The Chocolate Dilemma

I love chocolate and I want to get the most enjoyment I can when I eat it. But I know that I enjoy eating chocolate more if I delay eating it than if I eat it right now. So I always have a good reason not to eat chocolate right now. Does it therefore follow that as a chocolate-lover I have a good reason never to eat chocolate? 

The proposition that anticipation leads to an amplified sense of desire, and to an augmented gratification when such a yearning is fulfilled is a theme explored greatly in Keats’ works, and this idea is no better encapsulated than in his line “heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter”, yet this philosophy calls into question the fundamental underlying drawback- to what extent does expectation simply turn into frustration? Whilst Keats would argue that prolonging the luscious taste of chocolate from satiating your taste-buds leads to a heightened sense of pleasure, we have to ask ourselves to what extent such gesturing can be endured before desire turns into animosity.

When approaching this topic of discussion there are several viewpoints in which we may take to deconstruct this dilemma. If we are to continue with exploring this situation from a literary philosophy, I believe it is right to continue in the path of the theories established by Keats, who so often deliberated over the issue of anticipation. Most famously in his letter to Fanny Brawne, he proclaimed “I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days- three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain”. Undeniably, Keats demonstrates here that ephemeral pleasure is more rewarding than banal pleasure over an elongated period. If we are to apply this notion to the example of chocolate, it would appear that in fact it is more pleasurable to indulge in a brief and limited time period before experiencing complete withdrawal of chocolate.  Such an experience would crystallise the transitory moment of hedonism, preserving a candied experience of pleasure unparalleled before the absenteeism, after all Roman poet Sextus Propertius did makes a good point that“always toward absent lovers love’s tide stronger flows”- absence can only make the heart grow fonder. Moreover, if one were to know that this experience of pleasure would be restricted here-on-after, greater momentum and exhilaration would be built-up as one would try to savour each and every sensual pleasure for the memory box.

Perhaps the most important factor does not remain to be the time restriction which makes eating chocolate so alluring than the fact that the chocolate would subsequently be forbidden. As good old Ovid astutely said “we are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us”: the more an object of desire is forbidden, the more an individual will crave it. It might seem that (some) humans have a lack of ‘self-control’, perhaps because we tend to think that it is unnatural to have rules that are externally imposed upon us, conflicting with our inners most desires.

As seen from the beginning of time, Adam and Eve were supposedly drawn to the apple in the Garden of Eden because of its illicit nature rather than the fact that they intentionally wanted to disobey God. This explanation could however be undermined with yet another explanation at hand; humans do not like to feel as though their freedom is limited and therefore gain adrenaline in the thought of rebelling against nomos– the laws of mankind and reinstating physis– the laws of nature. As a chocolate lover, one would not have good reason to never eat chocolate, as this is a free choice made by the individual, therefore making the action appear as a self-infliction of suffering. Rather if chocolate were to be forbidden, then would the chocolate-lover have good reason to attempt to eat it, because the drive in knowing that you are seeking a prohibited object is arguably one more satisfying than asceticism.

Asceticism in itself is however an important theory to consider. Many religious groups incorporate the idea that self-denial of material goods leads to a more recompensing experience of spiritual enlightenment. Keats would certainly agree with this belief to an extent, with love being his “religion”, he questioned his brother in a letter, stating “do you not see how necessary world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” By this it is evident that Keats had a teleological approach to life, believing that pain should be endured so long as the consequence was one of greater contentment and knowledge. In the case of the chocolate-lover it may be argued that it is indeed right and proper for the chocolate-lover never to eat chocolate as in paining oneself with the deprivation of chocolate, it may in turn allow the individual to gain more pleasure in the building of character and resistance to one’s corporeal desires. Robert Kane characterised such actions as “self-forming willings”, which if exercised regularly could lead to humans gaining greater control over their actions and desires. Therefore, this individual’s pleasures would no longer be one of base bodily pleasures but rather of the “higher pleasures of the intellect, of feelings and imagination and of moral sentiments” as suggested by John Mill Stuart in his utilitarianism.

Keats held that whilst the best moment in a romantic relationship was just before one was about to kiss one’s lover for the first time, for all the eagerness and anticipation leading up to this moment would be lost within seconds of the act, and that we should therefore stop and reflect on the moment, it does not mean that we should prolong it to the point of exhaustion. If a chocolate-lover declared that they were never to eat chocolate again, such energy and anticipation could not be built up as there would be no end-point of release. 

Fundamentally, chocolate lovers do not have good reason to never eat chocolate, for whilst theoretically pleasure is increased from abstaining from eating chocolate, in reality humans cannot experience the same anticipation and yearning for chocolate if there is no end point by which such a craving will be fulfilled. If the chocolate lover does however wish to discipline themselves and maintain superiority over their desires never eating chocolate would allow an individual to develop their will power thus providing the individual with a perfectly good reason never to eat chocolate.

Clearly a highly important question for my 16 yr old self.  

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