One of my friends on plurk sent out this quote:
Let your desire for pleasure and your desire for feeling good be your only guiding light.
So far, I’m the only one who has reacted negatively to the message, and I suppose I’m not surprised. I take a lot of things seriously, and I’m not exactly a wild and crazy free spirit. Hedonism has always prompted an inner dissonance for me, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of why. I wonder if I’m an outlier in the secular community. Perhaps I’m missing the mark.
What is Hedonism?
Hedonism is an ethical system that stems from this truth: people are motivated primarily by the production of pleasure and happiness and the avoidance of pain. It argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. I agree that we humans do in fact desire our own happiness so strongly that it can outweigh most other impulses or values.
What bothers me? Selfishness and a lack of compassion. Hedonism strikes me as ultimately self-serving and love-less. When a person embraces his or her passions and vices to the detriment of another’s wellbeing or the social good, then I lose respect for that individual. Hell, I even lose respect for myself when I seek my own happiness and comfort over that of another person. I admire those who seek the greater good and the contentment and peace of the group over their own pleasure; I wish I could say I acted this way more often.
Living a hedonistic lifestyle may not be the best choice for imbalanced individuals. Should a pedophile seek pleasure and happiness even though sexual satisfaction is at the expense of a child and against the law? what about addictions? Isn’t moderation or the agony of quitting better even if it is painful or difficult? Perhaps I’m thinking of sily examples, but the people I’ve met who have said they embrace hedonism have often been those who are rebelling against limits and healthy living in moderation. Perhaps they don’t understand it in its ideal form—whatever that may be. Hey, I’m no expert!
What should we value? Should the seeking of pleasure and lack of discomfort trump an altruistic or sacrificial decision?