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valuing satisfaction for its place in a promise of fulfillment
december 11, 2010

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We want gratification. And it’s somehow good to postpone near-term gratification for something better later than sooner.

Yet, is reaching a far horizon satisfaction or fulfillment? In other words, isn’t there good reason to distinguish satisfaction and fulfillment? Later satisfaction may be greater satisfaction, but is that fulfillment: greater satisfaction?

I don’t think so. First of all, accomplishing something (which is easily called “fulfilling,” i.e., is fulfilling) is not just a great satisfaction, as if fidelity to a healthy diet is greatly satisfying like a sum of little satisfactions from grazing on pastry (but without the calories). No, fulfillment is not just relatively greater satisfaction. Accomplishing something is not like acquiring a lot. Great pleasure in fulfillment is more than “fulfillment” as great pleasure.

Accomplishment reflects a successful enactivity that expresses purpose fulfilled. This is more than the satisfaction of reaching a goal. Fulfilling accomplishment (actualization of purpose) associates with our identity in a way that satisfaction usually does not. (Is reaching a goal satisfying or fulfilling? We talk both ways, but I suggest that one easily feels a difference.) Fulfilling a purpose has an internal, intrinsic, selfidentical value that is served by external goal satisfaction. Satisfaction with what we do may be esteeming, but it’s easy to distinguish greater and lesser esteems, and to find greater esteem in something “fulfilling” than in something “satisfying.” Or rather, this highlights a difference worth associating with the two terms.

Oversimplifying, but usefully: Satisfaction is more associable with somatic gratification, while fulfillment is more associable with selfidentical or mindal gratification. The nebulous meaning of gratification benefits from a distinction between satisfaction and fulfillment, and the two are usefully associable with the difference between somatic and selfidentical gratification. Another useful isomorphism is between near-term and long-term purposes. We find more identity-securing esteem in accomplishment having long-term significance than accomplishment having short-term significance.

Thus, there’s selfidentical merit in valuing satisfaction for the sake of fulfillment, i.e., generally valuing satisfactions relative to a selfidentical investment in promises of (or potential for) fulfillments. Analyzing value or our valuing relative to the difference between somatic (satisfiable) and intentional (fulfillable) interests is useful, inasmuch as the value of long-term meaning is greater than the value of short-term meaning, which is a matter of orientation to thinking wholly of our way of life, its prospects for later health and happiness, and the quality of later years. However nebulous that seems to feel (especially to young persons), it’s indisputable that long, healthy, and happy life is inestimably valuable to anticipate.

Esteem seems to be largely somatic, even when it’s relative to large-scale accomplishment, whereas identity is largely about purpose (which is mindal) and about activity of mind or intentional presence in one’s world, which can be appreciably internal, as a matter of initiative, imagination, planning, etc., as well as feeling oneself “out there,” in the “external” world. Esteem belongs to the embodied image of oneself or overt sense of oneself; identity belongs to one’s enactive engagement or sense of belonging to one’s life (sense of “being”). I want to understand (and presume) a difference between gaining self esteem (different from, but related to, social esteem; more on this later) and gaining selfidentity, correlate (isomorphic) with a difference between overt selfness (or Image) and enactive selfness (capability and efficacy of Self).

Children’s desire advances through increasingly-articulate differences, at first not having possible a distinction between satisfaction and fulfillment (true of most adults, too, perhaps), near term and long term. I surmise that the more purposeful and planned one’s activity becomes (or the more capable one becomes in thinking purposefully), the more that a difference between satisfaction and fulfillment becomes salient. Through this (an idealization to pursue, rather than a common reality depicted) may grow appreciation of how near term accomplishment may lead to long term accomplishment. Such a difference developmentally involves learning to want fulfillment (distinct from near-term satisfaction) and to work for that—and to love oneself relative to aspirations. Such a background feels vital for adult thriving and high flourishing.

 

 


   
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