Essay on Meaning of Life and Hedonism

Submitted By canels04
Words: 1314
Pages: 6

A.) Summary: Hedonism means: The belief that the point of living is to enjoy life and that accordingly the best life is the most pleasurable. When discussing hedonism, there are many different versions to extrapolate upon. The word ‘hedonism’ comes from the ancient Greek word for ‘pleasure’. Psychological or motivational hedonism claims that only pleasure or pain motivates us. Ethical or evaluative hedonism claims that only pleasure has worth or value and only pain or displeasure has disvalue or the opposite of worth. “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do” (Feldman 2004). Aristotle (Blake 1920) claimed that we all agree that the good is pleasurable but there is disagreement among us about what pleasure is (15). Similarly, most ethical hedonists in Graham’s book, agree with one another that the good is pleasure, but there is some disagreement among them, about what pleasure is. Aristotle (Graham 2004) also believed that it is Hedonists are right to want a pleasant life, and the pleasantest life is a happy one. The value of such a life is two fold- pleasure and happiness. But, the pleasure arises from the happiness. So if we want to know what a "good life" is- a sort of life we ought to take pleasure in- we need to know more about happiness than pleasure (50). An alternate form of Hedonism was named by Epicurus. An "epicure" is someone who savors the finer things in life- good wine, good food, good company, literature, dress, etc. This philosophy is based on the ideology of the love for these finer things, but not in excess and certainly not to the point where pain would be an outcome. Epicurus also believed that many times, these "good things in life" must be an "acquired taste or pleasure". The philosophy of the acquired taste brings to light an important question: If Epicureans believe that a life of pleasure must be acquired, can it continue to claim the natural appeal that is hedonism's greatest appeal over other philosophies? Meaning if the appeal isn't naturally there and needs to be learned or acquired is it truly hedonistic? John Stuart Mill proposes another belief or form of hedonism. Mill thought there were important differences between the various lives that people can lead. The differences cannot always be straightforwardly explained in terms of pleasure. In his attempt at explaining hedonism, Mill introduced the distinction of higher and lower pleasures. Pleasure is still the touchstone of value, but some pleasures are better or more significant, than others. Mill often explains this with quantity- a higher pleasure brings more pleasure. Mill also maintained that higher pleasures brought a higher quality of pleasure. This entire philosophy brings with it a rational of choice, i.e.- the examples of Shakespeare vs. Dallas or opera vs. country music- is one more pleasurable than the other. Mill’s arguments for the proposition that higher pleasures are more valuable than lower ones, is put into five elements: first, there are qualitative differences between pleasures, merely as pleasures; second, the estimation of pleasures is determined by both the quantity and quality of the pleasures; third, some qualities are superior and therefore more valuable; four, the judgment of the experienced is the only way to determine whether one pleasure has superiority in quality to another; five, the judgment of the experienced will be that those pleasures derived from the distinctively human faculties are qualitatively superior to those from animal appetites. And yet, one additional form of hedonism is called sadism. Thoroughgoing hedonists insist that, in so far as it is true that a torturer gets just as much pleasure from her trade as does the healer, the torturer and the healer lead equally good lives, then an appeal to alleged differences between the two cannot provide