Hedonism as a Philosophy of Life – and as a Critique of Theoretical Philosophy

The good life is a matter of basic attitude towards life and so the truth of hedonism depends on our subjective life-interpretation. No philosophical argument can cut through the genuinely practical, circular argument that our endorsement of pleasure as the ultimate good is crucial for having a good life in hedonistic terms. Besides supporting a theory-critical philosophy, such an understanding of hedonistic value perceives moral constraints on conduct such as moderation as a part of our practical wisdom. The aim is enjoying life as much as possible and not one of maximizing consumption. There is therefore, contrary to much common moral criticism of hedonism, no necessary connection between pleasure-seeking and gluttony. Hedonism understood as a form of life-interpretation rather than a pleasure-calculus also underpins basic liberal values such as toleration and privacy, questioning the inclination to making more and more of our private life a moral issue.

Keywords: Pleasure, Hedonism, Moderation, Subjectivity, Life-interpretation, Henry Sidgwick, Robin Barrow.