• TheMadFool
    7.3k
    To begin with, we have the theory of evolution whose principle is simply the preservation and possibly enhancement of traits that possess survival value by way of the imposition of selection pressure from the environment. Add to this the fact that all traits that we possess have a genetic basis, arising through the process of genetic mutation.

    If you accept the above as true then it must follow that pleasure seeking and the avoidance of suffering, basically hedonism has a survival advantage. The hedonistic drive aids in the survival of our species and maybe even all organisms that can feel pleasure and pain. However, this situation knocks down pleasure and pain as forming ultimate, final ends and having intrinsic value as some moral theories like consequentialism suggests. It's not that pleasure and pain have intrinsic value; on the contrary they're simply means, i.e. posses only instrumental value, for the real objective of life - survival.

    In short, the theory of evolution, if it does anything at all, proves that hedonism's fundamental principle that pleasure and pain have intrinsic value is false. For instance, if it so happens that the environmental selection pressure affecting us is one that favors neither pleasure nor pain then the world would become one in which hedonism would be false.

    I'm not saying that given things as they are that hedonism is inapplicable to living in our world. It full well does but only because we've evolved that way, our survival being intimately linked to pleasure and pain. However, my issue with philosophies that are dependent of hedonism like consequentialist moral theory is that happiness (pleasure seeking and pain avoiding) in and of itself doesn't posses intrinsic value; our hedonistic nature serves only as a means to ensuring our survival, survival being the one and only thing that has any intrinsic value at all.
  • Tzeentch
    798
    However, this situation knocks down pleasure and pain as forming ultimate, final ends and having intrinsic value as some moral theories like consequentialism suggests. It's not that pleasure and pain have intrinsic value; on the contrary they're simply means, i.e. posses only instrumental value, for the real objective of life - survival.TheMadFool

    It's an interesting question you pose.

    The first question that comes to my mind is, why couldn't it be both?
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    It's an interesting question you pose.

    The first question that comes to my mind is, why couldn't it be both?
    Tzeentch

    Whaddaya mean "both"? :chin:
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    Hedonism, especially the "pleasure seeking" part of it...is so essential to human survival...that without it, there would be no human life. In fact, it appears that without it (pleasure seeking)...there would be no animal life at all.

    Not sure if that was what you were trying to say (your thesis got a bit convoluted)...but if it was, I agree with you.
  • Tzeentch
    798
    Both intrinsic and instrumental?
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Hedonism, especially the "pleasure seeking" part of it...is so essential to human survival...that without it, there would be no human life. In fact, it appears that without it (pleasure seeking)...there would be no animal life at all.

    Not sure if that was what you were trying to say (your thesis got a bit convoluted)...but if it was, I agree with you.
    Frank Apisa

    I was just wondering about suicide, which is generally associated with unhappiness. If suicide is pain-driven then it seems to indicate that survival per se isn't what we seek in our hearts. Living is not just survival as I've heard people say and what constitutes the difference? Well, happiness (seek pleasure, avoid pain) of course.

    Isn't it true then that happiness has a value, if not at par with, then more than mere survival? Some of us would rather not live than suffer pain. If we give people the options of death and suffering, people will probably opt out of life - preferring nonexistence to a life of suffering and pain. Doesn't this indicate then that unlike animals driven by very basic biological needs, mere survival just isn't enough for humans; we desire a life, meaning what someone implies when s/he says "get a life!" and this for sure implies be happy, not sad.

    How do we explain suicide then within the framework of a theory that demotes happiness from something of intrinsic worth to one of only instrumental value? In my humble opinion, suicide actually proves rather than disproves the claim that our hedonistic proclivity serves as a means to survival for the simple reason that without this essential vehicle, hedonism, life isn't possible and hence suicide. The situation is analogous to the need for water for plant growth, here water corresponding to happiness and plant growth to survival. Yes, plants need water for survival, just as we need happiness to live, and without water plants die just as suicide occurs when people are unhappy but that doesn't mean water has an intrinsic value apart from its use to grow plants. Similarly, happiness is of value insofar as it sustains life and lacks value in and of itself.
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    I'll get back to you on this. Gotta go see my aunt in rehab. She is not cooperating enough with the staff to even sit up in bed. She's 93 and broke her hip in a fall last week. The only words she seems willing to speak are, "I want to die. Please let me die. I do not want this pain."

    It is not a pleasant visit...and because of rehab regs, it will be short. (I may go back tonight.)

    Just thought the mention was worthwhile, considering your question.

    FOR ME...(I'm 83)...I am delighted with life and happen to be especially lucky. Things just seem to break right for me most of the time. But when it is obvious things are over...especially if living in pain and a loss of dignity, I intend to cancel my own ticket, so to speak. I'll more than likely do it the way so many do...stop eating.

    I see it as a reasonable thing to do.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    I'll get back to you on this. Gotta go see my aunt in rehab. She is not cooperating enough with the staff to even sit up in bed. She's 93 and broke her hip in a fall last week. The only words she seems willing to speak are, "I want to die. Please let me die. I do not want this pain."

    It is not a pleasant visit...and because of rehab regs, it will be short. (I may go back tonight.)

    Just thought the mention was worthwhile, considering your question.

    FOR ME...(I'm 83)...I am delighted with life and happen to be especially lucky. Things just seem to break right for me most of the time. But when it is obvious things are over...especially if living in pain and a loss of dignity, I intend to cancel my own ticket, so to speak. I'll more than likely do it the way so many do...stop eating.

    I see it as a reasonable thing to do.
    Frank Apisa

    Sorry to hear that. I hope it all turns out ok and there's nothing serious. Good Luck.
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    Hey, MadFool.

    (Back from the blackness of someone who has given up on life...and just wants to die.)

    As far as suicide is concerned, I agree in part with your initial comment, "...which is generally associated with unhappiness..."

    However, there is a component I really did not see covered in your discourse.

    "Resignation!"

    There are times when people come to a position where "the end" is in obvious sight...but "pain" (as you mentioned) is such an extreme part of the "until the end comes"...that a quick finish is the hedonistic thing to do. (Yeah, that seems like a stretch, but I suspect it is not.)

    My aunt, for instance, knows that death is near. She will not cooperate with the rehab people, even to the point of sitting up...or doing the most basic of exercises, like wiggling toes or fingers.

    She wants death to come as quickly as possible...and if possible, in her own home. (Hers IS the result of unhappiness.)

    I'm going to try to arrange that. She has a 24/7 care-giver that is on leave since she entered the rehab clinic. I'm going to see if we can simply move her back home, bring back the care giver...and let the end game play out there. (Medicine administration may be an impediment, but I think we can work our way through that.)

    My aunt is not a hedonist, but I certain come very close to qualifying. I'm a very lucky guy...and most of what I want does not involve having big bucks (which I do not!)...and if I ever get to the state where my aunt is...I will want to die quickly. And my "hedonism" will play a big part in that.

    Is my point clear?
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Resignation!"Frank Apisa


    Do you mean that your aunt wishes to end her life because of resignation? What do you mean by that? Was it the suffering that brought on this state of her mind or was it something else?

    How does resignation differ from suffering-induced compulsion to end one's own life?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    a lot of people mistake evolutionary biology for a philosophy.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    a lot of people mistake evolutionary biology for a philosophy.Wayfarer

    Coherence theory of truth?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    no, nothing like that. It's more a consequence of history - the discovery of evolutionary biology occupying the vacuum left by the abandonment of religion. So, as philosopher of science Michael Ruse argues, evolutionary theory becomes a kind of de-facto secular religion. But notice in your own OP, the assumption that the only real aim is 'survival advantage' - which of course is perfectly sound from the perspective of biology, as it's concerned with how animals survive and proliferate. But when applied to the sphere of ethics, which I think you're doing, it's a kind of category error. I mean, it really amounts to a species of utilitarianism, doesn't it? That the only yardstick is that of surviving?
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    TheMadFool
    4.8k
    Resignation!"
    — Frank Apisa


    Do you mean that your aunt wishes to end her life because of resignation? What do you mean by that? Was it the suffering that brought on this state of her mind or was it something else?

    How does resignation differ from suffering-induced compulsion to end one's own life?
    TheMadFool

    By "resignation" I meant to convey the notion of "being resigned to pain or death"...and she seems to be choosing death.

    That side of my family has always been the glass-half-empty side. My Mother was probably the only one who did not indulge in woe-is-me thinking 24/7.

    I hope my aunt can pull herself together, but I also realize that life will not be easy for someone in their 90's who will be at very least marginally impaired for walking. We oldsters don't repair very easily.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    By "resignation" I meant to convey the notion of "being resigned to pain or death"...and she seems to be choosing death.

    That side of my family has always been the glass-half-empty side. My Mother was probably the only one who did not indulge in woe-is-me thinking 24/7.

    I hope my aunt can pull herself together, but I also realize that life will not be easy for someone in their 90's who will be at very least marginally impaired for walking. We oldsters don't repair very easily.
    Frank Apisa

    :up: What does choosing death over pain have to do with what I said about hedonism?
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    no, nothing like that. It's more a consequence of history - the discovery of evolutionary biology occupying the vacuum left by the abandonment of religion. So, as philosopher of science Michael Ruse argues, evolutionary theory becomes a kind of de-facto secular religion. But notice in your own OP, the assumption that the only real aim is 'survival advantage' - which of course is perfectly sound from the perspective of biology, as it's concerned with how animals survive and proliferate. But when applied to the sphere of ethics, which I think you're doing, it's a kind of category error. I mean, it really amounts to a species of utilitarianism, doesn't it? That the only yardstick is that of surviving?Wayfarer

    Although I keep an open mind, if you listen to most science communicators, evolution is considered a scientific fact. Despite the possibility that some of our traits may not have evolved through selection pressure, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to deny that a certain trait doesn't give us a edge in the race for survival. For instance consider the most problematic trait, in terms of difficulty in providing an evolutionary explanation, that humans possess, the trait that antagonizes the so-called selfish gene, viz. altruism. What is the survival advantage in a trait that puts others first? Yet, the problem of altruism is solved if you consider that the individual is subordinate to the group in terms of importance and self-sacrifice has selfish motives if you really look at it. What we see here is the highest form of moral good, altruism, adequately explained in terms of evolutionary theory. What of the rest of morality? Surely, everything about life is explicable in terms of evolution. I don't see why you call it a category error.

    In light of the above, hedonism is not in the least difficult to explain in terms of evolution: there's little doubt that seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is aimed at survival.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    there's little doubt that seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is aimed at survival.TheMadFool

    There are so many ways that people can have pleasure and avoid pain that are not suited to optimal survival, though. Heroin to avoid pain, and overeating or promiscuous sex to gain pleasure come to mind. I think you mean “survival of the species”. As long as there is the right amount of promiscuousness, and the children live long enough and become healthy enough to become breeders, then the species will survive.

    As far as the category error that @Wayfarer was suggesting, survival of the species has very little to do with ethics. It is a bare minimum prerequisite for sure, but that’s all.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    There are so many ways that people can have pleasure and avoid pain that are not suited to optimal survival, though. Heroin to avoid pain, and overeating or promiscuous sex to gain pleasure come to mind. I think you mean “survival of the species”. As long as there is the right amount of promiscuousness, and the children live long enough and become healthy enough to become breeders, then the species will survive.

    As far as the category error that Wayfarer was suggesting, survival of the species has very little to do with ethics. It is a bare minimum prerequisite for sure, but that’s all.
    Noah Te Stroete

    What else could I mean by survival when I'm talking in terms of evolution? Thanks for pointing that out though.

    Why does survival of the species have very little to do with ethics?
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    Why does survival of the species have very little to do with ethics?TheMadFool

    It’s merely a prerequisite. Suppose you thought about what would be good for all living things, not just humans. Then you could logically conclude that humans are bad for other living things, and that we should all kill ourselves. That would surely be absurd to most people who think that people have intrinsic value (which they do have).

    Valuing individuals is at the heart of ethics. Of course, without the survival of the species, there would be no individuals. That is all that survival of the species has to do with ethics. Ethics deals with “how we should treat one another” (now that we find ourselves here due to survival of the species).
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Although I keep an open mind, if you listen to most science communicators, evolution is considered a scientific fact.TheMadFool

    of course it is. But that doesn't make it a philosophy.

    I have no beef with entomology or evolution, but I refuse to admit that they teach me much about ethics. Consider the fact that human action ranges to the extremes. People can perform extraordinary acts of altruism, including kindness toward other species — or they can utterly fail to be altruistic, even toward their own children. So whatever tendencies we may have inherited leave ample room for variation; our choices will determine which end of the spectrum we approach. This is where ethical discourse comes in — not in explaining how we’re “built,” but in deliberating on our own future acts. Should I cheat on this test? Should I give this stranger a ride? Knowing how my selfish and altruistic feelings evolved doesn’t help me decide at all. Most, though not all, moral codes advise me to cultivate altruism. But since the human race has evolved to be capable of a wide range of both selfish and altruistic behavior, there is no reason to say that altruism is superior to selfishness in any biological sense. — Richard Polt

    Anything but Human
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Valuing individuals is at the heart of ethicsNoah Te Stroete

    What would it mean for one, single individual, marooned on an unihabited island to be good? In the way I understand ethics, it's about how we treat others and that should involve the species, here standing for a group, don't you think?

    Morality is basically an attempt to discover and encourage behavior most conducive social harmony; the idea is to ensure the group (society) is an effective team with minimal infighting and sufficient amountf of TLC for its members. The individual, as we all know, usually lands up in a position wherein his/her interests come in conflict with group interests: Someone may want all the power and resources a community has but that's going to cause problems for the group - malcontented members of a tribe will not function at their full potential, will be uncooperative, even hostile, and eventually society will collapse and then it'll be every man for himself. You know how long a person can survive alone in the wilderness? Not too long I guess. So, I don't fully agree with you about morality valuing the individual if it means the group is valued less.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    But since the human race has evolved to be capable of a wide range of both selfish and altruistic behavior, there is no reason to say that altruism is superior to selfishness in any biological sense. — Richard Polt

    What evolutionary theory asserts is that there's nothing more important than transmitting your genes to your offspring. It's not that there are two things, selfishness and altruism; it's that they're both the same as far as evolution is concerned - one is more obvious, selfishness, but the other is more sophisticated, altruism.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    What would it mean for one, single individual, marooned on an unihabited island to be good? In the way I understand ethics, it's about how we treat others and that should involve the species, here standing for a group, don't you think?TheMadFool

    So, I don't fully agree with you about morality valuing the individual if it means the group is valued less.TheMadFool

    I didn’t say or mean this at all. I meant in how we treat individuals in our relationships. Even a marooned person has intrinsic value, but of course her ethics would only involve how she treated the ecosystem of the island. If she didn’t live in harmony with it, she would be immoral. That’s strictly my view, and I understand that it is the Western way to view the environment as something that is for the use of humanity.
  • Frank Apisa
    2.1k
    What does choosing death over pain have to do with what I said about hedonism?TheMadFool

    The question you asked of me...and which I was answering, was:

    "Do you mean that your aunt wishes to end her life because of resignation? What do you mean by that?"
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