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Hedonism is a theory that asserts the aspect of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure are the only components of wellbeing. Under this theory, pleasure is understood from a broad perspective. This is to say that it tends to include all the pleasant experiences or feelings. This includes contentment, enjoyment, gratification, joy, love, gratitude, delight, and gladness among others.  Pain on the other hand revolves around agony, ache, anxiety, boredom, depression, desperation, dislike, fear, hurting, and sadness among many others. Both pain and pleasure can exist in the form of being attitudinal or physical.

Hedonism considers pain to be aversive simply because of its experiential quality. Take an example where something bad is done to someone, but they never get to find about it. This person will not feel any form of pain or feel bad about themselves. Given that he/she did not find about it, they would continue experiencing pleasure the same way that they would have if the bad things had not been said about them.

There is a belief among hedonists that when a person fails in a project,  this aspect does not reduce their welfare. This is because the welfare of an individual is solely determined by how someone’s life feels from the inside (Shafer-Landau, 2014). The way a person’s life feels from the inside is determined partly by whether they believe their desires have been actualized. The feelings are not necessarily determined by whether the desires have really been actualized.

According to hedonism, people who believe that they have attained a certain desire even when they have not done so, in reality, are likely to feel satisfied with their life(Shafer-Landau, 2014). Hedonists consider this satisfaction to be the most important type of pleasure.

Happiness is deemed a sufficient ingredient to make a good life. The moment a person is happy, hedonism assumes that the person’s life is going well. The happier someone is, the better their quality of life, and the opposite goes to being unhappy. This is to say that it is only happiness that is intrinsically good to people (Shafer-Landau, 2015). Something will only improve one’s life to the extent that it makes them happy. As a result, it is safe to say that it is only unhappiness that is intrinsically bad for people.

Nozick is among the people that have worked to criticize hedonism. He did this by giving an example of an “experience machine.” It is an imagination that scientists are able to come up with a brilliant technology referred to as the “experience machine.” The machine works in the sense that an individual walks into a lab and explains to the staff there about everything they have wanted to do in life. The person ends up describing the perfect, joyous, and most satisfying life that they would want.

The person is them put in a comma and their body submerged in a fluid tank while the head is covered with electrodes. Once the simulation begins everything that the person explained, they get to experience, and there is no memory that they are in the experience machine and neither is there knowledge that this is only a simulation. The person experiences their perfect life, but none of it is real in actual sense and the person would never experience the actual world again nor interact with real people, but this is something one would not know since they would feel like they did. The question was that if such a machine existed, would people do it?

Nozick asserts that if hedonism was true, everybody would choose to be plugged into the machine. He argues that most people would not agree with this. According to Nozick, there are things that people value more than pleasure. Having pleasure for the sake of having it would leave people lacking some important things. A lot of people tend to have a suspicion that in case the life they are living is fake, their lives would have been deprived of something important.

In my opinion, I think that Nozick is right. Very few people if any would endorse the thought of lying around unconscious for the rest of their lives while missing out on everything else happening in real life. The fact that before people get plugged in already know what is happening, it is apparent what is going to be experienced is more of an illusion. It can equate to the dreams that people normally have on a day to day basis. The moment people wake up it is all over. The only way to remain in this state is not waking up, and ensure that the dream continues. People also like having a free will. Yes, in the experience machine an individual is free to choose the experiences that they want to encounter, but the problem is that these experiences are pre-determined.

Another aspect that I agree with Novick is that of criticizing hedonism theory. With hedonism, people only consider their pleasure when making choices. As a result, it cannot be a favorable guide for morality since it tends to ignore all the other values like fairness and freedom while evaluating what is wrong and what is right. In the process of trying to experience pleasure, people might indulge in pleasurable actions that in return are not pleasurable to other people. This would result in them feeling as being pained hence resulting in unhappiness, which beats the logic of hedonism. There is no anytime everyone would be happy. There are people who derive pleasure from hurting others.

The premise that pleasure is the ultimate goal means that people should strive to do those things that bring the happiness regardless of other inherent effects. It is a theory that looks pretty simple at first glance. People can lie in bed all day long, eat what they want, and treat others rudely since it gives them pleasure. Are things really that simple? No. There are some pleasures that are likely to go sour after some time. An example is where you eat too much candy because it makes you feel good. It gives you the pleasure since it makes you happy. According to hedonism, you are supposed to continue with this act due to the pleasure being derived. You are enjoying the candy right now, but later it might result in a terrible stomach-ache. In the long-run, the teeth are even likely to rot away. As a result, behaving “hedonistically” eventually will most likely result in more pain compared to the pleasure derived.

Works Cited

Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals Of Ethics. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2014.

Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Ethical Life. Oxford University Press, 2015.