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CAS Inquire Panel Discussion
CAS Inquire panel with Joseph Mendola, Roberto Abadie, Tierney Lorenz, Nora Peterson, and Casey Kelly.
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Good evening. I'm Dr.
Taylor Livingston, and I'm
the director of the College of Arts and Sciences Inquire program.
Thank you all so much for coming tonight in person and also via Zoom
to the final event of this year's Inquire lecture series, which is panel
discussion on the topic of the whole year pain and pleasure.
Although the topic for the series was chosen before the global pandemic,
it's particularly given our cultural moment
and something that I can assure you that we will discuss tonight.
So the entire program is structured around five individual lectures
and also a panel discussion at the end, which allows students, faculty and staff,
as well as the wider public the opportunity to understand
and engage with how we, as individuals
and as a society understand the concepts of pain and pleasure
and how their perceptions shape and are reflected by human behavior.
Additionally, it creates an opportunity to learn about the fascinating research
the faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences are conducting
and enable students to see the various disciplinary approaches
to the study of a topic, as well as the necessity of multi, trans
and interdisciplinary insights to truly understand social phenomena.
Tonight's panel features all of our speakers, beginning with Dr.
Joseph Mendola, Professor of Philosophy, who kicked off our series
this year on a discussion of the nature of pain.
Dr. Casey Kelly, who is a professor of rhetoric and public culture
in the Department
of Communication Studies, who discussed white pain and melancholia.
Dr. Nora Peterson, who has faculty in the medieval Renaissance Studies
program, as well as chair and associate professor
of French in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures,
who discussed narratives of sexual assault and the French Renaissance
and how some of these are still with us today.
Dr. Roberto Abadie who is assistant professor of anthropology,
who lectured on pain and drug addiction in Puerto Rico.
And finally, Dr.
Tierney Lorenz, an assistant professor of psychology
and the Department of Psychology and also the Center for Brain
Biology and Behavior, who lectured on women's sexual pleasure.
Please join me in welcoming these panelists.
So the structure of tonight's panel
that I have given the panelist some questions beforehand that I will ask them,
and once we have concluded our discussion, you are more than welcome to via Zoom.
Submit your questions via the Q&A or chat or in person to walk up to the mike
and ask any of the panelists or all of the panelists any questions
that you have on what they've said or anything from their talks.
So to begin our discussion here this evening.
What is the first thing that comes to mind
when we say pain and pleasure?
Don't all answer it one.
It's maybe it's a joke that whenever you ask
any academic something, they say, it's complicated.
And especially with philosophers, we like to say things are complicated.
But I think one thing that came to mind through this series
is that the notions of pain and pleasure are sort of complicated and fraught.
I talked about, you know, different either different meanings of the words
or different phenomena which pleasure and pain might objectively be.
But we also heard through the semester or through the semester talks,
we heard some talks which were focusing on
the odd feature of pain and pleasure than the one hand there, things
of which individuals seem to have some special authority
talking about their own pleasures and pains.
And the other hand, there are more objective ways to try to assess pleasure
and pain through interviews or through experiments of various kinds.
And the other interesting thing about pain and pleasure besides its ambiguity
because it has this epistemic asymmetry that it's a little hard to know
if somebody has authority about whether they have pain or pleasure
is that it's normatively fraught.
So that oftentimes a claim that you know something is painful is immediately
it seems a reason to against it and a claim that something is pleasurable
to someone, even in some cases where they deny it is sometimes thought
to be a reasonable excuse.
And so it's it's a complicated thing.
That's the first thing I think, I think the pain.
I was thinking and this is, I think,
completely unrelated to my talk, but I was just thinking
kind of off the cuff what I think of when I think of pain and pleasure
and I think of contradictions and the way in which we often say, you know,
I achieved this with blood, sweat
and tears, and it's something to be more proud of, almost.
So that sense that kind of
suffering or sacrifice
is kind of intrinsic to achieving pleasure, which which is something I think
maybe we'll get into a little bit later and talking about, as Dr.
Mandela was saying, the ways in which these concepts are really tied up
in each other and difficult to separate because understanding
one comes with a discourse of the other at the same time in some ways.
But I was, yeah, I was thinking of how in our culture,
I think there's this discourse of pain and suffering being somehow
making a pleasurable experience, often more worth it.
Again, just yeah,
something I was ruminating on.
one thing that comes to my mind immediately is
the inability of language to adequately register pleasure and pain
I mentioned in my talk that pain tends
to have a language shattering effect on the body and that it's always
in partial in its ability to communicate felt experiences.
There's a difference between affects and emotions and affects are these felt
bodily intensities that we try to pin down in language to the best of our ability.
But they're are always inadequate, they're always slipping away from us.
And so even the moment in which we pin down what is pleasure and pain,
we still have done so in a language that cannot adequately capture it.
And so in that sense, like pleasure and pain are kind of ineffable.
We do our best to pin them down in language, but
ultimately it's incredibly difficult for us to do, which is why it's often
the case that we debate about other people's pain and pleasure,
more so than the bodies themselves actually sort of speak
about that pain and pleasure.
We are the ones that kind of give it meaning, usually the
the person standing external to the body in pleasure pain.
And it's even complicated even further by the fact that there's sometimes
pleasure, pain or indistinguishable in some senses that there's
a sort of pleasure in pain.
There's a concept from Jacques Lacan psychoanalysis.
I always hesitate to mention this in the context of psychologists
sitting in here, but I am.
I'm the I am mostly interested in cultural theory related to psychoanalysis,
a concept of science which is doesn't really adequately
translate from French into English, but ostensibly it means something
along the lines of a of an ecstatic pleasure in pain.
And it's one that often can be found in experiences
where we brush up against our own non being in the sense that we
sometimes there's an ecstasy in pain and a pleasure in that pain,
insofar as it's we are encountering something that exists prior
to our own sense of self, that it's something that shatters our egos and makes
it difficult for us to
experience. And it's something
we imagine that we can get access to, but we never can.
And so the idea that pleasure and pain are completely indistinguishable from one
another is also a difficult thing to assert and to be more concrete
and practical about it.
Like a lot of times, people become attached to their wounds,
they become a part of their identity and who they are.
Sometimes people get pleasure out of their own suffering,
or at least a version of that suffering that they can put forward,
and that if one can then use that as a justification for being considered,
you know , highly prized victim of some kind,
then that gives you a certain kind of cultural capital, too.
So the distinguish between both of those is not necessarily as clear
as we might think.
Sort of a functional application of some of the things
that you were talking about there as a clinician,
I think of pain and pleasure as the things that actually matter
when we're evaluating a patient.
I think one of the great tragedies
of the way that the American health care system is built and most health
care systems are built is that we function. We focus such.
We focused so much of our energies on documenting
symptoms and conditions and diagnoses,
and only in the last 20 years
or so have we all started to think about pleasure and pain and the sort
of subjective experience of those symptoms as worthy of clinical attention.
And even still, even today, those are often talked about as quality
of life indicators with a sort of scoff in the back of one's voice.
It is sort of disturbing because the reason why we care about
these symptoms, particularly in the context of chronic health
conditions, is because of the the pain that they generate
and because of the ways
in which they deny us access to pleasure.
And so when I when
I first think about pain and pleasure, I think about them as they
are the things to which we should be always turning our eyes
because they are the they are the aspects of
the human condition that actually matter.
For me, there's a big a paradox in relation to pain and pleasure.
You have to experience and people experience pain and pleasure
individually in your brain, in your body, the dopamine rush for pleasure.
They say this enters the process and the signals that process pain
you feel individually but is socially produced.
Each society produces a certain amount of pain of particular types
of pain and suffering, and particularly from social
isolation, is historically contingent.
It depends on race, class, ethnicity, age,
But it's important to think about that because our experience
of faces of pain and pleasure is fading immediately.
It's important, but it's also constructed in a way.
Let me just give you an example for maybe are fed up with COVID.
I have two examples COVID or the war in Ukraine.
Which one would you pick that
I'm going to go with COVID
with health bodies?
And it's very clear
that people that are working class that are exposed because they
they travel the mass transportation and they are in contact with the public
as a cashier or food prepare at disproportionately
and they live in importance
that are crowded and in conditions that are conducive to,
you know, COVID 19 and have been disproportionately affected .
And also, it's clear that as a country with many,
many resources, we need much fully
than other countries with fewer resources and I go one on one names.
But you know that some countries did
much better than we did.
So it's clear that the way we organize our response or we choose to
respond to a pandemic really make things worse and amplify the pain
for actually 1 million people that died more than in all the other words,
that the US fought in the 19th century in the 19th and 20th century.
So there's a lot of pain that we inflicted that actually can be calculated.
Their estimations of excess deaths that happened
as a result of COVID that could have been avoided.
So that's a social production of pain.
That's something that we,
as anthropologist, we're always looking at the intersection
between social and cultural dynamics at individual events and trajectories .
It's as I said, you feel the pain
and you feel the pressure, but it's also mediated by culture.
And of course, it depends in in every particular situation for COVID.
It's a series of configurations for addiction, for substance use,
for sugar rushes, for, you know, gambling, for internet bone or whatever.
You have different configurations that we have to look at and work on addiction.
So well, that's my the things that I'm looking at usually.
So that's my initial response.
So, Dr. Bonnie, you open the door.
I'm going to walk through it.
one of the thing that's sort of struck me about all of you are your topics,
and I see this in the introduction is,
you know, we chose this topic in 2019 before the pandemic
and a lot of the topics that you're speaking about.
We're sort of in reference to a touchstone cultural moment a couple of years.
In the past, you know, sort of the the 2020 election that was upcoming
or the 2016 election or what we saw in 2018 with the MeToo movement.
But I was just wondering if there were a since we understand these concepts now
and from your work and how you sort of see them and how we can apply them
to this current cultural moment of
war in the Ukraine of a pandemic of,
you know, ongoing social injustice.
I think about this
fairly frequently in the sense that, you know,
COVID 19 is a plague of sorts and the medieval and early modern
periods were nothing if not struck repeatedly by plagues and illnesses.
And and part of the reason I'm so fascinated
by the renaissance in France and in Europe is because things are really messy.
There are a lot of things the political system, the justice system, gender.
A lot of things are just there.
There is no clear binary
of structures of how to read things, how to understand one's culture.
And I feel that that moment has become
not replicated because nothing is.
No story is the same, but I think we see a lot of the same patterns
that have become even more clear
now to the pandemic and what and political discourse.
And one of the things that strikes me is that pain seems to be also endemic.
You know, we deal with it
every day, whether it's confusion, you know, different variations of pain,
and there's still this effort to make sense of it and to interpret it.
And. And for me, writing literary history is a way to think through that.
But certainly the thing that strikes me is that this is a
this is a conversation that's been happening for centuries
and certain centuries have had different parallels.
And certainly the thing I see now happening is that there is this
kind of messiness again, where there's no easy resolution to these questions.
There's no clear binary because a lot of them are at work at the same time.
I'm a medical anthropologist, so it comes naturally to me
to think about pandemics and to think about COVID,
so way to understand society because the way we respond
and that's the value of understanding and studying pandemics, the way we choose
to respond the pandemic clearly straight the way our societies organize,
socially organize the kind of things we value, the norms of
the kind of power relationships we have, the kind of inequalities
we have, who lives and who dies.
Because when you have access to vaccines, but they are scarce,
who gets the first vaccine, who gets the first successful treatment , who does not.
So it's a very graphic way of understanding
power dynamics, power relationships and inequalities.
And there's very clear racial
dynamics on inequalities and the inequalities
in relation to COVID, but also their national differences.
And they think that it's more distressing for me is to witness
the inability of our system and our society to come to basic
agreements and to provide for a response that is adequate.
We could have done it because of what technology is there
on the resources of other sorts of software, but we fail.
Other countries, as I mentioned, did a much better job.
I think the capitalist system and the neoliberal regime,
it's unfit to prepare for pandemics.
And that's a worrisome part
because we're going to have everybody knows another pandemic,
maybe five years, maybe ten years, maybe 20 years, maybe tomorrow.
Stockpiling things is useless.
From our capitalist perspective, you cannot stockpile masks and respirators
and vaccines just in case it's a pandemic in five or ten years.
You know, the logic of the capitalist system is stipulation.
So you have to produce something and sell it, make a profit, make more and sell it.
Stockpiling stuff. There's countries that have done that.
China that said it for COVID finance. Finland did it.
There's a lot of countries
that stockpile resources
that they might need, but it's not the best business proposition.
So one of my concerns is that our neoliberal regime
and our political dysfunction rooted in things that you might be familiar with
that might explain to you, but it's really a precursor for the really.
Fail next response to our next pandemic, so yeah, I'm worried about that,
and I know people working on pandemics and pandemic preparations
worry about that as well.
So yeah, I'm thinking about our pain,
our current pain and our middle list, which is which we could have avoided.
And then we can avoid the future pain because for our future pandemics,
but probably we want I don't want other brains to look at the.
If you want to add to that, the press
here, I'm certainly happy to join in.
I think the thing sort of two things
strike me, one is the degree to which
how we're capable of
processing other people's suffering or caring about it
as sort of numbers of COVID deaths, you know, accelerates continues to continues to
accelerate. The numbers lack a kind of humanity to them.
That makes it difficult, I think, to process other people's suffering.
Look at the numbers.
We lose sight of the the actual toll of suffering that happens.
That's behind those numbers.
Right. People who had to say goodbye to their families and their,
you know, before they died in a hospital
separated between glass like the sort of calcul ability of that
suffering is extraordinarily difficult to convey to other people.
And especially with crisis after crisis of you
mounting, it seems that it's much easier to detach to tend to.
No tenderness decides yourself to the pain, and I'm guilty of it, too.
And tonight, I can't watch the news because I can't bear the, you know,
the have to occupy my mind with the suffering of other people
for my own mental well-being.
But in that I realized that in that move, it's sort of problematic
because I what I'm doing is I'm, you know, I'm dissociating detaching
and then denying people's humanity and my distancing from them.
The second thing
that occurs to me about COVID, too, is the discourse about resilience
that has kind of come about , which speaks to to your point about neoliberal
capitalism is that it asks us to continually deal with
structural problems on an individual level and to do so
in ways that take on damage
that we have to sort of solve structural problems on our own.
one great part about resilience that I
that I appreciate is that people can can go through
extraordinarily traumatic experiences and come out the other side strong people.
But on the other hand, too,
there's a sense in which talk being told to be resilient is just that.
Are we valorize suffering as a as a route to demonstrating our social work,
that we survived a trauma, that we overcame something
which then makes the damage we receive noble in some sense, because
how could we have demonstrated our resilience
if we didn't take pain and suffering on and then overcome it?
And so then it becomes a virtue that we take on wounds
and that we show those wounds as evidence that we have overcome some difficulty.
On the one hand, I recognize that that's an
at a personal level, a very empowering kind of personal narrative.
one can tell about how they've survived something.
On the other hand, is it
the expectation that we all just have to sort of like accept the conditions
of austerity and suffering as somehow things that bring us,
you know, value?
That's that's something that I covered as sort of so kind of really put forward
is that all this stuff about resilience is really powerful.
But on the other hand, like what is the and what is the route
to getting to being that resilient person afterwards?
Well, it's that we should come to expect that we're all going to take suffering
in some kind of way.
And so that's that's the place
that I would add to that conversation, I guess.
11 feature of patent.
So. STEM cell culture.
And oddly, even if it would be
the only thing of value significance.
There's an odd way in which pain and pleasure being immediately,
which isn't a rational response to the value.
So, for instance, mean.
You ignore people's current suffering, it's just ignorance.
But it also unflustered
to expose yourself to other people's suffering. So.
Pleasure or absence of pain.
Somewhat served by ignoring sufferings of others.
And there's also a temporal aspect to it which marks.
Talking about planning
for future. Bang for Buck.
You don't want to
because the one you're paying
right now is a certain irrationality there.
There are also other current problems that are very significant, like which? Which
is immediately connected to, you know, current suffering, but.
But still, because of the motivational
and pleasure know
this happen, so somehow,
if pain and pleasure are a source of value , we have to somehow discipline excel
so that our own pain and pleasures that are current.
I'd like to bring on tiny note of light here astounds me
because my work really focuses on the pleasure side of things,
but something that has come out of COVID,
which I think is really fascinating in the field of sexuality studies.
This is looking at changes
in people's behavior during the pandemic.
There have been countless studies that have looked at that
and you know, there was a period where we were all kind of locked in our houses
with our loved ones and sort of the rubber met the road for a lot of couples
because because you had a lot more time with somebody all of a sudden.
And one of the really fascinating things that came out of that,
the research that in the early days of the pandemic,
especially when we were all kind of
in this lockdown period and people were starting to think about,
they were living in a very unpredictable kind of situation .
And that tends to get people thinking about like,
what's really important to me and what are my values in life and so on
so that I can kind of plan my life in this unpredictable space?
Is that the A at a national level or cultural level?
A lot more people started to endorse turning to their romantic relationships
and their sexual relationships for for a deeper sense of meaning
than we've ever really seen in kind of attitudinal,
you know, national attitudinal kind of surveys before.
You know, if you ask people, why do you have sex?
Predominantly, they will say, because it feels good.
That's, you know, that's that's a banger all the time.
That was a poor word to excuse me.
That is that that is always a perennial favorite.
But if you kind of look at the distribution outside of that,
you know, people will list all kinds of things.
They'll say, you know, to feel closer to my partner, to feel,
you know, virile and strong as a person,
to feel sexy, to feel attractive to, you know, to access
intimacy, to express my love, you know, all different kinds of of reasons.
And if you look at like, what are the sources of sexual joy?
What are the sources of sexual pleasure for people during the pandemic,
it really shifted towards a deeper sense of connection.
And this is true across genders, which is really kind of fascinating, too.
So there was something about that moment, that cultural moment
where we were all in sort of an existential crisis and
that that orientation started to kind of slip
to the top at a much higher level than we've seen in other time period.
And I think a lot of really amazing work has come out of that in kind of
helping us to understand what are the conditions under
which we are able to access that as a source of pleasure.
And and again, as a clinician, and I'm really interested in that
because can we replicate that outside of the pandemic?
And if so, can that be used as a way to kind of help people
access more sources of joy in their life?
So following up on the pleasure side of pain and pleasure
a lot of the past couple of years or even, you know.
In all of your talks, Dr.
Peterson, you mentioned contradictions,
but also what I saw was the intersections between pain and pleasure.
Be that a sort of in the nature, philosophical nature of it,
you have to have one to understand the other empty.
And for the doctor, bodies work with the nature of drug addiction
and something that initially starts off as pleasurable experience
then becomes painful.
Dr. Peterson's work the.
Sex, which is a pleasurable act,
but then becomes a horribly.
Painful experience with sexual assault
and then turning it in and your work can how
something that is supposed to be pleasurable becomes
painful for some women and is not as pleasurable.
And then for Dr.
Kelly, how you are talking about the
pleasure of what one group was used to receiving
and how cultural shifts have led to what they perceive as pain?
And I was wondering taking all of those sort of intersections
and thought, how do we sort of focus
on the pleasure aspect of this concept
and how do we sort of maybe find pleasure in the painful
sort of every day?
Quotidian experiences and also the sort of state of the world.
That's a really lovely question and a big one.
I didn't get the chance to talk
too much about this and in my talk, but I want to just return to
because you raise a really good point about the contradiction.
The meaning of the word rats. Right?
The Latin route for rape rap artist, which can mean both, you know,
violent rape, but also that's the stem of our word rapture, right?
Which have pleasure.
And so that word in and of itself, there's traces of two things
that are inextricable and pleasure doesn't do
quite the same thing in French as if in the early modern period.
It means a lot of things, though.
So it's not a contradiction, but it means both kind of these excessive
pleasures in acceptable passion, you know, access.
But you can also say
like simple pleasures, things that mean nothing, really trifles.
And so I guess I would start with the words because I'm
a literary scholar and I think words are they bear these traces
and they bear traces of their own contradictions.
And so to come back somehow to your question of how we can take the pain and
move it into the pleasure a little bit, because that's a happy thought.
You know, I think for me, this question of telling stories,
you know, the text they chose was written by a woman who documented her own
painful experiences, but also who wrote it into a community of women.
And so I think that this act of storytelling and sharing and being open
about the fact that this word and these experiences are difficult.
And speaking them
in this incredibly messy period,
drawing attention to the fact of the ambivalence of words
and the painful power that they have that creates.
I didn't want to go very far into that.
That creates pleasure because of course, it's difficult to find that
in the wake of sexual assaults and not everyone's experience.
But I guess I want to emphasize the communal part
and the sharing of the stories as a way to
move forward in some way.
Maybe I say something for my research.
After using many years, it's very hard to find pleasure.
You will have trouble finding the vein, finding the money and finding the drug.
But it's possible, you know, the drug purity is good
and you have a good day and you hit the vein.
Also, the anticipation
you know of hitting the vein produces a certain kind of reward.
They might have some pleasure and then they with a dog,
they have a quiet time at home.
They, you know, they can have their gardens and so on and so on to watch TV.
So Blessure has this place.
What an aspiration as a desire, an unfulfilled desire than anything else.
But in certain configurations that have been studied
for leisure, it's still marginally possible.
But I was thinking about your question.
You know, how do we find pleasure to see the world?
Maybe it was short, right?
I have a daughter when I'm with her and at home,
I, you know, like just looking at her.
Yeah, it's amazing. Amazing.
But sometimes you have to reckon or I think that's my son.
We have to recognize that it's a shitty, nasty word
that has produced an enormous amount of pain, some pain.
It is recognized and something
some types of things are not, you know, that's that's
looking at the war right now in Europe.
All those refugees, the bombing,
you know that the suffering is recognized and we're more like that.
But if you looking at Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, you never hear about that,
an ongoing conflict, maybe because there are black bodies and far away
and it's not a strategic partner of the US strategic interests.
But sometimes my point is like, no, it's awful.
It's painful, it's painful.
And there's no way around.
It is success or it's a genocide.
It's actually the world that's also got things like my daughter
or, you know, eating chocolate or looking at the blue sky or whatever.
But maybe moving beyond pain
the that we recognize that, yes,
it's awful, and we can repeat that maybe we cannot allow this to happen again.
And maybe if we part from that, we start from that recognition.
We can move beyond pain because we create new conditions to eliminate pain.
It's not, I think it's just an abstraction, but it's complicated,
as you said, the beginning, right?
I mean. It's more controversial, but it's a sensation.
Greatness, a sensation some people like pleasures were to be.
Trying to get that it is more profitable, but.
In any case, even if you talk about sensation.
It seems quite possible to
be a state where you get pleasure in.
And one question is,
did something that. Desire.
So if you have the sensation of pain that you go through, some sort of.
Attitude adjustment and grow to like it, it would be a pleasant pain,
and some people have claimed that the legitimate desire
should enjoy, let's.
On the other hand, pain is unavoidable as a sensation.
Maybe there's some bad.
But that's a different not.
If we shouldn't enjoy our.
It's your pain, right, so you're entitled to
your opinion, it's your vote, it's yes, you screwed up, not fine.
You know you are in your own pain, but what I think it's unfair
is that you are subjected
because of your class, your race or ethnicity or geographical location
to do a form of suffering structural violence.
As we said in an apology, we don't talk much about pain,
but forms of violence, social production of pain.
What I just said
on social situations that formal.
It's a question as well,
I mean, that doesn't sound so good in the way that it once painted.
To talk about pleasure
in sort of the class and sense of who is allowed to experience pleasure
or have this pleasure matters to change the conversation, pain matters
whose pleasure matters.
And I'm always struck by these bills that get passed in state houses constantly
that placed new restrictions on welfare benefits, particularly when it comes
to snap benefits and what kind of foods could be purchased on on those benefits.
And there's always a foil brought out that we don't want for people
to be able to purchase lobster with their or some kind of like, you know,
or steak or something like that, because there's this underlying sense
that if you're living in poverty, that it has to be a miserable experience.
Maybe that there's some kind of transcendent
suffering that we learn a lesson about how to not be poor somehow out of that.
But it reminds me that like in the same way that in my talk,
I talked about different schema for whose pain matters.
I'm thinking about the degree to which, like this pleasure matters.
And it seems that in a class and race system
that certain pleasures are prohibited or taboo.
But it's why is it that
people living in positions of poverty are not allowed to have any pleasure?
They're not allowed.
They're not allowed to enjoy their life.
There has to be a drudgery as poverty.
Is there sort of a kind of religious sense of suffering that's beneath that, but
or is it just our sense of our class system
that is that, you know, if you.
Don't succeed, it's a personal failing, and as a result of that,
you shouldn't be rewarded by being able to have access to any kind of pleasure.
It seems quite cruel to say that people living in poverty
should be denied joy in some kind of way.
But for some people that are higher in class status,
they say that their pleasure matters.
And people living in lower income positions their pleasure.
It doesn't matter.
That resonates with me and the work that I do.
I think these different definitions of pleasure to which definition
of pleasure can be applied systemically to certain groups of people.
You know, I would say in the Renaissance, women.
Sure, simple diversions and recreations.
Yes, excessive passion pleasures of the flesh. No, right.
So I think that these different structures of who is allowed to access
which definitions and which constructs of pleasure and pain, you know,
that really resonates.
You talked about finding value paying.
There are some bad pleasures,
but there are other cases which we might find more intuitive.
And so imagine a situation where.
Saying that the person who would be there for pleasure.
Maybe that kid doesn't, he doesn't
think it's maybe that makes the world worse. You know,
are there pleasures which we think
are make the world where somebody finds pleasure in their cruel
to someone else?
So the notion of equal pleasure
is still applicable, even sexual.
Something that something that strikes me as someone who focuses
specifically on sexual pleasure in bodies.
With some graphic terms here, so qualities
embodies with clitoris as.
It is it is one of the few
sources of pleasure that is entirely on.
Inhibited and mapped
to a designated end point of creation.
There's there's very few systems, reward systems in the brain
that are like that, you know, hunger, you receive some pleasure from eating
when you're hungry because it seeds and underlying need.
It seats a deficiency
or you have some pleasure when you have a good night's sleep
because again, it's states some sort of deficiency.
It removes some sort of
baseline. Neat sexual pleasure is entirely unmoored.
It does not have a known endpoint to it,
and particularly for
people with bodies with clearer sense.
You know, I try not to say women in that sense because we have reason
to believe that's true for trans men with clearances as well.
And it's so interesting to me, and I wonder the extent to which
that fact, the fact that it is not mourned
by any physiologic
necessity, it's not,
you know, anchored to a known situation point.
If that is why so much time and energy over the ages has spent
in creating systems to control it
and the and the immense power
that we have given to it symbolically and to its control.
And I wonder if there were
a an analog satiation point
in in bodies that had clearances.
If we would see that same gendered construction of the importance of
of constructing or
restricting access to pleasure in so many different disciplines? Right.
I mean, there's a whole historic discipline of the religious need
to control sexuality, gender science, you name it.
And so they both seem to be unique in that sense.
We're going to say injected into the world with one more.
So that's also not everything which you know,
you don't have associated point with one more on this.
And of course, it's illegal.
Do you have a war on drugs?
You have a lot of ways in which drug use disorder
police, and maybe it's because they stop.
They are relentless.
Yeah, from a physiologic perspective, the reason why those drugs are rewarding
is because they're hijacking the systems that were involved essentially to motivate
these kinds of non satiation point measures.
So sexual pleasure being the sort of foundational system on which
all other rewards that are not tied to a physiologic need are based.
So the reason why drugs make you feel good
is because our brains evolved to make sex feel good.
And those drugs act on those physiologic systems, those same exact systems.
And the reason why we have those systems in the first place is
because there needs to be a system that motivates a set of behaviors
that the individual body does not need to survive,
but that the society or the the species needs to perpetuate itself.
And I keep coming back to this idea
that that the fact that we are able to experience
any pleasure outside of the most basic things that we need in order to be able
to survive the fact that our brains evolved to have those systems.
Exists because of sexual reproduction,
just like blows my little mind every time I think about it.
So I want the audience to have an opportunity
to ask questions of the panel as well, so if you have questions
and you're here in person, you're welcome to walk up to the mike via Zoom.
You're welcome to those in the Q&A or those in the chat.
It's OK, I have more questions
for you. People.
And that's sort of.
We're. It also. Kofi
Annan. Once. So.
But one thing. It does seem like
you could have been.
Because of trying to correct.
Super simple answer to a very small part.
I'm thinking of shame.
I think the construct of
feeling pleasure that then because again, kind of external constructs
and discourses, and I'm thinking in particular of original sin
in the religious, you know, setting because I worked on that.
You know, there's the sense that shame and this this bad feeling that comes
from pleasure never existed prior to that historical cultural construct moment.
And and so I guess that would be my initial reaction is
it's not quite the same as pain, of course, but it is a bad feeling
that comes from something that is one
does not feel good about feeling good about. Yes.
So if we if we take
Freud's pleasure principle,
the aide is capable of creating ruinous enjoyment
and its restraint by the ego is to curtail or prohibit pleasure
so that it does not that excess does not totally ruin us.
And so if we think that there's sort of a regulatory mechanism
of the ego to restrain base desires,
part of it is to curtail enjoyment so that pleasure can be
protected so that there's a way in which we can experience pleasure
without it undoing us as subjects altogether.
So I think that if you know, if you subscribe to that idea, then
certainly the there's a sense
in which excessive pleasure can produce pain because it can
it can literally do, you know, it can ruin us, it can destroy us.
It can cause us to do things that
without any kind of internal regulatory mechanism, would be quite deadly to us. So.
I think there's also.
An intrinsic sense within pleasure
that it is fleeting and the extent to which you are aware of that in the moment
that you are experiencing it, that creates a sort of pain in itself.
Years ago, I was working with a young man who had manic depression,
and he was trying to describe the sense of being in a
in a manic state in this extraordinarily high, euphoric state.
And he said it's it's akin to like.
When you're in an airplane
and it's a cloudy day and you shoot up over the cloud line
and you see nothing but sunshine as far as you can see,
and you have this incredible sense of joy
and lightness and excitement, but always in the back of your mind,
you know that the plane has to come back down
and that you're going to have to go back under the clouds.
And so there's this energy,
this friction that comes from the recognition of the fact that no matter
how much excitement and joy I'm feeling in this moment, it can't last.
And I think that's sort of the crux
of the human condition of human life and human life is coming to terms
with that in your own way and and being able to
embrace that is, I think, the sort of
the greatest problem of being human.
So we're living in.
We are dramatically.
So what are the most common?
The family. Right.
So my more important moment that.
one thing. That long it.
I love this question so much.
Sorry, I'm going to jump on this one
right away because this is super exciting to me
because as someone who uses evolutionary frameworks in my work rate, I'm
I'm constantly asking that question of are the phenomenon that we're seeing
entirely representative of are
the ways in which our brains and our bodies evolved
under very different systems, both environmentally and also socially.
You know, are there are the phenomenon that we're observing now.
Do they represent adaptations to that ancient environment
that are now being asked to and interact with systems that are vastly different?
It's a mismatch.
Or are we seeing something that actually
is quite adaptive? Just.
For a different set of conditions than what we are observing
sort of my my my favorite example of this is the
the argument that
a highly adaptive response
to either loss or
physiological immune activation, and that many of the symptoms that we see
that we call depression, that we call this maladaptive set of behaviors
and feelings and conditions actually represent.
If you think about the responses to that person's social environment
to role changes in their life, to social losses
or to some sort of immune insult to their bodies.
Many of the physiologic responses to decreased energy
that the with the social withdraw and so on are highly adaptive
responses if you were physically ill.
And so what? What
we have to be really mindful of and really careful of is not over interpreting
our immediate context and trying to find mismatch when actually
there may be far more adaption
than adaptability and resilience.
And then we're immediately observing in terms of the
how that reflects the span of experiences that people can have.
Again, I keep coming back to the idea that.
Our our our brains
are built on some very
sort of broad principles of
the organism has to survive long enough to reproduce
and to see its children reproduce.
And outside of those three conditions, evolution
gives absolute does not care at all about you.
And so I think the the amazing thing about the human brain
is that it involved systems
to solve those three problems under an enormous diversity
of environments, including social environments.
And I actually have a great deal of optimism
for our species in the modern environment because of that.
I think what we see represented in the modern world in terms of the range
of different responses that we see with a few exceptions, like drugs.
Really do represent our modern brains, finding ways to solve those three problems
and motivating our behavior through pleasure and pain in order
to be able to respond to those given the conditions of the modern world. The.
Then you have the other side, right, so you have corporations
exploiting your brain and your weaknesses to
make you more addicted, more dependent
consumer to use more internet porn.
They like in the face for, you know, all the social media triggers,
you know, they really understand
how your brain works, which are recluse and how your brain is.
You are going to respond to certain groups that you said in.
And so we are programed through these corporations
to feel certain kinds of pleasure to be trapped by.
These are very smart, very sophisticated devices.
The same thing with Doritos and voice
before I try to open a package
of Doritos, and it's only one they release point.
We think that you know
the point of happiness, the personal thing about happiness. I'm a cynic.
I don't think just existing society.
But the people of the of the bliss point really think that happiness is a thing
is what they saltiness.
The fatness and the shortness of something is perfect.
You know, the for the retail,
there's at this point for Coca-Cola this and at this point, at this point and so
and so and so yeah, our bodies haven't changed in the past 10,000 years.
Much better, what environment does?
And so I wish I knew more about the brain.
I'm a I'm a bad American topologies.
I should know more about biology.
You're always welcome at my lab.
But I know this about the social right.
So and I know the social determinants of the social production of addiction,
and I know how these corporations are operating in these ways,
and I think everybody almost intuitively knows that as well.
So, yeah, I to some, I do think there are some important,
important restrictions to what I said, and I think that there are definitely
system that hijack
the systems that evolved under different sets of conditions.
But again, I have great faith in the resilience
and the adaptability of the system.
Our brains are not able to keep our evolution, is not able to keep up
with the pace of
the technological advances and all of the things that you're talking
about in terms of food and novelty creation
stimuli and so on, so forth. But.
I think we have to kind of look at really extended phenotype then
and not just look at the physiologic changes in our brains, but rather
the ways in which are we then
change our environment. So, so the.
That that is also included in the broader consideration of evolution
is that the evolution of social systems is included in
in our ability to respond to the diversity of different environments, including now
the existence of various nations.
We're now for Democrats Counterpoint Europe more violence. No, no, no.
It's fair to say more balanced counterpoint to be optimistic.
And addiction is awful because he was always thinking
about the words aspects of society, human nature,
and it really filters the way you see.
I see all these almost everything.
Well, my apologies.
I guess I have to say that, you know, I don't mean to be so negative sometimes.
Well, and I think to build on both of those perspectives,
I think an important piece is how we think individuals, what their capacity
is or the power of individuals to interact with those things that are programing us
or to say I can change these structural
things that are pressuring me to act in a certain way or that keep me alive.
The evolution and one of the things that at least sort of was new
in the Renaissance or some people think it was,
is the idea of the self as an individual right and saying, now
I am someone who, despite being programed, it wasn't Facebook.
It was the church.
You know, another thing saying I had to do certain things a certain way.
But people being programed
into making certain decisions and saying, what is the role of the individual?
What is the role of the self?
How am I taking a stance vis-a-vis these things?
I'm being told about my own evolutionary role, gender role,
sexual role on the planet and taking more of a subjective view of that.
That's something that people, a lot of people associate
with coming coming more into play in the Renaissance.
And just to give you one example, you know, Shakespeare, for example,
you know, when he first published his his first folios,
his first texts, his name often wouldn't appear on the cover page.
Now, would you imagine now right picking up a Shakespeare?
And it says, like some guy wrote this, you know, like, of course,
he didn't actually say some guy, but you know, having an anonymous and so
increasingly attributing individuality and individual genius or subjectivity
to the way we take control of our environment or Kant.
That's something that I think has been
at different moments in history, of course, played a different role.
And so that also, I think, changes how we interact with our environment.
Well, thank you all so much
for your wonderful lectures and also for being on the panel.
And thank you all so much for attending via Zoom.
And also in person, and we hope that you will
join us in the fall for our next series as part of the inquiry series
that is on finding common ground in an increasingly polarized world,
which should also be an interesting couple.
So thank you all so much again, and I hope you have a great rest of the semester.
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