and my responses.

By Lloyd Harrison Whitling

 .ahedonismNEW

 The argument begins:

[1] The founding fathers were not hedonists, the United States is not founded on hedonistic principles, because happiness and joy are not about pleasures and pain.

Are you claiming that you do not feel pleasure in your own happiness or in promoting the happiness of others?— that being giddy with joy has no pleasurableness at all for you? If you feel unhappy, there is no physiological pain in that? With what senses do you make your way through the world without getting yourself killed or injured? How can you relate to others if you have no sense of how they might respond to the variety of choices you have in your behavior? I cannot believe you would propose that with any seriousness at all.

Ben Franklin referred to himself as an Epicurean in a letter to William Short, about which you can find more information here.

[2] The belief in Utilitarianism leaves God(s) completely out of the equation. [from http://us.js2.yimg.com/us.js.yimg.com/lib/hdr/ygma_2.19.css ]

Hedonism, in any of its forms, is not a religion, but is a philosophy (which means “love of wisdom”). Absent wisdom, theology sees hedonism as a threatening competitor and so will point out absence of religious claims as inferred weaknesses when they are really strengths. So, if there are no gods, why pretend they exist? If we can do better without them, why manufacture them at all? Are we adults or immature?

[3] Who determines whether the product of an action produced happiness or not….and upon whose happiness are we basing the decision?

Hedonism is not a centralist creed. Its basic tenets lead to establishment of responsibility as a personal right and a personal onus. We must assert that we who are engaged in the action, and those demonstrably affected by it in the long term and the short, have the only right to gauge its results and to determine its meaning. If there are two or several involved, they each are responsible to make their own determinations, while all who were not involved or affected must take their word about the effects. If one of those involved was the actor, and the other the one acted upon, the one acted upon must be granted the upper hand unless it can somehow be demonstrated he is mistaken or lying. If we are granting someone a right to force another into engaging in an unwanted act, then we must explain in clear language by what means we gained the right to grant that right to anyone. If someone feels overly reluctant to engage in an activity, so that persuasion has no effect, then all others have no clear right, in most circumstances, to force them. The only rights they have are to gripe and complain, or to look for a different, willing partner. That this can get complicated is why we have lawyers and courts.

[4] The lack of adding intent into the equation … goes against the Christian…mainly Catholic…belief that the intent behind an action is all important….

This must be one of those rare times when I will side with the Xians at, at least, a superficial level, except for seeking a source to verify your statement. Intent may not be required to render a good or bad verdict about the nature of any incident, but it, or negligence, must be included to assess level of responsibility. Nature has no obvious intentions that we can grant credence to, and so we gauge natural events as accidental and bear the brunt of the costs ourselves. We may say humans bear some responsibility for accidents we may initiate, or place ourselves into the paths of, in order to determine fault and apply a level of cost. If a gun fires in a child’s hands, we will not blame the child, but will seek for responsibility and want to know why the child had been playing with such a dangerous device. A parent may be blamed and fined, even without direct intent of any kind, as a matter of ethical considerations about negligence (wherein it could be said the absence of intent resulted from intentional shirking of responsibility). To seek someone out and murder them, however, is the kind of action to which we apply the designation ‘evil’ and value it accordingly, mainly because intent to harm or destroy was made obvious and odious.

[5] It [hedonism] also negates having a legal system based on punishment for breaking man-made laws. Law would not exist as we know it under this system since legal, as well as moral, judgment would be based on the consequences.

A. That does not need to be so, and implies a deep, hopefully not intentional, misunderstanding of this entire concept. Pleasure and pain are reward and punishment concepts. As we know it, law might not exist as an authoritarian meting out of rules and punishment under a strictly hedonistic system, but ethics considers the means and aims used to attain an end, and morals considers intent and the nature of that end, to assess not only the roles of pleasure and pain in an event, but also the stabilizing and destabilizing effects, which introduces the Gaian effect. Utilitarianism, as a variant of hedonism, stated that the value of a thing or an action is determined by its utility (or usefulness), which, as you mentioned, still leaves for it to be determined to whom it might be found useful, its effects upon all the equilibrium involved or affected, and by whom the cost (pain) was borne.

Should it not be useful to the person(s) involved with it? Who else should care? Why should anyone, government included, be granted a right to interfere with what they have no involvement in, for so long as it, and its effects, will remain confined to those who are involved, but for its power to bring wisdom to bear, through a court system, in support of an injured party, and to enforce reparations. Where government gains an interest is when someone acts in self-harming ways that will end them up as needing support from the state in order to survive. Overindulgences of all kinds are not what hedonism is about, but are commercially sponsored and promoted by interests that should be legally expected to bear the cost of the results, and are usually not.

B. The United States is founded upon an application of secular hedonistic principles as it was understood at that time. Even as poorly understood as they have been, and as poorly adhered to, I would say we enjoy the best legal system in the world but for where our leaders have strayed, which completely negates your notion.

[6] According to Ayn Rand, “”Happiness” can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value”

Is something the matter with that? Can you provide a reference to where some ethical hedonist has said exactly that? Am I expected to acquiesce with automatic agreement? What if I still assert that to maintain physiological equilibrium is the true task of hedonism under a Gaian system? Not to nitpick, but there are 4 left quotes and 3 right in your paragraph, which makes it hard to ascertain exactly where the Rand quote ends.

Look, hedonism, especially when incorporated with homeostasis, is a natural trait of animated life, and that has to include human beings. Do you see anywhere, other than among human beings, where major problems exist that might be described as ‘ethical’? Among their own kind, guided only by pleasure versus pain and their built-in balancing systems, animals seem to know how to behave and maintain a state of balance among their ranks. When they do not (as is true of some chimpanzees) we notice that because it seems so unusual.

Of course, you will say that we don’t want to live like animals, but let yourself be informed that we will do that no matter what; we are human animals. We are physically weak compared to many, would be food for some if we allowed that, and we have this big, semi-functional brain that keeps throwing logs in our path.

That, and not much else, is where our problems getting a grip on hedonism begin. We complicate it with nuances that others cannot grok, that leads to additional complications when third and fourth parties try to remake those complications into something functional. It happened to Xianity, it happened to Judaism, it happened to Islam. It happened to the USA when demands were imposed upon the original philosophy that did not fit, leaving it to later generations to interpret what this or that was meant by the founders and the Xians running interference against their aims, and others to argue about whether it really still means anything after all these years and decades.

Hedonism is simple, and the Gaian idea makes it about the relationship of pleasure and pain to the process of balanced living in a social environment according to the senses Nature allotted to us. Consequences will accredit or discredit our choices and we should gain moral lessons from that. That does not make those lessons irrelevant or meaningless. Just the opposite. It simply means that we should recognize the nature of events humans initiate as good, innocuous or bad (to use the simplest terms). In other words, we recognize an aspect of them in terms of actual values: cost (bad, penalty), balanced result (innocuous), or reward (good, reward). If one of us should someway aid another and do something of benefit, it gets seen as good (praiseworthy). If one of us should accost the other in a painful manner and do harm, we recognize that as intentionally bad and call it an immoral (blamable) act. When we go adding more than that to it, it becomes about something else, kinda like the USA became a “Xian Nation” simply by the addition of religious parameters to the original philosophy, the way they were layered onto Jewish scriptures to make them into a “Bible”.

So, why not try understanding hedonism according to its own rules and whatever rules we can learn from applying pleasure and pain to seek balance in our various circumstances and forget –reject!– add-ons from those who want to remodel it. The more we learn, the less we seem to know, and still less we seem to understand. The hedonist mantra with Gaia incorporated amounts only to pleasure/pain/balance. That’s it!

Values result from a process of evaluation, whether we refer to monetary value or moral values with our use of that term (To deny we have morals, as many atheists insist, has only the effect of devaluing the entire process, but even that denial establishes a moral value about it). It is my observation that Nature established morals and ethics with the imposition of pleasure versus pain onto all animated life, that Nature incorporated all kinds of automatic balancing controls into homeostasis and that should provide examples for us, and that all humans are accomplishing with their wordy exercises is to establish control over the many by the few, according to the tastes and interests of the few, including the interests of gaining power in order to live a more luxuriant life (which would be pleasurable for the few at the cost of pain for the many— That, in my opinion, is immoral!)

To introduce religion into the mix, where organized religion gets imposed upon the populace and gains dominance either by decree, ethnic cleansing or persuasion, is to introduce [1]fascism by inserting religiously held values (a trait of fascism that gives it directivity and asserts a doctrine of control) into the political process. It is that, that our hedonistic founders sought, in their own words, to avoid.

The freedom of individuals to evaluate moral considerations for themselves diminishes as the level of fascism increases, but at a far faster rate, so that a governing body that is only partially fascistic (such as that of the United States) can not only totally destroy individual freedoms, but will diminish individuals’ capacity to give the matter much consideration. In today’s America, we can realize our missing freedoms only by comparing our own time with conditions in scary earlier times. Our capacity to give the matter much consideration has diminished to the point where we regard those earlier times with apparent dread, and consider our personal safety to be of larger importance, a trait our founders warned against. Mark these words!

The so-called sensualistic “hedonism” of today is only a device of commercially backed religious propaganda designed to support the rise of fascism. It is not real, but just another myth designed to cover over the problems that increasing religiosity has wreaked. We need to gain a completer understanding of Gaian Equatarian Hedonism in its actual form, learn its message by heart, teach it to the population as a whole, and somehow return to the Epicureanism, in an updated form, that gave rise to our great land in its original form. We have in our much vaster pool of knowledge the means to develop that Epicureanism to a refined state, correct where it may have been in error, and establish for all time a proper and humane approach to living that even the densest imbecile can understand.

[7] This means that any action is moral and ethical in its own right, and not as determined by either God or Man-Made laws.)

No, it does not. How can anyone arrive at that from here? Some actions are immoral or unethical because their deleterious effects are universal. Blow up a skyscraper full of people, for instance: One bomber’s expectations of pleasure with promised virgins becomes pain to thousands of innocents for generations, and to outsiders in a fashion that can only be described in multiples. Other actions are universally moral: Give up some of your excess to a decent person fallen onto hard times, and your pleasure from the giving will be amplified by that of his family and himself. Carry a child away from the path of an oncoming bus, and see yourself rewarded to the point of embarrassment by the praises onlookers and parents will heap onto you. Do you see no pleasure versus pain principle operating there?—no reward earned from a risk taken? Do you see any edicts from governments or gods demanding altruism from you? No, you foresaw someone else’s pain, felt it in yourself, and moved to prevent it. By your altruistic act, you paid rent on your place in your society.

What gets failed to be mentioned at all is the effects of our actions upon our own stability and that of others, in all the myriad ways things can become destabilized. Ataraxia, eudemonia, homeostasis, homeorhesis, all refer to the various kinds of physiological balances that affect the quality of how we live, and how our own actions and intentions can affect that in ourselves and in others. The maintenance of balance in all the ways that gets affected, is the end consideration of Gaian Hedonism, whatever way you may seek to denigrate it. I could add that by making such efforts, you represent a destabilizing influence with moral implications upon which someone should remark, even if I do not. Question: If you make a statement that is intentionally wrong, do you expect it to spread happiness or pain? Would yourself be praiseworthy or blameworthy as a result of my not pointing it out?

[8] Some critics argue that not all pleasures are valuable, since, for example, there is no value in the pleasures of a sadist while whipping a victim. [from: http://happinesspolicy.com/ ]

And by whom, may I ask, is value or worth set? Is it not by those persons involved in something or affected by it, and not those who have no part in it? What gives anybody else a right to determine values for others? Nothing, and no one attempts to do so unless they are those who take for granted that their god exists and that their god errantly directs them to do so, or those who too vividly envision themselves involved in activities that offend them.

Still, even Epicurus and Aristippus would agree that not all pleasures are equally valued by all people; but, then, they thought while using their own wits without taking preconceptions for granted.

To be honest, it is people who decide value for themselves. That some value what others do not is where all of your criticism falls flat. A sadist may value the opportunity, and a masochist beg to be whipped. Unless you can understand that according to their needs and urges and not your own, you are forced to value it by your own irrelevant standards for so long as they do no damage to each other at cost to anyone innocent of involvement. If those not involved in an event become involved when they are demanded to bear the cost, it is then that the legal system should play a role.

There are some cases where uninvolved persons should foresee themselves in a negative role and act to prevent it, such as when a jobless unwed girl becomes pregnant and society can foresee itself required to support both her and the fetus after its birth. Of course, those who would demand her pregnancy to go full term ought to be considered as volunteering to take full responsibility for its raising, and for the subsistence of its mother. They should set aside funds for that, and make sure to keep them replenished, and not expect their society to bear the full cost of their interference. If, however, she freely chooses to give birth, she of course owns the onus that goes with that.

[9] Other opponents object that not only pleasures are intrinsically valuable, because other things are valuable independently of whether they lead to pleasure or avoid pain. For example, my love for my wife does not seem to become less valuable when I get less pleasure from her because she gets some horrible disease.

And this relates to hedonism just how? Strawmen and red herrings do not edify us, but only detract from the value of whatever is being investigated. In that, they are painful by their mere presence. Why not just acknowledge that both pleasure and pain have value to some people, and that pleasure and pain are not all that exists. Some things are entirely neutral, therefore innocuous, and we should not use them while attempting to discredit moral statements.

Now, about this loss of emotional attachment to your spouse who has contracted a disease, have you really given that adequate consideration?– or bothered to consider how your actions and care will affect her in this time of her need?– and that her needs for pleasure are as great for her as are yours to you?– or that the words by which you wooed her are now being put to a test of the honesty with which they were uttered?

[10] Freedom seems valuable even when it creates anxiety, and even when it is freedom to do something (such as leave one’s country) that one does not want to do.

And, again, anxiety can be put to use by some, and so they will value it while others who find no use for it will suffer from it. Those who suffer from it will deem it painful, unbalancing, and try to avoid it, while those wise enough to benefit from it will gain pleasure from whatever pursuit it enhances. Freedom gives them the reins to do so. It gives us the reins to be our unique selves and expect others to equal the level of our tolerance, so that maximal talent and interest can be applied onto all that it takes to make a complete society to the greatest benefit of all its inhabitants and the greater security of its future. Whatever our choices, wisdom requires recognition of the onus we must accept, even when faced with less than desirable options.

[11] Again, many people value knowledge of other galaxies regardless of whether this knowledge will create pleasure or avoid pain.

And what of something being pleasurable in and of itself? All of such arguments come from those who take for granted how their drive to set standards for all regardless of their natural inclinations is granted by the force of some deity. People will value what they find pleasurable and what may lead to pleasure; they will remain apathetic toward what seems to them innocuous, and they will avoid even painful knowledge and deny it any truth. You will find many examples of that in your religious text books, and written into many laws, right or wrong. What was this irrelevant statement intended to accomplish?

[12] I find all of the objections totally persuasive. Is there any reason for resisting them other than a prior commitment to hedonism?

How about a prior commitment to honesty? The only honest reason to “resist” information and ideas would be that you are not knowledgeable enough to evaluate them, and that is the same reason that should preclude their easy adoption. A dishonest reason would be their opposition to whatever you have already, valid or not, adopted and granted truth status to, and that you cannot stand the pain of reassessment or find no pleasure in it. That is true regardless of whether your “prior commitment” is to hedonism or to something else. It is while making remarks such as that one that a person tells more about him/herself than about the subject of a discussion.

[13] …may Socrates strike you dead if you think the value of self-knowledge is hedonic.

Unless the writer of that statement is someone who regards hedonism only in relation to sexual interests, how can anyone consider it to be other than a poor attempt to structure a joke? Anyone performing self-assessment is bound to pass through periods of both pleasure and pain, but the overall aim will be the pleasure of heightened self-understanding, a sense of self-worth, and a sense of one’s capabilities and limitations. The best way to comprehend that is to go through it and dare to test your limits and horizons, and to enjoy the results. If knowing yourself gives you pain, then it has to be obvious what to do about it. Stop telling on yourself and get busy at becoming someone worth a good story for others to tell.

All things that animated life forms engage in have hedonic aspects, however they value them. A dog will grant no value to a discussion about hedonism, will not care about the differences in people’s understanding of it, but still put it to practice in every action he undertakes for a lifetime. He may demand for you to pet him, and whine at you if you won’t. A Xian human will disavow any value to self-knowledge, will find and quote verses to condemn it, and say the only things of value belong to the god named God. A Muslim will agree with the Xian, call the god named God “Allah” (“The God”), and tell you about the pleasures found on his prayer rug. They have the same rights as do we, for so long as we have the same rights as do they; to seek pleasure that arises from “know thyself” is a valid right for every person of every persuasion. Entire communities benefit from such residents.

[14] If I take delight in painlessly murdering and raping the corpses of animals or homeless people no one will ever miss, my pleasure has no value. Indeed, my pleasure amplifies the evil of my actions.

The evil of your actions will be known, while engaged in the destruction of those animals and homeless people you have so callously devalued, by them, empathetic onlookers, and yourself. A more honest view would be that you valued the delight you gained, but that did not offset the pain suffered by others who paid the price for your malicious acts, nor the unbalancing waste that you provoked by denying their rights while pursuing those you had usurped as your own. That is, providing the corpses you raped were not already dead. That would require an entirely different response.

[15] Your earlier statement against adding parameters to hedonism implies you have not done so, yet you have added balance (homeostasis/ equilibrium) to the equation. What gives you that right?

I only modernized early concepts in an attempt to make them understandable in today’s language. I suggest searching for the ancient terms ataraxia and eudemonia on the Internet, beginning with Wikipedia. From Wikipedia:

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing “neither to harm nor be harmed”[15]), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.[16]”

Epicureanism incorporated a relatively full account of the social contract theory, following after a vague description of such a society in Plato’s Republic. The social contract theory established by Epicureanism is based on mutual agreement, not divine decree. – from www.Wikipedia.com/epicureanism

—Lloyd—

NOTES

[1] WWW.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

www.auburn.edu/~johnspm/gloss/fascism

http://www.publiceye.org/eyes/whatfasc.html

 

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Copyright ©2014 by Lloyd H. Whitling. Permission to excerpt is granted if accompanied with credit to the author. Permission to reuse unchanged is granted only if accompanied with this notice and proper credit. All other rights reserved.

 

 

[1] WWW.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism‎

http://www.auburn.edu/~johnspm/gloss/fascism

http://www.publiceye.org/eyes/whatfasc.html

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