In this post i would like to extend the topic of Ethics. Firstly, i would want to reintroduce the term Utilitarianism, a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility. Another new terminology which stands the similar value is Hedonism. Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. Simply to put that is a hedonist will strive to maximize the net pleasure. Both school of thoughts wanted the same result of maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. I know it is very difficult to differentiate both schools of thought. But Hedonism deals more with obtaining “self pleasure” while Utilitarianism deals more with obtaining the total happiness for a group. This means that Hedonism is a theory of welfare, while Utilitarianism is a moral theory, which explains that Hedonism is more towards each individual needs, but makes no claim about what is morally right or wrong.
So lets get back to the social topic whether if Hedonism is really what our culture strive for? As in for now the biggest problem is that our nation’s society is striving for Utilitarianism while each individual innately strives to achieve hedonism. As everyone tend to speak of ” Pursuit of Happiness”, how do Hedonism measure the degree of happiness we obtain? Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, did encourages everyone has their right to pursue happiness for themselves. However, he also warned that we should not be committing any of the selfish acts because everything has a fine line. So as we are pursuing our happiness, we can only desire only the very basics of human living, thus this will give people the very little reason to do anything to interfere with the affairs of others, ” minding your own business”. Thus, part of being hedonistic is also being selfless, putting your feet in another’s shoe so that one will be able to understand to make a judgement to be pleasurable for everyone.
Looking at this way, some people have the misconception of Hedonism. I hope i am not cynical, but the idea that every action human make is based off of selfishness, even if the choices they made seemed not to directly benefit to themselves. For example, when we donate money to charity or give change to a homeless people, we are just merely doing it to reduce “guilt”, one of the emotions that causes pain, and increasing out self-satisfaction as we believe that we are actually committing a “self-less” act. The question will be, can we humans ever make a selfless act? If this society comprised of every person seeking to satisfy one’s own desires, is there anyway possible to educate and shape the future generation to constantly doing something of the best for the society?
I would like to rephrase that a Hedonist, will not just seek to satisfy their own pleasure but also conforms themselves into the most pleasurable situation where least pain is the result, just as Utilitarianism. To measure happiness we will need to compare with unhappiness. Just as Socrates quoted before “”It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.”
We all need to put our feet in the shoes of others.