• Jenn
    Hey guys - I'm new to the forum, and my first question is related to Hedonism vs 'Search for Meaning' in response to Existentialism. Personally, I stand on the side of the latter as I've always searched for meaning/truth, and am attracted to the Taoist philosophy of balance.

    Here is a rant I wrote about my mum regarding of differences in philosophical stance in reaction to existential crises and choices in life. I would really like to hear some educated and philosophical opinions on this matter, but most of all, would like to expand my perspective.

    My mum is one of those people whose values and goals in life work so dramatically against my own, that being around her honestly makes me question why I am alive at all. We have approached the same issue to existentialism in such a vastly different manner. She chooses to drown her suffering in meaningless pursuits and hedonism, while I - I guess I also attempt to escape my own sorrow by being over-productive and serious about life. At the very least, I was striving for meaning and self discipline, while she was the exact opposite. I cannot see in any way or form, how her life is meaningful. Perhaps she is lost, for she appears to be, but also deeply disillusioned by her belief that she would combat her depression with a lack of self control and a complete shirking off of all responsibility.

    I do not have the right to presume that meaning for certain people centred around a complete lack of responsibility and just “fun” is wrong. But to me, it seems that this philosophy does not produce long lasting or effective contentment in life whatsoever. It may be a short term solution, but frankly do not witness anything truly positively transformative about my mum’s life choices. She is just succumbing to the demon, and letting him control her with strings like a puppet. It seems effortless (and why not? since happiness should be effortless, right?). I suppose for my mum, she derives happiness from a lack of inhibition to do what she desires. But to do what is merely desirable - constantly and without reservation is the very definition of human sin or the lack of balance or adherence to a balanced life. It goes against the saying ‘everything should be taken in moderation’

    To act without reservation is to let unconscious forces control you and run your life, rather than to take menacing forces by the horns and steer it in the appropriate direction.

    I believe in myths. I believe in balance. I believe that a balance of ‘fun’ and ‘discipline’ is an essential fact of life. I believe in ‘good’ and I believe in ‘bad’, and I believe that the two need to be controlled in equal amount. Feeling the emergence of both is easy but maintaining the balance is hard - it is like balancing on a tight rope, and few are actually able to walk across it.

    So, the question is: Is Hedonism a bad philosophical stance to take in reaction to Existentialism? If it isn't, how is it justified?
  • SethRy

    To begin, the reason why us human beings know pleasure, is because we experience pain. Now, the reason why pain resurfaces intermittently, and likewise for pleasure, varies from experience. Experience for each of us is a prevalent factor for our Self-Actualization.

    Moreover, when we are born to this world, we begin to acquire developmental concepts in our minds, inherently. These mindful concepts are labelled intuitions, an example would be Time and Space. It's not sensible, therefore not empirical — it's not by assumptions either, so not rational; so it must be isolated, it must be instantaneous. These intuitions drives our directions of life, another prevalent factor for our Self-Actualization.

    Lastly, our moral values. Our moral values are initialized by the last two factors, objectivity and subjectivity. But likewise, they affect our intuitions, but indirectly our experiences. Like how a Jewish person by intuition would not eat pork, and by experience they don't know what pork tastes like.

    To conclude, this systematic cycle of Maslow's Self-Actualization activates our approach to life. Whether it be nihilism, pursuit of Eudamonia, or dedicating your life to theism, that's self-Actualization.

    Is Hedonism a bad philosophical stance to take in reaction to Existentialism? If it isn't, how is it justified?Jenn

    To answer that question...

    It would be conditional on Self-Actualization. Hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, does not necessarily imply having to perpetrate or condone immorality, like: sexual assault because you felt like it, or stealing that EB games gift card because you wanted to get RDR2. Self-Actualization is not immorality. So perhaps for as much as hedonist motivations are still ethical or moral, then it should be alright.

    Because pleasure, in my premise of experience, varies for each person, yours can be productivity and hard-work, whilst your mum's can be chocolate, relaxation, or winter-nights with a campfire and marshmallows. WE are all different, and if we are not, the world would be really boring.

    I am willing to further expound things, but I do hope I answered your question. I also hope you live a life that you're in pursuit of. Welcome to the Philosophy Forum :D
  • Judaka

    I agree with your characterisation of hedonism as lacking meaning and not being an appropriate response to nihilism. Obligation, responsibility, progress, belonging and the ego are examples of things that give meaning to life. The problem with hedonism is that it doesn't tell you why you're needed, why you're important and what you're good for. That doesn't mean you can't have pleasure or do pleasurable things and of course, a balance is necessary.
  • I like sushi
    I think people’s reactions to “existential” issues is down to their personality. I don’t really think logical thought plays a big part in this process as the underlying problem is the inherent discovery of a “lack of reason/meaning” thus disarming the logical faculties.

    Eventually people either skirt around the problem having fleetingly swam in its dark waters, others drown, and some manage to recreate their disposition toward life in general. I think it takes a certain attitude to delve into such business head-long.

    When the time comes you’re on your own. Logical reasoning may very well be a useful crutch to grasp for some, whilst for others it will ruin them.

    Nihilism, hedonism, absurdism or any of the other more common responses to such inward thought are all of some necessary use - but some hold fast to them too long and unlearn how to learn anything new (or so it would seem; resulting in madness and horror.)
  • Be Kind
    I have no firm grasp of those 2 approaches so i hope you wouldnt mind this following questions.

    1. Is this discussion more about immediate gratification vs future goal?
    2. where would you, Jenn, assign meaning/truth is it part of who you are or is it something outside yourself?
    3.What are those 2 approaches says about meaning and truth?
    4, What does 2 approaches says about each other?

    as i get older i find it hard to take this concept of truth as i used to when i was younger.
    if i think truth is the invaluable conclusion of some premises meaning a deduction processes (like math) that means that the premises themselves are need to be true....it just seems pointless. to me at least.
  • Fooloso4
    The term hedonism has no single meaning. What many today think of as hedonism is not what the early proponents of hedonism such as Aristippus of Cyrene (a student of Socrates) and Epicurus would have considered hedonism. The reason is that if an activity in the pursuit of pleasure leads to pain then it fails to accomplish the goal of a life of pleasure, for such a life strives to avoid pain. The hedonist is not a slave to pleasure, for this brings pain.
  • Be Kind
    Hi Fooloso4.

    so what is pain? physical pain? negative emotions? if i manage to live life without it. does that mean I live a hedonistic life?
  • Fooloso4

    It can be physical or emotional or intellectual pain and troubles, a lack of tranquility or equanimity.

    Whether or not you live a hedonistic life has to do with how you live. Someone who for medical reasons does not feel pain or lacks emotion does not thereby live a hedonistic life.
  • Be Kind
    Im a bit confuse now.

    What is the current agreement on what hedonism is right now?
    What was the agreement then?
    What do you think it is?
  • Fooloso4
    What is the current agreement on what hedonism is right now?Be Kind

    There is no current agreement.
    There was no agreement then.
    I am aware that when someone speaks of hedonism he might mean something different than someone else who uses the term. If I were to defend a form of hedonism it would not be a defense of the indiscriminate pursuit of pleasure.
  • Be Kind
    got to ask then. what was the purpose of your first comment?
  • Fooloso4
    what was the purpose of your first comment?Be Kind

    The one about the term having different meanings? There were different schools of hedonism and I think these philosophers had some very interesting and to today's ears surprisingly sober things to say. Even those who like Plato and Aristotle spoke out against hedonism embraced a form of hedonism, that is to say, they recognized the value of pleasure and the variety of pleasures.

    With Christianity, specifically Paul and Augustine, anything that had to do with the body was sin and so hedonism came to mean something morally suspect.

    Some today think of hedonism as being enslaved by pleasure, but, in fact, the philosophy of hedonism is about just the opposite.
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