Disappearance of the Finest Good

Most people would agree that as capitalism has grown, so has the emphasis on material possessions. More and more technology is spewing out everyday, and people are encouraged to buy the newest smartphone, or the even newer smartwatch. There is so much emphasis on making money to buy these gadgets, that society is slowly eliminating the genuine joys in life. Rather than enjoying something for its consequence and for the sake of doing it, people are increasingly enjoying things only for their consequences, not for the sake of doing it.

Of course, this relates to the “three types of good” mentioned in Book II of Plato’s Republic. While in conversation with Socrates, Glaucon talks of three types of goods:

1. That which we like for its own sake, such as joy

2. That which we like for its own sake and its consequences

3. That which we like for its consequences, but not for its own sake

As aforementioned, I believe that society is losing touch with the second good listed (which Socrates calls the finest good), and is now becoming overwhelmed by the third good listed. Back in Socrates time, it was enjoyable to gain knowledge, as were the consequences of having knowledge. Even today, in less fortunate countries, kids enjoy going to school for the sake of going as well as for its consequences. Nowadays, in our consumerist culture, people see education as a burden, but carry it through in order to land a higher paying job. The higher paying job then leads to the ability to buy more material objects.

I’ve fallen victim to this, for occasionally when I play a gig for money, I see it as more of a burden with payoff and less of a joy with payoff. Because materialism has driven society to crave money, people don’t do tasks for the desire of doing the tasks. They do it for the money. The money then buys items, such as the smartwatch, which are designed to speed up the tasks. Why would one need to speed up a task if the task itself was enjoyable? Certainly, this doesn’t apply to every individual or circumstance, I just find it unfortunate that tasks that were once gratifying for their own sake are becoming burdensome.

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