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Essay:  An essay on hedonism and the principle of pleasure by J. Valentine

I was a bit taken back when a friend called me a ‘hedonist.’  I visualised one of those weird Hedonism Honeymoon Holidays in my mind where everybody swings and walks around naked.  If I am honest, I was a bit insulted actually.

I am no slut I thought in my head.  After my friend walked away I gave what she said a bit more thought.  Well, I guess I could have been considered a slut a long time ago, but she didn’t know me then.  How would she know?  I have never told anyone half of the stuff I used to get up to.  I came to the conclusion that this word ‘hedonism’ must have meant something else.

So, I looked the word up.  Good old faithful, Wikipedia, told me that

            “Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure   (pleasure minus pain).  Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the  right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person’s pleasure should far surpass his or her amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have  been started by a student of Socrates, Aristippus of Cyrene.  He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.”


Reflecting upon this clear and concise definition of hedonism I think to myself; uh, why the hell not?  Why wouldn’t I want to feel good all of the time?  Who on Earth would ever want to feel bad?  Am I seeing pleasure all of the time?  I would say that I don’t, but I sure don’t go looking for pain either.

I see good in the innocence through a child’s eye and by watching the wagging tail of my boy Beagle.  I find pleasure in watching an enlightening film that expands my mind and pleasure in sitting on the couch under a fluffy blanket.  Are these what would be classified as hedonistic traits?

Aristippus of Cyrene would claim that all men should eat and drink to their fullest and health aside I do agree.  I take much pleasure in eating good food and drinking nice wine or beer (or 2 for 1 cocktails with my girlfriends if you must know), but are those traits solely of someone who is considered a hedonist?

Sigmund Freud had a similar theory called The Pleasure Principle.  Wikipedia defines:

“The id is the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human’s basic, instinctual drives. Id is the only component of personality that is present from birth. The id is the part of the mind containing the drives present at birth; it is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives. The id operates according to the pleasure principle, the psychic force that motivates the tendency to seek immediate gratification of any impulse. The id contains the libido, which is the primary source of instinctual force that is unresponsive to the demands of reality. The id acts according to the “pleasure principle”, seeking to avoid pain or un-pleasure (not ‘displeasure’) aroused by increases in instinctual tension. If the mind was solely guided by the id, individuals would find it difficult to wait patiently at a restaurant, while feeling hungry, and would most likely grab food off of neighbouring tables.”

Obviously, this is an easy theory to pick on.  We are all born with the innate desire to thrive.  So, of course we are going to ‘want,’ ‘want,’ want,’ food and comfort when we are born.  And, then there is good old life that shapes us into needing less or needing more. 

I wanted to note that I am an American-Italian.  And, when we don’t eat we do get a bit crabby.  My family and I have a little joke.  We say ‘I’m getting low blood sugar.’  In translation, that means if you don’t feed me now, I am going to completely and utterly have a major meltdown.

I would not say I ‘seek’ pleasure because pleasure is all around me.  It is the little things in life that make me feel good and happy.  If I want to feel happy and good 99% of the time of my living life, than why shouldn’t I allowed to be?  Why am I labelled or judged because I don’t embrace struggle or pain or better yet, why am I judged if I am happy or smiling?

As much as I want to fit in with the majority of the ‘reserved’ people in Britain I don’t want to take on any of their characteristics.  Nor, do I want to be judged of being a pleasure seeker if I am going to be seen in a negative way.  But, as we live in such a culture where it is presumed to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ To keep calm and carry on is glorified and of course if someone likes to feel good they will be made to feel shunned.  As an American living in Britain I have learned how to keep happiness and sadness tucked away inside my thick, long woolly jumper.  I have unlearned everything that I have learned living in New York.

In New York I learned to be free.  Feel free.  Be happy.  Be happy with myself and others.  We are great pleasure seekers.  We eat what we want.  We drink what we want.  We love who we want.  And, we are not judged.  We behave how we want and we are not judged.  I am still trying to find out why it is not a compliment to be hedonistic.  If one is truly happy when seeking pleasure and feeling good is pleasurable, than surly everyone would want to feel this way?

Or is this just the attitude of a hedonist?

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