Friday, December 30, 2016

The End of Identity Liberalism




It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.

But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.
One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

Is Criticism of Identity Politics Racist or Long Overdue?



NOVEMBER 23, 2016

INTRODUCTION

rfdraceCritics said President-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign slogan celebrated a time before racial discrimination, gender inequality and homophobia were matters of concern.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A widely discussed op-ed by Mark Lilla in The New York Times (above) argued that the Democratic Party had gone astray by engaging in “identity politics” that were more concerned with a diversity of demands by women, African-Americans, immigrants and L.G.B.T. people, than in appealing to Americans as a whole. Some said that piece implied that liberals should ignore unique and real issues faced by anyone who isn’t a white man.
Is criticism of political correctness and identity politics a reaction that’s long overdue or just racist?
This is part of the Issues for Trump and America series.
READ THE DISCUSSION »

DEBATERS

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Is Wonder Woman being Forced into Early Retirement



As of Friday, Wonder Woman will no longer be an honorary U.N. ambassador. A petition protesting her appointment called her "a large-breasted, white woman of impossible proportions." Above, a display at Comic-Con International 2016 shows the evolution of her costume.
Matt Cowan/Getty Images
It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.
That's less than two months since the character was unveiled as the face of a U.N. social media campaign to promote women's rights via tweets and facebook callouts. The decision sparked protests both in and out of the organization, with nearly 45,000 people ultimately signing an online petition that called the choice of a fictional character with "an overtly sexualized image" to represent gender equality "alarming" and "extremely disappointing."
But in a phone interview with NPR today, Jeffrey Brez, a United Nations official in the same department, said that while the plan was for DC Comics to continue activities in the coming year, the U.N. piece was never intended to last as long.At the time, officials of both the UN and DC Comics — which owns the rights to the character of Wonder Woman — said the campaign would continue well into 2017. "As long as there's momentum in the campaign we'll move forward," Maher Nasser, the U.N. official who essentially brokered the collaboration between the United Nations and DC Comics, told NPR in late October. "They have committed to a year."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lynda Carter Deflects Critics of Wonder Woman








Is Wonder Woman a “pinup girl” or a feminist icon? The question dogged a United Nations campaign that featured the superhero as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.”
Of the pushback that accompanied the campaign, Ms. Carter believes that some of it may be because “the U.N. didn’t put a woman in there.” The ambassadorship was announced just weeks after the United Nations passed over several women to be secretary-general.
Now 65, she is preparing to pass her golden lasso to Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who will appear in next spring’s film version of “Wonder Woman.” Ms. Carter took time from acting (including a role as the president on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 EDGE QUESTION : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN? SEX

By Helena Cronin
London School of Economics

The poet Philip Larkin famously proclaimed that sex began in 1963. He was inaccurate by 800 million years. Moreover, what began in the 1960s was instead a campaign to oust sex—in particular sex differences—in favor of gender.
Why? Because biological differences were thought to spell genetic determinism, immutability, anti-feminism and, most egregiously, women's oppression. Gender, however, was the realm of societal forces; "male" and "female" were social constructs, the stuff of political struggle; so gender was safe sex.
The campaign triumphed. Sex now struggles to be heard over a clamor of misconceptions, fabrications and denunciations. And gender is ubiquitous, dominating thinking far beyond popular culture and spreading even to science—such that a respected neuroscience journal recently felt the need to devote an entire issue to urging that sex should be treated as a biological variable.
And, most profoundly, gender has distorted social policy. This is because the campaign has undergone baleful mission-creep. Its aim has morphed from ending discrimination against women into a deeply misguided quest for sameness of outcome for males and females in all fields—above all, 50:50 across the entire workplace. This stems from a fundamental error: the conflation of equality and sameness. And it's an error all too easily made if your starting point is that the sexes are "really" the same and that apparent differences are mere artifacts of sexist socialization.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Feminist activist women are masculinized in terms of digit-ratio and social dominance: a possible explanation for the feminist paradox


The feminist movement purports to improve conditions for women, and yet only a minority of women in modern societies self-identify as feminists. This is known as the feminist paradox. It has been suggested that feminists exhibit both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with heightened masculinization, which may predispose women for heightened competitiveness, sex-atypical behaviors, and belief in the interchangeability of sex roles. If feminist activists, i.e., those that manufacture the public image of feminism, are indeed masculinized relative to women in general, this might explain why the views and preferences of these two groups are at variance with each other. We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands. The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Beginning pornography use associated with increase in probability of divorce


Beginning pornography use is associated with a substantial increase in the probability of divorce for married Americans, and this increase is especially large for women, finds a new study that will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
"Beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one's likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent," said Samuel Perry, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. "Our results suggest that viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability."

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Science and the Self


Advances in genetics, epigenetics, neuroscience, psychology, and computer science are giving us a better understanding of who we are and why we function as we do.
Science now enables us to associate specific characteristics in the brain or genetic traits with inclinations for particular kinds of behavior, such as violence. These findings may revolutionize how we see ourselves, or prompt us to oversimplify complex relationships among our genes, environment, and behavior. This information also presents challenges. Does this mean our behavior is predetermined? Should this change our notions of personal responsibility and our free will?
Additionally, various means of self-alteration have been used throughout history to change how we appear to others and to ourselves. Over the last few decades as our pressure for success has increased, so too have our arsenal of tools for self-enhancement. Each of these enhancers—including drugs to improve concentration and sexual function, cochlear implants, and robotic limbs — directly affects how we interact with each other in every facet of our lives. These alterations also beg us to question whether it is fair to enhance ourselves for a competitive edge. What about those who do not have access to enhancements? Are these enhancements more acceptable if they are used to promote societal good versus self-improvement?

Recent research suggests that new drugs such as oxytocin may enhance moral behaviors and that we may be less likely to harm others if we take a drug that modulates the neurotransmitter serotonin. While we have always aspired to make ourselves better, scientific and technological advances complicate our thinking on how we affect change—in ourselves and in others. The Hasting Center will continue to examine whether the ways that we achieve these goals matters and whether these actions diminish or enhance our humanity.

http://www.thehastingscenter.org/our-issues/science-and-the-self/

Monday, August 01, 2016

Genes linked to leadership/social dominance, predicted greater speed-dating success for men.

Guided by social role theory and prior genetic studies, this study confirmed that mate selection could be influenced by people’s abilities to detect “good genes” in a speed-dating setting, in which participants’ behaviors had real-life consequences. Consistent with social role theory, individuals with genotypes that were consistent with prevailing gender norms (for females, submissiveness/social sensitivity, a communal attribute; and for males, leadership/social dominance, an agentic attribute) had greater dating success and were perceived more positively by their partners. 

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-016-9257-8?wt_mc=alerts.TOCjournals

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Same genes could make us prone to both happiness and depression


The Admin: This study serves as a microcasm showing the interplay of nature and nurture which goes beyond mental illness to temperament and similar personal traits.  How our genes shape our behavior depends on the quality and influence of the environment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Behavioral Genetics:

Why We're Different
Robert Plomin [6.29.16]

What we're trying to do in behavioral genetics and medical genetics is explain differences. It's important to know that we all share approximately 99 percent of our DNA sequence. If we sequence, as we can now readily do, all of our 3 billion base pairs of DNA, we will be the same at over 99 percent of all those bases. That's what makes us similar to each other. It makes us similar to chimps and most mammals. We're over 90 percent similar to all mammals. There's a lot of genetic similarity that's important from an evolutionary perspective, but it can't explain why we're different. That's what we're up to, trying to explain why some children are reading disabled, or some people become schizophrenic, or why some people suffer from alcoholism, et cetera. We're always talking about differences. The only genetics that makes a difference is that 1 percent of the 3 billion base pairs. But that is over 10 million base pairs of DNA. We're looking at these differences and asking to what extent they cause the differences that we observe. 
ROBERT PLOMIN is a professor of behavioral genetics at King's College London and deputy director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
See the rest of the article here: https://www.edge.org/conversation/robert_plomin-why-were-different
If you look at the books and the training that teachers get, genetics doesn't get a look-in. Yet if you ask teachers, as I've done, about why they think children are so different in their ability to learn to read, and they know that genetics is important. When it comes to governments and educational policymakers, the knee-jerk reaction is that if kids aren't doing well, you blame the teachers and the schools; if that doesn't work, you blame the parents; if that doesn't work, you blame the kids because they're just not trying hard enough. An important message for genetics is that you've got to recognize that children are different in their ability to learn. We need to respect those differences because they're genetic. Not that we can’t do anything about it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why it is useful to understand the role of genetics in behaviour


Scientists have studied twins for many years to understand how genes and environments influence differences among individuals, spanning conditions such as cancer and mental health to characteristics such as intelligence and political beliefs.
Although the twin method is well-established, findings from twin studies are often controversial. Critics of twin research question the value of establishing that characteristics, such as health behaviours, have a strong genetic basis. A primary concern is that these types of findings will result in complacency or fatalism, effectively undermining motivation to change lifestyle. But there is very little evidence to support these fears.
Genetic influence on human characteristics is often misinterpreted. It is wrongly assumed that a behaviour that has strong genetic influence (highly heritable) must be biologically hardwired. However, genes are not destiny. Genes are often dependent on environmental exposure, such that genes can have a stronger effect, or no effect, depending on the environment.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings


OPEN

R Plomin1 and I J Deary2,3
  1. 1King's College London, MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, DeCrespigny Park, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Correspondence: Professor R Plomin, King's College London, MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, PO80, Institute of Psychiatry, DeCrespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail: robert.plomin@kcl.ac.uk
Received 14 March 2014; Revised 18 July 2014; Accepted 22 July 2014
Advance online publication 16 September 2014
Top

Abstract

Intelligence is a core construct in differential psychology and behavioural genetics, and should be so in cognitive neuroscience. It is one of the best predictors of important life outcomes such as education, occupation, mental and physical health and illness, and mortality. Intelligence is one of the most heritable behavioural traits. Here, we highlight five genetic findings that are special to intelligence differences and that have important implications for its genetic architecture and for gene-hunting expeditions. (i) The heritability of intelligence increases from about 20% in infancy to perhaps 80% in later adulthood. (ii) Intelligence captures genetic effects on diverse cognitive and learning abilities, which correlate phenotypically about 0.30 on average but correlate genetically about 0.60 or higher. (iii) Assortative mating is greater for intelligence (spouse correlations ~0.40) than for other behavioural traits such as personality and psychopathology (~0.10) or physical traits such as height and weight (~0.20). Assortative mating pumps additive genetic variance into the population every generation, contributing to the high narrow heritability (additive genetic variance) of intelligence. (iv) Unlike psychiatric disorders, intelligence is normally distributed with a positive end of exceptional performance that is a model for ‘positive genetics’. (v) Intelligence is associated with education and social class and broadens the causal perspectives on how these three inter-correlated variables contribute to social mobility, and health, illness and mortality differences. These five findings arose primarily from twin studies. They are being confirmed by the first new quantitative genetic technique in a century—Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA)—which estimates genetic influence using genome-wide genotypes in large samples of unrelated individuals. Comparing GCTA results to the results of twin studies reveals important insights into the genetic architecture of intelligence that are relevant to attempts to narrow the ‘missing heritability’ gap.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Genetic test predicts your success in life, but not happiness

“It is important that people recognise and respect genetic scores,” says Plomin. “When kids don’t do well, we blame their teachers and parents, but kids vary genetically. [A low polygenic score] doesn’t mean a kid can’t learn, but we should recognise that it might take more effort.”


People with scorecards

What’s your genetic score?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Women’s preference for smaller competition may account for inequality

“Smaller social groups, even when individuals are in competition, tend to allow people to form more intimate social bonds and be more attuned to others’ needs,” said Hanek, who recently received her doctorate from the U-M Department of Psychology. “And these communal behaviors, in turn, tend to be more normative for women.”

“This research by no means blames women for gender inequality but rather uncovers a novel environmental factor that might contribute to inequality, beyond the well-documented effects of gender biases and discrimination,” said Stephen Garcia, U-M associate professor of organizational studies and psychology.

http://www.psypost.org/2016/05/womens-preference-smaller-competition-may-account-inequality-42794

Friday, April 15, 2016

Brain imaging study suggests risk-taking behaviors can be contagious

Why do we sometimes decide to take risks and other times choose to play it safe? In a new study, Caltech researchers explored the neural mechanisms of one possible explanation: a contagion effect.
The work is described in the March 21 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study led by John O’Doherty, professor of psychology and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center, 24 volunteers repeatedly participated in three types of trials: a “Self” trial, in which the participants were asked to choose between taking a guaranteed $10 or making a risky gamble with a potentially higher payoff; an “Observe” trial, in which the participants observed the risk-taking behavior of a peer (in the trial, this meant a computer algorithm trained to behave like a peer), allowing the participants to learn how often the peer takes a risk; and a “Predict” trial, in which the participants were asked to predict the risk-taking tendencies of an observed peer, earning a cash prize for a correct prediction. Notably in these trials the participants did not observe gamble outcomes, preventing them from further learning about gambles.

O’Doherty and his colleagues found that the participants were much more likely to make the gamble for more money in the “Self” trial when they had previously observed a risk-taking peer in the “Observe” trial. The researchers noticed that after the subjects observed the actions of a peer, their preferences for risk-taking or risk-averse behaviors began to reflect those of the observed peer–a so-called contagion effect. “By observing others behaving in a risk-seeking or risk-averse fashion, we become in turn more or less prone to risky behavior,” says Shinsuke Suzuki, a postdoctoral scholar in neuroscience and first author of the study.

Use of Genetically Informed Evidence-Based Prevention Science to Understand and Prevent Crime and Related Behavioral Disorders

  1. Jamie M. Gajos1,*
  2. Abigail A. Fagan2and
  3. Kevin M. Beaver3
Article first published online: 15 APR 2016
Criminology and Public Policy
DOI: 10.1111/1745-9133.12214
Research Summary
In this article, we outline the potential ways that genetic research can be used to inform the development, testing, and dissemination of preventative interventions. We conclude by drawing attention to how the incorporation of genetic variables into prevention designs could help identify individual variability in program effectiveness and thereby increase program success rates.

Policy Implications
Evidence-based prevention science seeking to reduce crime and other related behavioral disorders has made significant progress in the identification of risk factors involved in the development of antisocial behavior, as well as in the creation and testing of such programs intended to target these risk factors. Nonetheless, issues of program effectiveness remain as individual responsivity to prevention interventions is often overlooked. Paralleling the movement toward evidence-based prevention science, but largely isolated from such efforts, has been an area of research devoted toward identifying how genetic factors interact with social environments to influence behavioral outcomes. By joining these two fields, genetically informed prevention interventions have the potential to increase our understanding of the causes of crime and other problem behaviors, as well as to help identify individual variability in program effectiveness.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Most men with borderline testosterone levels may have depression



March 6, 2015

Men with borderline testosterone levels have higher rates of depression and depressive symptoms than the general population, new research finds. The results will be presented Saturday, March 7, at ENDO 2015, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.
"Over half of men referred for borderline  have . This study found that men seeking management for borderline testosterone have a very high rate of depression,, obesity and physical inactivity," said principal study author Michael S. Irwig, MD, FACE, associate professor of medicine and director of the Center for Andrology in the Division of Endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, DC. "Clinicians need to be aware of the clinical characteristics of this sample population and manage their comorbidities such as depression and obesity."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Return of Eugenics

2 April 2016
The Spectator

cover_020416_landscape
It’s comforting now to think of eugenics as an evil that sprang from the blackness of Nazi hearts. We’re familiar with the argument: some men are born great, some as weaklings, and both pass the traits on to their children. So to improve society, the logic goes, we must encourage the best to breed and do what we can to stop the stupid, sick and malign from passing on their defective genes. This was taken to a genocidal extreme by Hitler, but the intellectual foundations were laid in England. And the idea is now making a startling comeback.
A hundred years ago the eugenic mission involved a handful of crude tools: bribing the ‘right’ people to have larger families, sterilising the weakest. Now stunning advances in science are creating options early eugenicists could only dream about. Today’s IVF technology already allows us to screen embryos for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis. But soon parents will be able to check for all manner of traits, from hair colour to character, and choose their ‘perfect’ child.
The era of designer babies, long portrayed by dystopian novelists and screenwriters, is fast arriving. According to Hank Greely, a Stanford professor in law and biosciences, the next couple of generations may be the last to accept pot luck with procreation. Doing so, he adds, may soon be seen as downright irresponsible. In his forthcoming book The End of Sex, he explains a brave new world in which mothers will be given a menu with various biological options. But even he shies away from the word that sums all this up. For Professor Greely, and almost all of those in the new bioscience, eugenics is never mentioned, as if to avoid admitting that history has swung full circle.

See the rest of the article here

Testosterone may reduce empathy by reducing brain connectivity



Photo credit: DARPA

By David Hader on PsyPost, March 30, 2016

High levels of testosterone may reduce empathy by interfering with communication between parts of the brain involved in emotion, according to a study to be published in the journalPsychoneuroendicinology.
There is a large body of scientific research linking testosterone, a hormone produced in larger quantities by men’s bodies and in smaller quantities in women’s bodies, with impairment in the ability to cognitively process emotional information. This applies particularly processes related to empathy, the ability to correctly identify another person’s emotional state based on cues like facial expression and body language. Women perform consistently better at tasks requiring empathy than men.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anthropology as an Inspiration to Food Studies: Building Theory and Practice.


The aim of this paper is to show the role of anthropological inquiry in the development of a new, interdisciplinary approach to food in culture -- namely: food studies. Early anthropologists, for example, Bronislaw Malinowski and Edward Evans-Pritchard, stressed the social meaning of food while analyzing the outcome of their fieldwork. When the functional approach had been replaced by structuralism, the symbolic meaning of food was given priority. Therefore, Claude Lévi-Strauss constructed his famous culinary triangle to show the connection between culture and nature in human thought; however, the triangle was not based on his own fieldwork, but rather many examples from other works were used to support this theoretical approach.

Full paper:

 
http://www.antropoweb.cz/cs/anthropology-as-an-inspiration-to-food-studies-building-theory-and-practice 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hubris and Humility: Gender Differences in Serial Founding Rates


Venkat Kuppuswamy 


University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Ethan R. Mollick 


University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School 

June 26, 2015

Abstract:      


Men are far more likely to start new ventures than women. Drawing on the hubris theory of entrepreneurship, we argue that one explanation of this gap is that women have lower susceptibility to hubris and higher levels of humility, the “male hubris-female humility effect.” Decreased hubris suggests that women faced with low-quality founding opportunities are less likely to engage in entrepreneurship than men. Increased humility implies that women will also make fewer founding attempts than men when opportunity quality is high. Using a data set of serial founders in crowdfunding, we find evidence of both hubris and humility effects decreasing female founding attempts relative to men. While decreased hubris benefits women individually, we argue that it disadvantages women as a group, as it leads to by 23.2% fewer female-led foundings in our sample than would have occurred if women were as immodest and overconfident as men.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2623746

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why young men become terrorists and join ISIS



isis

by Dorian Fortuna
JOURNAL OF SOCIAL ETHOGRAPHY

Human instincts in modern society

Conclusion: The Trend is Growing

Some experts affirm that the young men who commit suicidal terrorist attacks could suffer from a maniacal delirium; they are enveloped in a psychotic euphoria, they become extremely attached to the ideas that are inoculated in their heads and have a deformed impression about their own importance. The delirium could cause, at a certain moment, uncontrollable actions and violence taken to the extreme [17]. 


Maybe this is true for some cases, but, nonetheless, it is important for us to understand that most terrorists are mentally normal people, although they do have a different ideological and religious way of seeing the world [Delcea, Bădulescu, 2008; Post, 2008]. 

Most of the time the act of adhering to an extremist and terrorist group is not a sign of any mental disorder, but rather a consequence of a set of abilities, frames of mind and inclinations of a person. Young men become extremists and terrorists because they live in a social and psychological climate that can induce them the desire to adhere to a group of people with radical visions [Borum, 2014]. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pleasure is good: How French children acquire a taste for life


One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to lose weight by dieting. The idea is that restricting the pleasures of tasty foods will lead to greater fitness and a finer physique. But if these rewards are so valuable, why is it so hard for us to stick to our resolution? Maybe the problem is that when we try to lose weight, we also lose the pleasure of eating.
What if we could have it all? Keep the pleasure and stick to our resolution? In the US, we tend to compartmentalize pleasure, separating it from our daily chores and relegating it to special times. We have happy hours, not happy days. We have guilty pleasures, as if enjoying chocolate or a favorite movie is a moral failing.
In France, pleasure, or “plaisir,” is not a dirty word. It’s not considered hedonistic to pursue pleasure. Perhaps a better translation of the word is “enjoyment” or even “delight.” Pleasure, in fact, takes the weight of a moral value, because according to the French, pleasure serves as a compass guiding people in their actions. And parents begin teaching their children from very early childhood in a process called the education of taste, or “l’éducation du gout.”