What is the good life and how may it be achieved? This question has been one of hot debate conceivably since the dawn of philosophical discussion. Specifically, the topic this essay will be covering is the question of whether or not the good life may be achieved through the continuous satisfaction of whatever desire be present without any possible physical, social, or religious consequences. While at first this situation may seem to be the fictitious fantasy of a hedonist, the implications of the answer have a very real impact on not only what it means to live the good life but also on all of humanity and it’s nature as a whole.
This essay will be arguing that the good life lies not in this consequence free scenario of continuous desire satisfaction. To make this argument, this essay will be split up into three parts. In the first part I will detail the two types of gratification and how the immediate satisfaction of desire is incompatible with true happiness. In the second part, I will build off of what has been presented and attempt to elaborate upon a more viable path to the good life and how it differs from what has already been proposed.
In the third part, I will work to tie everything together and display how the good life is only possible in a society where everyone both works together and is treated equally. Part 1 There exist two forms of gratification a human may experience: instant and delayed. Instant gratification is the immediate satisfaction of whatever impulse a person happens to have. Instant gratification typically results in short-term yet immediate pleasures. Delayed gratification occurs when an individual must postpone the desired feeling and endure whatever amount of work is required so that s/he may one day have said feeling.
Delayed gratification typically results in longterm yet delayed pleasures. A human who is unbound from all negative physical, social, and religious consequences resulting from their actions may exist in two different sets of scenarios: one where s/he has the immense power to fulfill any desire s/he has, and the other where she has no more power than that of avoiding consequence. Assuming the former, the human in question would not likely be one to stop and consider his/her future when she can seemingly accomplish anything s/he desires in any given moment.
Possessing such power would create a being with the ability of a god and the hubris of a human, a wholly unstable combination. The common proverb “life is about the journey, not the destination” effectively captures this point. If one has the ability to reach every destination of life, s/he will find themselves with no sense of the accomplishment or true achievement that comes naturally as a result of the effort required to reach such destinations. Assuming the latter, the human in question will still be bound by the same monetary constraints that all other humans are.
In this set, the ability to not face consequences will result in two possible subsets: one where the individual does not change much and thus benefits only from this ability in the occasional conveniences of avoiding harm and social rejection, and one where the individual becomes increasingly corrupt to the point of reaching a lesser yet similar state to that of the former. Plato’s Republic, Book IX provides an adequate example of this type of person in portrayal of the tyrannical man whereby an unlawful man lives for instant gratification to the point of it bringing his own destruction.
The individual detailed in this third situation differs in that she will not face the social consequences associated and thus would sooner fall to the internal consequences of a meaningless existence. While it may seem to an average person that reaching the destination without the hassle of the journey would be preferable, one must recognize that this very journey acts as a buffering period which both prevents these pleasurable experiences from becoming meaningless and stale as well as enabling the individual to feel a sense of accomplishment from the completion of the journey.
To remove this critical period in the human experience would be to destroy exactly that which makes these pleasures pleasurable. Part II When considering the good life, a very important question arises: is one thing that is good for one person also equally as good for another? The argument of this part will be surrounding the objective list theory of the good life. Briefly, this theory claims that there are some things that will objectively contribute to the good life and others that will not. To phrase this as an analogy, are there some forms of music that are objectively better than others?
Further, would one person be wrong for favouring a genre like pop, for example, over classical? At this point there is a forked path in the objective list theory, one where a hybrid form must be taken and another where the uniformity of goodness is enforced. I believe that a hybrid form of an objective list is the only possible way forward for same the reason that you cannot force someone to take pleasure from listening to metal music simply because the listmaker does (this example can easily be applied to other tastes and pursuits).
I believe that every person, as a result of the interaction between their genetics (nature) and upbringing (nurture), is a different individual from the next and thus will not take pleasure from the exact same things as anyone else. This is the foundational reason I take up a hybrid observational list theory. However, the question now arises, how might one differentiate which things any given person will take pleasure from if every person does not take pleasure from the same things? I would argue that Myers and Briggs have effectively already solved this conundrum in their creation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality test which can sort persons into 1 of 16 different personality types with a great deal of efficacy. Once a person has been assigned a type using this test, a loose list is presented which contains insights, career paths, potential relationship partner types, etc. , designed to match the individual in question with the best life possible for them. This ties into the question of the good life in one without consequence in that, as previously mentioned, such a person will likely not be one to think ahead of time.
By having a test score and generate an objective list for each individual, said individual will be opened to many possibilities never before considered. It is with the power of the objective list, not random impulses, that a person may come to discover their unique path to their own good life. With this in mind, the case can be made that even if a person had all the power in the world to accomplish any desire, ignoring the problem of life becoming meaningless, they still would likely not be happy in the long run.
The claim that the good life relies on the unrestricted satisfying of desires makes the fatal assumption that each individual person knows both exactly what s/he truly desires and exactly how s/he is to accomplish said desires. Part III Recall the first part of this essay where the three possible situations that could result in a person being free from physical, social, and religious consequences were presented. All but one concluded that the person in question would inevitably reach a meaningless existence as a result of their immense power.
The one situation which left room for the good life was that where the individual did not become corrupted, this is largely due to the fact that such a person would be doing their best not to make excessive use of the power they were bestowed. In Plato’s Gorgias, it is argued by Callicles that some beings are naturally superior to others and thus, by nature, it is only just that said superior beings be able to take advantage of said inferior beings.
Callicles takes his proof from the natural world where the predators (strongest) take advantage of (prey upon) the prey (weakest). In a world where no person is bound by the consequences of law, society, or religion it would appear to make sense to believe that life would be as detailed by Callicles. However, Callicles makes a troubling error in the creation of his just world theory. He looks to the natural world of animals for guidance in the post-natural world of humans.
In doing this, Callicles has looked to lesser systems of interaction and attempted to apply them to the highly developed and intricate modern civilization. It is important to acknowledge that laws largely exist for the reason that most people agree with them. If murder no longer held any consequence, would the average citizen suddenly begin to murder one another? I would argue that they would not. It is in the creation of a civilized society that we must work together so that, in our combined efforts, we are all able to achieve the good life.
This point has been described in excellent detail by Socrates in the beginning of Plato’s Republic, Book IV in his description of the just city whereby the purpose of building the just city is not to benefit any one group but to benefit the entire city as a whole. It is in the positive interactions with others that we have been able to succeed in surpassing nature, creating a better life for all of us. Conclusion In conclusion, a person who is able to avoid all physical, social, and religious consequences of their actions would not be living the good life through the mindless satisfying of whatever desires may be present at any given moment.
It makes little difference if the person in question has all the power in the world to satisfy his/her desires or is bound by the same monetary restraints as the rest of us as this person will only be able to achieve true fulfillment through ignoring their newfound power. It is not through instant gratification, the only type of gratification realistically possible through avoiding the journey to the destination, that a person may achieve true, lasting happiness in life.
Through further development in personality psychology, a truly customized hybrid objective list to the good life may very well be developed which would provide the individual a keen insight into their own dreams and aspirations and even provide them the path that they must follow to achieve said dreams and aspirations. To live life for the destination and ignore the journey is to sacrifice exactly that which makes the destination worth reaching.