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Senses: The Nature and Quality of Pleasure

by Michael Corthell

There are, of course, many kinds of pleasure and pleasures in life. From the way we experience walking hand in hand along the beach with our children, to the completion of a work project or hobby, as well as the pure physical pleasure of conjugal relations.

Pleasure can be viewed as just thoughts, feelings or actions that make us 'feel good'. For the purpose of this writing I am going to speak to hedonism and utilitarianism.  Both are similar belief/practice systems. Seeking pleasure as one's highest aim is the common theme in both, however.

''Pleasure and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends.''
—John Stuart Mill

The simple definition of hedonism is self-serving pleasure for the sake of itself. Hedonists equate pleasure with utility. They believe that pleasure is the master of all humankind, and acts as the ultimate life goal. There is very little more to say about it except to say that people are free to choose a dead end road. Utilitarianism on the other hand is deeper in meaning and in practice and we will look at it here briefly, before I make my point.

Utilitarianism, (or The Greatest Happiness Principle) while it can trace its founding back to the hedonistic worldview, has more redeeming qualities than pleasure for pleasure's sake. For example the belief system has been applied to social welfare economics, the crisis of global poverty, the ethics of raising animals for food and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity as a whole.

John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century British philosopher, was the most important defender of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a foundational moral principle, that states we should to do whatever we can to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. Mill equated happiness with pleasure. What does God say about that?

"Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." Mill instead states that pleasure and freedom from pain (or unhappiness) are the only desirable ends. Everything that is desirable is desired because of the pleasure they provide or they promote pleasure or reduce pain.

Mill's also added quality and quantity to the "Greatest Happiness Principle", stating that we should seek the richest amount of enjoyment and seek to reduce pain - in the greatest extent possible as to include all of mankind and not just the individual.

Finally, my opinion is that if we can find pleasure, happiness and joy in loving our fellow travelers in this world and find pleasure happiness and joy it loving the Creator of it all, I'm onboard with Utilitarianism, even though it seems to be an over complicated exercise.

God does not allow ''pain without a purpose'' in the lives of human beings. He never allows evil itself, or circumstances, or any bad actor to harm us unless He uses that harm or difficulty for our own, ultimate good. Everything has a purpose and God never wastes pain. As King Solomon wrote, 'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...'' God always makes pain and every difficulty work together for our and the ultimate good, the good of conforming all of us to His image/nature.
Elimination of pain and suffering will come to our world. but it will come as mankind reunites with it's Creator and comes into full partnership with Him. God is love, and love is all there is, therefore your life's goal is love. Love in three parts: Love for God, love for mankind and love of self.

[The "Greatest Happiness Principle" has the pain of learning the highest good embedded in it. The passion and the learning from suffering leads back to God. The journey is the purpose. The purpose is to be like God, and again my friends, God is Love. The pain experienced in life is given to find the pleasure of Love, in its purest, most foundational and creative sense.]


The Origins of Pleasure
by Paul Bloom

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists -- that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.


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