David Hume and Hedonistic Ethics

David Hume (1711-1776) takes the idea of hedonism and compares it to the basic needs of animals. He contends that pain as well as pleasure incites an animal into action. Hume's presented that all acts or actions are a direct derivative of self-preservation. He argues that pleasure alone does not drive actions but pleasure and the avoidance of pain together creates circumstances. A human being will pursue pleasure with as much enthusiasm as they want to escape pain. Though holding onto the basics of hedonism, Hume takes the spirituality out of man and provides an empty vessel that drives on animal instinct alone (Cohon, 2004).

All four ethics philosophers, Hume, More, Erasmus, and Epicurus tried to describe the condition of man and his pursuit for pleasure. The pursued for pleasure and the escape the pain is still following today. With the mixed interpretations with religious dogma and other societal norms that intertwine itself into a clouded vision of the original historical context of hedonism, even the most prudent religious icon still enjoys the fruits of life and the discomforts and sadness of pain. Modern man must decide which actions they will take to avoid pain, such as consequences of a legal system, and to pursue pleasure, whether it is physical pleasure or the abstract concepts of a full and fruitful life, and at the same time be comfortable with the decisions they have made.

Though hedonism may not be considered an ethical, positive route by many religious organizations and institutions of today, it is still the root of all our decision-making whether we are devout Christians, Jews, Hindus, or any religion with a moral code intertwined between its texts. The individual without religious confines can find the hedonistic lifestyle to be limited by the laws governing how one should act or not act in society and how that individual perceives themselves and what role they play in that same society. As ethical philosophies developed from the original ideas of Greek philosophers and other historical roots, the root ethical philosophy still hold self-evident truths that impact modern man just as soundly as they impacted generations in the past. Ethical decisions and consequences rules society today and will continue to evolve and rule those societies that evolve from our worlds present state.


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