Hedonism Essay, Research Paper
There is no doubt that pleasure is good. Whether the pleasure is emotional or physical; whether we get this pleasure through taste, touch, sight, scent, or hearing; it makes no difference. Pleasure is always enjoyable. In fact the words pleasure and good are often times interchangeable. After seeing a movie I liked, I may tell someone that the film was pleasurable or that it was good. Both descriptions have a positive connotation. But while pleasure is undoubtedly good, it is not the highest good and certainly not the only good, as the Hedonist would say.
First, we must look at examples throughout the world which will prove that pleasure is not the highest good. One example would be a sadistic child molester who gets pleasure out of raping young children. According to the Hedonist this sickening act would be good because the molester is getting pleasure out of it. Of course they would argue that this is not the pleasure they speak of because it will turn out to be bad for the molester in the long run. He will be sent to jail and be ostracized from society, causing him much more pain than pleasure. Therefore this would not be an example of Hedonistic pleasure. But the Hedonist is making a very dangerous assumption: the molester will always get caught and always be punished. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many people get away with their crimes everyday without feeling the wrath of justice. So if a molester gets pleasure out of little children, is it good? If a Hedonist were to answer yes, then it does not seem like a sound philosophical viewpoint.
For another example, we can turn to the Holocaust. Over six million Jews and countless others were killed at the hands of the Nazis. While many of the Nazis were disgusted by the killings (Oscar Schindler was one) an even greater amount got pleasure out of it. They thought that they were doing the world a good by ridding it of the inferior human elements. It was this idea that led to millions of brutal deaths. Yet very few Nazi?s were ever prosecuted. Many fled to other countries and continued their lives without ever taking responsibility for the heinous crimes they committed. In fact, many still felt inwardly proud of the duty they had done for the Aryan race. So according to the Hedonist the Nazis were doing nothing wrong as long as they were getting pleasure. Once again this is a hard concept to accept as true.
A Hedonist will say to look closely at our society and lives and we will see that we live according to pleasure. Everyone wants to be happy and happiness is directly correlated with pleasure. But, in fact, our society is not run on the basis that pleasure is the highest good. If it were, our whole justice system would fail. In court, a murderer?s defense would be ?I got pleasure out of the killings.? As a Hedonist, the judge would then have to set the criminal free. Our constitution is founded on the idea that every person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but not pleasure. Our founding fathers knew that if our society was based solely on pleasure then people would be doing whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it. A Hedonistic society would be chaotic and anarchic; it simply would not work.
Now that I have shown that pleasure is not the highest good, it will be easy to prove that it is not the only good. One example would be Mahatma Gandhi, the freedom fighter who used non-violent resistance to free India from British rule. Ghandi went through great amounts of physical pain to get his message across. He went on hunger strikes for weeks at a time, completely starving himself. Ghandi was putting up with great personal sacrifice for the good of his people. This puts a big hole in the Hedonistic reasoning. Ghandi did a great good for all of humanity. He freed a nation of people without any bloodshed and left a legacy of non-violent resistance for generations to come. He did this all through great sacrifice to him and his family. There was no pleasure involved. Yet what Ghandi did was clearly good. So he did a good without pleasure.
Another example along the same lines goes back to the Holocaust. Oscar Schindler, the wealthy factory owner, paid for Jews to work at his factory so they wouldn?t meet their almost certain death in the concentration camps. Schindler saved the lives of hundreds of Jews. But at the same time he lost all his money, his business, and even his self-respect. At the end of the movie, when the Germans were defeated and Jews were liberated, Schindler was a broken man. He felt he should have and could have done more to prevent the tragic loss of lives, even if it was only one more person he could have saved. Schindler got not pleasure out of saving the lives of the Jews, yet he is still honored as an exemplary human being. He was compassionate and acted selflessly. This example shows how we value things other than pleasure. We value compassion and self-less deeds that benefit society as a whole, not just a single person. The Hedonist must be wrong in saying that pleasure is the only value, because it is obvious that there are other things we value.
One of these other things we value is freedom. Patrick Henry was made famous in American history for his anti-Hedonistic, revolutionary statement, ?Give me liberty, or give me death!? He would rather die than to be suppressed under unjust government. The founder of non-violent resistance, Henry Thoreau, gave great reasoning to this idea in his famous essay ?Civil Disobedience.? Thoreau realized that there are things more important than pleasure. He knew of the responsibilities that come along with freedom, among these, the duty to protect that freedom at whatever the cost. He said it is necessary to make self-sacrifices to gain and maintain our freedom. Every civil rights leader is aware of this fact. Martin Luther King knew that he was at a great risk for being assassinated, yet he was willing to make this sacrifice so that blacks in America would be free. These are just a few example throughout American history where people have valued freedom over pleasure; in fact, freedom over life itself. Therefore a Hedonist is wrong when he states pleasure is the only value.
There are countless other examples in everyday life where we see things other than pleasure valued. Love, knowledge, and leadership are all important whether or not they lead to pleasure. So while it is true that pleasure is good, it is not always good, nor is it the highest good, and definitely not the only good. Hedonism is wrong.