The inconsistencies of my fellow hedonists and why I'm territorial about hedonistic consequentialism

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The inconsistencies of my fellow hedonists and why I'm territorial about hedonistic consequentialism

Post by Ubuntu » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:55 pm

On one hand the fantasy of living in a society comprised of sincere, consistent hedonistic consequentialists (people who are emotionally invested in H.C and for whom it's not just a dry, abstract philosophical position) is exciting for me but in practice I am completely bummed out and genuinely bothered when I come across people online who identify with hedonistic consequentialism (it would probably be worse in person). I just can't handle the existence of hypocritical and inconsistent H.C's and right off the bat I'm on edge that they will be. I understand that I'm also hypocritical and self-contradicting and no one will ever be perfect but I think I understand and am honest about what my inconsistencies are and I want to be the kind of person who values all/everyone's happiness and only happiness, this is more of a vent than a criticism. I feel existentially connected to hedonistic consequentialism and it is just so genuinely harsh to me that I share such a personal aspect of my identity with people who I believe misrepresent it (that might sound dramatic, I guess my general mood plays a role in how much it bothers me at any given moment). I tend to avoid researching hedonistic consequentialism or hedonism as a theory of value because I can't stand it being misrepresented (not criticized, misrepresented) but especially by hedonistic consequentialists themselves.

When I talk about the inconsistencies of H.C's I mean at least three things = 1) behavioural inconsistencies, when they are, if not deliberately aggressive or malicious, rude or inconsiderate and it comes through that they don't care ho their behavior affects other people, or at least some other people, because they clearly do not value everyone's happiness and aren't sensitive to everyone's distress, 2) ideological inconsistencies, this includes things like not understanding how hedonistic consequentialism implies veganism and animal equality (animal equality and anti-speciesism, although the latter does not necessarily imply the former depending on what theory of welfare or value you ascribe to, would be the ideological basis for the vegan lifestyle and if 'veganism' isn't implied by H.C in all possible hypothetical scenarios, anti-speciesism and animal equality are), some of these other inconsistencies depend on the assumption that they think H.C necessarily justifies promoting H.C , I think it does but even if it doesn't, there's no practical justification for not boycotting factory farming, the harmful exploitation of non-human animals for clothing, cosmetics testing, entertainment or even, for wealthier people, directly hunting them for food (I have read it takes four cows to produce one burger. Even if they were painlessly killed and they lead overall happy lives up until their execution, they are not and they do not, a lifetime of mostly happiness felt by one cow would be far greater than the 10-15 minutes of relatively mild happiness felt by someone who could replace their burger with vegan comfort food. I could do the point more justice but I won't expand on that here), non-monogamy, a 'communist' or gift economy where resources are distributed indiscriminately according to benefit instead of merit (I mean indiscriminately in regards to factors and characteristics that have nothing to do with how much happiness or suffering would be increased or minimized someone consuming X good or service), gender and racial egalitarianism in contrast with feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement and cultural Marxism in general (by 'egalitarianism' I mean everyone's happiness being given equal consideration ), all sentient beings being considered citizens of a single international (or hypothetically, interplanetary) community in contrast with contemporary statism and other (in my opinion) inconsistencies, including a concern for 'mental illness' or an acceptance of the concept as valuable (whether or not mental illness is a coherent or scientific concept, it is neither, is besides the point. A) either mental illness IS suffering which renders our current understanding of mental illness meaningless. Not only are some 'mental illnesses' disqualified (because they cause the 'victim' absolutely no pain whatsoever), some actually exemplify mental health, like some forms of 'mania', or cause it in some cases, like some hallucinations or delusions, and you can't draw a non-arbitrary line between people who experience X form of distress more frequently or intensely than the average person does and those who experience it less frequently or intensely because the nature of suffering doesn't change when you increase the amount of it. B) Mental illness CAUSES suffering, like someone can have social anxiety 'disorder' without feeling any degree of social anxiety at a specific moment when they're alone or with specific people or in specific circumstances in which case moment to moment felt suffering, and not mental illness, is the only ultimate problem in the world or C) mental illness is an inherently value neutral thing that may or may not have anything to do with suffering (even if mental illness is a scientific concept, psychiatrists as psychiatrists have no authority in placing negative value on it because science, which psychology is not, is amoral. Doctors as doctors have no authority in saying that cancer is bad. Lastly, what I really had in mind when I started this thread was head/heart inconsistencies that don't necessarily involve ideological inconsistencies or even objectionable behavior. Years ago DanielLC claimed he 'didn't see the problem' with torturing or burning kittens at the stake to amuse a large crowd of people (or something like that. I'm paraphrasing and I understand he meant he didn't see a logical problem if it produced more happiness than suffering) and in another thread on wild animal suffering he claimed he had 'no problem with wiping them out' if they couldn't have lives worth living (I wanted to reply to that thread but as long as this is I definitely won't have time today) and these are only minor examples of utilitarian callousness, it would take too much time to get into some other examples I explicitly have in mind (nothing to do with posters on this site). Even if you're not saying anything officially inconsistent with H.C ideologically (even if, in the first scenario, we assume the happiness and suffering of separate beings can be meaningfully aggregated, and that H.C doesn't in practice demand encouraging the sadists to adopt a more pan-hedonistic ethos and that the sadists themselves would not necessarily be happier people if they became more indiscriminately loving and compassionate), it suggests to me that you don't have the kind of attitude or emotional responses that you would expect from someone who values the happiness of all sentient beings (including potential beings), that you don't feel the need to clarify and reassure people that even when inflicting suffering is necessary you still *feel* that it's bad and view it as regrettable. If you value someone's happiness you want them to exist, in ideal circumstances. Death is not inherently tragic but it is a loss (assuming there is no afterlife which I don't actually believe but that's another topic), it denies the people you care about all the happiness they would have otherwise experienced and even the *hope* of ever again experiencing some happiness in this world and even some happiness is good even if it's not worth a greater amount of suffering. Mike Retriever once said that H.C is about happiness and not empathy. This made NO sense to me if you define affective empathy/sympathy/compassion as identification with the feelings - or more specifically suffering, in the case of compassion, of other people and by extension, the desire to maximize their happiness or minimize their distress. Happiness, and not the desire to maximize it or having a positive attitude toward it, is intrinsically valuable but if happiness is intrinsically valuable then it logically follows that a desire to maximize happiness indiscriminately or having a positive attitude toward everyone's happiness is intrinsically moral. In *practice*, you can't value someone's happiness if you don't feel some kind of love or respect for them. You don't maximize your own happiness out of some impersonal sense of duty, you do so because you personally value it. While it might be inconsequential to the value of your actions, if you maximize the happiness of others out of respect for duty and not because you value their happiness itself then you aren't a hedonist. I also think that many H.C's have personal biases that are not rooted in or consistent with H.C and that they sometimes use ad hoc H.C reasoning to justify them.

One thing I take comfort in (in that it might distinguish me from mainstream H.C) is rejecting the idea that the happiness and suffering of separate people can be meaningfully aggregated. Unfortunately this position might not be as well known (I can only remember hearing negative utilitarians and non-utilitarians criticize the idea of aggregating the emotional states of separate minds). Even though this is a difference in belief and not value (I would rather cause 100 points of pain to a single person than a single point of pain to 1000 separate individuals each if I really believed that in some meaningful way that the latter would result in a greater amount of suffering), I believe it is a crucial difference, psychologically. Without getting into why I don't think the happiness-suffering of separate people can be meaningfully aggregated (I'm tempted to but this post is already too long), the fact is that rejection aggregation (across separate individuals) is more compatible with empathy. Even if you accept aggregation as meaningful, the fact remains that a group as a group can't be harmed by or benefit from anything. No one experiences the 1000 points of intensity collectively aggregated among the 1000 distinct minds who each experience a single point of happiness or pain. Even if you accept aggregation as rational you still have to concede that pro-aggregation H.C isn't concerned with helping people since only individuals as individuals can be helped or hurt. It's considers happiness in isolation to be this independently valuable thing that exists in the 'world' and is valuable for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not the experiencers of happiness and distress benefit from or are harmed by their experience. So *regardless*, pro-aggregation H.C is not compatible with empathy. Only one reason why I don't think aggregating happiness-suffering across time felt by a single individual is not comparable to aggregating happiness-suffering felt by separate individuals is that duration itself is a measurement of happiness-suffering but, again, I don't want to get into why I matter of factly don't think the happiness of separate people can be meaningfully aggregated anymore than intelligence or quality of vision can be or even more in-depth as to why aggregation (across distinct minds) is not compatible with empathy.

You can't reject an idea because the people who ascribe to that idea are unappealing in some way (not that I consider anyone to be unappealing for any reason other than their disregarding the happiness-suffering of other people) and it makes even less sense to reject an idea because the adherents of an idea are inconsistent with that idea because your taking issue with their hypocrisy or general inconsistency with the idea is exactly why you must accept the idea (assuming you have no problem with inconsistency per se. I want people who think the sole objective of morality is to maximize suffering to be inconsistent). For example, it would make no sense for someone who's interested in libertarianism to reject libertarianism because the libertarians they know initiate force for non-defensive reasons or violate the property rights of others. So I'm stuck with the H.C "community" but even just someone like Epicurus (who was an egoist? albeit one who advocated self-interested co-operation and pro-social behavior?) not realizing that happiness being intrinsically good logically implies that everyone should value everyone's happiness equally bothers me (and Sidgwick didn't know how to justify equal consideration for everyone's happiness? The answer is simple - consistency. I would like to think that rational minds would come to the same conclusions I have regarding the logically consistent implications of "philosophical" hedonism).

I am confident about what H.C consistently implies but it still bothers me that it will be misrepresented , especially by H.C's, that H.C's will make decisions not realizing their judgment is inherently inconsistent with H.C or that when I'm gone, moral agents will make decisions rooted in values that conflict with wanting to maximize happiness/minimize suffering indiscriminately and alone (and ALL values other than a concern for happiness conflict with wanting to maximize happiness, that could be another interesting in-depth post I don't want to make now but value pluralism is inherently and objectively self-contradicting, contrary to popular belief) and no one who understands what H.C consistently implies will be there to criticize them for it or promote the most beautiful idea I have ever heard of.

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