Just More Meat in Motion?
By Jane Miller on January 03, 2012
First, he is totally immoderate. As in, he's a complete pig. My last dog was a picky eater. He was suspicious of everything I gave him, from the dog food he ate every day to the bones from the prime rib roast. And, as a result, he was supermodel skinny. Some little boy up the street said that he (dog1) had a sexy walk. I assume this was because of his (dog 1, not the little boy), bony ass. Not dog2. When he swings his arse around, which he does with surprising frequency and efficiency (we call this arsing), he moves things--as in people, full size sofas, and Christmas trees (our is now leaning at a particularly rakish angle). This is because he has no moderation when it comes to food. Despite the strict diet imposed on him by his vet, over the holidays, dog2 consumed a whole round of brie, a yet uncut corn bread, and 3/4 of a layer cake with butter cream icing. His arse can now move mountains.
Second? He's a complete chicken. Despite dog1's slim stature, he could be fierce. Together we once took on two pitbulls. No joke. I still have the scars on my hand to prove it (from the baseball bat I was wielding, not a dog bite--but that is a story for another time.) Dog2 is frightened of poodles, of shopping carts, of signs in the ground, unfamiliar cars parked in the driveway, the dark, the rain, basically, everything. Dog2 tells the tale of Hobbes's Levithan--but in a funnier and more tangible way.
Hobbes writes that there are only two motivators for human behaviour--fulfilling our multiple and unending desires and avoiding death. Happiness consists of the ably doing these two things until eventually we fail to do both and wind up in the cold dark ground six feet under. Hobbes was a bleak guy. Although Hobbes would say that words like virtue are ultimately-non-sensical, if we have to use it, the most virtuous person is the woman who fills the most desires while avoiding the most pain, all the while not dying. In Hobbes's vision, humans are just like every other animal, just more complicated versions of dog2. Meat in motion.
But of course I think dog2 is more than just meat in motion. Certainly I think G. is more than just meat in motion. And on my good days, I hope that I am more than just meat in motion. But the guy does have a point. Just look at dog2's arse.
Even Aristotle knew that virtue had to do with pleasure and pain. The trick, he argued, was to learn to take pleasure in the right things and know as painful those things which we should avoid. So, for example, if my blog were the good (as of course it is), then you should learn to take pleasure in it. And as large stores selling copious amounts of technology (read Future Shop here) are clearly the bad, you should be ashamed to be seen in one. Capiche?
But, even Aristotle knew that if you didn't first get your fear of more immediate pains (say death and dentists) and your desire for more immediate pleasures (say wine and eclairs) under control, there would be no hope that you could be moved on to loving and hating more worthy objects. That's why in his list of a dozen (give or take a few) virtues, courage and moderation come first. If you want to be generous or just or even witty, you would first have to take control of the dog2 that resides in all of us. After all, how are you going to be the hostess with the mostess (read as generous) if instead of serving those little canapes, you hide yourself in a dark closet and stuff them all down your own gullet?
Now here's the thing. Aristotle, unlike Hobbes, differentiate between animals. The human soul is more complicated than an animal soul. It has the capacity for reason and so the ability to distinguish between good and bad desires. Dog2 can (maybe) be excused for his poor behaviour and subsequently large bottom. No one has ever really looked at a dog and said, "If only he were just." Fair enough. And I guess this is why I try to remember to put the layer cakes in cupboards when I go to bed, rather than leaving them as tempters of dog2's desire. But how am to explain my own late night gambits into the kitchen? For even if Aristotle is right and I am a rational animal, I also have thumbs. And having thumbs means I can easily open those cupboards up...
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