in life.
    I've asked myself this question for years and don't think I'll ever have an answer.

    What I find strange in the question, however, is that Mill ignores that the human being/Socrates dissatisfied will surely know only 'his own side of the question' as exclusively as the pig knows his. Am I misunderstanding?
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    (Original post by Birkenhead)
    I've asked myself this question for years and don't think I'll ever have an answer.

    What I find strange in the question, however, is that Mill ignores that the human being/Socrates dissatisfied will surely know only 'his own side of the question' as exclusively as the pig knows his. Am I misunderstanding?
    The notion is that the human being/Socrates is aware of the higher pleasures of life, so even if they are dissatisfied, their life is immediately more complete, fulfilling and worthwhile than that of the pig/fool, who only know the lower pleasures such as carnal desire or eating, and are happy in their simplicity. Mill believes any and all higher pleasures outweigh any and all lower pleasures, and we know what is a higher pleasure due to the fact that any sane or logical person would choose it over the lower pleasure, even if it involves some level of discomfort. So to Mill, knowing about a higher pleasure partially or totally assumes that the individual already knows about lower pleasures, yet it does not work the other way (else the fool would choose the higher pleasure, and hence not be a fool).
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    (Original post by Arkasia)
    The notion is that the human being/Socrates is aware of the higher pleasures of life, so even if they are dissatisfied, their life is immediately more complete, fulfilling and worthwhile than that of the pig/fool, who only know the lower pleasures such as carnal desire or eating, and are happy in their simplicity. Mill believes any and all higher pleasures outweigh any and all lower pleasures, and we know what is a higher pleasure due to the fact that any sane or logical person would choose it over the lower pleasure, even if it involves some level of discomfort. So to Mill, knowing about a higher pleasure partially or totally assumes that the individual already knows about lower pleasures, yet it does not work the other way (else the fool would choose the higher pleasure, and hence not be a fool).
    I assume the higher pleasure is something akin to Maslow's self-actualisation.

    The problem is knowledge is not the same as experience. Socrates may know about both higher and base pleasures but that prevents him from experiencing satisfaction from base pleasures. The pig may know only about base pleasures but that allows him to experience satisfaction from base pleasures.

    To me the question, "Is it better to be...?" implies we are talking about experiences. And I simply don't see that the experience of having knowledge of higher but unattainable pleasures is satisfying enough to make up for loss of satisfaction from the experience of base pleasures.

    I suppose we might say that from an external perspective that ignores experiences due to their subjectivity (each can only know his own side of the question), it might appear that Socrates was sitting pretty with his extra knowledge. But I don't buy the idea that Socrates' formal knowledge of the other side of the question (i.e. what the pig experiences) is the same thing as saying he knows the quale of what it is to have the pig's experience; so in my view even Socrates can only know his own side of the question.
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    I assume the higher pleasure is something akin to Maslow's self-actualisation.

    The problem is knowledge is not the same as experience. Socrates may know about both higher and base pleasures but that prevents him from experiencing satisfaction from base pleasures. The pig may know only about base pleasures but that allows him to experience satisfaction from base pleasures.

    To me the question, "Is it better to be...?" implies we are talking about experiences. And I simply don't see that the experience of having knowledge of higher but unattainable pleasures is satisfying enough to make up for loss of satisfaction from the experience of base pleasures.

    I suppose we might say that from an external perspective that ignores experiences due to their subjectivity (each can only know his own side of the question), it might appear that Socrates was sitting pretty with his extra knowledge. But I don't buy the idea that Socrates' formal knowledge of the other side of the question (i.e. what the pig experiences) is the same thing as saying he knows the quale of what it is to have the pig's experience; so in my view even Socrates can only know his own side of the question.
    From what I can recall of Maslow, isn't this based on his Hierarchy of Needs, which is slightly different to Mill's hierarchy of Pleasures? So self-actualization is a completion or fulfillment of his hierarchy, whereas Mill's pleasures may be observed and experienced on an individual basis without requiring some kind of fulfillment.

    I think for Socrates, knowledge would not be enough, and even Mill would argue that (as far as claiming that experience is at least a prerequisite before one may have knowledge of higher pleasures, so the best people to judge the value of a pleasure are those who have experience both higher and lower). I can only assume that the option must be available for choice between higher and lower for us to observe this natural tendency to always choose the higher (for those aware of that option).

    I agree with your notion that the focus should be on which one is better, and agree that attainable lower pleasures would be preferable to unattainable higher, but would like to think that I would sacrifice some hedonistic pleasures for the sake of my dignity or some higher values (although deep down I know I wouldn't). On your point though, if every experience was truly subjective, would that not mean there were no sides whatsoever, since each person would not be experiencing one 'side', but a whole experience that is self-contained?
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    I answer your quote with a quote.

    "I think people who are unhappy are always proud of being so, and therefore do not like to be told that there is nothing grand about their unhappiness. A man who is melancholy because lack of exercise has upset his liver always believes that it is the loss of God, or the menace of Bolshevism, or some such dignified cause that makes him sad. When you tell people that happiness is a simple matter, they get annoyed with you."

    Bertrand Russell in a letter to W. W. Norton, 17 February, 1931
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    (Original post by Arkasia)
    I think for Socrates, knowledge would not be enough
    According to Xenophon, Socrates believed knowledge was of the utmost importance. Diogenes also quotes Socrates as saying, "there is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance."
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    (Original post by miser)
    According to Xenophon, Socrates believed knowledge was of the utmost importance. Diogenes also quotes Socrates as saying, "there is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance."
    I am not saying knowledge is irrelevant, it is crucial, but I think Mill's Socrates needs experience alongside knowledge (or before?) so that he may be able to choose between higher vs lower.
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    The pig. What is the point of knowledge if you are not happy? In the end that is all that matters.
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    (Original post by Arkasia)
    From what I can recall of Maslow, isn't this based on his Hierarchy of Needs, which is slightly different to Mill's hierarchy of Pleasures? So self-actualization is a completion or fulfillment of his hierarchy, whereas Mill's pleasures may be observed and experienced on an individual basis without requiring some kind of fulfillment.

    I think for Socrates, knowledge would not be enough, and even Mill would argue that (as far as claiming that experience is at least a prerequisite before one may have knowledge of higher pleasures, so the best people to judge the value of a pleasure are those who have experience both higher and lower). I can only assume that the option must be available for choice between higher and lower for us to observe this natural tendency to always choose the higher (for those aware of that option).

    I agree with your notion that the focus should be on which one is better, and agree that attainable lower pleasures would be preferable to unattainable higher, but would like to think that I would sacrifice some hedonistic pleasures for the sake of my dignity or some higher values (although deep down I know I wouldn't). On your point though, if every experience was truly subjective, would that not mean there were no sides whatsoever, since each person would not be experiencing one 'side', but a whole experience that is self-contained?
    Sounds about the size of it. Except I assumed being intelligent/self-aware enough to have knowledge of higher pleasures itself precluded the ability to properly enjoy lower pleasures.

    I will complicate that a bit as i think such people can enjoy the experience of lower pleasures but can never properly report it because as soon as they become consciously aware of what they are experiencing (which happens easily for them) they are no longer enjoying it because as soon as the conscious rationalising mind kicks in they are then comparing it with the higher pleasures of which they have only conscious rational knowledge.

    For example I am against fur but receive a luxurious fur coat as a Christmas present. Almost as soon as I consciously register base pleasure from how nice and warm it is in the chilly winter air I am reminded how by wearing the coat I am betraying my principles for a base pleasure.

    Ignoring for the sake of the analogy the fact that this does involve a prior conscious choice to put the coat on, I don't think our accidental Cruella de Vil has the ability to consciously pick and choose when she experiences base pleasure and when she experiences guilt.
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    Sounds about the size of it. Except I assumed being intelligent/self-aware enough to have knowledge of higher pleasures itself precluded the ability to properly enjoy lower pleasures.

    I will complicate that a bit as i think such people can enjoy the experience of lower pleasures but can never properly report it because as soon as they become consciously aware of what they are experiencing (which happens easily for them) they are no longer enjoying it because as soon as the conscious rationalising mind kicks in they are then comparing it with the higher pleasures of which they have only conscious rational knowledge.

    For example I am against fur but receive a luxurious fur coat as a Christmas present. Almost as soon as I consciously register base pleasure from how nice and warm it is in the chilly winter air I am reminded how by wearing the coat I am betraying my principles for a base pleasure.

    Ignoring for the sake of the analogy the fact that this does involve a prior conscious choice to put the coat on, I don't think our accidental Cruella de Vil has the ability to consciously pick and choose when she experiences base pleasure and when she experiences guilt.
    Perhaps, and that is an accurate analogy beside the obvious exception (which you pointed out).

    Good post.
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    (Original post by miser)
    I answer your quote with a quote.

    "I think people who are unhappy are always proud of being so, and therefore do not like to be told that there is nothing grand about their unhappiness. A man who is melancholy because lack of exercise has upset his liver always believes that it is the loss of God, or the menace of Bolshevism, or some such dignified cause that makes him sad. When you tell people that happiness is a simple matter, they get annoyed with you."

    Bertrand Russell in a letter to W. W. Norton, 17 February, 1931
    I often think it's Russell who misunderstands simple things. Isn't a person's desire to discuss (or magnify) unhappiness caused by a painful liver simply putting it out there so that they might obtain help? :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by lucaf)
    The pig. What is the point of knowledge if you are not happy? In the end that is all that matters.
    Happiness can surely be gained from intellectual probing, internal discussion and the exchange of ideas? Many great people who have been in continuous pain have nevertheless 'enjoyed' life, at least on the level of being grateful for their continuation, so that they might contribute more.

    I think the analogy of animals is a bit unhelpful, because we're really talking about the continuation of intelligence as an end in itself regardless of physical limitations and we don't know what levels of sentience or self-reflection mammals, for example, are really capable of, or what constitutes 'happiness' in the context of their mental processes.
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    (Original post by Fullofsurprises)
    I often think it's Russell who misunderstands simple things. Isn't a person's desire to discuss (or magnify) unhappiness caused by a painful liver simply putting it out there so that they might obtain help? :rolleyes:
    I don't really see where you are coming from. Russell's point, to my mind, is that people who happen to be unhappy often believe in the nobility of their unhappiness. There's some profound intellectual reason behind their unhappiness, when in actuality the causes are often more mundane (but inscrutable to the individual).

    In Russell's example, the liver isn't causing obvious pain, but poor exercise has impaired its function, leading to less well-being overall, which is then attributed to some unrelated intellectual concern. If that person did go to the doctor then yes they could get helped and they might become happier as a result (irrespective of the rise or fall of Bolshevism).
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    (Original post by miser)
    I don't really see where you are coming from. Russell's point, to my mind, is that people who happen to be unhappy often believe in the nobility of their unhappiness. There's some profound intellectual reason behind their unhappiness, when in actuality the causes are often more mundane (but inscrutable to the individual).

    In Russell's example, the liver isn't causing obvious pain, but poor exercise has impaired its function, leading to less well-being overall, which is then attributed to some unrelated intellectual concern. If that person did go to the doctor then yes they could get helped and they might become happier as a result (irrespective of the rise or fall of Bolshevism).
    Sure, I was being a bit flip, I realise Russell was discussing the tendency to believe in higher causes for self-infliction or mundane occurrences (isn't that just misattribution or even religion really?), but I was picking up on his first sentence, "I think people who are unhappy are always proud of being so, and therefore do not like to be told that there is nothing grand about their unhappiness" - I can't help thinking he was talking there about the desire to advertise unhappiness and seek explanations, both fairly simple things psychologically and not easy to work into grand psychological points without a certain Russell-ish predisposition to grandiosity.
 
 
 
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