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Getting it all for pleasure

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For food, it matters where it came from and what it touched. For animals, you want to know what they can do to you and how they behave, not just their surface appearance.

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My view, then, is that the general bias towards essentialism is an adaptation, but some of its most interesting manifestations are accidents. Is there an element of pleasure that is not tied to our notion of where things came from?

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So, plainly we have sense organs that give us information about things. Plainly the reason why we like things more than others is because of their superficial qualities.

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It would be crazy to deny that. So wine is a good example. Like I said, part of your response to wine is based on its chemical properties.

But how you experience it will always be affected by your beliefs about what you are drinking. Now this opens you up to being fooled. You could be lied to about the price of wine, you could be lied to about where your sweater came from, you could be lied to about whether your painting is an original or a forgery, and so on.

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This is the bad news. On the other hand, our essentialism opens up a world of pleasurable experience that no other creature has. Our essentialism is why we have art, for instance. We find a face more attractive if we like that person.

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So, is that stupid? Is it a cognitive illusion? Art is a good example. Some people think that to prefer original artwork or to be interested in who created the art is a sign of some sort of moral or intellectual laziness or snobbery.

I think caring about who the artist is and how the painting was created and where it came from is just part and parcel of what it is to be a human being who is reacting to art. At the very minimum, then, what you learn from the science of pleasure Getting it all for pleasure help you have a better understanding of your own pleasures.

The only practical implication I can think of for this work is: If you want to enjoy wine more, the trick is to learn more about wine. If you want to enjoy art more, the trick is to learn about art. The more understanding you get, the richer your experiences will be. I think music is the perfect example of this.

For young kids most classical music sounds terrible and for some people it will always sound terrible. But the more you listen to it, the more you will understand it, and the better it will sound to you. Like everything else I talk about, this is a real, visceral, phenomenological change.

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That feeds into that old question about whether learning the science of biology kills the beauty of the flower. You would argue that it enhances it quite a bit.

It is just not true that studying something from a scientific point of view diminishes the richness of it. Certainly this is true when you look at the human mind. When you start to explore research into psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science, it turns out that the mind is just so much cooler than you could have ever imagined.

A personal example I can think of actually comes not from psychology, but from cosmology. I was once in a terrible mood, and I just happened to stumble on a book by Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutesabout the origin of the universe. I brought it with me on a hike, and read it while stopping for lunch — and man, I just thought it was incredible.

It cheered me up so much. It struck me that Getting it all for pleasure scientific ideas he talked about it were so much cooler than, say, the religious ideas.

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The religious ideas of creation of the universe are basically that some big guy made it. They were just gorgeous. When I read work by someone who has thought deeply about something, it could be a scientist or philosopher or theologian or art critic, I end up with more of an appreciation of that thing. My claim is that history matters.

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And in the normal course of things an original is worth more than a forgery, because an original is more creative and so on. But you can think of exceptions. As a real world example, take The Supper at Emmaus. When it was discovered not to be by Vermeerbut to be a forgery, its value dropped horrendously. I looked for where it ended up when I wrote my book and I found it Getting it all for pleasure in a traveling exhibit on forgeries. It would never regain its value.

On the other hand, it will develop its own special value because it now has a distinct history as a famous fraud. We find the Getting it all for pleasure of negative history in other studies — I talked about the George Clooney sweater study, but we also did a Bernie Madoff study.

But others will pay a lot. I think that that sort of history can be valuable too, at least for some people. Much of what I end up doing for a living involves studying fairly subtle laboratory effects. There are Vermeers right now on sale that people worry are van Meegerens. The difference is an extraordinary amount of money, a deep shift in our emotional and aesthetic responses. In fury, he destroyed it, smashed it up, and threw it in a dumpster.

He discovered later that the person who tested it was mistaken.

I think that it does. But certainly, your belief about where an idea comes from will affect how you evaluate it and how you appreciate it. The same idea from two very different people will be interpreted in two very different ways, based on what you know about the people.

It seems like that has immediate implications in policy more than anywhere else. The value of an idea is so strongly related to who you think Getting it all for pleasure it. One of them is insanely generous by American standards and the other insanely strict.

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He told the subjects that they were either by Republicans or Democrats. This is so smart. Is there a way of thinking about that fact without me getting incredibly depressed? A lot of people draw that conclusion.

Some of these biases are benign or even good, like seeing someone you know as more positive than a stranger. Others are sinister and stupid and terrible. When people listen to auditions from a symphony orchestra, music sounds different from a woman than from a man.

Once you do that, the problem disappears. But in some cases, you choose not to put a screen up.

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Now, people might disagree. I think the one thing that I wish I could have discussed is that the depth of pleasure is a good thing. It makes it possible to get pleasure from art. I think it enhances the pleasures of sex, the pleasures of food, the pleasures of music.