After a bit of a hiatus we look forward to resuming Philosophy Sunday Meetups, kindly hosted by El Portal. It's our pleasure, and we hope it might bring some happiness into your life.
All best wishes,
A happier world for all
People experience pleasure in Sedona. But what is pleasure?
Even if we can’t define it precisely, we can observe its motivational power, and its relationship to Sedona. Pleasure has something to do with why people visit Sedona, and why some of those visitors stay, and make it their home.
Sedona is beautiful. It is also inspiring, healing, and a little bit magical. These things usually make people happy, or happier. People feel good when they come to Sedona. Because people enjoy natural beauty, personal growth, and mystical charm they return here over and again, and have done so for centuries.
Familiar sites continue to inspire wonder, whether you are climbing to the saddle of Cathedral Rock, or gazing at a sunset from Airport Mesa. Along with these iconic landmarks, Sedona continues to offer new places to explore. The juxtaposition of the known and unknown is comforting, and alluring. Looking at the land, and moving across it can influence the way we think about the world, and our lives.
Pleasure, or happiness, is sometimes considered an indulgence, something special that can be found on vacation or in retirement. But J.S. Mill made a persuasive case that happiness is the measuring stick of morality. It is the very thing we should be seeking to maximize in our own lives, and the lives of others. The right action is the one that brings the most pleasure into the world.
Suppose we agree with Mill, and believe that creating more happiness is the right thing to do. That still doesn’t explain what happiness is.
The question is trickier than it seems. You may have trouble answering it, even for yourself. But if you aren’t sure what happiness means for you, how could you know what counts as happiness for others? Mill had some suggestions.
He famously distinguished between “higher” and “lower” pleasures. A higher pleasure might be reading a poem or taking in a great landscape, whereas a lower pleasure might be reading pulp or having an ice cream. Some have called Mill a snob for his discriminating tastes. But I think he was just doing the hard work that many people do when they come to Sedona--trying to figure out just what happiness is, which means facing the difference between a momentary high and deep fulfillment.
A longstanding philosophical question is:
what makes an action right?
Mill’s put an answer out there, which in itself is an act of courage.
actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure
According to this view, the greatest happiness should be sought not just for all people, but for all sentient creation.
Mill’s utilitarian standard has endured centuries of criticism. Nevertheless, the ideal of maximizing happiness for all remains compelling.
It is also inclusive, and can accommodate diversity.
We’ll be resuming our Philosophy Sunday Meetups Sunday, November 14, at 4pm. at El Portal.
Our dialog will explore these questions:
What is pleasure?
What could we do, in our world right now, to create the most happiness for the greatest number?
If you are a Verde Valley resident or visitor, please join us.
If you are not nearby and have ideas to contribute, send them my way and I’ll share with the group.
Kent Baldner joins Sedona Philosophy
Kent Baldner is a retired professor of philosophy who now lives full time in Sedona with his wife, four dogs, and three cats. In addition to the love of hiking which brought him to Sedona, Kent is an amateur photographer, and volunteers walking dogs at the Humane Society of Sedona. People love philosophy tours with Kent, and we're delighted to have him on board!
Nature inspires genre
On a recent philosophy tour, Sailaja Paidpaty from the Bay Area described Junipers as Desert Gothic. We think it's a fit.
If you’re coming to Sedona start with a Sedona Philosophy tour for an immersive introduction to the region’s nature, culture, and history with a philosophical twist.