Simple pleasures according to a French philosopher, André Comte-Sponville

andre comte-sponvilleIn an Air France magazine, I found an interesting interview with André Comte-Sponville, a French materialist, author, and philosopher. He talks about his favourite subject, what simple pleasures are. He tells us his definition of simple pleasures and where to find them. Here I summed up the interview for you. I believe that it will help you to understand better this concept and to live your daily life better in simplicity.

The philosopher finds simple pleasures in the most ordinary things – eating when he is hungry, taking a walk, gardening …

According to him, simplicity is not about having, but about being. It is existence itself and the lightest of virtues. Thus, simplicity means what’s natural; act without lie, exaggeration, and also what we are without pretending, playing a role. He defines that the opposite of simple is what is false, not what is complex.

He insists that simplicity can not be linked with philosophy because philosophers who often deal with words, concepts, and rationales are rarely simple. Simplicity can rather be associated with wisdom.

As a materialist, he sees that the soul is also a part of the body, concretely the brain. They are related. For example while the body is taking a walk, the soul, i.e. the mind enjoys it also.
However even Epicurus who was a materialist ranked pleasures of the soul higher than bodily pleasure.

– Where to find simple pleasures? In the past? In the future? Or in the present?
We can not find simple pleasures in the past, because it is no more ; nor in the future, since it is not yet. Only in the present we can find simple pleasures, thus living simply means living in the present. We are no longer in the simplicity of living, when we are captured by regret or nostalgia from the past, or hope or fear for the future.
He notes also that the present is always there, it never disappears. Events change; the present remains.

– Relationship between simplicity and happiness
He believes that it’s a mistake to confuse simplicity and happiness. Simplicity means when we are neither happy nor unhappy – as we most often are, we simply accept to be in that limbo state.

When you’re unhappy, simply be unhappy. This is better than wanting more than anything in the world to be happy, when it just can’t be.

According to the philosopher, simplicity is a virtue while happiness is a blessing.

– Small pleasure, great virtue?
He admits some great pleasures such as love, art, spirituality to be more precious than the small ones even though they are less simple.

Simplicity is a necessary, difficult virtue. Being simple is not looking for smallness. It is shunning false greatness.

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