Wednesday 5 September 2007

Hedonism and Ethics

In a sense, this is a personal post.
It is a post about the system of values I actually attempt to live my life by.
Attempt being the operative word.

Firstly, I don't know many people who remotely live up to the system of values they espouse, but I at least try to live up to mine.

Secondly of course, whilst most of those close to me subscribe to a greater or lesser degree to my values, society at large doesn't. Since I live in society at large, I have to make some accomodation with it.

Hedonism is often seen as a dirty word. Basically, it means living for pleasure.
If you just lived for your own pleasure and screwed everybody else, indeed it would be.
But Hedonism needn't be that way.

My philosophy is simple.
Clasic Liberals would hold that 'Each man knows best the route to his own happiness.'
It has often been pointed out, there are major problems with that. These routes could well be mutually conflicting, and some people's routes are decidely harmful to everyone else.
So we need to add a condition;
'Each man must be aware of the route to another's pain.'

We all know what makes us happy, and we know what hurts others.
If we can find a life that makes us as happy as life can and hurts others around as us little as possible, then by my view we are living the best life any ethical system of values can demand of us.

I think the first point of true Hedonism- rather than the dirty stereotype- is that it should be genuinely rewarding.
Self-centred is never genuinely rewarding.
The fact remains that the most enjoyable of all pleasures, is interconnection with people.
I had a great weekend last weekend, but the best bit of all was the eight hour long discussion held from 2AM to 10AM Saturday morning between myself and three of my closest most intelligent friends, which covered Capitalist exploitation, the Military, God, the power of Music and its history, evolution, free love, football, Blair's legacy, how much financiers really knew and how much is just educated gambling, this stuff is GREAT.

It is, in itself a reason to be alive.
To compare thoughts on the experience we all share and exchange viewpoints.
That's why I love my mates. They're great.

So to me, personal interconnection of any kind is a truly beautiful thing.
I love the human mind, it's the closest thing there is to Pure God.

But there is more to it than that, for me.

The fact is, owning a six bedroomed home with a flash car and a wife and two kids is not up there in my life plans.
It really doesn't interest me. I have a home, which someone else owns, it's just not the building society.

I could live the way I do till the day I die, as long I had people around me.
I need love and affection, just as everyone else does.
Not everybody might agree with the way I acheive this, but as long as it concerns two consenting adults and no one gets hurt, I don't feel any shame in it.

More importantly, I don't feel the need to aspire to something different.

What I choose to do in my social life, again should be up to me, as long as no one gets hurt.
If I choose, once a month or so to use stimulants at social occasions, surely that's up to me?
I've paid my taxes, paid my bills, surely it's up to me to decide what to do with the rest?

I like my life this way, this is the route to my happiness, and at my age, I think I know what makes me happy.

As long, of course, as I consider the consequences.
That is what ethics is really about.

Making sure we can live together in the best possible way.

Well, here's the way I see it.

Should I be standing at the Pearly Gates one day, in front of our Father and he reads out his long list of charges, here is my answer;

'I lived my life to try to get as much pleasure as I could and give as little pain as I could to others. Where I could, I tried to give pleasure to others, and where I could I tried to minimise their pain.
I am responsible for my decisions, but YOU decided what would make us feel pleasure and what would make us feel pain. YOU made us. If I made bad judgements, I did so on the basis of the feelings YOU gave me.'

I really think sometimes God hides the real answers in religion. Moral codes are the products of their times, designed to keep together the societies they serve.

But really it's just about getting as much as you can out of the life he gave you and spreading as much love as you can.

I think.
Hey, I might be wrong.
But this is the only life I'm ever going to lead here, and I'm not wasting it while I have it.

Live each day as if it is your last.


Anonymous said...

... so you are feeling really guilty about it? Thats lapsed Catholics for you...

Anonymous said...

only one Crime of Thought .. well 2 now...

i thought that was a damn good post

and i say


Anonymous said...

I think getting rid of my self-centeredness part is the hardest thing for me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go and masturbate and look in the mirror now.

And, of course, break every fucking rule on the "THOU SHALT NOT" list while doing so. :)

Anonymous said...

Well I can't see too much wrong with what you've said here Crushed.
The one thing I might quibble with is the use of stimulants. If you love the human mind, I would not be willing to mess around with it or potentially cause it damage. Then I'm a control freak so would never risk it nor ever have.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post of yours.

I went to bed last night and actually pondered over some of the things you've been writing about regarding God and communication with others being the most important thing.
I agree with you on that. Without communication - stories, songs, sonnets, verbal or oral, how would we even know stories of our past or of religon? it takes one person to put something down that may affect unknown numbers. that is such a powerful medium.

anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I like the way you write about things.

Anonymous said...

Mutley- Do I sound like someone who feels guilty? :)
I'm not so much a lapsed Catholic as a part time one- I do go to mass- just its more monthly than weekly.

Gledwood- Glad you like it, it is how I feel and I do get fed up of people judging others because they have no satifsfaction themselves.

Shelly- Love is the only rule that matters. I think if you withold love, even for yourself, you make the world a pooroer place. Go for it!

jmb- I understand what you are saying, it is a risky business and I have paid prices for it, but it has pros and cons.
Either way, it should be a matter of choice.

Betty- Communication is what it's all about, we add our thoughts to the communal pool. The collective whole is something amazing to tap into.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with what you have to say, and generally think that we concern ourselves far, far too much with the petty details of others life... but I think the problem is that many others can't seem to navigate the notion of separating their own pleasure from that which may harm others, intended or not.

Anonymous said...

I am off to watch Shelley - voyeurism being another of my weaknesses!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I agree - be as happy as you can and try not to hurt anyone along the way.

Anonymous said...

Hedonism is not a dirty word at Hedonism UK.....Blighty's leading, upmarket club for swinging and uninhibited sex.Venues now include Dunstable, The Wirral and Stoke on Trent....

Live a little, folks!

Anonymous said...


You are but one step away from being an Ayn Rand Objectivist,

'My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.'

Anonymous said...

Princess P- Unfortunately, we live in a world where people see themselves as disconnected from everything and everyone else. As a result they need to be bribed to be nice. Heaven may well be the greatest white lie in history, but the real point is, we should strive to create it HERE, and strive even though we know we ourselves will never live to see the full results of our efforts.

Mutley- And a very interesting point you do make. Voyeurism- seen as dirty and disgusting, but as long as it happens between consenting adults who are enriched by the experience, who are those who don't feel enriched by it, to judge those who do?
We all have our own routes to happiness. Enjoy watching!

Welshcakes- It does pay you back, in a way no other moral codes can. Believe it or not, if you live this way, you get back so much from people around you. I think for it work, you have to genuinely enjoy making people happy, and genuinely get upset when your actions cause pain. The flip side though, is not beating yourself up over what you cannot change, including your past mistakes. You have to be objective and realise your actions can only impact on the future, not the past.

Stan- Are you on commission? I'll be honest and say that there are things about the swing scene I don't much like- one of which being that it taps into the societal perception of the concept as dirty- there is a sleazy side to the swing scene, which it wears almost as a badge of pride.
Put bluntly, we are going through a socio-sexual transition phase, in my view, to a more open form of human sexuality, where Free Love will be seen as the beautiful thing it is, but there are some things which will always be bad, and at the moment we have yet to properly define where that boundary should be.

Pommy- That does seem to sum up my worldview, yes.
This is quite interesting, because I'll admit, I know little of Ayn Rand, but the two terms I have coined (myself) for my overall philosophy are Social Hedonist and Progressive Objectivist.

I think the crucial conceptual point where you and I APPEAR to disagree- though I think it is illusory- is a result of the rather unhelpful left-right paradigm.

I see this society as being the logical consequence of the 'withering away' of the state foreseen by Marx (as opposed to the diametrically opposite results acheived by those who misinterpreted his theories, as much as Ian Paisley misinterprets Jesus Christ), and the appearance of a society advanced enough not to need elite ownership of the infrastructure, or an armed apparatus of state to govern people.

Yes, these are the best of all ethics, I think.
Sorry to bring him up (again-but he is essential to feeling hopeful about the wonder that is Man)- but how do you feel about Nietzche?

Anonymous said...

Hiya Crushed,
did anyone ever tell you that drugs mame, drugs Kill? lol are you a politician perchance? I'm kidding of course. (Ihope you are laughing as you read this) I see you done some pretty heavy thinking latley,carry on!