One of France’s largest grocery chains has begun selling less-than-perfect produce at steep discounts in its stores. Why haven’t we been eating them all along?
In every culture on Earth, people decorate their possessions and themselves, and enjoy visual art. They stare in awe at vast landscapes and the starry sky, and they sing and dance, and make instrumental music. Why? The answer seems obvious: it gives them pleasure. But why should it? What benefit does the capacity for aesthetic pleasure bestow on the human organism? We know that aesthetic pleasure isn’t just a drive, like hunger or sexual desire. Hunger is prospective: it urges us to eat. Pleasure, on the other hand, accompanies eating. It tells us ‘Keep eating this!’ But eating should not continue indefinitely, and so once the body is sated, pleasure fades. The fuller you are, the less pleasant it is to eat, no matter how delicious the food. Like many drive-associated pleasures, hunger has a characteristic time-profile. Being hungry is unpleasant; being very hungry is exceedingly so. When you eat, you relieve the distress of hunger and begin to take pleasure in the food itself (if it is tasty). As you become sated, the pleasure dies away. Sexual pleasure has a similar profile, though of course its regulatory role is a good bit more complex.
Eating and sex are drive-related pleasures, but we experience other kinds of pleasures, too. Consider cuddling. There is no drive to cuddle a loved one. There is no increasingly unpleasant hormonal build-up that impels you; unlike hunger or sex, it isn’t brought on by deprivation. Nor is there any orgasmic satiation point. Cuddling has a relatively flat time-pleasure profile. Of course, nobody goes on cuddling forever. But this is because other urges take over, or because they become sleepy or tire of it. Pleasure encourages the activity independently of any immediate result.
Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.