fitting that resolutions are made on New Year’s Day, post a long night of
debauchery and several weeks of voracious eating, drinking and overall
merriment. After a period of self-indulgence, we often take a step back and vow
to be better. But is giving into our vices – particularly when it comes to
visiting such temptation-heavy destinations as Munich for Oktoberfest, Rio de
Janeiro for Carnaval or Las Vegas for a stag party -- really all that bad?
would probably say yes, but not all modern day philosophers agree.
The origins of vice
In the 4th
Century, Christian monk Evagrius Ponticus wrote that the capital vices -- designated
as greed, pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust and sloth -- were the root of all sinful behaviour. In Hinduism, lust, greed and anger
are referred to in the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita as the three “gates to
hell”; and in Buddhism, the kleshas
-- desire, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt and opinion – are considered emotional
states that can lead to suffering.
safe to say, the teachings of the major religions would likely not approve of
travellers indulging in lusty trysts in Amsterdam or unrestrained gambling in
of vice is particularly interesting in Amish culture. This group of American
Protestant Christians is known for their 19th-century way of life,
but when Amish children reach the age of 16, many enter into a period
of experimentation with modern vices called Rumspringa, where they may engage
in activities ranging from watching television and driving to drinking and
partying. The hope is that during Rumspringa, Amish teenagers will realise the
strength of their faith and join the Church for life.
The modern study of vice
religions teach that vices are sinful temptations, today some philosophers and
medical professionals question that belief, giving us hope for guilt-free trips
to Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand, known for its bacchanalian Full
David Brax of Lund University in Scania, Sweden makes a case for hedonism, arguing that our values -- things
like friendship, health, prosperity and knowledge -- would not be worth
anything if they did not bring us pleasure. This can be extended to such religious virtues
as loyalty, justice, generosity and compassion. In fact, psychology studies have shown that altruistic acts often have the
result of self-gratification, or pleasure for pleasure’s sake.
can, of course, also be derived from giving into not-so-positive tendencies. In
his book The Virtue of Our Vices, philosophy professor Emrys
Westacott argues for giving into our temptations when it comes to habits such
as gossip, rudeness or snobbery. For example, he believes that gossip -- long
thought of as a sin in Judaism – can sometimes be both a cathartic exercise and
a way to broaden our understanding of other people and our own relationships.
of 10 vices that are actually good for
indulging in sex, chocolate, wine and even laziness to boost the immune system,
reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, burn calories, improve cardiac health and
improve mental health. Perhaps then, it isn’t so bad to order the Chocolate
Variation, one of the most expensive desserts in the world, at Mezzaluna
medical research has even found prescriptive applications for vices. Recent studies have found pleasure to be an
effective treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. And the Beatitudes nursing home
in Phoenix, Arizona, has found success in cutting back on the
traditional treatment method of heavily medicating Alzheimer’s patients in
favour of giving them things they actually want -- like chocolate or bacon.
holiday, we tend to forgo our inhibitions during temporary bursts of hedonism,
breaking down our barriers as we blow off some steam. For future holiday ideas,
check out this BBC Travel list of the world’s greatest guilty
pleasures, which range from embracing slothful bliss in Jaipur to imbibing Mongolian airag, a type of moonshine
made from fermented horse milk.