Hedonism: What is It?

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. Least common, but most true to hedonism’s origins are the various philosophical hedonisms, including my own Equatarianism and Gaian Ethics that attempts to update 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 enabled those to dominate from nearly the beginning of human life. Pitting Hell against Heaven, for a quick example, presents a more immediate pain/pleasure image than unspecified torment that may result from ill-considered questionable actions. Having a mean (tho loving) god to mete out specific dire punishment is far scarier than if Mother Nature threatens you with something that might affect you only if you live long enough. Rewards (pleasure) for good behavior are just as uncertain. You may never suffer obesity if you avoid overeating, and still die a miserable death from some other unforeseeable cause—or become obese due to defective glands. At any rate, those are not behaviors with which religion ordinarily bothers.

People of any organized belief system are left to find their own answers to life’s conundrums. Patriarchal religion’s main moral concern is about property: wives, asses, camels, land; worship and obedience: honoring the god, obeying the god (the priests), keeping holy days; and about relationships: punishments, the governing establishment (the church or equivalent), and the law.

Current forays by some scientists into moral questions are certain to perpetuate the centralism that takes control of morality away from the very people most affected by them, who will suffer most as a result of their inevitable wrong answers. People do not come in one size fits all packages of anything. We are individuals, not composites. We do nothing the same as everybody else. The tendency to establish power centers to control every aspect of existence was inherited from patriarchal religions and does not play at all in the moral interests of a truly free society.

Science must, instead, play an educative role by deducing all of the many links between behavior and the later damage or benefit. Much of that work may already be done, leaving science with a role it has never done well, which is to assure no person alive remains unaware of their findings, their universal importance, potential cost and savings by country and by individual. This ought to be something the church and its equivalents would deem worthy to join in on, for it would give them materials that increase or restore their social relevance, it is work they cannot and should not do, and would give them a voice backed by real, testable, evidence-heavy, constantly updated scientific data.