Saturday, July 14, 2007


The Pleasure of the Belly

Epicurus, fragment 409 Usener = Athenaeus 12.546f:
The beginning and root of every good thing is the pleasure of the belly; both wise things and refined things have reference to this.

ἀρχὴ καὶ ῥίζα παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἡ τῆς γαστρὸς ἡδονή· καὶ τὰ σοφὰ καὶ τὰ περιττὰ ἐπὶ ταύτην ἔχει τὴν ἀναφοράν.
Presumably, to Epicurus, the belly feels pleasure when it is filled.

But there are those who hold that the belly also feels pleasure when it is emptied. Among these is former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation chairman Guy Fournier, who resigned last year after a series of controversial public statements. One of the sins that caused his downfall was a radio interview in which he spoke for over ten minutes about the joys of defecation. According to a story by Graeme Hamilton in the National Post,
Mr. Fournier recounted a train trip in the early 1960s during which a friend named Michel said going number two was as pleasurable as having sex.

"From that moment, I started paying closer attention -- and I have to tell you, I quickly realized that Michel was entirely right," Mr. Fournier said.

"And the most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer-lasting and more frequent than the other."
Although my first name in French is Michel, I deny that I ever went on a train trip with Guy Fournier in the early 1960's.

Fournier and his friend Michel are in good company. Thomas More, Utopia, Book II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz), wrote about the pleasure felt when the belly is emptied:
Bodily pleasure they divide into two kinds. The first is that which fills the sense with clearly perceptible sweetness. Sometimes it comes from the renewal of those organs which have been weakened by our natural heat. These organs are then restored by food and drink. Sometimes it comes from the elimination of things which overload the body. This agreeable sensation occurs when we discharge feces from our bowels ...

corporis voluptatem in duas partiuntur formas, quarum prima sit ea, quae sensum perspicua suavitate perfundit, quod alias earum instauratione partium fit, quas insitus nobis calor exhauserit. nam hae cibo potuque redduntur, alias dum egeruntur illa, quorum copia corpus exuberat. haec suggeritur, dum excrementis intestina purgamus ...

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