“To deny a right to any experience is immoral unless that denial can be justified by a valid presentation of how pain will result fromImage that experience in an amount that would render the expected pleasure regrettable; or, if it can be shown that pain will be induced in others innocent of any involvement. The role of science in moral issues should be to test that, predict that, and find harmless ways to demonstrate that.”– L. H. Whitling

What is Pain? Maybe it seems silly to ask that, but people often argue about what constitutes pleasure and pain. Pain equates with penalty. It’s what hurts us psychologically, physically, or financially, or instills a sense of loss. That offers a better way to understand hedonism, as it widens the scope of expected consequences to a better match with reality.

What is Pleasure? Pleasure equates with reward, a more accurate label for the kinds of behavior people recognize as something good. Feeling rewarded is always pleasurable. Being forced to endure overstimulation always becomes painful, however pleasurable it seemed at the start. Read the introductory statement at the top of this page, this time while replacing ‘pain’ with ‘penalty’ and ‘pleasure’ with ‘reward’. Our modern sense of language makes it easier to comprehend. Correctly understood, Hedonism is about balancing penalties and rewards. Should we rename it satisfacerism, from Latin satis  (enough) + facere  (to do, or make) — thus, to make, or do, enough?

What About Other People? Everything we do affects other people. Everything other people do affects us. The reality of that imposes two moral laws, the breaking of which leads to penalties. Natural laws are not something a committee or a tyrant dreams up to impose on other people; we give voice to the recognition of how things work, then work to increase our understanding of that.

The [1]moral law of reciprocity established a basis for our diminishing American system of justice and sense of fair play. When the big boys are mean on a school playground or in adult dealings, it rankles our hide and makes hairs stand up on our backs. Derived as a child of reciprocity, the moral law of mutual authority asserts a right to respond in kind (or, with equal force) to actions made against us or in our behalf. The idea of “getting even” and the expression “You owe me,” you must recognize, originated in that.

What Goal Should We Aim For? Balanced living is our goal, something that goes unrecognized in most considerations about hedonism. Epicurus presented the terms ataraxia and eudemonia to signify his thoughts on the matter, something that apparently got lost to his followers and his critics. To juggle all the aspects of living in a society where laws are carelessly created often works against human needs in unexpected ways.

Doesn’t ‘balance’ Equate with a Sense of Aimlessness? I asked myself that question time and again until it dawned on me just how impossible to maintain we find a sense of aimlessness to be. Consider this: if we only aim to maintain that sense of aimlessness to demonstrate hedonism’s folly, we have asserted a goal. Try it! You will demonstrate for yourself how impossible a healthy, optimistic person finds a sense of balance must be to maintain. The Hedonic Treadmill remains active for all animated life forms, whatever (or if no) philosophy gets chosen. We live with hedonism’s requirements no matter how we try to criticize it away or what religion we choose. We would be way better off, and farther ahead, if we learned to understand those requirements and chose to honor them.

Follow the evidence: A purposeful life results from a full understanding of hedonism put into practice. Rather than denigrating the process with terminology akin to ‘hedonic treadmill’ or ‘the selfish indulgences of the flesh’, the thrilling interplay of gain and loss involved in the creative struggle to achieve the realization of one’s dreams cannot be matched by any creed contrived by humanity.

 

NOTES:______

(1)   Moral law refers to behavioral conduct practiced by most humans and considered to promote a general sense of justice and wellbeing; esp. desirable behaviors that emerge without inducement. While behaviors that humans deem desirable or condemnable vary from culture to culture and place to place, some behaviors seem to be almost universally approved. Cultural behaviors are easily recognized as such, and may often prove, or be demonstrable, as harmful. Such behaviors work against moral law.

 

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

 

[1] (1)        Moral law refers to behavioral conduct practiced by most humans and considered to promote a general sense of justice and wellbeing; esp. desirable behaviors that emerge without inducement. While behaviors that humans deem desirable or condemnable vary from culture to culture and place to place, some behaviors seem to be almost universally approved. Cultural behaviors are easily recognized as such, and may often prove, or be demonstrable, as harmful. Such behaviors work against moral law.

 

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