Prose on Veblenite morality
It is said of our age—always metonymically—that we in what we designate the First World pathologically center our attentions on pleasure and the pursuit thereof. This pursuit extends from upward to downward and from downward to upward through the classes. We are especially attuned to the physical pleasures, the neuronal pleasures we can conceptualize with chemicals and mechanisms—we even give this spirit the name of dopamine, of serotonin, of oxytocin. The sages of previous centuries developed manifold names for these pleasures. We prefer exactitude over romance.
Aldous Huxley says, referencing a particular sort of person which has always influenced religious and political change, “Feeling good,” these people “naturally assume that they are good.” What then to explain our predilection for self-assumed righteousness affirmed by appearances and detested in privacy?
Even the doubters among us, who doubt themselves if they are bright, cannot triumph over their own nagging suspicions that somewhere in the sea of their words resides a truth, mitigated perhaps, but nevertheless truthful. What is discourse but a feud between friends who know no higher authority than discord? It is pleasurable, after all, and no man alive is anti-hedonist in his thinking. Even when his probings pry a truth he is as faulty as the man with whom he made the discovery.