I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion of what philosophical bases support Hedonism. What do each of us understand by the term Hedonism, what ideas and beliefs support such an understanding, and are there any limits to a Hedonistic life?

Tags: hedonism, philosophy

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Well, as far as I am concerned, I do embrace a view of Hedonism that is for the most part that of Mill, Bentham and Rand. There is an ethical dimension to Hedonism, and is that of pursuing good for the highest number of people possible. There is, however, a slight twist to it. The hopeless elitist in me can't help thinking that most people among the masses won't really know what's good for them until it is forced upon them - a view that has often made me look like a jerk in many people's eyes. Still, I still try my best to act within the confines of the most basic rules of the social contract I happen to share with the people around me, for the sake of coexistence. That, I think, should be the one limit to a Hedonistic lifestyle. Most accessory social rules, though, can - and in most cases should - be obliterated.
Thanks for the reply Fabio. I've not read any Mill, Bentham or Rand; are there any works you would recommend in particular? I read a little about Epicurus and his philosophy, and quite like it.
John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation and Ayn Rand's The Objectivist Ethics are definitely worth reading :)
I agree with you, Vincent. Hedonism, at least in the popular imagination, has a bad reputation because of this basic misunderstanding - that it's all about instant gratification. Certainly it can be about that, but it is also about the long term gratification and gratification over time one can also receive.
I don't know were the philosophical roots of hedonism are located, but a few people mentioned what sounds like Epicurianism in this thread. I would define Hedonism as more of a supplementary philosophy, it's compatible with most secular thought and is a lot of fun. To me, a Hedonist is someone who really revels in the physical pleasures of life, and seeks to cultivate their appreciation for all of life's pleasures.
I thought Hedonism was a lame swingers resort in Jamaica?

;)
There are four kinds of hedonism :

Value hedonism is the view that only happiness is intrinsically good (and only distress is intrinsically bad, since stress is the opposite of happiness), that is, it is good in and of itself, for it's own sake. The experience of happiness is good regardless of who has it.

Welfare hedonism is the view that happiness is the only thing that is good for a person but it is not good for it's own sake. Whereas a value hedonist would say that Bob's happiness is a good thing, a welfare hedonist would say that it is only good for Bob but it is not good period or universally.

Ethical hedonism is the view that maximizing happiness and minimizing distress should be the only objectives of ethics. Welfare hedonists tend to be egoists, value hedonists tend to be utilitarians.

Psychological hedonism is the view that sentient beings actually are motivated exclusively by a desire to experience pleasure and avoid stress, regardless of whether or not we 'should' be. We can't not pursue happiness or avoid distress (for example, intentionally burning your hand on a stove because you want to disprove psychological hedonism wouldn't disprove psychological hedonism because the idea of psychological hedonism being true is distressing and the idea of disproving it is pleasurable, so even then you would actually be proving psychological hedonism).

I ascribe to value hedonism. Welfare hedonism seems logical and reasonable but I believe it collapses if you look at it from a materialist point of view. To say that something is good for something other than itself implies that it is only instrumentally good in leading to some greater consequence beyond itself (for example, when people say that spinach is good for you, they mean it is instrumentally good in improving your health but not that it has intrinsic value, the good health that spinach causes is what's intrinsically valuable and spinach is only good to the extent that it affects one's health). Happiness cannot be considered good for a 'person' (ie. 'mind') because a mind is neurological activity, it's not a 'thing' or an 'entity'. Neurons are the entities that experience happiness but I don't see how neurons have any more intrinsic value than red blood cells, plant cells, bacteria etc. do. Neurons are only valuable because they're capable of conscious experience but it's the experiences that are good or bad, not the neurons that have them. Neurons do not have interests that can be furthered or frustrated, it is not good or bad for them to experience happiness or stress, the experience of happiness and stress are good and bad for their own sake.

As for psychological hedonism, I would ascribe to it if I believed that neurons were 'motivated' by anything but I don't. Neurons mindlessly react to stimuli, like everything else in nature

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