Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Philosopher of farts and bonking

I'm continuing to watch Alan de Botton's Guide to Happiness, the TV series inspired by his Consolations of Philosophy. Last night I watched the episode on Montaigne and Shopenhauer.

Montaigne is a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) in talking about farting, bowel movements, the size of his penis, etc. Even philosophers fart, he said. Even those who sit on thrones, sit on their arses! Marvellous stuff. People are human, physical, imperfect. He also contended what any of us should know these days - universities don't necessarily make smart people, just educated one. You can be smart and never finished school, survive life for the most part and display the wisdom to manage work, relationships, etc. You might even be happy. Likewise, you can be educated and be dumb and miserable. I want to read Montaigne.

Shopenhauer was a sad git who had a nice relationship with a woman and a child but dumped her, then wasted his life trying to pick up young women who were revolted at him! He saw all love as a trick of nature to get us to reproduce. Love and happiness have nothing to do with each other. This was all before Darwin. Jared Diamond has written a book Why Sex is Fun. I suspect this covers some of the same ground in an informed manner. Likewise, Robert Winston has spent a lot of time thinking about reproduction.

However, are we really reductionist beings, driven by reproduction? What about couples who choose not to have children, or not to marry, or homosexuals? Do we not transcend biology in part? Instinct has not gone away but reflection has come? Sex is fun, but even if it is biology making me have children, why do I want it when I already have a child, even when I have decided not to have any more?

Is happiness with a spouse detached from their ability to contribute to the genes of my children? I suspect Shopenhauer's desire for sex but inability to contribue to child raising might have something to do with his views. Remember Freud - there's a manner with issues.

No comments: