Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chapter 8, Luxury and the politics of need and desires

The chapter starts off by bringing to our concern the “relationship between needs and desires and the location/definition of luxury in those terms”.How a society can consider cretin things important which create a system of needs that are in turn desires because of a standard set by the society itself. Berry refers to Frankfurt’s ‘Principal of Precedence’ which goes as follows: when Alan needs something that Brenda wants but does not need, then Alan’s need is the first thing that will be morally preferable to satisfying Brenda’s desire. This is where he establishes a brief understanding of satisfying one’s needs before acquiring desires. Berry then puts into question what a desire is and what a need is and how there are some grey areas in between the two and references chapter1. Berry goes into the primal needs like how an engine needs oil and how people eat and what that can mean for someone who is Jewish or Muslim or Vegetarian. And how those needs are more of a way of life and define who some one is based on their cultural background and question of identity and not choice. Then breaks it down to how human needs are never brute and always in principle open to question. Afterwards looking at how desires can also change from the way it is in actuality or simply a change of opinion. What we think of a luxury can become no more then a misconception of an idea. And Hume distinguishes the difference between settled or informed desire and the caprice or whim desires. Berry talks about how someone who’s life will end soon might prefer to take a big luxurious trip that they have been desiring for a long time their hole life, and “live life to its fullest” instead of worrying about paying off medical expenses to prolong a miserable life. This example will apply for the class that might not be privileged to have the possibility to indulge in global adventures like other classes. Taxation of different classes is definitely a reoccurring subject that Berry brings up in relating to every aspect of desire and need throughout the chapter. VAT or Value-Added Tax is one type of taxation that he goes into detail about how it is an added tax to some necessities and to others because of physical human characteristics. This taxation then in turn changes do to cultural identifications of necessity, razors for men was one of his example. And by the end of the chapter Berry return to the fact that production for need is not reached in many societies and a little reduced indulgence can still be practiced retuning to Aristotelian Phronesis, being the capability to consider the mode of action in order to deliver change, especially to enhance the quality of life for all. Aristotle says that phronesis is not simply a skill, however, as it involves not only the ability to decide how to achieve a certain end of indulgence, but also the ability to reflect upon and determine that end of over indulgence of luxuries is possible.

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