Hedonism Essay Research Paper HedonismWebster

Hedonism Essay, Research Paper Hedonism Webster’s dictionary defines hedonism as “the ethical doctrine that pleasure, variously conceived of in terms of happiness of the individual or of society,

Hedonism Essay, Research Paper


Webster’s dictionary defines hedonism as “the

ethical doctrine that pleasure, variously conceived of

in terms of happiness of the individual or of society,

is the principal good and the proper aim of action” or

“the theory that a person always acts is such a way as

to seek pleasure and avoid pain.” With this definition

in mind, and with further examination of John Stuart

Mill’s theory on hedonism, I am going to argue that

hedonism is not an exclusive or distinct way of

thinking. In fact, I think that with the exception of

possibly a few people, most people are very

hedonistically inclined.

“Hedonistic utilitarians identify happiness with

feeing pleasure and avoiding pain, meaning that the more

an individual enjoys pleasure and avoids pain, the

happier that individual is” (phil.tamu.edu). Now, is

this really a new and profound thought? If you avoid

pain, you will lead a happier life? With a few

exceptions, I don’t know many people who see pain as

enjoyment. Most people I know have made it a point to

enjoy themselves in so me fasion or

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another, and that doesn’t include the enjoyment of pain.

“Mill’s overall subject is the right of the

indivieual to think and act for himeself of herself.

For Mill this does not mean the right to think and act

as you please (Castell 360). Eventhough Mill encouraged

independent thought and actions, he did not justify

running around and doing whatever you liked. According

to the Hedonic Society, what they call Enlightened

Hedonism (”a naturalistic and humanistic lifestance

advocation the ration cultivation of pleasure and

happiness for all”) can be stated in six principles:

1. Knowledge is gained through a reasoned study of

all available evidence.

2. In the absence of conclusive evidence for a

supernatural, ethics and morality must be based on our

living in the natural world.

3. Pleasure and pain are our natural means for

determining what is beneficial or harmful to life.

4. Those actions are best which lead to the

greatest pleasure and happiness, or the least pain and

suffering, in the long term for all concerned.

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5. Our lives are made most happy and fulfilling by

cultivating the higher pleasures of intellectual

development, aesthetic appreciation and creativity, and

social bonds of friendship, family and romantic love.

6. Happiness is best attained in an atmosphere of

freedom, tolerance, nonviolence and diversity.

The Hedonic society also states that the ethics of

enlightened hedonism is a positive, dynamic and life-

affirming alternative to traditional religious and

political dogmas.

In today’s terms, when you hear someone speak of

hedonism, your mind automatically goes to associating

sex, orgasms, and all other types of physical pleasure

with the term hedonism. The important thing to keep in

mind, however is that hedonism does not just include

physical pleasure. It is possible to strive to achieve

happiness and excitement, and at the same time avoid

sadness and anxiety. This is also a hedonistic way of

thought. Hedonism is not the pursuit purely physical.

It is possible to be intellectually hedonistic as well.

And, Hedonism is not based solely on the individual. It

is to be the greatest amount of good possible for the

greatest amount of people.

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So just because you want to something, and fulfill

your original desire/want/need, doesn’t mean that it is

right to do it. You have to take into account what

would benefit others as well. “By each of us going

immediately for that which we most want, which would

give us the most pleasure, is for the greatest possible

good to be accomplished…(Stanford).”

Mill says that the ideal way to be is a little bit

of both physically and intellectually hedonistic. He

introduces the Competent Judge Test (CJT) to battle

common objections he faces against hedonistic

utilitarianism. The objection stems from the

philosophical controversy between bodily (eating,

drinking, and sex, but also things like exercise) and

intellectual (art, literature, philosophy, and science)

pleasures, and the relative value of each of those

pleasures (phil.tamu). “Since hedonistic utilitarian

define happiness in terms of pleasure and the absence of

pain, they are open to the objection that their view

give human beings’ lives no higher purpose than that of

any animal. Mill calls this ‘the doctrine of swine

objection.’ …Mill reasons that if what gives a human

being pleasure (and/or pain) is radically different than

what gives it to an animal, then what counts as human

happiness will be radically different” (phil.tamu).

Intellectual pleasures are superior to the physical

pleasures, and Mill says that

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his CJT proves it. “Of tow pleasures, if there be one

to which all of almost all who have experience of both

give a decided preference, irrespective or any feeling

of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more

desirable pleasure” (phil.tamu).

Mill has four different components that are a part

of the testing of qualitative superiority;

1) Who the competent judges are; 2) What kind of

majority of them must give; 3) What kind of preference

to one kind of pleasure over another for it to be judged

the higher quality pleasure; and

4) What this qualitative difference implies about the

relative value of pleasure of the two kinds.

He also presents the Four Steps of CJT; 1)

Identify the competent judges; 2) See if any of them

prefer X over Y; 3) Ask if the preference for X over Y

is shared by certain characteristics;

4) If #3 is true, then we are justified in concluding

that X is somehow superior (phil.tamu).

Mill says that if you substitute intellectual

pleasures for “X” and bodily pleasures for “Y,” then “X”

is “qualitatively superior” to “Y.” However, like I

stated above, each person in their own aspect has some

hedonism in them somewhere. I would argue that in order

to have a relatively balanced life, you would include

both physical

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and intellectual aspects of your life. Whether or not

you would be labeled a “Hedonist” would remain to be

seen. If you incorporate the greater needs of others

into your individual immediate needs, then technically,

yes, that would be Hedonism. But, I would venture to

say that you would be labeled “a nice person.”

Castell, Alburey, et al., Introduction to Moern

Philosophy: Examining the Human Condition. (New

Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001).

“Hedonism.” Stanford University (online)


. (12/03/2001).

“John Stuart Mill.” unknown (online) *www-/



“What is Enlightened Hedonism?” Hedonic Society

(online) *www.hedonicsociety.org/custom/html*.