A Philosopher's Blog

The Body You Deserve

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on February 22, 2013

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While driving to yet another committee meeting, I heard an advertisement for cool shaping, which apparently is some sort of method for shaping body fat to make a person appear less fat. What struck me about the commercial was the claim that cool shaping would give a person the body they deserve.  While this is certainly a clever advertising phrase, it does raise a matter worth considering.

On the face of it, a person who has not suffered an unfortunate accident or illness would have exactly the body he deserves. After all, the body a person has is the body he has forged by his efforts (or lack thereof), diet and lifestyle. That is to say, the body one has is the product of one’s choices and is thus deserved in that it has been properly earned. So, if a person is fit and lean or soft and flabby, then he has just what he deserves. If this is plausible, then something like cool shaping would not give a person the body they deserve, since the person already has exactly that body.

It could be countered that a person could have a body they do not deserve by arguing that while a person does earn his body by his actions and choices, the body he starts with is not one that he has chosen. After all, a person is born with (or as, for those who are materialists in the philosophical sense) whatever body he happens to get and this body is not something a person earns or deserves. After all, one just get (or is) it. Naturally, it could be claimed that Karma or some other metaphysical system in which a person does get the body he deserves (such as being reborn as a banana slug)-but I will set aside those considerations and just go with the view that they body one is born with is not deserved.

A person born with a genetic predisposition towards packing on the pounds would not deserve this predisposition and hence, it could be claimed, would not have the body he deserves. However, this leads to the obvious question: what sort of body does a person deserve? Do people, in general, deserve to have better bodies than they have? Or is this absurd?

I am inclined to stick with my original view, namely that even though people just get (or are) whatever body they are born with without deserving it, people do (in general) end up with the body that they deserve in the sense that they get what they earn-and that is what deserving is all about. In fact, aside from cases of unfortunate accidents, diseases and other such dire undeserved circumstances, this is one of the rare cases in which a person does get exactly what he deserves-that is, the body he has forged.

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9 Responses

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  1. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) said, on February 22, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I was just talking about this very ad (the cool shaping) with my fitness-oriented friends recently after one of them talked about the Crazy “Dr Oz” promos going on now. Doesn’t Cool Shaping promise to take you from a size 4 to a 2? Holy Cow. I was too focused on that to hear the “body you deserve” part but all I can say is I’m pretty sure cool shaping doesn’t give you runner’s high and I’ll take that over size 2 any day!

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

    A thought provoking post. None of us choses to be here, in time, on earth, embodied… but we are here.

    There are three body types we could be born with: ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph.

    What we do with the type of body we have is, as you say, our choice, unless we’re determinists.

    One could also argue the manipulation of various foods by Big Agra has led to obesity in peoples whose food choices were undermined by the will of others. In other words, that which should have been healthy food choices are found to be tainted.

    Lack of exercise leads many (most?) to develop out of shape, fat and flabby bodies, and this is a combination of peoples’ having chosen not to work hard, physically, and not to work out, physically, when they don’t work hard.

    This lack of physical work or working out, more than anything, I think leads one to have the body one deserves… barring the contingencies you’ve mentioned.

    The body is often – and has long been – despised and it’s “being” belittled.

    Statements such as “the body is only a shell, a container, a prison” have been made for thousands of years and are commonly made today, too.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion, and my religion, being a Christian, refutes these sorts of statements, most especially: the resurrection of Christ, and the general resurrection of the just and the unjust on Judgment Day.

    Many so-called “Christians”, especially the American Evangelical version, mistakenly despise the body, too.

    These people will rarely – if ever – mention the resurrection of Christ, or the general resurrection on the Last Day, and will continually babble on about “going to heaven” when the Bible and Jesus himself said our eternal state will be an embodied one, just as it is now only then we will have glorified resurrected bodies just as Christ has now.

    See: http://ajmacdonaldjr.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/the-future-glory-παλινγενεσίᾳ/

  3. T. J. Babson said, on February 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Replace “body” with “income” and see how it reads.

  4. Anonymous said, on February 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    “A person born with a genetic predisposition towards packing on the pounds would not deserve this predisposition and hence, it could be claimed, would not have the body he deserves.”

    Their bodies still cannot produce fat out of nothing. Thermodynamics has a say.

  5. ronster12012on Mortimer said, on March 2, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Hi Michael

    Interesting post about deserving the body one has. How about having the illnesses one deserves? That is similar in a way. Does that make sense? Can one say that people get the illnesses they deserve ? Does Stephen Hawking deserve his body or does a fashion model deserve her body?What about Arnie, and is his body deserved, chemically assisted or not? What does deserve really mean anyhow, other than it fits our own personal sense of a just world?An imposition of our own personal values(that we never really chose anyhow)onto the world and expecting the world and reality to conform to our own sense of what is fitting.


    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Good question about illnesses. In some cases, a person would clearly not deserve those. What one is born with or caught because of no fault of one’s own would not be deserved. However, if a person chooses certain behavior and gets an illness from that behavior (like engaging in unprotected sex with strangers), then they could be said to have merited the illness.

      • Ron Mortimer said, on March 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        Yes, Michael, I sort of agree about unprotected sex and catching something nasty. I’m also thinking of the people we all know who drink and smoke and don’t exercise etc and who just seem to carry on to a ripe old age and then we also know the ones who are very clean living but die young(ish). I have known a few of each. What does it really mean then to say the drinkers/smokers didn’t deserve to live long and the clean living didn’t deserve to die young when in fact that is exactly what happened…..therefore perhaps the premise about “deserving” anything is suspect. OK we can talk about risks and say they were lucky(or unlucky) but that is essentially meaningless if one avoids what one supposedly deserves or dies from what one supposedly doesn’t deserve.
        Perhaps it is all arbitrary and taking notice of health recommendations and “doing the right things” is simply an impotent attempt to bargain with fate(as opposed to God,given that we live in an age of declining religious belief)or an attempt to buy immortality in some other magical way? I’ve noticed this with women and dieting. Women seem to be on permanent diets that mostly don’t work but somehow make them feel virtuous by trying. They have lists of foods that are to be avoided because they are “bad for you” though it seems to me to be based on superstition or food industry marketing/government dietary guidelines none of which are particularly trustworthy IMO. Same goes for exercise. James Fixx and many others were fans of endurance training /marathon running etc and have died proving how healthy it is to run for 20 or 30k. Did they deserve to die?
        Did they have the body they deserved being a dead one? If we want to get picky I could say that they should have known that marathon running is not healthy as no traditional cultures run long distances like that(they may walk a long way but not run)so do they deserve to die ? Is marathon running and the like just more bargaining with fate? I personally would not blame them as I am not really much into apportioning blame but for those who do there is an inexhaustable supply of things to blame and it’s easy to assume perfect (or even adequate)knowledge in others when that mostly isn’t the case.
        Perhaps another question in addition to “do people have the body they deserve” is “do they have the body they desire?”
        That poses the question of freewill. I have heard it said that one has choice but whenever I have asked the question ” can one choose ones desires” I have never been given a decent(or any real) answer. So, if one has no choice of one’s desires then perhaps it can be said that we have the bodies we desire or at least are the net result of all our conflicting desires ie, sit on couch and watch TV versus go out for a walk etc. Given that this process is at most semiconscious then there can be no possibility of apportioning blame which is implied by the concept of “deserving” a particular body.

        cheers Ron

      • ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

        In the early 1980s I was working in Washington DC for the largest florist in the city, as a driver.

        As you may or may not know, Washington, DC has one of the largest gay communities in the nation.

        As does the florist business, especially in DC.

        When AIDS struck, in the early 1980s, and no one knew what was happening, and why gay men were dying, the gay community in DC went into a panic.

        No one had been teaching – or practicing – “safe” or “protected sex.”

        And gay men were dropping like flies.

        Michel Foucault, in San Francisco, being one of them.

        You say:

        “However, if a person chooses certain behavior and gets an illness from that behavior (like engaging in unprotected sex with strangers), then they could be said to have merited the illness.”

        What would you say regarding these men who died of AIDS before the gay community was aware of the danger? and didn’t use protection?

        Because what you said sounds like the same thing Saint Paul said:

        “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

        “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” ~ Saint Paul (Romans 1:24-27)

        The key verse being:

        “Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

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