Ethical and Psychological Hedonism Essay

Ethical and Psychological Hedonism Essay

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Ethical hedonism and psychological hedonism are two of the more studied versions of hedonism. These two theories are similar at their foundations (soon to be discussed) but when defined in terms of values, one is descriptive and the other is normative. Neither ethical nor psychological hedonism is perfect, I believe, though each has important strengths which offer the basis for discussion. Additionally, some arguments and ideas presented by Robert Nozick in his essay “The Experience Machine” prove relevant to the discussion of hedonism, where Nozick concludes by disagreeing with the hedonist’s ideas. I will start by defining the two versions of hedonism so far presented and follow this up by exploring my own personal views of two branches, paying attention to what they each say about values and pursuing pleasures. To conclude, Nozick’s essay will be considered for its value to our discussion. In considering what separates ethical and psychological hedonism, I agree with Nozick that we value more than the strict experiences of pleasure, meaning hedonism does not offer me enough to be persuaded, though I disagree with him that an experience machine would go unused.
The terminology in question must be defined in order to be properly critiqued. Ethical hedonism is the belief that humans ought to be able to pursue pleasure as their own highest good. More than that, ethical hedonism states that to gain the most personal pleasure, a person is within their right to make their pleasure a priority. Thus, each individual ought to put all his efforts into ensuring his pleasure and minimizing his pain. There are multiple ways to extrapolate this definition, including branching into questioning what ought to be a person’s ultimate end. The que...


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...lso believe, though, that no hedonism is perfect. Like Nozick, I think that there are more values than strictly experiencing pleasure. Perhaps pleasure is one overall result but not the only thing valuable to people. I disagree with his overall conclusion that an experience machine would go unused, though I do agree with Nozick that hedonism is not sufficient on its own.



Works Cited

Epicurus. “Letter to Menoeceus.” Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. Eds.
Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie. New York: Oxford UP, 200. 178-180. Print.
Feinberg, Joel. “Psychological Egoism.” Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. Eds.
Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. 548-555. Print.
Frankena, William K. Ethics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973. Print.
Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic, 1974. Print.

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