The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Ayn Rand's opposition to Hedonism makes no sense

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Debate Round Forfeited
ShabShoral has forfeited round #2.
Our system has not yet updated this debate. Please check back in a few minutes for more options.
Time Remaining
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 11/4/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 913 times Debate No: 96721
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (0)




First round is for acceptance only.

The following passages are to be taken as representative of Ayn Rand's position on Hedonism:

1. I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality. Objectivism holds that the good must be defined by a rational standard of value, that pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence, that only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality. To say that pleasure should be the standard of morality simply means that whichever values you happen to have chosen, consciously or subconsciously, rationally or irrationally, are right and moral. This means that you are to be guided by chance feelings, emotions and whims, not by your mind. My philosophy is the opposite of hedonism. I hold that one cannot achieve happiness by random, arbitrary or subjective means. One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values. By rational values, I do not mean anything that a man may arbitrarily or blindly declare to be rational. It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue.

2. This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism"in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. "Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man"s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that "the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure" is to declare that "the proper value is whatever you happen to value""which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

3. In practice, men have no way of obeying the tenets of hedonism, except by taking their already formed feelings"their desires and aversions, their loves and fears"as the given, as irreducible primaries the satisfaction of which is the purpose of morality, regardless of whether the value-judgments that caused these feelings are rational or irrational, consistent or contradictory, consonant with reality or in flagrant defiance of it.

4. Objectivism holds that such a policy is suicidal; that if man is to survive, he needs the guidance of an objective and rational morality, a code of values based on and derived from man"s nature as a specific type of living organism, and the nature of the universe in which he lives. Objectivism rejects any subjectivist ethics that begins, not with facts, but with: "I (we, they) wish . . . . " Which means: it rejects hedonism of any variety.
Debate Round No. 1


Ayn Rand's opposition to Hedonism rests on the strange notion that Hedonism is inherently opposed to its own goals. It's the idea that taking happiness as your standard of value will necessarily lead you to indulge in shallow moments of pleasure at the expense of genuine happiness, thereby preventing you from living up to your standard. If it is true, as Ayn Rand believes, that achieving happiness requires rational planning and careful consideration of what your goals are, then any proper application of Hedonist morality will necessarily subsume her approach to life.

While she may have grounds for criticizing certain adherents of Hedonism for having false and destructive views of how happiness should be pursued, it's a mystery why she would take issue with the idea that happiness is what one ultimately ought to be after, which is the only defining tenet of Hedonism. Her philosophy holds that "Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life," and that "The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man"s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it." From this, it follows that one ought to figure out what will give oneself the most pleasure and happiness as determined by one's nature, and then work towards achieving it, which is perfectly in line with Hedonism. What Ayn Rand advocates is a certain variety of Hedonism, although she doesn't recognize it. She associates Hedonism too strongly with how it has often been practiced and doesn't judge it on its essential message, which is virtually the same as hers.

She criticizes Hedonism for stating that, in effect, if you do something which you find pleasurable, you should do it some more: "the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure". But this is a little misleading. Hedonism says that one should work to maximize net pleasure, which is total joy minus total misery. It does not follow from that standard that making a habit of whatever gives you pleasure is the proper way to live. In fact, Ayn Rand's justification for why men should be rational is that man's survival and happiness depend on it, and that all attempts to live half-rational half-irrational are doomed to fail and cause misery. Therefore, it can easily be argued that Hedonism, properly understood and applied, tells people to be rational in choosing their values and methods for achieving them.

This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 2
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Conceptua 1 year ago
This looks interesting. Posting for notifications, Ill vote when I can.
This debate has 2 more rounds before the voting begins. If you want to receive email updates for this debate, click the Add to My Favorites link at the top of the page.