What view did Puritans hold of pleasure among their society? To the Puritans, bear baiting was seen as immoral not because animals were tormented in the process, but because it brought pleasure to...

What view did Puritans hold of pleasure among their society? 

To the Puritans, bear baiting was seen as immoral not because animals were tormented in the process, but because it brought pleasure to the spectator.

Asked on by magnotta

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First, I would suggest that you consult your own text and teacher because there is a great discrepancy between different authors and different scholars as to what, exactly, Puritan attitudes were.  Some see the Puritans as having been joyless and opposed to pleasure, as your question implies, whereas others see them as much more moderate.

On this issue, I come down in the middle.  I believe that it is wrong to say that the Puritans disliked pleasure.  They did like pleasure so long as it was not the wrong sort of pleasure.  For example, they enjoyed feasting (with alcohol, no less) and talking to one another.  These sorts of things are surely as pleasurable as bear baiting.

Puritans did, however, disapprove of some things that others found pleasurable.  In the case of bear baiting, they disapproved because it often was used as a way to gamble and because it was idle pleasure.  They also disliked such things because they led to discord among the members of the community (as people fought over the results of the contest, for example).

So, it was not that the Puritans disapproved of pleasure.  It is more accurate to say that things like bear baiting were seen as useless entertainments and therefore inappropriate for good Puritans.

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