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Hedonism is derived from a Greek word hedone that has a meaning of pleasure. In a nut shell, it is a philosophy of life that examines the pursuit of pleasure by people who want to feel good. Hedonism is a philosophy that states that most people are born with the desire to become happy in an attempt to avoid pain (Shally, 2011). Furthermore, Philosophers argue that there exist a difference between psychological hedonism and ethical hedonism. Nevertheless, it is believed that Aristippus was the first Greek philosopher to practice hedonistic principles (430 B.C-350 B.C). He asserts that hedonism is a socialization process that aims at rewarding pleasure and inflicting punishment to pain. Secondly, he reviews hedonism in terms of religion and God. Aristippus argues that heaven represents pleasure which is to be enjoyed by the righteous and hell symbolizes pain. Moreover, he views hedonism as a form of entertainment that individuals normally seek all the time.
Epicurus is also another Greek philosopher that is known for discussing ethical hedonism (342 B.C-270 B.C).He states that one of our main goals in life ought to be minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. Essentially, he says stipulates that each one of us should be in a position to recognize pleasure as the first good innate which forms the basis of every act of choice and avoidance. It is pleasure that determines the level in which we use our feelings to judge every good. Epicurus highlights on how pains experienced in life situations can be reduced. He states how the psychological anguish that emanates from the fear of gods and deaths can be decreased. In addition, he explains the nature of pleasure as it is evident in the lives of people. Epicurus argues that there are some pleasures which are rooted in natural, are good and should be preferred. On the other hand, every pain is considered to be bad and should be avoided at all costs. As a rule, every there is a delicate relationship between pain and pleasure. Therefore, it is important to minimize life’s pain in order to attain happiness by actively increasing pleasure. However, it is advisable not pursue every available pleasure especially when it only results on the production of more pain. Thus, the fewer desires a person has the easier it is to experience happiness.
It is true that all what people want is pleasure and the meaning of life is pleasure. According to Aristippus, people should follow their desires in order to get pleasure. Moreover, he argues that both the highest and strongest pleasures are physical. The philosophy states that the pleasure of the moment is actually more valuable than pleasures that are going to occur in future. Furthermore, there is a difference in the intensity of pleasure that an individual is able to experience. Therefore, a person should look for the highest possible pleasure which can only be obtained if a skillful self-control is employed.
Classical Hedonism vs. Preference Theory
Renaissance philosophers like Erasmus argue that hedonism emphasizes on pleasure which is derived from God’s will for human beings to be happy. However, Thomas More in his work Utopia argues explains that the main part of a person’s happiness consist of pleasure. Several arguments on hedonism based on religion state that God did not create us only to be happy but to use our desires for happiness to encourage us to be morally upright. Furthermore, the difference between the pleasure of the mind and the pleasure of the body should be properly understood. It is important to pursue those pleasures that are completely naturally grounded so that not to be preoccupied by artificial luxuries.
Hedonism is a classical utilitarian that depicts pleasure as the best and desirable thing to have. Robert Nozick argues that the problem that emerges from hedonism is quite simple. He says that if only pleasure is desirable as an end then we will be indifferent to whether or not we get it through real activities like skiing, an experience with a machine or by writing novels.
Arguments against Nozick's Experience Machine
It is noted that numerous arguments have persistently continued to take root about the argument by Nozick. For instance, Joseph Endola perceives hedonism as desire-based tool which is built on the conceptions of well being rather than normative values. He argues that hedonism is a contender which is supported by our current commonsense intuition. According to Adam Kolber, many people would not disconnect from the experience machine even if they were connected. Roger Crisp states that hedonism is a factor that ought to be taken seriously. It claims that hedonism is the philosophy of swine which reduces all the values to a common issue that objects the experience machine. According to Sharon Hewitt, the conclusions made from Nozick’s experiment should be informed by considering the concerns on the operation of intuitions about value. He argues that the irrelevance of the experience machine on practical hedonistic reasons should not be merely stipulated. This is aimed at avoiding our feelings that may portray our feelings and negative reactions towards the experience machine. Moreover, she argues that there are numerous reasons that may make our hedonistic intuitions quite unreliable on how we feel on about the experience machine. Lastly, she believes that hedonism may justify our ability of taking things as intrinsically valuable hence making anti-hedonistic intuitions different from the falsehood of hedonism.
J.S. Mill is hedonist that argues that the foundation of moral utility is laid on actions that are right in the promotion of happiness. He reveals the fact that pleasure and freedom from pain is the key desirable things. Mill uses pleasure and happiness as synonymous and fails to distinguish between the two. He considers virtue, love of honor and health as the means of happiness. He differentiates between right and wrong from the hedonism perspective. An action is regarded as right if yields pleasure that overcomes pain. On the other hand, an action is said to be wrong if it gives excess pain over pleasure. Similarly, Bentham gives a pure hedonistic criterion of right and wrong (Kemeling, 2011). Both of them argue that rightness consists in conduciveness to pleasure while wrongness consists in conduciveness to pain. However, Jeremy Bentham states that the hedonistic value of any human action is achieved by examining the intensity of pleasure, the time it takes to last and how it follows the performance of an action and the benefits associated with this pleasure. Bentham holds that social policies are effectively evaluated to determine the well being of the population involved. For example, the punishment imposed to criminals prevents them from committing the crime which reduces the pain that could have been caused to people in the society.
Mill offers a proof of his hedonistic culture by explaining the psychological hedonism. He argues that desiring something and finding it pleasant depends on the psychological fact. The language used in both circumstances is one and d the same thing. Thus, a person can only desire whatever is pleasant which the pleasure that is valued by everybody is basically. Moreover, Mill illustrates more on Ethical Hedonism the Psychological Hedonism. He argues that happiness is desirable and the only thing desirable as an end. He says that all other things are being desirable as means to the end. Nevertheless, he bases this ethical hedonism from the psychological hedonism. To sum it up all, J.S. Mill stipulates clearly that people desire pleasure which is actually expressed through visualizing. Consequently, the remaining proof that anything is desirable is because people are capable of desiring it (Barber, 2011). Through this stand, Mill comes out as a fully devoted person of the utilitarian value. However, he fails to agree to the fact that all differences among the pleasures can be quantified. According to him, some kinds of pleasure experienced by human beings differ from each other in qualitative ways and those that have experienced pleasure of both features are judged on their own relative quality.
Different Kinds of Pleasures
Philosophers differ greatly on the various kinds of existing pleasures. For instance, Mills believes on the qualitative difference of pleasures as Epicurus emphasizes on the difference between the pleasures of our body and those of the mind. Furthermore, he concentrates on the pleasure of the mind by explaining the comparative freedom from painful consequences that gives it a greater durability. However, Epicurus did not achieve much from his belief because of failure to capture the qualitative superiority of the mental pleasures. According to Bentham, all the pleasures are the same. He recognizes the purity of pleasure but fails to examine the qualitative aspect of it and the freedom from pain (Lemos, 2006). Mill becomes indifferent from the other philosophers because he points out clearly the independence and reality of quality. He argues the fact that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and valuable than others. As a result, Mill’s doctrine is regarded as viable and referred to as refined utilitarianism because quality is brought out as a quantity used to estimate pleasures. Furthermore, Mill’s argument is sometime called qualitative utilitarianism while Bentham’s doctrine is normally referred to as quantitative utilitarianism.