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One expression of contemporary common sense is that we are all seeking comfort. It seems so obvious, in a way, but it also feels completely wrong in many other ways, and i puzzle a lot about what exactly makes this particular idea so tempting.

For one example of the thing i am talking about, take the question this interviewer asks:

He has to go out of his way to say that if he could watch TV all day with someone serving him refreshments, that would be the best conceivable life he could have. And his own life goes against it, he is Wallace Shawn, an actor and writer, someone whose life is not an example of seeking comfort more than anything else. But he crafts a kind of explanation whereby everything else is an indirect means towards comfort. Chomsky’s reply is scathing, but not really surprising.

I’ve seen this argument from various friends, and all of them where perfect counter-examples to their own arguments, in a way, which makes it all the more puzzling.

Another thing that i think is important: In itself, this argument can’t really be taken as a standard part of western belief. There are some other tenets of Standard Belief that are similar to it, like “Everyone wants money” and “Money makes you comfortable”, but how exactly you combine these two?

“Everyone wants money” taken far enough becomes something alikened to Nietzsche’s Will to Power. The image of society as a big market. A half-genius half-crazy idea i might have attacked somewhere else. But it does not lead to everyone wanting comfy couches, TVs and a butler.

By its turn, “Money makes comfy” is obviously incomplete. Money makes many things, comfort just one amongst others.

At my most cynical, i find it too easy to justify this whole thing as people that had idealistic youths settling into comfortable adult lives and trying hard to justify to themselves a way of life that seemed impossible and abhorrent a few years ago.

But there is also a kind of view of humanity, something between «everyone is selfish» and «people can be good». It is like they feel compelled to accept a pessimistic view of human nature, they feel it is unacceptable to take selflessness as possible, but at the same time they do not feel that «man wolf of man» actually captures social reality. There must be something in between, and it ends up into this toothless kind of selfishness.

Just weird.

 

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