Friday, May 24, 2013

Thinking of Pleasure

Apparently pleasure is associated with some brain activity involving these chemicals. What is more, when someone is addicted to something, say drugs, they get too much stimulation of their brain from drugs and they become uninterested in normal enjoyment. So they no longer get pleasure out of joking around with a friend or reading a good book or taking a walk in the woods. The drug highs have made the brain insensitive to these kinds of stimulation by providing a super-stimulation that dwarfs those. We see that as a bad thing. My question is why? What makes it bad? We can look at the addicted person and see that their personality has been totally flattened. Sober people are all unique and beautiful. Addicts are all the same. They don't care about anything but their next high. But so what? Isn't it judgmental of us to suggest there is something wrong with that?

This connects with the notion that you hear often in sexual ethics that pleasure should drive morality. It can't be wrong when it feels so right. What does that really mean? Can an otherwise immoral act be made moral by dopamine and serotonin? We don't go there with drugs. We want to preserve the persons ability to make good choices according to some other sense of goodness. A goodness normally associated with the the brain's sense of pleasure but not identical to it.

This is not a problem if you believe the brain is not the end of the story. You just say the brain is getting goodness wrong. It is defective. That is intuitive to us. We treat addiction as a psychological problem. But what if you believe the brain is the end of the story as far as goodness goes? What do you say when the brain's sense of goodness seems out of whack? Do you just bow to what the brain says, even if it is the brain of an addict? You can make exceptions but then you have to base that on something. Some standard that applies to all humans that does not depend on whether they agree with it or not.

That is a huge philosophical step to take. That is that my mind is not enough to determine right and wrong. Not only do these things exists but my ability to discern them through intuition or reason is going to be fallible. So I need someone to impose morality on me. Catholics talk about not imposing a morality but just proposing a morality. Still it can't be something I make. It has to be something that makes me. It is the terrifying but liberating step of removing yourself from the center of your world.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a recent talk I heard that informed me of an important piece to the puzzle. You said: "We treat addiction as a psychological problem." It turns out, the term psych-ology literally means study of the soul. What's wrong here? The problem is modern psychology denies the existence of the (rational) soul, and thus everything's reduced to serotonin and dopamine chemical reactions. And thus the truly spiritual dimension of addictions is completely neglected, and thus so is a large piece of the puzzle when looking for a cure.