Hedonism is about pleasure. The theory proposes that human activity is motivated by the pleasure one would derive from doing it. In addition, pleasure is a key component of happiness. Therefore, a life full of pleasurable actions is a good life. Most importantly, search of pleasure and avoidance of pain is ingrained in a person’s sub-conscious thus one cannot know he is really seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
The major objection of this theory comes from the Kantian Categorical Imperative. According to Immanuel Kant, human activity should be based on universal principles (Finnis 60). In other words, truth is universal and is not defined by personal pleasure. According to this argument, the universal principles upon which truth is based may lead to pain. It is said that where there is no pain, there is no gain. Therefore, hedonism is false.
Kantian argument of categorical imperative is rigid. It does not account for cross-cultural differences among people across the world. Not all truth can be universal. Some truths only hold under certain circumstances. Holding that truth must be universal is imperialistic; it would deny context the role to define what is relevant for a particular situation (Mizzoni 10). Furthermore, all human beings are known to stay in their comfort zones, avoid pain and do the pleasurable thing even in secret. Therefore, Kantian argument does not hold for all situations. Since it does not hold for all situations, then it is not reliable and cannot be used to challenge DCT.
The Divine Command Theory
The Devine Command Theory (DCT) is a religious theory of morality. According to the theory, morality is ordained by God. As a result, there are at least three premises of this theory. The first one is that an action is morally right only if God commands people to do it. Therefore, if God does not command people to do something, it may not be morally right. Secondly, an action is morally wrong if God expressly forbids people from doing it (Finnis 60). If God does not forbid something, it may not be morally wrong. Third, a morally neutral action is that which God neither commands nor forbids.
There are several objections to DCT. The first one is derived from the argument of divine goodness. According to this argument, there should be moral standards that determine whether an action is morally good or bad. If an action is right or wrong because God commands or forbids it, and there is no moral standard with which to evaluate God, then it is not possible to say that God is divinely good; hence DCT is false. The second objection is derived from the euthyphro argument that if DCT is true, then God has reasons for his commands or He does not. If he does, the reasons make actions right or wrong which would render DCT false. If He does not, He would become imperfect because the commands would be arbitrary. But we know that God is perfect. Therefore, according to this argument, DCT is false.
The third objection comes from the argument on divine perfection. According to this argument, since God is divine and is the only one who can order things, he has the freedom to create a morality that serves his interests. Such a morality would allow cruel things and not allow good things; because the command is placed on one person. But that would not be morality because of its distorted nature. But we know that God is morally perfect and cannot create a distorted morality. Therefore, DCT is false. Lastly, there exists objection from the belief argument. According to this argument, since God authors morality, existence of the latter depends on existence of the former; if God does not exists, morality cannot exist. Belief in God leads to belief in morality. However, according to this argument, one can belief in morality without believing in God. Therefore, DCT is false.
The first objection suffers a conceptual weakness because it assumes that God, creator of all measures, can be measured by use of something put in place by His creatures (Finnis 66). If God can be measured through artificial means or standards, then He is not God. Hence DCT is true. The euthyphro argument makes an assumption that God has reasons for deciding whether actions are right or wrong. From this observation, the argument cannot hold because it is based on wrong premise. If the premise is wrong, the conclusion cannot be right. Therefore, the argument does not weaken the position of the DCT.
The third objection does not stand ground. This is because human beings, by their very nature, cannot understand divinity unless it is revealed to them. Human beings are imperfect and cannot put a perfect God to scrutiny because they would use imperfect measures. Therefore, the divine perfection argument does not challenge DCT. Lastly, the belief argument is just is just based on belief. On the contrary, it is true that God exists; it is not a mere article of belief but can be demonstrated. Hence, a belief argument cannot sufficiently challenge DCT.