MONEY, DESIRE, PLEASURE, PAIN
Money is human happiness in the abstract, wrote Schopenhauer grimly in the early 19th Century. He then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes himself utterly to money.
But what is happiness? In The Ethics, written in 1677, Spinoza ambitiously tried to do for the emotions what Euclid did for geometry. Euclid began with “primitives”, his raw material, the elements that everyone understands. In geometry, these were points and lines. He then added axioms, self-evident logical principles that no one would argue with, stating for example that “If equals are added to equals, then the wholes are equal”. Finally, he proceeded to theorems, interesting deductions he could prove from the primitives and the axioms. One of them is Pythagoras’ theorem that relates triangles to squares: the sum of the squares of the sides of right-angled triangle are equal to the square of the hypotenuse.
Spinoza approached human emotions the way Euclid approached triangles and squares, aiming to understand their inter-relations by means of principles, logic and deduction.
Spinoza’s primitives were pain, pleasure and desire. Everyone who inhabits a human body recognizes these feelings. Just as financial stock options are derivatives that depend on the underlying stock price, so more complex emotions depend on these three primitives pain, pleasure and desire.
Love or hate, then, is pleasure or pain associated with an external object. Hope is the expectation of future pleasure tinged with doubt. Joy is simply the pleasure we experience when that doubtful expectation materializes. Envy is pain at another’s pleasure. Cruelty is a hybrid of all three primitives: it is the desire to inflict pain on someone we love. And so on to all the other emotions …
Figure 1 is a simple diagram I constructed to illustrate Spinoza’s scheme. For Spinoza, good is everything that brings pleasure, and Evil is everything that brings pain. And happiness is good.
Figure 1: Spinoza’s model of emotions
Schopenhauer’s definition of money as abstract happiness or pleasure or good is correct, but it isn’t the entire story.
In a barter system, where you trade bread for cheese, you are trading completed work, your bread for their cheese. Work is painful and you do it if you desire to survive, the most fundamental of all desires. By the sweat of your brow will you eat bread, said God to Adam and Eve after the Fall. In Spinoza’s scheme I regard work as pain in the service of desire.
Gold coins are crystallized work, the labor of mining. Banknotes backed by gold are crystallized labor and past pain. Money, then, is past pain in the service of desire to survive as well as abstract future pleasure. It combines in one banknote all three of Spinoza’s primitives, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2: How money fits into Spinoza’s model
Doctors testing comatose patients for signs of life give up when there is no response to pain. Fiat money incorporates only two of the three primitives, pleasure and desire. Genuine money should always involve the recollected pain involved in creating it.
Money and Love in "The Gilded Six Bits" Essay examples
1321 Words6 Pages
Zora Neale Hurston, author of the Gilded Six Bits, has a very unique writing style. The artistry in her story makes it a pleasant, easy read for any audience. The title suggests the story is based around money; but rather if one were to dig deeper the reality of the story is being told around the playfulness of money. Character disposition, an idealistic dialect, and the ability to work past an issue all work together to prove that Joe and Missie May’s lives are not strictly revolved around money.
Hurston’s characters have idealistic dialect for an African American in that time period; correctly depicting any stereotypes that might fall on the situation. The slang and slurs used throughout the characters dialogue makes the tale more…show more content…
“Humph! Ah’m way behind time t’day! Joe gointer be heah ‘fore Ah git mah clothes on if ah don’t make haste” (985). Hurston could have told the reader that Missie May was running late, plain and simple, but rather she uses dialogue to introduce the character and show the reader her role in society; as an uneducated African American.
In the very beginning of the story Hurston explains that money is nothing more than a game to this married couple. “…She knew that it was her husband throwing silver dollars in the door for her to pick up and pile beside her plate at dinner. It was this way every Saturday afternoon. The nine dollars hurled into the open door, he scurried to a hiding place behind the cap jasmine bush and waited. Missie May promptly appeared at the door in mock alarm” (986). Joe would throw money to Missie May encouraging her to give chase after him, in a playful concoction of hide-n-go-seek and tag. To fall as a cliché story it would be assumed that this couple would quarrel over money rather than view it as a toy and play with the coins. This shows that true love conquers all and nothing can deprive the two of their marriage. After all, a financial burden is a major stressor in a relationship – if they couple removes the stressor from their lives, giving it a different role; it could not possibly become troublesome to them.
Joe and Missie May clearly have a playful marriage. This displays what any young