Rand’s definition is not stipulative, and it doesn’t just accord “with the sloppy common usage of the term”; it is consistent with the common definition. My Webster’s defines hedonism as “The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life”. The OED defines hedonism as “The doctrine or theory of ethics in which pleasure is regarded as the chief good, or the proper end of action.” The earliest citation of the use of the word is given as 1856 SEELYE tr. Schwegler's Hist. Philos. (1864) 71 Hedonism, the philosophical doctrine of the Cyreneans that pleasure is the chief good. In the Objectivist Ethics, Rand defined hedonists as those who declare that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure”.But you here illustrate my point precisely. All three of your definitions of hedonism agree precisely with mine, the "doctrine that the purpose of life is pleasure". This precisely invalidates Rand's definition, because Rand tacks on to this notion the concept that anyone who values pleasure qua pleasure must value their current experiences uncritically. Yet this quietly sweeps under the carpet the possibility of someone whose purpose is pleasure but does not judge pleasure by "whatever".
For instance, as a hedonist, one thing I hold as very important is the experience of the breadth of human possibilities, and an attempt to understand through participation the value of many different types of life. This is clearly defensible on hedonistic grounds, yet it is incompatible with the pursuit of "whatever gives you pleasure", which implies a contentment with one's current experience. I am after the greatest possible experience of pleasure, not after the greatest pleasure I currently experience. The first does not imply the second; in fact ultimately I think it conflicts with it.
The quote in VOS is: “’Happiness’ can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. … To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that ‘the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure’ is to declare that ‘the proper value is whatever you happen to value’.”
Valuing whatever one happens to value is irrational, but precisely on hedonistic grounds. A person who does not use reason to understand the nature of pleasure; as a tool to understand what life will be most pleasurable; who does not make use of all their powers in the investigation of experiences, is not much of hedonist. Such a person is simply a fool.
The egoist who tramples others' rights is foolish because an intelligent estimation of one's interest emphasizes friendship and trade, not coercion. Similarly, an intelligent hedonist emphasizes reason, forethought, and curiosity, because contentment with whatever one feels is precisely not trying for the most pleasure in life. A lover of wealth is innovative and reflective in regards to commerce; a lover of pleasure is similarly innovative and reflective in regards to pleasure.
As a hedonist, I am open to criticisms of my life or course of action that indicate I could live a more pleasurable life by pursuing a different path. What I am not open to- and could care less about- is whether my life embodies some external ideal of 'man qua man'. I am interested in how my factual existence as a homo sapiens may influence my intelligent pursuit of pleasure, but I do not look for a source of ethics in teleology. Such, in my experience, is an invitation to guilt and unhappiness, restraint and self-doubt. Greatness to me lies in stunning achievements that take one to new worlds yet unsighted, not in regular oak-in-acorns waiting to become yet one more adult in thew sturdiness of the species. And that greatness itself is not a demand of 'man's nature', but a knowledge of immense pleasure possible for me to experience directly and indirectly- and that is the only reason to pursue it.
You are using the term hedonism in the classical sense, but that means that you are the one who is stipulating a definition. When people today refer to liberals, they don’t mean “classical liberals”. So, when someone says that “liberals are idiots”, it is not fair to argue that they’re wrong because they’re using the term incorrectly. [paragraph resequenced for criticism]
I don't see why using "hedonism", within a philosophical context, according to the term's meaning in ethical philosophy, is stipulative. As all of your definitions state repeatedly, hedonism is simply the ethical position that pleasure is the goal of life. This is my position too, but I refuse the package deal which indicates that those who live for pleasure must do so irrationally or unthinkingly. This is just as irrational as the similar package deal that egoism, "concern for one's own interests", involves a particular characterization of the nature of one's interests.
And in both cases precisely the same purpose is served. Associating egoism with callousness and brutality paves the way for altruism; Associating hedonism with mindlessness and short-sightedness paves the way for the Protestant Ethic.
The problem with Rand's use of the term hedonism is that while she defines hedonism as a certain irrational approach to value, Objectivism following her then proceeds to condemn all sorts of particular sensualities associated with the term 'hedonism' as irrational by the same brush, even through there is exactly zero logical correlation between, say, 'casual' sex and the use of illegal drugs and subjectivist motives for their use.
And far worse, Objectivism continually sets up a false alternative- among those who pursue happiness, one is either a mindless whim-worshipper, or one regards pleasure as an instrumental or celebratory value to something else- productive work- to be pursued as the centerpiece of one's life. I personally find it insane that a supposedly egoistic philosophy graces the often unimaginative, toiling, conformist American middle class with the halo of virtue, yet sneers down its nose at the young, the countercultural, and the artistic who pursue happiness shamelessly for its own sake. The reason for this atrocity is Objectivism's teleology- specifically the view that pleasure is justifiable as a reward to or a fuel for productive work, but pursued in itself is simply without purpose.
Yet this kind of purpose is nothing but a phantom. True creative work may indeed be the wondrous pleasure Objectivism claims it is, yet I see no evidence whatsoever that every happiness, from a snowball fight to an evening discussing philosophy, to all the subtle touches of color and passion and brilliance in life belong to this essential theme or nature. I think honestly clearly shows that happiness can be pursued in a broad plurality of experiences, of which purpose and productive work is but a part.
And I repeatedly notice, in Objectivist circles, that having a 'productive purpose' in one's life is morally scrutinized. The result is that the student out of college spending a few years bumming around Europe for the sake of pleasure in frowned upon, while the the office-drone insurance salesman is considered moral. There is nothing in a morality of happiness to sustain this, which leads me to conclude that in Objectivism the end has been devoured by the means to happiness. Or worse, that a lot of people attracted to Objectivism always had more loyalty to the Protestant Ethic than to passionate individual happiness.
To dedicate life to productive work, instead of productive work to life, is a monstrosity, a grotesque living of life for a triumphant 'success', 'control, 'effiency', 'achievement' that is a means devouring an end. There certainly exist in life such persons whose dispositions suggest they specialize their route to happiness in an instrumental life oriented towards achievement, and I have no need for anger with them. But such life-sustenance and life-maintenance is not in the end the best picture of life itself, which in each consciousness and passion exists for no other end. I know no abstract 'human nature' to idolize and idealize other than the capacity for ecstasy on Earth. The intelligent and efficient use of reason is necessary for that life; it is necessary in the intelligent pursuit of pleasure; its use is itself one of the greatest pleasure; the practical use of reason in instrumental production is one plausible orientation and form a pleasurable life can take. But it is secondary and dependent. One begins and ends with the song sung in its own joy. 'What for' asked as the first question it an infinite regress of purpose for purpose's sake.
Such is teleology; the ethic of life-sustaining and -expanding action posessed as primary, instead of life itself.
I choose hedonism.
Do you believe, as a hedonist, that there are any irrational pleasures?
As such, no. There are pleasures irrational to pursue in context because they preclude greater pleasures; there are undeveloped pleasures; there are pleasures 'package-dealed' with elements destructive, directly or indirectly, of one's pleasure; there are pleasures in which the pleasurable element is inarticulate and the object of pursuit is itself neither pleasurable nor rational. There are experiences whose pleasure, once understood, can be found better elsewhere. But no pleasure qua pleasure is irrational to pursue, no.
Jeanine Ring )(*)( - "not all those who wander are lost"
What the mythologies never tell aloud is that Sisyphus was never chained to his rock. That was uneccesary. Rather, the gods whispered into his ear and constructed him that he could experience himself only in the object he could push to the heights. The rest- the eternal labors, the pain, the sweating and stress, the spectacle of naked futility- simply followed naturally. We who read know he is in the Underworld; but Sisyphus looks up from his tortured brow and expects up the slope of Tartarus the pathway to heaven....
(Edited by Jeanine Ring on 11/28, 11:22am)