Brave New World Research Proposal

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¶ … Brave New World not-So Brave New World -- the pursuit of pleasure at the expense of truth and real happiness

What would you choose: truth or happiness? In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the drive to know the truth about the human condition and the desire for momentary pleasure are inexorably opposed. Huxley's society is based upon taking away the choice from individual human beings and conditioning citizens to simply enjoy pleasure and enjoy their predetermined station in life. They have no intellectual drive to understand the deeper truths of the world on a philosophical level, but they experience no angst or internal conflict. The underlying spirit of this dystopia runs counter to what is usually considered the purpose of human life. In Brave New World, people spend their lives avoiding the fact that human life, happy or unhappy ends with sickness and old age. Either an individual can experience old age like Linda in Brave New World, drugged on soma, and surrounded by children being taught to laugh and play in the face of death. or, an individual can try to confront his or her mortality with understanding and a sense of unsparing truth and individualism. Seeking truthful, meaningful understanding may not bring pleasure, but it does bring happiness, a hard-one and satisfied happiness that transcends sensory pleasure.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Proposal on Brave New World Assignment

This idea is an old one, extending back to the philosophers of the ancient world. "Sickness is a hindrance to the body, but not to your ability to choose, unless that is your choice. Lameness is a hindrance to the leg, but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens, then you will see such obstacles as hindrances to something else, but not to yourself" (Epictetus, "The Enchiridion," Section 9). According to the philosopher Epictetus's work "The Enchiridion," human choice is vital to withstanding the difficulties of the world, and accepting freedom and choice is happiness, not pleasure, a mental state that is self-willed rather than conditioned in a lab and thus superior. In Brave New World, in exchange for momentary satisfaction of the senses, an entire society has sacrificed the innate, human ability to make life choices and to think freely. Aldous Huxley's citizens are conditioned from birth as to what occupation they will fulfill, and even to enjoy those occupations. They are taught one way to view death, and taught to pop a soma at every thought-provoking sensation of discomfort. When they are confronted with something that challenges their worldview, such as the presence of the Savage John, and his mother Linda, they are not simply disgusted, but cannot cope, intellectually or emotionally, with anything that suggests unhappiness, old age, sickness, or death. Conflicting ideas and images have been eliminated from their lives, so the human ability to deal with cognitive dissonance has been lost. As a result, their society cannot culturally evolve, nor do human beings psychologically mature. They remain as they are at birth, creatures of the laboratory. This may lead to pleasure, but not the intellectual happiness of exploration -- the happiness of exploring truth is eliminated, as well as truth itself.

In terms of having children and spouses, Huxley's Brave New World fosters no real, human attachments. The pain of attachment is eliminated, but so is the deeper happiness of having children. Children do not have specific parents, because of the intense emotions that having children can provoke in parents, and the unpleasantness of the physical act of birth. Love and all intense emotions and deep thoughts are also spurned because of the unhappiness they create. For Epictetus, this eliminates the most meaningful aspects of human existence and real happiness as well as truth. Epictetus does advocate a moderate approach to the passions of life, but this sense of balance must be spiritually cultivated, not socially engineered: "With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. if, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies" (Epictetus, "The Enchiridion," Section 3). An almost Buddhist detachment and intellectual happiness and appreciation of the transient nature of human existence comes with right mindedness, but this cannot be found in a bottle of pills.

Although Huxley's novel is a work of fiction, it is worth remembering that such actions of social engineering were seriously considered by some philosophers, especially during the height of the Industrial Revolution and enthusiasm for standardization. No wonder people exclaim "oh Ford," making Henry Ford a kind of god of mechanization and standardization. Jeremy Bentham applied a similar cost-benefit analysis to pain and pleasure, attempted to quantify when pain was most acute, and why people sought pleasure, as if determining the financial value of something: "The same process is alike applicable to pleasure and pain, in whatever shape they appear: and by whatever denomination they are distinguished: to pleasure, whether it be called good (which is properly the cause or instrument of pleasure) or profit (which is distant pleasure, or the cause or instrument of, distant pleasure,) or convenience, or advantage, benefit, emolument, happiness, and so forth: to pain, whether it be called evil, (which corresponds to good) or mischief, or inconvenience or disadvantage, or loss, or unhappiness, and so forth" (Bentham, "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation," Section VII).

Jeremy Bentham would likely see the ideals Brave New World as a reasonable calculation and cost-benefit analysis of promoting pleasure at the expense of pain. For Bentham, pleasure is not to be found in the doing, or the discovery of insight as it is in the "Enchiridion," instead it is merely the avoidance of pain and a utilitarian calculus of what yields more pleasure. "Pleasures then, and the avoidance of pains, are the ends that the legislator has in view; it behooves him therefore to understand their value. Pleasures and pains are the instruments he has to work with: it behooves him therefore to understand their force, which is again, in other words, their value" (Bentham, "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation," Section I). All societies are based upon a rewards system of pleasure and pain, argues Bentham. Violate the law and be punished, obey and be rewarded with at least some remuneration or at least not being put into prison. Even religion Bentham saw as a calculus, a desire for a better life to come.

Bentham, unlike Epictetus does not see the desire for truth as a basic human drive, and like Huxley he envisions a society best governed in a way that manipulates human choice through operant conditioning of pleasure and reward. There is no deeper truth for Bentham other than what results for the satisfaction of the needs, on a material basis, of the greatest number, which Bentham calls utilitarian, a synonym in his vocabulary for happiness but what Epictetus would call satisfying the mere, transient animal pleasures of the greatest numbers of individuals. Given the transience of pleasure for all, satisfying all in a momentary fashion is meaningless.

Some might see Brave New World as anti-Christian (and many saw Bentham's utilitarianism as equally threatening to faith). The Brave New World of Huxley essentially allows the state to condition people not to seek any higher philosophy. Being able to choose salvation is a cornerstone of Christian thought. Thus, one might expect the anti-Christian philosopher Nietzsche to like Huxley's dystopia. However, Nietzsche, like Epictetus, would despise a society so lacking in choice, and most importantly for Nietzsche, a society that promoted conformity. The highest form of humanity was not an Alpha male or female with predetermined characteristics selected by a scientist, but a wild, pure, and free individual for Nietzsche. "When the highest and strongest drives break out passionately and impel the individual far above and beyond the average and low level of the herd's conscience, the feeling of commonality in the community is destroyed; its belief in itself, its spine, as it were, breaks: as a result people brand these very drives and slander them most of all. The high independent spirituality, the will to stand alone, even powerful reasoning, are experienced as a danger. Everything which lifts the individual up over the herd and creates fear of one's neighbour from now on is called evil" (Nietzsche, "Beyond Good and Evil, " Chapter 5).

For Nietzsche, conformity is evil, whether imposed from without or within, and people seek conformity out of fear. The inhabitants of Brave New World are afraid of the truthful, end result of their life, so they ignore it through their use of drugs. The scientists who… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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