Deliberate, Considerate Hedonism – What is that?
In short: My philosophy of life! Since my way of living is not exactly conventional, I often think about what I`m doing and especially why. I don`t want to justify myself here. Well, maybe, but actually I just want to figure out how I could name the philosophy that I am following. I preface this article with the answer I`ve finally found after serious reflection: I am a deliberate, considerate hedonist! A finding that cries out for an explanation! Here we go!
Hedonism, Deliberateness & Considerateness
First, I tried to find the accurate overall term that describes best my beliefs, my value system or simply my approach to life. Without going into detail, I favored hedonism, but only to some extent and only specific types of hedonism. Second, I searched for adjusting attributes to describe my philosophy of life properly and to avoid being put in a pigeonhole. I assessed the adjectives deliberate and considerate as the appropriate modification elements.
Hedonism is Awesome
Amongst non-philosophers hedonism has often a negative connotation (PS: I am not a philosopher), which is apparently a known problem and philosophers commonly refer to this everyday understanding of hedonism as “folk hedonism”. If you delve into the philosophical world of hedonism, you`ll quickly notice that the topic is manifold, sophisticated and finely nuanced according to the different sub-schools of thinking. I tend to favor the so-called prudential hedonism which goes like this:
[Prudential] Hedonism as a theory about well-being [happiness] is more specific than other kinds of hedonism because it stipulates what the value is for. Prudential hedonism holds that all and only pleasure intrinsically makes people’s lives go better for them and all and only pain intrinsically makes their lives go worse for them. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 12.1.2014)
An important distinction between prudential hedonism and folk hedonism is that prudential hedonists usually understand that pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain in the very short-term is not always the best strategy for achieving the best long-term balance of pleasure over pain (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 12.1.2014).
I read this annotations as follows: If you want long-term happiness, go for the pleasures, for the `things` that add personal value to your life! Don`t postpone things that you`ve evaluated as being pleasurable for you for too long. If the way to happiness is a long and stoney road (in case you don`t like your studies anymore, work in a nerve-wracking job, etc.), change the road! A long-term absence of pleasures with intrinsic value for oneself; no good!
Deliberateness and Minimalism – How Come?
To really find out what gives you pleasure and what does not give you pleasure is more difficult than you might think at first. And that is why I added the element `deliberate` to my philosophy of life. The seducements (as well as social pressures) of our modern world are in great numbers, especially if they are within easy reach (e.g. when you earn high salaries). One concept that could be (and definitely is to me) helpful to solve this problem is minimalism.
“Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” (Definition by The Minimalists)
“That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff. We tend to give too much meaning to our things […] Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately” (again thought up by The Minimalists). Just great! No addtional comment from my part needed!
Another useful way of thinking to distinguish your individual true pleasures from not so true pleasures is to think your life backwards from the very end, thus deaf – according to Heidegger, I guess, and to Ware (see Travelers Die Happier). Now, what would you do and who would you want to be? Anyway, this game has helped and helps me enormously to live my life with greater awareness, to live it (more) my way and to just enjoy the moment more often.
Considerateness – Respect the Legitimate Needs and Rights of Others!
Since I am a geographer, I`ve often dealt with sustainability matters, as well as with theories about ethics and fairness. These two intertwined thematic blocks still profoundly shape my way of thinking. There`s e.g. Brundtland, Rawls, Welzer & Singer, to only name four of many philosophers who fully convinced me that not only it is a necessity to be considerate of our nature (including animals), of other people and also of future generations, but also that `to act in a considerate way` makes me happy, directly.
To some extent, considerateness is already contained in the concept of prudential hedonism (or even more in the related concept of hedonistic utilitarianism). A good example of this comes from Peter Singer’s work on animals and ethics. Singer questions why some humans can see the intrinsic disvalue in human pain, but do not also accept that it is bad for sentient non-human animals to experience pain (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 12.1.2014).
Those three main elements of my philosophy of life are summarised below in a set theory figure; I try to manoeuvre within the boundaries of the blue intersection and to reconcile the `requirements` of the three elements. It has to be noted that this figure shouldn`t be understood in a static way. To evaluate a decision or act of mine, I (consciously or subconsciously) try to find a solution that suits all three `requirements`. So I rather understand the underlying process as a constant negotiation.
Why traveling fits in perfectly with my philosophy of life
“Nothing can express more about us and our personality than the travels we go for. It doesn`t matter where we travel to, but why!” Alain de Bertrand (a rough translation from German, heard in Atlas, 29.7.2012)
And how, I would add! The reasons are obvious, I guess. But I`ll not engross these thoughts in this article.
When I travel, I embrace and love the `unknown`. What I get in return are unforgettable experiences that give me intensive feelings provided by the fact that these experiences were made consciously, mainly far from daily routines! So yes, traveling provides me with lots of pleasures which boost my happiness. The avoidance of pain is of secondary importance to me, as regards myself. If you want to minimize your pain only, stay at home. But life might be also not that intensive and rewarding in this way.
When I travel, I carry all I need with me – except money and the things I consume at a place. In a bag not heavier than ten kilograms. What could be more minimalist than this? Reduced to the maximum!
When I travel, I try to be considerate towards the people I meet. I (have learned to) respect different behaviour, different habits, different cultures. I don`t behave like a rich alien, but also don`t lower prices to unacceptably and unreasonably low levels. And so forth…
While I`ve tried to disclose my philosophy of life, I realized that I also have disclosed why I travel and how I travel! Isn`t that cool!?
Deliberate, Considerate Hedonism – is that it?
When I started to think about eligible ways of thinking and philosophies of life, besides a modified hedonism I also considered e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche`s God-is-dead philosophy which is very life-affirming, liberating, emancipating, which stresses people`s own sovereignty and power and which expects people to make a piece of art out of their lives (see e.g. Sternstunde Philosophie, min. 32:00ff or Sternstunde Philosphie, min. 51ff). So…
What is your approach? What is your philosophy of life? Tell me about it!
Patric Ganz, alias Traveling Pat
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