As a theory of happiness, hedonism, first hypothesized by Aristippus of Cyrene has deep roots in Bentham’s utilitarianism (Seligman & Royzman, 2003). He held that happiness supersedes everything else.
Hedonists believe that happiness is the sum total of subjective raw feelings. This implies that for one to live a happy life, they have to minimize pain and maximize on activities that give them pleasure. In this perspective, all valuable things are reduced to the element of inclination as posited by Howarth (2009). Since the pains of a happy person are few, the person is bushy tailed, bright eyed, cheerful, and smiles often.
One criticism often raised about hedonism is the exact definition of what is valuable. Hedonists argue that in life pleasure is valuable. Does this imply that we should pursue our own pleasure regardless of the pain that we may cause to others as we strive to be happy? It certainly challenges our humanity aspect and the love that we might have towards our friends and relatives (Seligman & Royzman, 2003). It is erroneous for one to be duped into believing that their won pleasure is valuable than anyone’s happiness.
I can perfectly relate hedonism to the case of a rapist. To the rapist, sex is pleasure and will forcefully obtain it without considering the pain that they are causing to the victim. They also disregard the feeling of regret that comes after raping the victim and concentrates on the immediate pleasure of engaging in the act (Howarth, 2009).
As an individual, I understand that my happiness is imperative, but as I pursue it, I will also strive to see the value of other people’s life while simultaneously reducing my displeasures. This implies that I will avert any action that causes pain to me and others and take actions that will foster happiness.
- Howarth, J. M. (2009). Pleasures and Pains: A Theory of Qualitative Hedonism. Philosophical Books, 22(4), 250-251. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0149.1981.tb01048.x
- Seligman, M. & Royzman, E. (2003). Happiness: The Three Traditional Theories | Authentic Happiness.