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    Hedonism is a philosophical ideology regarding the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence. It is derived from the Greek word Hedone (Ancient Greek: ἡδονή) which is the personification of the goddess of pleasure. Based on Roman mythology, Hedone refers to Voluptas which is the daughter of Cupid (Eros) and Psyche in the realm of the immortals. This is a fitting representation as Psyche is said to be one of the most beautiful mortals that may as well rival Aphrodite the goddess of love, beauty and pleasure. Psyche was made immortal after completing tasks given by Aphrodite and during this time Eros had fallen for her.

    Over the course of many years Hedonism has been heavily linked with sensual pleasures such as sexual fantasies, drugs and alcohol but this approach has also been revoked by many philosophers in the past such as Epicurus and Democritus. Modern day philosophers believe that Epicureanism is the new Hedonism and it may be the best approach in life. The initial debate regarding this concept spawned due to a thought experiment conducted by Robert Nozick and thus to truly understand Hedonism we have to relive the experience machine as intended by Robert himself.

    The Experience Machine

    “I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.”
    ― Rita Mae Brown

    The Experience Machine or Pleasure Machine is a thought experiment introduced in 1974 by Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State and Utopia. This machine would simulate real life while guaranteeing only pleasurable experiences and never pain but the catch was to leave reality permanently. When hooked up to this theoretical machine the experience would be indistinguishable from real life and all of its ups and downs would be replaced by an exponentially increasing series of ups. If the participant of this experiment were to be a true Hedonist then he/she would immediately plug into the machine as a Hedonist believes that the greatest thing life has to offer is pleasure.


    • Unable to return back to reality
    • Living only based of experience
    • Zero pain and only net pleasure
    • Inability to ever feel negative emotions

    Would You Plug In?

    Given these circumstances many individuals rather not plug in and live through the Experience Machine and it may just be for good reason. To live only the best parts of life may seem ideal in the beginning but ultimately a scenario may arise which changes your perspective on things. For example if two people (Jacob & Alicia) are in a loving relationship and Alicia’s idea of net pleasure is to be with Jacob but Jacob’s idea of net pleasure is to be in a polyamorous relationship this may cause problems to arise. Jacob would be romancing with another lady in secret but this will forever remain a secret from Alicia due to the fact that the truth will cause her to be in grief. Hedonists believe that her blissful ignorance towards Jacob’s infidelity is ultimately a blessing as she will die having lived a life with net pleasure. Many people in modern society however would much rather live through the pain rather than live a lie for the sake of happiness.


    “What else can matter to us, other
    than how our lives feel from the inside?”

    Nozick provides the following suggestions:

    1. We want to do certain things and not just have the experience of having done them.
    2. We want to be certain people – to plug in is to commit a form of “suicide” (613).
    3. We are limited to a human-created reality.

    Presumably, Nozick’s argument is as follows:

    1. If all that mattered to us was pleasure, then we would want to plug into the experience machine.
    2. However, we would not want plug-in.
    3. Hence, there are things which matter to us besides pleasure.

    Epicureanism vs Hedonism

    Epicureanism is an ancient school of philosophy founded in Athens by Epicurus which rejects advocated Hedonism but instead practices a more restrained kind of mental pleasure which is regarded more highly than physical pleasure.It practices an ultimate pleasure which was held to be freedom from anxiety and mental pain, especially that arising from needless fear of death and of the gods. Epicureanism denounced the importance of wealth and luxury as it was seen that most people went about their lives slaving for the sake of a paycheck. He recognized the immense back stabbing and bitterness which was caused by the topic of wealth and decided against it. Epicurus believed that work should be enjoyable and thus each individual should be in control of their own job prospects without having to rely on a larger system as this would ultimately cause unhappiness. He knew that jobs were only satisfying when the individual was helping others or contributing to society even in a small way. He also recognized that friendships were more meaningful than relationships as he viewed how bitter and unhappy most married couples were due to jealousy and infidelity. Epicurus noted that the main problem with friends is that we don’t get to see enough of them.

    “Punctuality is the thief of time”
    ― Oscar Wilde

    Modern Day Hedonist

    Hedonism surely has its ups and downs but one thing is certain and that is the birth of this philosophy was from the pursuit of happiness and maximizing pleasure by eliminating pain. A life goal that many people work towards but are unable to attain. In today’s society we heavily value realism in our lives and forget to appreciate the smaller things that happen along the way. Epicurus believed that a glass of wine after a long day of work is already considered a luxury that many people neglect due to their pursuit for a larger form of happiness. To achieve the level of a true Hedonist may not be the most optimum lifestyle choice but regardless the Experience Machine does pose many interesting questions regarding our individualistic ideas of what embodies happiness.

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