ORIGINAL

Pleasure and the good life

7 minutes

Take the Five

3 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Sundays with Riki

19 minutes

Random events

31 minutes

Las del diente

5 minutes

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A happy life is built on pleasures such as sex and food, but also company and variety

Pleasure, despite being central to human experience and evolution, is quite hard to define. Aristotle argued that what we call pleasure is comprised of least two distinct aspects, hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (human flourishing or a life well-lived). However, as Morten Kringelbach, professor at the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK and at the Centre for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark, points out this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series: ‘It’s surprisingly difficult to show that somebody who is happy is also somebody who has had a lot of pleasure.’ 

Kringelbach’s research into how pleasure works in the brain seeks to find the connections between experiencing hedonistic pleasure – food, sex, drugs – and living an eudaimonic life. When all is well, he discovered, there is a system of give and take between different regions of the brain that yields experiences of pleasure that cumulatively contribute to feelings of wellbeing. However, imperfections in the mechanisms that govern pleasure in the brain leave us susceptible to conditions such as addiction, an unhealthy fixation on the pursuit of pleasure, or depression, in which both the desire for pleasure and pleasure itself are significantly diminished. A common characteristic of these and other affective disorders is that they take people away from what Kringelbach argues are the two key – often overlooked – aspects of pleasure: variety and community. Ultimately, he thinks, variation in pleasure, together with sharing that enjoyment with others, is what’s needed for a well-balanced, eudaimonic life.

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Interviewer: Nigel Warburton

Editor: Adam D’Arpino


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Chase rolling hills and windmills on a jazzy ride through the California countryside

Interstate 5, the primary highway on the West Coast of the United States, runs for more than 1,000 miles between Mexico and Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington. In this experimental short film, the US filmmaker Conner Griffith takes the Californian stretches of the highway, and flips, spins, intercuts and speeds them up to exhilarating effect, set to a vigorous rendition of Take the ‘A’ Train, performed by the US jazz pianist Richard Tee. The video cleverly juxtaposes quintessentially East Coast urban music with West Coast rural imagery but, more than anything, it’s a wildly fun ride.

Video by Conner Griffith

Score: Richard Tee – Take the A Train

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‘You wanna get rid of me?’ When the time comes to move mom into assisted living

During their weekly Sunday breakfast together, Ivy discovers that her octogenarian mother Riki is losing her memory. Soon after, Ivy decides that Riki would be better off moving out of the cozy Brooklyn apartment where she lives alone, and into an assisted living community in the Bronx, closer to Ivy’s own home. But, of course, when it comes to big family decisions, nothing is ever quite that easy. Ivy is making the request out of love, but Riki – resistant every step of the way – thinks her daughter is being controlling. When the time for a trial run at the community arrives, Ivy’s siblings start to question whether the move is premature, while Riki’s neighbours suggest that she’ll never be back. These delicate interpersonal dynamics are skilfully explored in this short documentary by New York-based filmmaker Brandon Barr. A tender and intimate portrait of ageing and the complexities of familial love, Sundays with Riki is likely to resonate with anyone who has helped to care for – or just cares about – an elderly relative.

Director: Brandon Barr

Producer: Max Mooney

Colourist: Anthony Riso

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A classic film finds order in randomness with the aid of some improbably elaborate sets

The Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) was formed in 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the mission to create science-education materials for US high-school classrooms. In this PSSC film from 1961, the physics professors J N Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey of the University of Toronto deploy their expertise – as well as some seriously elaborate sets – to demonstrate how, with enough data, highly predictable patterns can emerge from unpredictable events. This version of Random Events has been visually and aurally enhanced by the Aeon Video team. For more elaborate educational wizardry from the PSSC, watch Frames of Reference.

Director: John Friedman

Visual restoration: Tamur Qutab

Audio restoration: Adam D’Arpino

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A magical mystery trip through the complex connections in women’s bodies

‘Girls are weird. Babies are weird. Bodies are extra weird,’ says the Spanish animator Ana Pérez López. In Las del Diente, she uses excerpts from candid conversations with three women as a canvas for a refreshingly honest and unapologetic meditation on modern womanhood. The anecdotes are enriched with hallucinatory animated sequences and percussive interludes, transforming their conversations about social pressure and biological anomalies into a surreal celebration of being female, in all its multitudes – from having your body treated like a business to contending with deeply conflicted feelings about having children.

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

A happy life is built on pleasures such as sex and food, but also company and variety

Pleasure, despite being central to human experience and evolution, is quite hard to define. Aristotle argued that what we call pleasure is comprised of least two distinct aspects, hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (human flourishing or a life well-lived). However, as Morten Kringelbach, professor at the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK and at the Centre for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark, points out this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series: ‘It’s surprisingly difficult to show that somebody who is happy is also somebody who has had a lot of pleasure.’ 

Kringelbach’s research into how pleasure works in the brain seeks to find the connections between experiencing hedonistic pleasure – food, sex, drugs – and living an eudaimonic life. When all is well, he discovered, there is a system of give and take between different regions of the brain that yields experiences of pleasure that cumulatively contribute to feelings of wellbeing. However, imperfections in the mechanisms that govern pleasure in the brain leave us susceptible to conditions such as addiction, an unhealthy fixation on the pursuit of pleasure, or depression, in which both the desire for pleasure and pleasure itself are significantly diminished. A common characteristic of these and other affective disorders is that they take people away from what Kringelbach argues are the two key – often overlooked – aspects of pleasure: variety and community. Ultimately, he thinks, variation in pleasure, together with sharing that enjoyment with others, is what’s needed for a well-balanced, eudaimonic life.

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Interviewer: Nigel Warburton

Editor: Adam D’Arpino


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