2017-09-30: Brave New World



discussion notes

  • @balupton’s review

    • When you read 1984, it is hard to find any justification for IngSoc policies. A brave new world however takes the ideals of socialism and applies that with technological innovation, such that no one needs to work or be dissatisfied, but one chooses to be to the extent it enables their own happiness. It allows a society to operate within the ideal boundaries for individual choices and happiness. With threats outside of that to be grandiose romantic fantasy. It is hard for me, as one who believes in the role of technology as an equalising factor, and one who also values choice, to find any sympathy for John, that are beyond my own romantic ideals of a more primitive way of being - ideals that I suspect do not hold well to rationalisation. Looking forward to discussing this book in the Study Group.
  • However, in Brave New World, once the society is accomplished, technology and science ceases to innovate

    • Main goals of the Brave New World utopia is stability, and happiness

      • If your goal is stability, you cannot really progress, you can’t get the highs and lows of progress and art

      • Brave New World turns people into docile cows

    • Seems a goal of brave new world is to return people to before they ate from the from the tree of knowledge. Is that a good idea or a bad idea?

      • You will have less knowledge, less understanding
  • Can you quantify happiness? Is happiness a formula? Is happiness personal (is the way it is accomplish differently from person to person)?

  • Is truth what is pragmatic? As what Brave New World was doing was very pragmatic

  • Were the people satiated in Brave New World? It seems not, John’s girlfriend longed for more

  • Would you rather live a life where you felt nothing, over a life where you felt joy but also misery?

    • After antidepressants, some people tire of feeling nothing, and start wanting to feel things

      • Why?

        • Because they want to feel again?

        • Because they want their feelings to be true?

          • Then the question becomes - what is truer about that?
    • Would people in concentration camps, in situations of extreme misery, if they had a drug where they could feel nothing, would they take it?

      • John did want to feel, and he did end up killing himself - is that really a better outcome than not feeling anything?

      • John’s girlfriend did desired satiation, but that ended up with her being whipped

  • Could John have chosen different meaning?

    • Neither world - the savage world - nor the brave new world - were compatible with John’s meaning

    • Balance between

      • Being too open where the outside state defines you

      • Being too closed where you prevent yourself from adaptation

    • He was an outsider in both worlds

    • The flaw of his outcome, was him not using his outside categorisation, to change the society in a beneficial way

      • However, could he have? Did the society even want to change? The conversations with the Controller indicated he had already thought of everything John had thought of, and provided counter arguments for them.

        • Crossover with the conversations with The Architect in the Matrix

        • For the holocaust victims, would they have preferred to be lobotomised to not feel pain?

          • If Sisyphus is drugged to feel that pushing the boulder is the best thing ever, is that okay?

            • Susan Wolf - Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

            • Are such drugged feelings delusional? Or are they reality?

              • delusion | dɪˈluːʒ(ə)n | noun an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder: the delusion of being watched. • [mass noun] the action of deluding or the state of being deluded: what a capacity television has for delusion.
      • If you are faced with options you do not agree with, then it becomes your responsibility to update your premises or to change those options

        • Gulag Archipelago - he could not change the circumstance, but he could change the meaning of the circumstance by writing the book and influencing the collapse of the soviet union

        • When faced with the option of limited misery in reality or unlimited happiness in virtual reality, we must also think about changing those options

          • You have a choice of how you want to respond to the miserable
  • Is the end, where everyone is happy yet docile, is that okay?

    • They are left no choice to be anything else, as the system does not support it

    • Is happiness overrated? Can happiness be quantified? Should we pursue meaning over happiness? Would we rather have truth or happiness? Is truth delusional?

    • Docile like an animal, as it returns people to the state before they ate from the tree of knowledge

      • How is this necessarily bad?

      • Are there circumstances where this is better?

  • More was discussed, it was an extremely productive 6 hour session

discussion resources




He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how:


Check out this 2-minute-piece of a Hungarian artist on the myth of Sisyphos, construing his struggle in a different way:


  • conviction | kənˈvɪkʃ(ə)n | noun1 a formal declaration by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law that someone is guilty of a criminal offence: she had a previous conviction for a similar offence.

  • sacrifice | ˈsakrɪfʌɪs | noun1 an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity: they offer sacrifices to the spirits | [mass noun] : the ancient laws of animal sacrifice. • an animal, person, or object offered in the act of sacrifice: a flat cake offered by the Romans as a sacrifice to their gods. 3 an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy: we must all be prepared to make sacrifices.

  • cipher1 | ˈsʌɪfə | (also cypher) noun 1 a secret or disguised way of writing; a code: he wrote cryptic notes in a cipher | [mass noun] : the information may be given in cipher. • something written in a code: he came across ciphers written on parchment and concealed in a hollow altar pillar. • a key to a code. 2 dated a zero; a figure 0. • a person of no importance, especially one who does the bidding of others and seems to have no will of their own

  • delusion | dɪˈluːʒ(ə)n | noun an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder: the delusion of being watched. • [mass noun] the action of deluding or the state of being deluded: what a capacity television has for delusion.