It is not a secret that everyone strives to enrich his life with pleasures. Everyone enjoys his cozy house, fast car and fancy clothes. Material values are very considerable in our life. However, the majority of people think that spiritual values are more important. Although they appreciate their luxurious life, they love their family most of all. They read books and believe in God enlightening their mind and soul. Material values are subordinate to them. In fact, there are people who put material values on the top of their pleasures. They believe that material is more vital than spiritual. This philosophy is called hedonism.
Hedonism is the philosophical branch of ethics that considers physical and material pleasure to be the primary condition of happiness. According to Epicurus hedonism is used for the description of materialistic, mercenary and selfish viewpoint. As you see, this branch of ethics is very old and dates back to the dawn of Western Civilization. Aristippus of Cyrus is supposed to be the founder of ethical hedonism. This student of Socrates claimed that physical pleasure is the highest value. Aristippus defines two major conditions of human soul. The first one is pleasure. The second one is pain. Pleasure is something soft and tender. Pain is something rough and impulsive. Aristippus does not differentiate the types of pleasure whereas they are similar. According to the philosopher the main key to happiness is the prevention of pain. The meaning of life is physical pleasure.
One of the prominent supporters of utilitarianism Henry Sidgwick described the main features and types of hedonism in the 19th century. He differentiated ethical and psychological hedonism. Psychological hedonism is supposed to be a natural desire of a human being to provide her life with pleasure. No one wants to live in poverty and misery. Every living organism requires pleasure. What is more, people strive to increase the quantity of their pleasure. It is possible to say that the only motivation of human activity is the increase of pleasure and reduction of pain and disappointment. Ethical hedonism is based on the belief that a human being should long for pleasure. She should long for her personal or universal pleasure. In simple words, ethical hedonism is a more altruistic position.
I dare say that hedonism is a very controversial and complex branch of ethics. On the one hand, a human being is satisfied when she has unlimited access towards the required goods. On the other hand, a human being can be tired of the excess of pleasure. Although she has everything, she is dissatisfied. Thus, according to Epicurus, one should limit himself in order to obtain more satisfaction and pleasure. This ancient statement is relevant today. Many people notice that previous generations were much happier though they were poorer and suffered from the lack of technologies and basic goods and services. For instance our parents were happier through they did not possess smartphones, computers and brand new technologies. They were satisfied with the simple things they had. They were more open and communicative. Human relations were tighter. One can claim that people become more selfish and egotistic with every new generation. They possess more material values but they are becoming less and less happy.
In addition, there is a paradox. When we try to supply ourselves with numerous material values, we cause harm to our own health and happiness. For example, when we buy many automobiles, we pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, we cause harm to our health whereas we breathe in the polluted air. Luxury kills us. Secondly, we have access towards food. We consume plenty of food every day and suffer from overweight. Therefore, we satisfy our desire with food but this food causes harm to us reducing our pleasure. In this case, pleasure is obtained through the implementation of the mentioned statement of Epicurus. We should eat less and limit our appetites to be healthy and happy. We must not overload ourselves with material values if we want to be pleased. Thus, the main idea of hedonists contradicts its supporters. They believe in the priority of the material values though the excess of these values reduces happiness and satisfaction.
Hedonism is a popular and disputable philosophical branch of ethics. Modern generation is supposed to live according to the norms of hedonism inasmuch as material values have become more important than spiritual ones. However, the excess of material goods does not make modern people happy.
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