Ethical Hedonism: A Little Sacrifice, A Little More Pleasure

It feel good to help people. It feels good to have loving and supportive friends who you can rely on to grab a drink or talk over something that’s bothering you. It feel good to have a job you enjoy doing and aren’t miserable for 40 hours of your week.

Some people might think, well, if you’re going to talk about things like that, why call it hedonism? Isn’t that about giving into all kinds of pleasure temptations like food and sex without holding back? Read on dear reader.

Give Up This, Get That

What do parents want for their kids? (at least non-neurotic ones) To have a better life than they did. They push them to go to school, to be friendly to others, to stay away from certain things or people. Ultimately the parent is trying to use their experience to help their child avoid their mishaps and learn from what they did right, to ultimately live an easier life, with more pleasure.

Many religions have a concept of heaven that comes from sacrificing certain short-term pleasures now to gain the ultimate pleasure when you get to heaven, where everything is supposed to be pretty swell.

In Practical Terms 

In the first post I mentioned there are things we know we could be doing or giving up in order to have a better life. The reason these can be hard is because you’re often giving up a temporary pleasure to invest in a greater pleasure in the future.

What we share with other animals is our instinct for wanting that which feels good and to avoid that which feels bad or painful. Humans have the unique ability to abstract and consider a future where you have more pleasure and life is easier, it just requires some sacrifice now.

I’ll be speaking more about the “how to” in a future article, but for now I encourage you to reflect on how more pleasure is ultimately tied to all your goals and intentions, and even the most devout religious people run by the same rule. No one would have a goal that would bring only misery to themselves and those around them. Even a parent gets pleasure from seeing their child succeed due to the sacrifices they made.

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