philosophy (is the talk on a cereal box)


I have been thinking a lot about rationality and utilitarianism, as well as where I, as someone who craves beauty, fit into those intellectual sectors. Let me tell you a secret: I used to be deeply ascetic. When I was 14 and fancied myself the World’s Youngest Buddhist, I wore giveaway t-shirts and practical shoes and tried to see how long I could go without eating. Finding the proportions of starvation vs. pure fuel was my utilitarian fetish drawn to its (possibly il)logical conclusion. Because I was 14 and therefore Practically an Adult, I decided sensory pursuits were best left to the plebes.




Now I’m actually an adult, and I’ve grown into an unapologetic hedonist. I am polyamorous. I never turn down a cocktail. I love a pretty dress, a thick burger, and a lushly textured painting. I am also a rationalist whose love of logic borders fetishistic at times. I read Less Wrong and Slate Star Codex. And I still sometimes find myself informed by guilt: perhaps my love of frippery is, ultimately, jamming the metaphorical cogs. Perhaps it makes me less rational than I could be.

I’ve written before on the misogyny in deeming only feminine-coded things frivolous or demeaning, and I still believe that. To claim minimalism or utilitarianism to justify such a bias – well, let’s call a bigoted spade a spade. But I’m not talking about specifically feminine things here. I’m talking food and sex and art and heady, hoppy booze: things experienced mostly, or entirely, in the realm of subjectivity. I’m talking about what it means to be human with your whole body, not just your brain.



It used to bother me constantly, simmering beneath any pleasure I mustered: how can I justify giving in to arbitrary chemical cravings? How can I, for instance, spend money on a bombshell dress when Walmart sweatpants accomplish the same objective (covering my ass) for less fiscal cost? Why should I cook an elaborate meal when bread and water will do? I ruminate this way much less than I used to, but I’ve always felt guilty indulging in silly pleasures while attempting to maximize rationality. I felt like the worst kind of hypocrite, and I’m not even Catholic. I felt powerless ceding even one mote of logic to something that made me happy: if I’m so irrational on the surface, imagine all the subconscious biases I can’t control for!


There it is, though. I’ve grown up and learned to placate my neuroses, and I no longer wish to deny the necessity of happiness in the rationality movement. The urgent need to balance nonsensical joys with more balance pursuits. We forget – or at least I did – that even the most refined logic doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Refusing to balance human needs and desires with colder pursuits isn’t only lacking empathy – it’s also, dare I say, illogical. How can any version of utilitarianism possibly flourish when we ignore the elements, psychological or not, that help us reach full utility?



Wearing pretty dresses and having lots of partners doesn’t further my pursuit of reason. But it furthers me. It puts some beauty on my back and some fire in my belly, without which I could not hope to pursue, well, anything.


This is the kind of stuff I want to be writing about. These are the implications of fashion that I wish to explore. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s easy to fall into the groove of what gets you hits. But I’ve never been drawn to body-image affirmations and shallow, platitudinal feminism. Other women can do it justice, I’m sure. But in me it feels hollow. I’m a devil’s advocate in a pinup’s body, and I think I’ve always known that.


Author: skye

I aspire to be a bright-eyed girl in a big city, even though I wear glasses and live in what amounts to a hole in the ground.

4 thoughts on “philosophy (is the talk on a cereal box)”

  1. Oh you most adorable little human being, you. Life is to be lived. It is short and it is complicated and it is full of horrible sweat pants and pretty dresses. Wear those damn dresses and maybe the sweatpants if you get cold. Love your posts.

  2. I don’t think a life lived just to survive, with the bare minimum of things, is really a life at all. Unless you derive pleasure or religious meaning from it, really; what’s the use of going through life eating only bread and water? Honestly, I don’t think we were created to live a life of misery and punishment, and I don’t think all of the things on earth were made just to torment us; beauty was made to be admired, food was made to be enjoyed, and clothes were made for us to feel pretty. That’s what I think. There’s no harm in enjoying what you can have (moderation, of course, is a good thing to consider in certain areas… like, y’know, if food causes you to be dangerously unhealthy and such), and neither is there harm in forgoing the offerings of this world if it suits you. And, of course, from my standpoint of faith there are certain pleasures meant to be kept for certain stages of life, but that doesn’t mean they are to be given up entirely (sex, for instance, I believe in waiting till marriage. But in marriage, there is no shame in doing what pleases you and your spouse).

    I love you for writing things like this. I’ve been thinking about what I really want to write lately, and while I am definitely one of those who is all for body positivity (I’ve written on that before). I also want to write a post about the fact that not everything HAS to be beautiful. I think I’ll save most of my thoughts for the post, but the gist of it is… labeling everything as beautiful takes away the value in some ways, and the interest and uniqueness of whatever it is you think you have to justify as beautiful even when it isn’t. It’s kind of a big work in progress right now, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I wrote that post on the power of modesty and inadvertently made one commenter think I was trying to hail my own beauty (which was NOT the point of the post at all), and how she said that it’s almost offensive to say every woman is beautiful sometimes.

    Anyway. I like the think-y posts. (I know, I’m so good with words.)
    Also, I want that dress and if it ever goes missing… well… you’ll know where it went. It’s kind of amazing. Especially the way you’ve styled it!

    1. “while I am definitely one of those who is all for body positivity (I’ve written on that before). I also want to write a post about the fact that not everything HAS to be beautiful.” NO WAY! I’m actually working on an almost identical piece right now, with plans to post it in the next few days. I’m really interested to see where we converge and diverge.

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