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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

Steak, lobster, and HDTV: Why ignorance is bliss. – Kristina

After all the discussion last week, there were three ideas that struck me. One: change is uncomfortable. Two: ignorance is bliss. And three, a question: Is there a benefit to knowing? To not knowing?’

The first idea, I’m sure everyone can agree on. Change is uncomfortable. Change requires work, and involves getting up off our living room chairs, shutting off the newest reality show, putting away the potato chips, and going out and doing something that may or may not make us happier. Who wants to do that? We do, because we often think we will end up with better lives. We will change, and we will end up with a plushier couch, a bigger TV screen, and maybe steak for dinner every night instead of chips. And then we are happy. We changed! Look what we got! Now we can be happy.

But then we see a commercial. We are told there’s a bigger TV screen to buy. It comes with oh so many channels, and HD, no less! And suddenly we are unhappy with our puny screen. We are unhappy with the couch we have. Steak dinner? Nah…we want crab! So we go out and change again. We get that new, huge, HD screen. We get a new couch, and we go out and eat crab. And we are happy again! No more change, we think. This is the best life gets!

But then we are told that we shouldn’t be eating crab anymore. What are we, poor? No! We should be eating lobster! We are now unhappy with sitting on the couch, watching HDTV, and eating crab dinner. We want lobster! So we change again, and start eating lobster.

Do you see where I’m going with this? No, the point is not that lobster is way better than crab (even though it completely is). The point is that we are happy with our lives, with sitting in our chairs, watching reality TV and shovelling chips into our mouths. At least, until we are told we can end up with even better lives, with a plushy couch, a nice big TV screen, and steak every night. Then we are unhappy with our current lives, because we want something more. So we change, and end up with a couch, big screen, and steak. And we are happy, because we got what we wanted. But then, we are told this is not the pinnacle of life. To be truly happy, we need HDTV, a nicer couch, and crab for dinner, not steak! So we change again, and become happy again. Until we find out lobster is better than crab.

Once you do know there’s something else out there, then you become unhappy with your situation. You want that something else, and you aren’t content to remain ignorant. So you look for change, you aim to achieve that something else. Once you achieve that something else, you are happy. Until you find out there’s something better. This is why ignorance is bliss. Because if you don’t know there’s something better out there, than you think your situation is the best it gets, and you’re happy. But once you get wind of something better out there, you are always wanting something better. So you are never completely content and restful in your life, because there will always be something that you want.

So is knowledge better than ignorance? Or is ignorance bliss? I personally agree with the second, after all, we are happy until we find out there’s something better out there. But, of course, ignorance is not always the best way to go, ignorance is rarely considered a good thing. But even so, if you think about it, the people we consider ignorant, naive, idiots are usually pretty happy people who want nothing more in their lives than what they have. And isn’t that what we all want? To be happy and entirely satisfied with our lives?

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Steak, lobster, and HDTV: Why ignorance is bliss. – Kristina

  1. You point out an interesting paradox of the examined life: if we are striving for satisfaction, and happiness, why do we continue down a path which leads to regular intervals of discomfort (the ‘shock’ Plato alludes to in the Allegory of the Cave) and the feeling that we are inadequate/incomplete/need to improve?

    I think some of those pursuits – bigger TVs, more expensive cars, more succulent crustaceans – may lead into a depressing spiral that ignorance would easily trump. But there are times when that discomfort pays dividends, doesn’t it?

    Posted by Bryan | September 24, 2012, 3:46 am

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  1. Pingback: Curiosity – Emily « Philosophy 12 - September 27, 2012

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