The effect of the body on happiness

Does the possibility of happiness reside only in the intellectual mind, or in the satisfaction of the body, that is, the effect of the amalgamation of both mind and body, or both?

Where does the greatest happiness lie? In the satisfaction of the body, the mind, or both simultaneously?

I will propose that bodily effects or motivations, such as hunger, thirst, rest and sexual urges can profoundly control the maximum height of a person’s happiness, and therefore overall contentment. This may seem like an obvious statement, but considering this, it may be possible to derive goals or pathways to the maximal level of happiness.

I would assume that the satisfaction of hunger and thirst can be quite readily obtained by most, if not all, members of this forum. In these two cases, I would think that it would be practically impossible to obtain a high level of lasting happiness or contentment without the fulfilment of these primitive, bodily motivations. From a physiological perspective, the lack of nourishment will in the extreme case lead to death, and here we’ll assume that this is an unhappy consequence. In a less extreme case, the ‘gnawing’ effect that we have all felt in the grips of these bodily urges will be sufficient to distract the mind or actually impede its functioning, and it is in the mind or consciousness where a state of happiness or contentment is actually realised, for without the awareness of a sense of contentment or well-feeling, then the state of happiness cannot be obtained.

Disregarding rest, which can be very easily obtained for those who do not suffer any sleeping disorders, perhaps the most relevant bodily motivation for the members of this board is sexual urges. Can those who are sexually satisfied obtain a greater happiness than those who are not? Some may say through self-gratification that this may also be readily satisfied, but I would argue, from my own experience, that the alleviation of sexual urges is obtained to a much greater extent when the alleviation involves another. It is almost as if the sub-conscious realises you are faking it and, as punishment, leaves you with less satisfaction. The search for another who wishes to alleviate their sexual urges with you (i.e. someone who wants to shag you) can often be a much harder task, and therefore, this urge is frequently the hardest to satisfy.

I will propose that, to obtain the maximum amount of happiness or contentment, the body must be satisfied, along with any sort of intellectual contentment which is a faculty of the mind alone (and is a whole other topic). Therefore, if personal happiness is the final end that Aristotle claimed it to be, then surely to obtain the maximum amount of happiness is a sub-function of that end, and therefore, the means of obtaining this end should include not only the road to intellectual contentment, but also bodily contentment. Because sexual satisfaction is often the hardest of these to obtain for the majority of those in developed nations, once the more necessary needs of hunger, thirst and rest are taken care of, the search for a mate should be a priority. The question as to whether this mate should be permanent or temporary and changing, follows from this.

I look forward to your comments.

Hey,

This thread has a lot of potential. Can we please try and keep it civilised?

Round 2.

Ben

I, for one, do not believe the mind and body are seperate…

and as far as sexual satisfaction is concerned, you have to ask yourself, what are the two most important organs used in sex…

no, not those two… one is the skin, the other is the brain…

when you satiate a desire in your body, (hunger, thirst, sexual desire, ect.) what is it that is satisfied? the desire or that particular nerve ending?

one could argue that when certain nerves are stimulated, chemicals are released in the brain that produce the effect of pleasure- or fear or excitement or sorrow or whatever… that it is not the body that is “feeling” satisfied but instead the mind interpreting the signals the body sends…

certain monks have been known to totally seperate their minds from their bodily desires in order to reach their heaven…

their minds are not physically seperated, but they have trained themselves to react to whatever stimuli in a non-responsive way… ignoring the pleasure or the pain…

happiness is not necessarily contentment… and it certainly is more than simple pleasure…

-Imp

NoelyG,

I completly agree with you. Ive argued this same point before, and I think I have a fairly effective example to support the idea that the satisfaction of the body is a key in obtaining maximum pleasure. You made the distinction between bodily satisfaction and satisfaction of the mind. This is an important distinction. I believe the pleasure involved in both are actually the same, or very simillar chemical reactions. Its just how those reactions are initiated that differs. So for example, a religious person might be satisfying their mind by doing what they believe is right. In effect, they are obtaining pleasure from acomplishing certain goals that they believe are worthy of acomplishment, those goals being the following of their respective religion. So now just consider two diffirent religions:

  1. Saying a Prayer at a certain time is a neccissary goal in following the doctrine of this religion.

  2. Having an orgasm at a certain time is a neccissary goal in following the doctrine of this religion.

Note that in the second religion, the goal is not to acomplish orgasm for the sake of bodily pleasure, but for the sake of the religion itself. Bodily pleasure will inevitably be achieved though as a result of this doctrine.

So now two people diligently follow the doctrines of their respective religions. And from the following of the doctrines, or acomplishing goals that they deem worthy for whatever reason, I think this is exactly how both obtain mental pleasure. And really this is analogous to any form of obtaining mental pleasure. If anybody has any alternative ideas of how mental pleasure can be obtained, other than the acomplishment of goals deemed worthy, than please suggest them, for I have come to the conclusion I have based on this very premise, that this is how mental pleasure is obtained.

Who is to say which religion’s doctrine provides more mental pleasure? That would be like making an objective claim such as: “jumping up and down is a better source of happiness than spinning in place.” Such a claim is unjustified. I would say that the level of happiness is dependent on the person’s commitment to the activity.

So assuming two people are equally committed to following their respective religions, than it can be said that the religion whose doctrine includes orgasm on a daily basis, just in light of this distinction, is more pleasurable because of its inclusion of bodily pleasure. A person following the first religion obtains the mental pleasure of acomplishing a goal he deems worthy, as does the person following the second religion. Only the person following the second religion is also obtaining bodily pleasure…

Any objections?

Agree bodily pleasure + mental pleasure > mental pleasure alone. But bodily pleasure can be easily furstrated, especially when associate with other people. That’s why Stoics want to resignate bodily pleasure.

the greatest happyness lies in the ful-fill-ment of the soul,heart and mind. and that is hard too acomplish. unless you find a mate that has, at the very least, heart and soul.

Hi everyone, thanks for the replies, and thanks to Ben who has rescued this thread.

Imp,

Neither do I necessarily. When I said ‘intellectual mind’ I was referring to the mind that is where our conscious thoughts reside, the conscious part of us where we can be aware of the feeling of happiness. The part of the us where we experience consciousness. I was purposely trying to avoid any sort of suggestions of this mind residing independently of the body as this is irrelevant in this case.

I agree, it is not that the body is ‘feeling’ satisfied, how can the body ‘feel’ satisfied? The body sends signals to our brain, and our sensory brain recognises that a certain desire has been satisfied. Through whatever means, the sensory brain then signals to the conscious brain or mind that this desire has been satisfied, and the conscious mind becomes aware of satisfaction. Now in the same way when a bodily motivation or craving is unfulfilled, the conscious mind is aware of this, and this leads to conscious discomfort, of varying magnitudes. So what I am proposing here is that the maximum happiness that a mind can obtain, is when these types of discomforts are non-existent, which is achieved through the satisfaction of the bodily desires.

Yes, so these monks have trained themselves to ignore the awareness of discomfort, due to the bodily desires or motivations, and therefore have reached a kind of middle ground. Of course the flip side of the coin is when the body sends pleasurable signals, the mind can become aware of such pleasure, thereby increasing the mind’s overall happiness or feelings of well-being at that point in time. The monks do not feel discomfort, but nor to they feel pleasure. They are concentrating solely on the happiness or pleasure that the mind alone can bring. Would you agree that if said monks could achieve the same kind of mental happiness along with bodily ‘happiness’ through the satisfaction of desires and also the inducement of pleasure, that their conscious feelings of happiness at that point in time would be greater?

Perhaps I should not have not interchanged contentment and happiness so easily in my first post. What I consider contentment to be is prolonged feelings of overall well being and happiness over time. The simple pleasures that are obtained when a bodily desire is satisfied are only temporary I agree, but the effects of these satisfactions can be longer lasting in two ways. Firstly, satisfying the body can lead to the removal of the awareness of discomfort which was discussed above, for a period. During this period, the mind can be aware of a feeling of well-being, and provided that the mind is satisfied through intellectual means (a whole other topic), this mind can then be aware of a great sense of happiness. If the bodily desires or motivations are frequently safisfied, then a prolonged awareness of happiness can result, leading to contentment. Secondly, the mind can also reflect on past pleasures or the realisation that the bodily desires are being frequently satisfied, and this can also lead to a greater sense of general happiness.

Thanks for all the replies, I gotta run though. I’ll try to address the rest of all your comments soon.

No objections here. In fact I inadvertantly used your example to some extent in my reply to Imp regarding the monks, before I read your post. Sorry 'bout that.

I’m not exactly sure how to continue this line of thought. I believe familiarity and empathy will play important roles here. With familiarity for instance, the conscious mind seems to derive less pleasure from a satisfaction which is obtained frequently. With empathy, (I am using the term losely due the lack of a better word) I believe that how the mind percieves it’s own satisfactions compared to others may also affect the level of pleasure derived from such satisfactions.

I am also considering that the prerequisite for lasting happiness is indeed an intellectual happiness, with bodily satisfactions an ‘icing on the cake’.

Any further comments on these matters?

I don’t think mind/body can actually be considered in such an independant way. It does not take training as some monk for the mind to override some body signals.
Have you ever been so engrossed in some activity that you forgot to eat? Or heard a story that made you nauseous?

Contentment comes when we recognize and feed both the bodies desires for nourishment and the minds desires for knowledge in a balanced way.

Some foods (varies what a lot by culture) feed both body and ‘soul’, often called comfort food it releases in us a sense of contentment that goes beyond its ability to nourish the body. The same applies to sex with a partner we love, where pleasure is both given and recieved, this goes beyond simple gratification of pleasure centers.

Chetery,

This sort of thing isn’t really what I am getting at specifically, but I’ll discuss it anyway. Awareness is important here. In your first question about being engrossed in an activity and forgetting to eat, that is simply due to the fact that your mind is so preoccupied that it is not aware of hunger. As for your second question regarding the story that makes you nauseous, this is simply the two-way connection that exists between the conscious mind and the body. It is the same as thinking that you want your hand to move, and it does.

The only way that one can be happy is by being aware of a feeling of happiness. An unconscious being cannot experience happiness. This is obvious. What I am argueing is that by being aware of discomfort from not satisfying the bodily motivations impedes your overall feeling of well-being and thus has an adverse effect on your level of happiness. By satisfying these motivations frequently, this discomfort will be negligible. Also, satisfying these motivations results in pleasurable feelings which the mind can be aware of and can increase the feelings of well-being for a period of time. So, by satisfying the motivations or desires of the body, I am proposing that a maximum level of happiness can be obtained, in conjuction with intellectual roads to happiness.

Unless I am understanding this incorrectly, this is what I have been argueing.

The removal of the awareness of discomfort from eating food is not the only effect. As I have mentioned above, pleasurable feelings can also be obtained from satisfying bodily desires, and the mind becomes conscious of these feelings, thus raising the level of awareness of contentment. This is why it is an enjoyment to eat a nice meal, the mind becomes aware of not only the satisfaction of hunger, but also the pleasurable sensations of taste and smell.

Your example regarding sex with a partner we love is touching on an area which I have not addressed yet in this topic. That area is emotion. Emotion seems to be able to amplify or reduce pleasurable feelings, as it affects the way we perceive things in the mind. Also, emotion can be affected by intellectual thought and it can affect the body and, in turn, be affected by the body. Because intellectual thought AND bodily mechanisms can affect emotion, and emotion can affect the level of happiness that one experiences, it seems to be a sort of hybrid process. However, if the body is satisfied positively, this can only have a positive effect on emotional states of the mind, and still the original point holds that the maximum level of happiness can be obtained by satisfying both bodily and intellectual roads to happiness.

What is emotion exactly? I guess that’s a whole other topic

“As for your second question regarding the story that makes you nauseous, this is simply the two-way connection that exists between the conscious mind and the body. It is the same as thinking that you want your hand to move, and it does.”

This is exactly the point I was trying to make, the connection is two way. In fact so close as to not be clearly distinguishable. The well being of the mind has as profound effect on the well being of the body as the other way around.

Chetery,

Ok, I agree, the mind can have an effect on the body. But we are considering the awareness of happiness here, which is something only the mind can experience. The body can’t be aware of happiness. The connection is two-way only in the aspect of signal transmission. The mind can be aware of the effects of the body, but the body can’t be aware of the effects of the mind.

I suppose the term ‘aware’ needs some clarification. I see things like becoming nauseous on hearing or seeing something offensive as a sort of awareness.

Chetery,

By becoming aware of something, I mean that something is being brought to the attention of your consciousness. If someone pokes you in the arm with a pin, you become aware of pain in your arm. However, awareness is not only confined to sensory perceptions, you can become aware of feeling good about your lot in life after some reflective thought for instance.

With your nauseousness example, you see something that is disturbing which causes your brain (for whatever reason) to make you feel ill. You then become of aware of this feeling of nauseousness which your mind correlates with the occurrence of a disturbing image.