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Top 40 Philosophy: The Beatles, “I Feel Fine”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

Beatles Week closes with the Beatles’ sixth #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1964 (and first #1 on the chart for 1965) “I Feel Fine.” Here’s a video someone has spliced together from the various available videos of the song. It turns out pretty well.

In 1964, the Beatles were deeply concerned about the connection between money and wealth, on the one hand, and love, on the other. Specifically, they were concerned about whether or not using money to obtain objects for a woman could cause said woman to love you, or at least give her a good reason to love you. Perhaps all the women they knew at the time had “Gifts” as their love language.

But “I Feel Fine” is about more than just wealth and affection. It’s also about obtaining knowledge from witnesses/authorities, which we covered earlier this week. Among the things the authority in this song says, however, is something interesting about belonging. So, let’s talk about that.

Baby says she’s mine

You know, she tells me all the time

That’s from the second stanza of the song. Then in the chorus, we have, “I’m so glad that she’s my little girl.” But, despite what that sounds like (“baby,” “my little girl”), the “she” in question is not the “me” in question’s daughter. She belongs to him in some other way.

So, how does one thing come to belong to another?

A part belongs to its whole (e.g., a branch belongs to its tree). Perhaps a creation belongs to its creator. For example, a painting belongs to its painter, but also a child belongs to its parents.

However, a child is not a part of its parents, nor do the parents own the child. The child is “theirs,” but not in the way their elbows are theirs, nor in the way their house is “theirs.” The child is theirs in that the child’s existence originally derives from them, and in that they have the responsibility to sustain its continued existence.

You could also say that the child is the parents’ because there’s a lot of the parents in the child. In fact, John Locke argued that a thing becomes yours if (1) it doesn’t already belong to someone else, and (2) you “mix your labor with it,” and thus integrate a part of yourself into it. But he doesn’t think one person can own another like that.

To get the kind of belonging found in the relationship between beloved and lover, there has to be an active decision on the part of the beloved. We can, as it were, dedicate ourselves to others. Which is something we’ve also talked about this week.


The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: OntologyMereology.

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  1. […] of its own. Some people, evidently, will only feel loved by you if you give them things (see our discussion of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine,” in contrast with “Can’t Buy Me Love”). Some people, however, won’t feel […]

    December 25, 2014
  2. […] The #2 song for 1995 was TLC’s “Waterfalls,” which is a riff on the opening lines of the first two verses of Paul McCartney’s “Waterfalls.” (The “Baby is good to me” line in the 2nd verse also seems to be a reference to the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine.”) […]

    January 7, 2015

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