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HEDONISM

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow


we die.”
Hedonism
Pleasure is the good
Actions are to be valued based on the “amount and/
or kind of pleasure that results from it, an in light of
that alone.”
Egoistic Hedonism– pursuit of pleasure is the highest
good and the basis of a “right action.”
Cyrenaicism: enjoy life as much as possible right now
because tomorrow we could die
Epicurians: enjoy a lifetime of moderate pleasures– a
life of tranquility or serenity! (Serenity Now!)
Key differences: see page 416
Is Hedonism Paradoxical?
Paradox of Hedonism Argument
1) If happiness is the only thing that directly
makes us better off, then it is rational to single-
mindedly pursue it.
2) It isn’t rational to do that.
3) Therefore, happiness isn’t the only thing that
directly makes us better off.
The Paradox of Hedonism

Is it irrational to single-mindedly pursue
happiness?


Does this show that hedonism is false?
The Problem of Evil Pleasures
1) If hedonism is true, then happiness that comes
from evil deeds is as good as happiness that
comes from kind and decent actions.
2) Happiness that comes from evil deeds is not
as good as happiness that comes from kind and
decent actions.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.

Caution: What kind of goodness are we talking


about?
The Two Worlds Objection
1) If hedonism is true, then any two situations
containing identical amounts of happiness and
unhappiness are equally good.
2) Some such situations are not equally good;
some are better than others.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.

Caution: Hedonism tells us how to evaluate lives,


not worlds.
The Problem of False Happiness
1) If hedonism is true, then our lives go well to
the extent that we are happy.
2) It’s not the case that our lives go well to the
extent that we are happy; those whose
happiness is based on false beliefs have worse
lives than those whose happiness is based on
true beliefs, even if both lives are equally
happy.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.
False Happiness

The experience machine:

Would you plug into a virtual reality machine for the
rest of your life if it would guarantee happiness?
The Importance of Autonomy
1) If hedonism is true, then autonomy contributes
to a good life only insofar as it makes us happy.
2) Autonomy sometimes directly contributes to a
good life, even when it fails to make us happy.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.
Life's Trajectory
1) If hedonism is true, then the overall quality of a
life depends entirely on the amount of
happiness and unhappiness it contains.
2) The overall quality of life depends on at least
one other factor: whether one’s life reflects an
“upward” or “downward” trajectory.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.
The Argument from Multiple Harms
1) If hedonism is true, then you can be harmed
by something only because it saddens you.
2) You can be harmed in other ways.
3) Therefore, hedonism is false.

Are you sad because failure is bad for you, or is


failure bad for you because it makes you sad?
Does having true beliefs sometimes make a life
go better, even if it doesn't make one any
happier? If so, give an example in which you
think this is the case. If not, explain why not.
Does the fact that we're sometimes unhappy
when we find out we had false beliefs show that
having false beliefs is sometimes intrinsically
bad for us? Why or why not?