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Should You Be Hedonistic?

Posted By: Randy GageApril 2, 2010

So we’ve been discussing the virtues of selfishness and in yesterday’s post I said that trying to make other people happy is dysfunctional craziness.   That leads us to the question of whether I am advocating Hedonism…

The philosophy of hedonism holds that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.   The psychology of hedonism holds that all behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.  I am most decidedly not advocating hedonism, and here’s why…

Simply lusting after pleasure all the time with no regard for the consequences won’t make us happy.  And will certainly lead to unhappiness.

And there will be times as many of you pointed out in the comments, where you will choose to help someone over yourself.  I have no problem with that and do it on occasion as well.

But the point is, you can only do this if you have taken care of yourself first.  Your help can only come from a position of strength.  And hedonism produces weakness not strength.

So my goal is to be healthy myself, practice selfishness, and know that a lot of times that selfishness will lead me to help others – because of the joy it brings me.

So what about you?

-RG

20 comments on “Should You Be Hedonistic?”

  1. if you stay happy and you make it your purpose of your life ... you will have the power of making others happy ... its just like the sun and the shadow ... you imagine the sun as your purpose ( being happy ) and you walk through it , making others happy will follow you.
    by the way, we are all selfish. the things is we dont wanna accept it.

  2. I agree, you have to strengthen yourself first then you can help others.

    Recently at my philosopher's group I made that same statement and I must say I got some scornful looks.

  3. Randy,

    Here's a question - what about if helping others makes YOU feel better?

    Personally...I feel wonderful after I've gone out of my way to help someone out, without any expectation of anything in return.

    In my mind, if it makes YOU feel better about doing it...that just makes it all the better because that way you're helping yourself as well as others at the same time.

    What do you think about that?

    Jeremy Reeves
    http://www.ReevesCopy.com

  4. I am not buying the idea that selfishness is a virtue or even good. Part of my point of view, Randy, is that it seems that you are seeking to redefine selfishness. Looking out for your own needs or positively seeking satisfaction for yourself would indeed seem to be a vital part of prosperity. However, selfishness carries with it the connotation that it is at the expense of others. In your previous posts you have articulated a strong argument that today's prosperity (riches) does not mean that others are impinged upon. Prosperity/success/wealth is not at the expense of others...as it was for the most part in human history. I am coming around to this perspective. Yet when selfishness is defended or lauded, it strikes me as false, because the word is not divorced from it's core definition...selfishness is about the unkind insistence on own's own comfort, ease, or pleasure at the expense of others. Those behaviors, as you noted in this post, will not result in happiness. I go further and say that it won't just interfere with your happiness, but has a quite negative moral foundation. So...it would seem to me that the "brand" of selfishness you are promoting needs a different word. When we say "pink elephant" it's nearly impossible to insist that people see something else. Same is true with selfishness. "But it doesn't at all mean what it has meant in the past...because I apply it differently." That's...a tough sell.

  5. Recklessly concentrating on creating short-term or immediate pleasures (my definition of hedonism) makes one a slave to one's environment... a recipe for being controlled by the outside world.

    Randy, I can stretch the idea of hedonism to see you advocating "LONG TERM hedonism": being willing to do the sometimes-unpleasant tasks in order to live a life filled with fun things to do. Hmm, we might need another word to describe this philosophy.

    It's all in one's definition of the expected timeframe of results.

    So I advocate selfishness, too: taking care of me first so that I can assist others AND be healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of my work.

  6. Randy, I completely agree with this statement "So my goal is to be healthy myself, practice selfishness, and know that a lot of times that selfishness will lead me to help others – because of the joy it brings me."

    For many years, I was the the giver. I became very tired, sad, and sick. I realized what I was doing and for a full year I consciously stopped giving my money and time (very difficult), and learned something that was lacking in my life receiving-"The Law of Receptivity."

    Yes, I am completely healed from this type of indoctrination (giving, giving giving) and I learned to say NO and Yes to receiving.

    Moreover, I learned a big lesson and that is that it felt Natural to be Selfish. Today, I am in control, healthier, more alive and I give cheerfully as a choice (I get a fuzzy warm feeling in my heart).

    Have a FUN weekend!
    L.E.E.

  7. If you look back to the first post I wrote on selfishness I actually posted the dictionary definition. And it doesn't carry all the negative baggage so many people associate with it.

    -RG

  8. There's something not mentioned here: not all pleasures are created equal.

    There's positive pleasures (accomplishing a task that benefits many), neutral pleasures (no gain, no loss) and negative pleasures (all loss).

    Examples:
    positive - piano practice, writing/reading a great book/blog
    neutral - reading pulp fiction, watching good TV
    negative - substance abuse, watching TV in general (and Hong Kong & Korean soap operas in particular)

    (disclaimer: that's how it is to me, OK?)

    So we can't argue for or against hedonism without making some distinction between them, in my humble opinion. 🙂

    Junjie

  9. Redefining selfishness? Outstanding! Being a people pleaser all of my life has made me miserable. ...I am going to hit 50 this May with a brand new me. You words are just what I needed!

  10. In this post I read the comment "selfishness carries with it the connotation that it is at the expense of others" and I think the opposite is true... others should not be benefited at our expense. I mean why must we sacrifice ourselves to help others? When you are happy, healthy and you feel satisfied you cannot help but uplift those with whom you are in contact. One who is connected with his/her inner joy and love is more powerful and provides a better service than hundreds who are not.

  11. If selfishness means the point of view, position, behavior of a person focused on his/her "I", personal wellbeing (pleasure, benefit, success, happiness) as priority - I find it even necessary point of prosperity. I find it much useful than altruism (principle destining person to serve the interests of only others)..

    We shall not mix selfishness with "dictator's egoism" which says everyone must follow my interests and everyone is only factor of my achievements, or "anarchic egoism" which says everyone is permitted to follow whatever comes into mind no matter if it breaks principles of equal rights and mutuality, laws.

    See, now some world rich people, including, Randy, and someone else you and me personally may know, contribute to the development of science, hitech, bring happiness to their family, friends, people, ..pay checks for some charity funds... Would they be able to achieve this level if not been selfish (if not put their moral interests as priority and not pursued them)?!

    Im pro Selfishness (self-love)!!!!!

  12. If I help a person who has a lack, in his life or in his needs, so that I "fill that lack"(Sorry, english is not my language)it is another level of like filling an empty glass with water...It is some kind of mercy for that person - like I do something he missed on his way.No, that will not make me happy. That will make me replace that person in a special task, I do a thing that person Should have done. And to see that lack made me feel a need to fill it.Then we are on "neutral".To be happy in a good selfish way is more to create something new without any lack first.Where I then Build something from what from the beginning didn´t ask for anything. THAT will make me happy, if it is complicated or easy, if it is genial or just "a good thing to do". I do something fruitful for the future.If there was a lack first, I will be at the groundlevel when I fill it.Then, I would be crazy if I DIDN´T do it.If I didn´t do it, the lack would still be there and I would suffer too because we have a link to every person we have around us.And that has nothing to do with real happiness. To me, create something new out of my todays state of mind is the point where I can start to talk about My happiness. My selfishness. I am a little bit better than yesterday. I have reached a little bit more of my abilitys. I have gone a step further. THAT makes me really HAPPY-it adds something to my greatness.Thanks for a great post.

  13. Is trying to make own kids or other kids happy dysfunctional craziness or not?
    I think the idea of selfishness works in the social area, but not really within the family.

  14. making kids happy is one the best happinesses, for u too, as it is for many parents.If it gives You and kids maximum happiness - means, you have achieved ur goal.
    By dysfunctional craziness Randy meant to forget your own happiness purpose for the sake of others happiness. Others dont include your family, right?!

  15. I am confused...I thought we should pursue happiness....

    "Your survival and your pursuit of happiness must be the foundation of your value system- to design your life, by your own means, with your own standards, and for your own enjoyment." Randy Gage in "Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How To Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!"

    as long as our purpose (happiness) is in line with our personal values, philosophy & principles.

    "To be happy, you must have a purpose.
    To have a purpose requires having personal values.
    Your values create a congruent philosophy to live by.
    Your philosophy is congruent only if you live by the principles that support that philosophy." also from "Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How To Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!"

    "Your life's purpose is how you are going to make the world a better place by helping it function more in keeping with your values and ideals. Your purpose is your state of being; it's what you are going to put forth with your life."

    So do we put forth happiness?

    I liked the example in the book ( I'm a vegetarian...mostly vegan):
    "The world is a huge potluck supper. You VALUE wholesome, nourishing vegetables more than anything and wish more people did instead of eating junk food. So your principle is that you will only bring something vegetarian to the pot-luck supper. Your purpose in doing that is to show people how truly delicious a great vegetable dish can be and maybe get others to cut back on the carbs and sugars..."

    healthier people would be happier people...

    (side note...Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is a great show....Jamie is in Huntington, WV - helping kids, adults & schools change their eating habits- include more fruits and vegetables.)

  16. Agree completely. If I go too long without helping someone in some way, I get an empty feeling. Maybe not everyone has such strong feelings, but there are plenty of us who feel a physical need to be of assistance to someone outside ourselves. Yes, we need to care for ourselves first, but if helping others is part of what makes you happy...and happiness is what we are after here...it works.

  17. I had a new idea which I am implementing into my daily life. This idea is that every decision you make, even the small daily ones, are either prosperity oriented or not. An easy example is what you eat for breakfast. Bacon and eggs at the local restaurant is not prosperous whereas oatmeal and a fruitbowl at home are. Another one is leisure activity. Sitting on the couch watching TV or going for a bike ride. Hedonism is not really prosperity oriented because it omits the self discipline needed to become sucessful. Curbing impulse spending is also another properity oriented activity. Try this, put 200 dollars in your wallet and track your spending. See what you bought. How much of it was wasteful and how much of it was useful ? Not being able to handle money is anti-prosperity as well. My Dad always said : if you can't handle a small amount of money, you'll never be able to handle a large amount of money. I have to heed his advice because he retired very well.

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  • 20 comments on “Should You Be Hedonistic?”

    1. if you stay happy and you make it your purpose of your life ... you will have the power of making others happy ... its just like the sun and the shadow ... you imagine the sun as your purpose ( being happy ) and you walk through it , making others happy will follow you.
      by the way, we are all selfish. the things is we dont wanna accept it.

    2. I agree, you have to strengthen yourself first then you can help others.

      Recently at my philosopher's group I made that same statement and I must say I got some scornful looks.

    3. Randy,

      Here's a question - what about if helping others makes YOU feel better?

      Personally...I feel wonderful after I've gone out of my way to help someone out, without any expectation of anything in return.

      In my mind, if it makes YOU feel better about doing it...that just makes it all the better because that way you're helping yourself as well as others at the same time.

      What do you think about that?

      Jeremy Reeves
      http://www.ReevesCopy.com

    4. I am not buying the idea that selfishness is a virtue or even good. Part of my point of view, Randy, is that it seems that you are seeking to redefine selfishness. Looking out for your own needs or positively seeking satisfaction for yourself would indeed seem to be a vital part of prosperity. However, selfishness carries with it the connotation that it is at the expense of others. In your previous posts you have articulated a strong argument that today's prosperity (riches) does not mean that others are impinged upon. Prosperity/success/wealth is not at the expense of others...as it was for the most part in human history. I am coming around to this perspective. Yet when selfishness is defended or lauded, it strikes me as false, because the word is not divorced from it's core definition...selfishness is about the unkind insistence on own's own comfort, ease, or pleasure at the expense of others. Those behaviors, as you noted in this post, will not result in happiness. I go further and say that it won't just interfere with your happiness, but has a quite negative moral foundation. So...it would seem to me that the "brand" of selfishness you are promoting needs a different word. When we say "pink elephant" it's nearly impossible to insist that people see something else. Same is true with selfishness. "But it doesn't at all mean what it has meant in the past...because I apply it differently." That's...a tough sell.

    5. Recklessly concentrating on creating short-term or immediate pleasures (my definition of hedonism) makes one a slave to one's environment... a recipe for being controlled by the outside world.

      Randy, I can stretch the idea of hedonism to see you advocating "LONG TERM hedonism": being willing to do the sometimes-unpleasant tasks in order to live a life filled with fun things to do. Hmm, we might need another word to describe this philosophy.

      It's all in one's definition of the expected timeframe of results.

      So I advocate selfishness, too: taking care of me first so that I can assist others AND be healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of my work.

    6. Randy, I completely agree with this statement "So my goal is to be healthy myself, practice selfishness, and know that a lot of times that selfishness will lead me to help others – because of the joy it brings me."

      For many years, I was the the giver. I became very tired, sad, and sick. I realized what I was doing and for a full year I consciously stopped giving my money and time (very difficult), and learned something that was lacking in my life receiving-"The Law of Receptivity."

      Yes, I am completely healed from this type of indoctrination (giving, giving giving) and I learned to say NO and Yes to receiving.

      Moreover, I learned a big lesson and that is that it felt Natural to be Selfish. Today, I am in control, healthier, more alive and I give cheerfully as a choice (I get a fuzzy warm feeling in my heart).

      Have a FUN weekend!
      L.E.E.

    7. If you look back to the first post I wrote on selfishness I actually posted the dictionary definition. And it doesn't carry all the negative baggage so many people associate with it.

      -RG

    8. There's something not mentioned here: not all pleasures are created equal.

      There's positive pleasures (accomplishing a task that benefits many), neutral pleasures (no gain, no loss) and negative pleasures (all loss).

      Examples:
      positive - piano practice, writing/reading a great book/blog
      neutral - reading pulp fiction, watching good TV
      negative - substance abuse, watching TV in general (and Hong Kong & Korean soap operas in particular)

      (disclaimer: that's how it is to me, OK?)

      So we can't argue for or against hedonism without making some distinction between them, in my humble opinion. 🙂

      Junjie

    9. Redefining selfishness? Outstanding! Being a people pleaser all of my life has made me miserable. ...I am going to hit 50 this May with a brand new me. You words are just what I needed!

    10. In this post I read the comment "selfishness carries with it the connotation that it is at the expense of others" and I think the opposite is true... others should not be benefited at our expense. I mean why must we sacrifice ourselves to help others? When you are happy, healthy and you feel satisfied you cannot help but uplift those with whom you are in contact. One who is connected with his/her inner joy and love is more powerful and provides a better service than hundreds who are not.

    11. If selfishness means the point of view, position, behavior of a person focused on his/her "I", personal wellbeing (pleasure, benefit, success, happiness) as priority - I find it even necessary point of prosperity. I find it much useful than altruism (principle destining person to serve the interests of only others)..

      We shall not mix selfishness with "dictator's egoism" which says everyone must follow my interests and everyone is only factor of my achievements, or "anarchic egoism" which says everyone is permitted to follow whatever comes into mind no matter if it breaks principles of equal rights and mutuality, laws.

      See, now some world rich people, including, Randy, and someone else you and me personally may know, contribute to the development of science, hitech, bring happiness to their family, friends, people, ..pay checks for some charity funds... Would they be able to achieve this level if not been selfish (if not put their moral interests as priority and not pursued them)?!

      Im pro Selfishness (self-love)!!!!!

    12. If I help a person who has a lack, in his life or in his needs, so that I "fill that lack"(Sorry, english is not my language)it is another level of like filling an empty glass with water...It is some kind of mercy for that person - like I do something he missed on his way.No, that will not make me happy. That will make me replace that person in a special task, I do a thing that person Should have done. And to see that lack made me feel a need to fill it.Then we are on "neutral".To be happy in a good selfish way is more to create something new without any lack first.Where I then Build something from what from the beginning didn´t ask for anything. THAT will make me happy, if it is complicated or easy, if it is genial or just "a good thing to do". I do something fruitful for the future.If there was a lack first, I will be at the groundlevel when I fill it.Then, I would be crazy if I DIDN´T do it.If I didn´t do it, the lack would still be there and I would suffer too because we have a link to every person we have around us.And that has nothing to do with real happiness. To me, create something new out of my todays state of mind is the point where I can start to talk about My happiness. My selfishness. I am a little bit better than yesterday. I have reached a little bit more of my abilitys. I have gone a step further. THAT makes me really HAPPY-it adds something to my greatness.Thanks for a great post.

    13. Is trying to make own kids or other kids happy dysfunctional craziness or not?
      I think the idea of selfishness works in the social area, but not really within the family.

    14. making kids happy is one the best happinesses, for u too, as it is for many parents.If it gives You and kids maximum happiness - means, you have achieved ur goal.
      By dysfunctional craziness Randy meant to forget your own happiness purpose for the sake of others happiness. Others dont include your family, right?!

    15. I am confused...I thought we should pursue happiness....

      "Your survival and your pursuit of happiness must be the foundation of your value system- to design your life, by your own means, with your own standards, and for your own enjoyment." Randy Gage in "Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How To Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!"

      as long as our purpose (happiness) is in line with our personal values, philosophy & principles.

      "To be happy, you must have a purpose.
      To have a purpose requires having personal values.
      Your values create a congruent philosophy to live by.
      Your philosophy is congruent only if you live by the principles that support that philosophy." also from "Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How To Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!"

      "Your life's purpose is how you are going to make the world a better place by helping it function more in keeping with your values and ideals. Your purpose is your state of being; it's what you are going to put forth with your life."

      So do we put forth happiness?

      I liked the example in the book ( I'm a vegetarian...mostly vegan):
      "The world is a huge potluck supper. You VALUE wholesome, nourishing vegetables more than anything and wish more people did instead of eating junk food. So your principle is that you will only bring something vegetarian to the pot-luck supper. Your purpose in doing that is to show people how truly delicious a great vegetable dish can be and maybe get others to cut back on the carbs and sugars..."

      healthier people would be happier people...

      (side note...Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is a great show....Jamie is in Huntington, WV - helping kids, adults & schools change their eating habits- include more fruits and vegetables.)

    16. Agree completely. If I go too long without helping someone in some way, I get an empty feeling. Maybe not everyone has such strong feelings, but there are plenty of us who feel a physical need to be of assistance to someone outside ourselves. Yes, we need to care for ourselves first, but if helping others is part of what makes you happy...and happiness is what we are after here...it works.

    17. I had a new idea which I am implementing into my daily life. This idea is that every decision you make, even the small daily ones, are either prosperity oriented or not. An easy example is what you eat for breakfast. Bacon and eggs at the local restaurant is not prosperous whereas oatmeal and a fruitbowl at home are. Another one is leisure activity. Sitting on the couch watching TV or going for a bike ride. Hedonism is not really prosperity oriented because it omits the self discipline needed to become sucessful. Curbing impulse spending is also another properity oriented activity. Try this, put 200 dollars in your wallet and track your spending. See what you bought. How much of it was wasteful and how much of it was useful ? Not being able to handle money is anti-prosperity as well. My Dad always said : if you can't handle a small amount of money, you'll never be able to handle a large amount of money. I have to heed his advice because he retired very well.

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