Paradox of Hedonism
The Paradox of Hedonism. The idea that pleasured cannot be acquired directly but indirectly and more arrogant claims.
I used to think the same as them, but the more I look around me, the more I think the philosophers could just be wearing the wrong shoes while thinking of what happiness is. Their brilliant minds held them hostages from understanding how it feels to be ordinary.
My muse came from observing happy people, which is everyone except for the man in the mirror, and reading Henry Sidgwick, my favourite philosopher before Hume was introduced to me. Sidgwick says that Happiness cannot be directly pursued and to be happy, it’s it necessary to occupy oneself with another object instead of one’s happiness. This idea, coined as Paradox of hedonism, is advocated by many other philosophers after his time and most eloquently expressed by John Stuart Mill: “But I now thought that this end [one’s happiness] was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”.
Reading their texts literally, there is great sense in what these philosophers said. Happiness is a quale, a quality which can only be experienced personally; it is not tangible like a tree. Essentially, happiness by itself is empty and only by occupying ourselves with real objects or activities we can be happy. If that is all the philosophers are saying, it will be both truistic and true. But it isn’t all, there are more behind their words. Clearly a pedant on the concept of happiness, John Stuart Mill further claims that the moment someone questions on whether he is happy, he stops being so. His idea is agreed on by many other philosophers and intellects.
In short, it is accepted by most philosophers that one cannot be truly happy as long as they consciously want to. Is that true and does it apply to the masses? To answer the question, we must first have a shared understanding of what happiness is: Happiness is a quale. It is satisfaction of your own life on top of fleeting pleasure. If what I defined as Happiness is agreed on then what the philosophers claim is absurd and just doesn’t apply to ordinary people. Evidently, there are people who consciously and continually want to be happy and are happy.
For example, Sally consciously knows that by marrying harry will make her happier. She marries harry and after the marriage she reflects on whether she is happy and decides that she is. To nag out of necessity, only under the circumstances of happiness being an empty thing because man are creatures in need of an occupation, the philosophers aren’t wrong to say happiness itself cannot be pursued. Not because by knowing we are happy we are in truth, not.
The problem is that despite knowing that happiness is a quale, philosophers being addicts of finding objectivism in concepts, tried to impress a clear line on what is it. In search of a distinct quality about happiness, they realized the more they ponder upon the concept, the less they are. But the phenomenon isn’t a propensity, instead caused by the complicated framework of their mind. The same doesn’t apply to those simpler, the majority.
The only way to argue against so is that the philosophers may be warning that by constantly pursuing happiness, we may find ourselves trapped on a hedonic treadmill and gradually be led on to think that happiness is a duty. When it is, every moment not thoroughly enjoyed may be confused as unhappiness, which is an apparent first world problem as observed by Pascal Bruckner. But the philosophers aren’t warning us, our obsession on happiness is only a recent phenomenon, Sidgwick died more than a century ago. They claim what they did literally and those claims must remain to be impractical and in doubt.
Defining concepts is fun, especially so when you try to objectivize it. But somethings are better left alone and subjective. Happiness is one of them and knowing that I can no longer rain on the parade of others’ happiness makes me unhappy.