August 2013



Three interpretations of hedonism seem to prevail in today’s world: Commonest are the commercial approach and the misapprended misunderstanding derived from that, upon which the religious approach relies, upon which, in turn, our dictionaries and textbooks rely. Least common, but most true to hedonism’s origins are the various philosophical hedonisms, including my own Equalitarianism that attempts to present hedonism in ways the average person can grasp. As true hedonism requires a high level of self-control and an advanced ability to cogitate, the philosophy suffers from the absence of metaphorical images available to the commercial and religious presentations, which enables those to dominate from nearly the beginning of human life.

Rather than understanding ‘metaphorical images’ as mental props meant to instill ongoing fear of dire punishment, consider the effect that a well-understood, natural system of rewards offers, the penalty side being of things you’d want to avoid anyways as a natural instinct if you saw them coming at you. Rather than of what you will do in spite of a threat, penalties that naturally fit the crime, rather than eternal torment for rather minor infractions, seem more believable to the forewarned scholar. Rewards you can earn for yourself hold more promise than foggy notions of a Heaven designed for 12thousand gross of Jews (that promises to be too overcrowded to allow admittance to very many Gentiles). Penalties that accompany errant acts can be observed at work on other people and enable a wise person to choose against a multitude of evils at work all around. Here should be the clincher: The system is already at work whether or not we choose to benefit from it.

While I have no interest in promoting any specific causes, a better understanding of the ages-old philosophy that gave rise to the American constitution, and the resultant experiment in democracy, should warn us of historically-evidenced dangers inherent to the increasing entanglement of religion with governance our nation has been facing since its inception. America‘s major religion rightly demonizes commercial hedonism without caring to recognize it as such due to historical ties with the moneyed side [1]from which it gains its support. Hedonism’s “pursuit of happiness” mantra was openly expressed in the oft repeated quote that begins with [2]”life, liberty and the…” expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

While not official policy, that document does serve as a statement of [3]Deism-derived beliefs we find verified in a letter from Jefferson to William Short, “…As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy…” As a Deist, for whom no god named God remains active in the universe, it is only natural that he would find authority in an ethical philosophy, and only natural that, as reviled and malpracticed as it had been, few people of his time (and ours) would understand ethical hedonism in any factual manner.

Epicurus ran a school, The Garden, where he taught his philosophy, now known as Epicureanism. From Wikipedia:

“For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal…”

Other than the labels, the message is basically the same then as now, waiting for us to interpret how to apply it according to today’s advancing knowledge. Rules derived from the modern view differ very little from those Epicurus expressed, and engage every aspect of human existence. I arrived at over a hundred general rules before I showed them to my neighbor. He commented, “So complicated. We have only ten.” He just stood there, grinning while he waited for what I’d have to say, so, I responded, “Maybe that’s why there’s such a high percentage of your folks in jail, compared to us.”

I don’t mind including myself ‘in’ with whom I know as good people. If I were to appropriate just ten rules out of what Ben Franklin wrote to Mr Short and what Wikipedia attributed to Epicurus, here’s what they’d be:

  1. Balance pleasure and pain to stay happy, calm and peaceable.
  2. Stay decent with others and aim to do them no harm.
  3. *Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  4. Silver Rule: One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
  5. Reward and penalty measure good and evil for both Nature and mankind; therefore, aim to live a tranquil life and let your good deeds far outnumber the bad.
  6. Stay active and maintain good health in every way.
  7. Believe nothing beyond that which has been tested through observation or logical deduction.
  8. “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” – Thales
  9. Fear not, for death offers no threat beyond eternal peace.
  10. The highest good comes from pleasures of the mind, so stay interested, refuse no opportunity to learn or create according to your talents, attend to your studies, and learn from others with due caution.
    ~~

*Note: I believe Epicurus’ laid-back approach was not shared by Mr. Franklin nor by myself. Modern life exposes us to too many opportunities to experience excruciating pain, so that near-total avoidance is impossible to maintain while aiming to also live a healthy life without becoming a recluse. Still, one should not give up his/her rights to cater to other’s whimsy. The Golden Rule as usually expressed fails to acknowledge the need for complete reciprocity to establish the empathy necessary for total civility. Therefore, I offer this revision while keeping the Silver Rule as is: “Do unto others as they would have you to for so long as you do not violate your own principles.” I have added these rules, with that modification, to my list, which now numbers 125.

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I have discovered my footnotes have been failing to show up in the publishing process, so am experimenting with various methods of creating them. It appears that the old fashioned “look for this number at the bottom of this page, then try to find where you were before going blind” approach may be all there is. My approach to this condition?—read the page thru, then read the notes and try to remember why they’re there. Makes a fun game of it.

I recently uploaded 127 LLOYD’S RULES to amazon.com in hopes readers of this blog would find it relevant. I started it as a collection of Gibbs Rules (on NCIS, CBS) but found them a little too work-oriented to mean much. I started my own list with modified versions of those applicable in the Gibbs list, and increased it with hedonism-oriented rules as I discovered them. I told myself, “People ought to be able to find these all in one place, instead of having to learn them the hard way!” and decided to share them at amazon’s lowest ebook price. (Hey, I appreciate what they do for unsponsored authors. They deserve to earn a few cents for hosting information you can find gathered nowhere else).

NOTES:

[1][1] http://www1.umassd.edu/euro/2005papers/keuhn.pdf  “…students are sometimes disturbed to learn that in early Christian history, conversion was often in response to economic or political benefits rather than religious fervor… …As economic forces proved unwavering and proto-industrialization rapidly changed the society of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, intellectuals gradually changed their tune, postulating that capitalism, private ownership and overseas trade were part of God’s plan. Thus, observers of social change manipulated religious rhetoric to justify the new market society, which had become necessary for people’s economic well-being.”

Book: Spiritual Merchants: Religion Magic & Commerce [Paperback]

http://www.aef.com/on_campus/asr/editorial_intros/10_4 “…contemporary observers in the West tend to think of religion and commerce as two domains that are—or at least should be—tightly sealed off from each other. However, the longer human record shows the persistent influence of religion on commercial practices, while commerce has always ‘tainted’ the space of the sacred.”

 

[2][1] Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Wikipedia offers a useful discussion about Jefferson’s inspiration but does not claim the final word.

http://libertylifehappiness.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/liberty-liberty/

[3][1] Both [theists and Deists] asserted belief in one supreme God, the Creator… and agreed that God is personal and distinct from the world. But the theist taught that God remained actively interested in and operative in the world which he had made, whereas the Deist maintained that God endowed the world at creation with self-sustaining and self-acting powers and then abandoned it to the operation of these powers acting as second causes. (Wikipedia)

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Is Hedonism a Crock Used to justify Self Indulgence?

By Lloyd Harrison Whitling

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“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” – Tony Robbins

~

“The philosophy of hedonism means little to lovers of pleasure. They have no inclination to read philosophy.” –Mason Cooley

~

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3c/Hedonism-bellowhead.jpgWe should start calling lovers of pleasure what they are: sensualists, and refer to hedonists as lovers of life, liberty and health. ‘Hedonic’ refers to a philosophy that looks to alternatives to compare their inherent levels of pleasure versus pain, and also to discover ways for pain to work with pleasure to lead to balance called ataraxia. In modern English it gets labeled ‘hedonism’ and ‘hedonistic’, and misunderstood as “the pursuit of pleasure” (the pain aspect gets overlooked), wherein ‘hedonists’ are misrepresented (even by themselves) as those engaged in a pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself. The result of ages of that kind of malevolent view, your dictionaries may not be very much in agreement with what you’ll read here. It is time to stand up against that, and to the factoids of sensualist perjury. Learn a pair of new words: ‘sensualism’ and ‘sensualist’. Let those identify the commercial hedonism your preacher works so hard to turn you against.

Thanks to the growing and deserved dominance of science in all the fields of human enterprise and interest, it really is ironic that one result is that a philosophy called 1Hedonism may slowly, after all the ages through which it has survived, gain the recognition it deserves, as the only true way for human beings to determine how various kinds of behavior may rightly be valued as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Not the truth of religion (guessing about reality) which gave rise to science (recognition of guesses as such, then development of a method to recognize facts) when religions’, politicians’, and commercialism’s fractious practices produced increasingly fewer believable answers to mankind’s constant quest for knowledge.

Religion lays claim to possession of “revealed” “absolute” truth; whereas science runs in pursuit of factual, objectively true information. That is, claims that cannot be observed and verified true play against those that can, a matter of “Take my word for it,” working to overcome the command that says, “See for yourself.” That too often overlooked difference leads some wags to denial of all truth, egged on by science’s constant upgrading of knowledge to accommodate new discoveries. That humanity can, in spite of all chagrined expressions, learn and put to use new scientific facts has promoted our advancement away from painful primitive naivety and ignorance, but only if we are wise enough to see the good in it. To choose science, rather than what steers us away from it, is the more balancing choice of more balanced people.

The agonizing question (“How can I feel certain, from all the candidates posing as ‘truth’, of what and in what I can find whatever is true?”) finds growing support for one ancient philosophy as it becomes updated with increased study, understanding and the resultant verisimilitude it gains from that.

That questing for knowledge led to the practice of philosophizing, early attempts to figure worldly things out according to what, at the time, seemed true, then, later, how to know once and for all the difference for when something was factually true versus it only appearing to be so. The path through philosophical speculation took a different route than that of theological speculation: after much discussion about the nature of knowledge, philosophy came to demand evidence to support ideas before they could be accredited as facts. Theosophy turned to revelation, and the practice of looking for evidence to prove, rather than disprove, answers as revealed to its agenda-driven guesses. Theological evidence relies on scripture and apologetic documentation, whereas philosophy looks in Nature and logic.

Philosophy: The study of natural objects, conditions and events until you can show and tell what is true about them and attribute that to facts.

Theosophy: The study of natural objects, conditions and events until you can find a good story to tell about them to attribute to a god or ideal.

The weakness of both is the absence of the scientific method.

The claim that atheists have no source for personal moral standards can now be deposed, thanks to this updated view of ethical hedonism that even atheists reject without review. I highly recommend, even in the face of that, to give this philosophy a chance by devoting some time to studying it and learning to actually comprehend it. That may well require abandonment of political tactics learned as theists, and from theists by people learning to defend themselves from them, that too often work to forestall that.

While atheists may abandon the house of religion to become apostates, they generally make sure to bring their baggage. Atheists who were raised as atheists, according to the few of their parents with whom I have interacted, are poorly schooled about the tactics and maneuvers theists will use against them. Most of their input appears to come from theists, not from parents too inclined to declare, “I don’t want to interfere with her choices” when they are left to make their own decisions, to do so while never armed with lessons in critical thinking and logic.

Atheists raised either way will generally arrive at any pertinent discussion armed with the weapons and tactics they have learned from theists, heavily armed with logical fallacies-turned-power weapons. Such tactics are designed to forestall learning new, unfamiliar ideas and serve the creeds they live among more than themselves, as they are designed to fend away agents from other schools of thought. And then, there are the agnostics: “Atheists are a dying breed,” they will tell their audiences. “The religious of all creeds out-produce atheists when it comes to birthing heirs; the religious may bring more than half a dozen kids into the world, while atheists may average .5 per family.”

Where that kind of statistics might come from (nobody can agree on just exactly what constitutes an atheist, let alone find honest answers in surveys), it is likely somewhere close to correct, though neither theism nor atheism are proven genetic. Considering the way atheists typically treat each other, it might be a good thing for them to die out, and it might be seen as a part of the evolution process were it not for one thing already mentioned: which is that atheists treat each other’s differences of opinion in very much the same way as do the theists. They copycat theists, except for the threats about Hell and evil, or the resort to weaponry to establish unfounded atheistic opinions.

The difference is, it is theists who are killing each other off (although reproducing at a rate far beyond their rate of death) with war, starvation, and religious support for the spread of fatal diseases. In large portions of the part of the world they dominate, many of their young do not live long enough to reproduce, one of the key factors to indicate they are no longer adapted to their environments. All atheists have to do is keep themselves away from the killing fields to at least live long enough to produce their .5 prodigious progenies, and then make sure they get proper, effective training in critical thinking, science, and the kinds of threats they will face in their maturity.

Most of atheists refrain from posting opinions anywhere, however, and make it plain that expressing a thought is a good way to expect repercussions from other atheists (no matter what they say, there are atheists who will disagree while spewing rancor; it is those toward whom theists point while issuing their blanket condemnations about atheists). Most theists, as a result, have no awareness of their own acquaintanceship with any atheists, and so all they know is what they hear in sermons and read about them, or that atheists have written, and then wonder why they feel like those things are untrue of themselves.

If atheists respond to theists and other atheists alike, with the rancor the prevalence of which is noteworthy, when they do make their real-time presence known, that not only serves to confirm all the negative information theists possess, it is also bad psychology from the absence of such training. It is one thing to explain to theists why they think something is true, but personal attackers are ineffective instructors, which includes attacking their beliefs, in theists’ eyes, which they take as permission to attack atheists’ absence of belief, even though they may have struck the first blow. Once attacking begins, whether real or imagined, thought ceases, oral weapons get drawn, and fight or flight takes the stage. This painfully unbalancing scenario cannot be acceptable to nurturant hedonic principles.

The typical atheistic left-brain dominated avoidance of metaphor, poesy, and other picturesque language further decreases the strength with which they can defend themselves: to strive to impose logical rules and facts onto people who think in pictures and with feelings is less than ineffective. Theists strive to convince atheists with emotions such as fear, guilt, shame to which there can be no logical connection. If atheists can’t draw a picture of something, it is plain to theists that they don’t understand it. When theists attempt to ply deafened ears with a description of their illogical picture, it is plain to atheists that they don’t understand it. Such a mutual refusal to consider human nature, and the physiological variances of it, as something valid, that survived the evolutionary process to provide humanity with the diversity required for future survival, must be deemed unacceptable to nurturant hedonic principles.

And, atheists are much more like theists than they think, if assessed by the typical responses each makes. It may be a simple matter of which brain hemisphere is dominant that enables some people to become atheists, but even if so, the untrained other hemisphere still heavily influences their responses and the actions they will take. If there be any truth at all in that notion, then we have found a sound basis for the idea that religion is somehow a genetically induced phenomenon. Then, so would be atheism, also. Aw, shucks! God created what man condemns?

In other words, we all have a bit of a religious nature floating through our generations and riding the waves in our DNA, even if it is only because we were all born ignorant. Whether or not that be true, we do all respond pretty much alike to the various stimuli that affect us. We also share much of that with other animated life, which is why we will respond with compassion (most of us) to a howling dog’s injuries much the same way as we will to other humans. While including that, which will surely be seen as a diatribe, on this page might seem out of context, it does have a positive aim. It springs from a hope that by seeing our own atheistic nature alive in the religious, and their nature alive in us, maybe we can learn to recognize that our interactions with each other could be pursued in a less painful, more balanced (more moral) fashion, which is what Gaian Hedonism (Equalitarianism) is all about.

While the tendency of dictionaries, commercial interests and preachers is to dwell on the hedonic aspects that pay homage to sensual pleasure, avoidance of pain may actually be a dominant factor in hedonism (as we shall discover from Epicurus, who even then tried to describe a need for balance in a very poor way) and a natural practice we all engage in no matter what our religious beliefs may be. I believe secular people of all persuasions should take note of hedonism in that light, and study the practice of it for their own edification and possible beneficial adoption, or at least acknowledge its large presence (once correctly understood) as already prominent in all our lives. We can learn to view it as an explanation of our behavior, more than as a philosophy, which would make of it a category of science (IE: the study of intentional homeostasis in natural behavior).

And, because it seems common to pooh-pooh unusual ideas without first giving them a fair shake, let us be clear about its history and that it is not just some fly by night scheme I have invented myself, or have purposefully misunderstood. We can find it to be historically ancient, far older than Islam or Xianity, and follow its development beginning several hundred years before the Common Era.

A SHORT HISTORY OF HEDONISM

Let’s start from the beginning and work our way through the ages: The accredited father of Hedonism, Aristippus of Cyrene, (circa 435 – 356 BCE) taught that pleasure is the universal and ultimate object of endeavor. By pleasure he meant not merely sensual gratification but also the higher forms of enjoyment, mental pleasures, domestic love, friendship, and moral contentment. His followers, however, reduced the system to a plea for self-indulgence. This also appears to be the vulgar (common) sensualist form of hedonism to which the preachers devote their sermons, commercial enterprises offer for sensual indulgence, and, from that bad press, the only form to be found in the common consciousness.

(4)Archytas, a mathematician in the time of Plato, lived from around 435-410BCE to 350-360BCE (his actual birth and death dates remain open to speculation). According to Archytus, reason is the best part of humanity and so should be the governor of our actions. His response to the rational hedonist, Polyarchus, who had proposed that the pursuit of maximal pleasure requires always to be striving for more, was that a person in the throes of maximal bodily pleasure would be unable to reason at all. That Epicurus’s Ethical Hedonism, as a philosophy, agrees with him might surprise a lot of people.

About Polyarchus: “(5)According to Athenaeus, the Persians were the first men in history to become notorious for luxurious living. He quoted from an address by the sensualist Polyarchus, preserved in Aristoxenus’ Bíos Archyta, in which he claimed that the Persians rewarded anyone who invented a new pleasure. Polyarchus then described the luxuries with which the king of Persia surrounded himself: his servants, his sexual pleasures, his perfume, his elegance and conversation, and his entertainments.

While Archytas’ argument seems likely, it is as true that many suffering equally the throes of bodily misery will also find reasoning ability hard to acquire and maintain. It appears to be somewhere in the period shortly following Archytas’ lifetime that pain became a part of the moral formula, and to be recognized as the antithesis of pleasure. This appears to have most famously begun with Epicurus.

While still advancing human rights to pleasure, the School of Epicurus (named “The Garden”) succeeded the Cyrenaics to emphasize the superiority of social and intellectual pleasures over those of the base senses. Epicurus lived from 342 to 271 BCE and made many predictions substantiated by modern science (not loosely, as is true of so-called biblical and later Quranic predictions, as checking http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Epicur.htm and also a reading of Lucretius’ poem, On the Nature of Things, will make clear to you. His Ethic of Reciprocity is the earliest foundation of ethics in Ancient Greece, and emphasized that acting to minimize harm to oneself and others will maximize happiness.

For Epicurus, pleasure and pain were the ultimate basis of a moral distinction between good and bad. Pain is chosen over pleasure only when it promises a greater pleasure, such as a foreseeable future that holds less need for constant struggle (thus, better balanced). To pursue moral reasoning, one calculates the benefits and costs in terms of pleasure and pain. Epicurus issued explicit warnings against overindulgence, which often leads to pain. It is mainly through the influence of Christian polemics that Epicurus has become misunderstood to advocate the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure, while his main aim was to secure the absence of both physical and mental pain (i.e., suffering) When we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and we enter a state of ‘perfect mental peace’ (ataraxia) (6)(homeostasis).

The United States of America was founded on hedonistic principles, expressed as “the pursuit of happiness.” On the date of Oct. 3, 1819, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to his friend, William Short, “…As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.” And later, “…dealing out mysticisms incomprehensible to the human mind, has been deified by certain sects usurping the name of Christians; because, in his foggy conceptions, they found a basis of impenetrable darkness whereon to rear fabrications as delirious of their own invention. These they fathered blasphemously on Him whom they claimed as their Founder, but who would disclaim them with the indignation which their caricatures of His religion so justly excite,” and “Epictetus and Epicurus give laws for governing ourselves, Jesus a supplement of the duties and charities we owe to others,” and “I take the liberty of observing that you are not a true disciple of our master Epicurus, in indulging the indolence to which you say you are yielding. One of his canons, you know, was that ‘that indulgence which prevents a greater pleasure, or produces a greater pain, is to be avoided.’ Your love of repose will lead, in its progress, to a suspension of healthy exercise, a relaxation of mind, an indifference to everything around you, and finally to a debility of body, and hebetude of mind, the farthest of all things from the happiness which the well-regulated indulgences of Epicurus ensure; fortitude, you know, is one of his four cardinal virtues. That teaches us to meet and surmount difficulties; not to fly from them, like cowards; and to fly, too, in vain, for they will meet and arrest us at every turn….” So, do not take too lightly what was the source that gave rise to Jefferson’s doctrine about human rights including the pursuit of happiness. That source can be found in his own words, and in his actions taken to defend them and solidify them into law.

Another indicator of the hedonic American beginnings can be found in the idea of scales to symbolize the balance of justice, and the pretty lady who once backed those speaking for the American government, but whose bare breast got replaced by flags behind those made embarrassed by the notion we would be governed by standards other than the forces for power and dominance represented by Old Glory with “under God” added 150 years later. Lady Justice held her scales high, but, herself now deposed, no longer stands as a symbol of American liberty and freedom. From: http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/themis.html : “To the ancient Greeks she was known as Themis, originally the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies.”

From Wikipedia: “Justitia is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. From MuckRaker: “Psst! Sources tell us that none other than Monica Goodling, former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was responsible for draping over the ample bosoms of the Art Deco statues in the Justice Department’s Great Hall during the reign of the prim John Ashcroft. The coverings were removed, accompanied by a sigh from an appreciative public, in 2005 …” Let me ask you: When did you last see them? The point to be taken, here, is that the USA began under hedonic philosophy espoused by Deists, and has hurriedly become increasingly Xianized forever since.

Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1842 CE) attempted to apply mathematics to hedonism, using what he called ‘felicific calculus’. To get his calculations, he measured the degree of hedonism in a society by accounting of the duration and intensity of all pleasures from which he subtracted the duration and intensity of all suffering. He considered hedonism to be the basis of morality, wherein that which creates the most pleasure is the most moral. His laudable ‘utilitarian hedonism’ proposed that the structure of society should reflect the end goal wherein creation of pleasure and elimination of suffering should be that goal.

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873), considered bodily pleasures to be inferior to mental pleasures. Gaian Hedonism, however, proposes that whatever will act to restore and maintain equilibrium deserves priority at any particular occasion.

John Piper (1946- ) brought Xianity completely into the hedonic picture by promoting christian hedonism, in which people’s actions should give pleasure to God, thus removing humanity entirely out of the reward system but for the promises of Heaven versus Hell, while retaining all the onus, in his 1986 book, ‘Desiring God‘.

A French scientist, Claude Bernard, first used the word, ‘homeostasis’, to refer to the way in which physiological stability gets maintained. In his 1932 book, The Wisdom of the Body, Walter Cannon (1871-1945) coined homeostasis in reference to ways the body and brain are endowed with a multitude of automatic mechanisms that work to maintain a stable internal environment and avoid disequilibrium in spite of environmental variations. In the early 1970s, James Lovelock applied the word, homeostasis, to describe how Earth, the planet, maintains a state of equilibrium to maintain conditions necessary for support of life. Lynn Margulis asserted that homeorhesis was the correct term for that case.

Today, after more than two centuries of theological shenanigans, and in spite of science that shows how the many sources of unbalance and stress that daily accost us do harm to our physical and mental health and wellbeing, a review posted at http://www.goodreports.net/reviews/writtenintheflesh.htm about the book Written in the Flesh can say with the finality of taking for granted that his audience shares his understanding that none of that is true:

” After all, if the pursuit of pleasure is nothing but self-gratification, why bother with a partner? Might the next step after total body sex be a form of computer-assisted “post-body” virtual sex?”

In today’s world, by the force of malice, theology has changed the way we understand many words, and the understanding of hedonism, pleasure, desire, selfishness and more, if not solely about sexual activity, are now about self-oriented gratification. The writer’s view of that gets stated (same link):

“Since desire – like other forms of hedonism also on the rise – is all about personal gratification, sex is ‘antisocial’.”

In spite of that being backwards to the truth, a good case can be made for the idea that all our actions arise from a base of selfishness, that self-interest is the common denominator of all we do. If that is true, and it likely as not is, then what the writer of that report has stated about sex is in error, or his statement is meaningless, since the pleasure he finds in his own negative writing is most likely also selfish and, therefore, an antisocial form of onanism. I would correct it to say that “ignorant sex is antisocial”, but that mainly means that ignorance is antisocial, not sex, since ignorance can turn many acts into antisocial events. Sexual intercourse is antisocial only if spoken intercourse (talking to each other) is antisocial. Yelling at each other, on the other hand, might qualify as such, an oral version of rape. We could all become victims of “swear and run” attacks. We have not said anything here about intentional ignorance. I will leave it to my readers to identify and assess the moral value of that in their own environments.

While browsing through web pages I ran across http://www.everything2.com/e2node/sensation-centric%2520 ideal that refers to avoidance of pain events as “negative hedonism”. That leaves one to suppose that pursuit of pleasure must be “positive hedonism” (although he called it “selective hedonism”) and further disables recognition that positive and negative constitute the polarities inherent to all things— It is like describing the North half of Earth as somehow unconnected from the South. One does not persist without the other: Avoidance of pain was early on shown by Epicurus to induce the pleasures associated with comfort. Alternatively, pursuit of a pleasurable activity beyond the point of satisfaction induces (at the minimum) boredom, a psychological form of pain. Gaian Hedonism is that rare philosophy that proposes balance to be the aim of all moral considerations. The Gaian Hedonist will stay aware that every pleasure and every pain has its own opposite counterpart, and will take that always into consideration while contemplating what actions to take part in or avoid, and in what to place self-imposed limits, even as exemplified by the very planet upon which we all live.

We are, in this span of time, so early trained in all the ways that work against our self-interest that we give them no thought, even in passing, and will laugh at the serious minded person who will concern himself about them. A study of hedonism’s history shows large swings of understanding throughout, as often initiated by politics or religion as by gluttony and greed (both of which prevail as much in religion as elsewhere). Our own personal vested interests and the threat of impoverishment will prevent the average one of us from contemplating anything alternative to however he or she now lives, let alone actually taking even minor steps toward adoption, a sad form of cowardice.

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FOOTNOTES:

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