Understanding Hedonism

Hedonism is a belief system focused on experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain. There are various levels of extremity to it, moral hedonism argues that pleasure is morally good and pain is evil, and axiological hedonism argues that pleasure is the only thing in the universe which has intrinsic value. As you can easily notice, hedonism in some form or another is absolutely dominant in western society today. Whether the people practicing it are aware or not, a huge portion of political and philosophical discourse in this age is just an effort to rationalize people's hedonism.

The rise of hedonism correlates with the decline in tradition and the rise in individualism, indicating that tradition was what restrained it until now. Hedonism is the precise opposite of tradition in many cases, its heavily self centered, antisocial and novel tendencies often form a complete antithesis to the socially conscious and lindy traits of tradition. For this reason the traditionally minded person must understand hedonism thoroughly, if only so they might defend against or conquer it.

Let's take a look at two prominent hedonistic behaviors, noting the negative side effects and the tradtions that were put in place to prevent them. It will also be helpful to learn more about these behaviors specifically, independently of a study on hedonism.

* Sexual promiscuity

* Drug use

- Sexual Promiscuity -

This is perhaps the most prevalent and most destructive hedonistic trend. Relationships come with a low commitment to the hedonist because pleasure is very novel and fleeting, it really only tends to work in the short term. As a result of this, the hedonist will tend to have a very high "body count" or number of previous partners. The problem with a high body count is that it reduces your ability to pair bond in the future, you are conditioning yourself at a psychological level to view relationships as a tool to experience only immediate physical and emotional pleasures while also developing more points of comparison to needlessly criticize your next partners by. "She's not as good as my ex at this.." In modernity this is often encouraged blatantly, people are told that it is empowering to sleep around, it means you are experiencing freedom, but they never tell you about the psychological sacrifices that are made by conditioning your brain like that or about the social sacrifice, the fact is that high body count necessarily means low commitment, which is unattractive to many.

A hedonistic relationship will tend to lose its footing soon after the novelty and quantifiable pleasure of it naturally gives way to a deeper and more demanding commitment. Proper relationships come in several stages, humans are designed to use physical attraction and/or short term pleasure to begin the relationship, then they can build something mutually fulfilling and emotionally complex in the next stage through a strong commitment and personal sacrifice. The hedonist will tend to prolong the first stage for as long as possible then abandon the relationship once it inevitably reaches the next stage, opting to just start another relationship in the fleeting pleasure stage. In this behavior we can see not only the hedonist's huge focus on pleasure, but also his aversion to pain, he is unwilling to make personal, painful sacrifices for the sake of a deep and fulfilling relationship. Which causes him great emotional pain anyway when he is confronted with the inevitable outcome of his behavior.

The hedonistic man will tend to select for very physically attractive partners with the most ability to satisfy increasingly specific preferences. These preferences and expectations are built from excessive sexual activity in the past, whether that be porn use or body count. Building a relationship from these specific expectations is a poor strategy because it is almost always an unrealistic thing to demand from your partner, especially if it isn't mutual. Often, unrealistic expectations are rationalized into some corrupted concept of "compatibility". Using this concept the hedonist can fail continuously in relationships and just rationalize his personal failure and low commitment as a lack of compatibility with his partner. "Maybe the next one will be more compatible." Compatibility is falsely presented as an unstoppable force here, not subject to any sort of change or adaptation. It is also misunderstood as largely depending on physical traits and ability to provide maximized pleasure, ignoring other important traits such as emotional maturity and relatability.

Realistically, how much variance can there possibly be in sexual pleasure between relationships? While there certainly is some it is definitely not enough to be a deciding factor to anyone who's brain isn't excessively occupied by every detail relating to it. This is why the tradition of "waiting until marriage" isn't unreasonable. If you like your partner and havent fried your brain on pleasure already, how bad could it possibly be? There is no need to try the free trial before committing to marriage. In the case of a traditional monogamous marriage, preferences and expectations in this regard are built from the ground up in a mutual effort, ensuring compatibility. This is far superior to having misguided expectations and demands from the onset of the relationship. Building from the ground up is a more long term struggle but has the greatest and longest lasting reward, showing that a commitment which can manage difficulty is the ideal trait for a successful relationship.

One conclusion we can draw from this analysis is that the hedonistic approach to relationships is one of the leading causes behind the ever increasing rates of divorce, single parenthood, depression and loneliness, and the ever decreasing rates of marriage and general happiness. The next conclusion to draw is that heavily traditional marriages are actually very well designed to avoid the pitfalls of hedonism. Those traditions were created for a good reason, to keep couples together in emotionally fulfilling long term relationships. This prevents the depression and emotional scarring of constant break-ups, sexual overstimulation and unrealistic expectations caused by high body count, etc. Since we can clearly see the inferiority of hedonism in this field, it becomes necessary to reject "rationalist" stances such as "It's none of your business what I do in the privacy of my home." and begin enforcing tradition once again. If you're bringing your destructive hedonism to the society that I value then it is indeed my business.

- Drug Use -

For some, drug use (including alcohol) is simply a method to cope with the generally unfulfilling nature of modernity, some of which has been explained above. In this sense and many others drug use is a symptom of greater societal problems, rather than a cause. However, this does not make a drug user a victim of society, it just means they are too weak-willed to confront modernity effectively, which is a personal failing. Drugs have the ability to pacify you and prevent you from feeling the motivation and conviction to work towards personal achievement, in this sense it is a problem in itself and must be criticized as one. Drugs are a member of the lowest form of coping, that being extremely artificial distraction. Your personal well being has never been reliably known to increase when artificiality and distractions are introduced.

Drug use is to be criticized for its unproductive tendencies, as are most hedonistic activities. Though the pacifying effect of drugs makes them more subject to this criticism than most things. The unavoidable fact is that time is finite, time spent having "harmless fun" is time not spent working out, reading, or generally achieving anything of value. The argument that drugs like marijuana "don't hurt anybody" or are "harmless" falls apart when you notice how useless every excessive user is as a person. Drugs which shorten your lifespan, such as alcohol and nicotine are even more guilty here since time is spent to consume the drug, and future time is also taken away.

The biggest reason why people who do drugs (even "harmless" ones) are often underachievers is that drugs are an unearned pleasure, you simply do the drug and you are made to feel good artificially for the duration of the drug's presence in your body. This is a nightmare from a self discipline perspective, unearned pleasure will always be within closer reach than the more valuable earned pleasures. A mindset that is ok with partaking in excessive unearned pleasures will almost certainly pursue fewer earned pleasures and will likely achieve fewer good things in life as a result. Being ok with unearned pleasure is a moral deficiency which results in poor lifestyle decisions. Concepts of earning and entitlement are fundamental moral concepts, a deficiency in this regard will inevitably manifest some sort of personal failure.

The spectrum of earned vs unearned is worth exploring in precise metaphysical terms. Earned experiences require constant disciplined action and involve some level of difficulty or challenge. An example of this that I personally relate to would be endurance hiking, the view at the top of the mountain can only be experienced if you have the discipline to reject the pain and exhaustion that tell you to stop pushing forward. You can opt out of an earned experience at any point but you earn the experience specifically by choosing to embrace the struggle instead. An unearned experience is different in that there is often nothing influencing you to opt out, there is no true challenge or struggle which requires discipline, as if you're along for the ride and the experience happens with little to no input from you. Drug use is an unearned experience because of the ease with which you can take the drug and just ride along on a trip until the drug exits your body on its own time.

In a drug trip the user lacks agency because tripping is a deterministic process caused by the presence of the drug in the body. In contrast an earned experience is non-deterministic, it is the result of agency, specifically the intentional action aspect of agency. While there may be a sense of struggle in some specific drug trips such as psychedelics there is little to no discipline or intentionality behind the struggle. The psychedeliuc user has artificially induced the experience of struggle within their headspace which is going to happen whether they embrace it or not. Because of that you have much less agency in a psychedelic trip than there is in a natural earned experience, this lack of agency makes a psychedelic struggle a metaphysically and practically inferior form of struggle. Most drug use fits even more blatantly into the category of unearned experience, things such as nicotine, alcohol and marijuana where there can be no argument that they exemplify high agency behavior.

It is very easy to decide to sit there and experience an unearned pleasure for far too long and far too often, accomplishing nothing in the process. The danger lies in the ease of that decision. Another unearned pleasure with disastrous side effects would be porn use, which is similar to drug use in more ways than just that, consider looking into it. Unearned pleasures are fundamentally consequentialist, consequentialism being a moral view that places the outcome or consequences of an act as its most important element, over the methods or intent behind the act. This is a fundamentally left-wing approach to morals, reminiscent of "The ends justify the means.". To the shallow consequentialist, pleasure is always good, even if the means of experiencing it are morally degenerate. With this in mind you can probably see why leftists are often completely miserable hedonistic failures.

The concept of unearned pleasure helps us to understand the importance of delaying gratification, meaning that pleasure is delayed until an achievement is made that earns it. Delaying gratification is a practice which requires and grows self discipline, it is central to the mindset of anyone who will achieve anything great with their life. The man who appreciates delayed gratification is completely ok with struggle and discomfort if the achievement at the end of it is worthy. He is the man that doesn't occupy himself with drugs and other unearned pleasures which necessarily can only serve to slow him down.

- Conclusion -

Lastly I would like to address the point that "The rest of the world is hedonistic, so it's very difficult for me to not be." Just remember that the option always exists for you to create you own relatively secluded lifestyle and social group which does not involve itself with society's sins. You have to be willing to sacrifice some friendships, some opportunities, social media and more to really escape the sinful world and build something else that is more pure and virtuous, but it is always possible and it might be your duty. You will have to search for that willingness to make sacrifices and you will have to cultivate discipline, spend enough time thinking honestly about those concepts and you will inevitably find the way out. The things you will lose weren't that good anyway.