The paradoxes of hedonism


The current popular philosophy in the developed countries is the opposite of Stoicism, it is called Radical Hedonism.

We have been indoctrinated since childhood, constantly bombarded with messages cleverly engineered to keep us in need for more things. We are encouraged to spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know.  We are directly or indirectly told that our happiness depends on external things, that our image and reputation is more important than our well-being, and that the measure of human flourishing is quantified in its purchasing power. Corporations invest billions in advertising in order to exploit our weaknesses, cognitive bias, social perceptions, basic drives and lack of self-esteem. For the corporate world the goal of our life should be the pursuit of pleasure; instant gratification, the maximum pleasure, defined as the satisfaction of any desire or subjective need a person may have (Radical Hedonism). For such a system to work, we ought to be continually distracted, ever dissatisfied, self-centered, hierarchically oriented and anxious.

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The paradoxes of Radical Hedonism are that by trying to achieve happiness through consumerism we are in a permanent status of dissatisfaction and anxiety. Yet, we know that most of the best things in life are free, and have no price. We know it but we forget about that every day, and keep consuming our time and energy in the acquisition of new stuff. It is just our lack of temperance and practical wisdom what keeps feeding the monster. A monster that is leading us directly into an ecological and economical disaster. Our anti- ecological global system is self-destruction. 


Consumerism is an addictive attitude, and hedonic adaptation shows that  we adapt very quickly to the pleasure of acquiring new things, just to be again in need for more. Hedonic adaptation is the psychological process by which people become accustomed to a positive stimulus, such that the emotional effects of that stimulus are attenuated over time (Frederick & Loewenstein, 1999 ; see also Helson, 1964 ; Parducci, 1995).


Like in the Plato’s cave, we are distracted and amused by shadows of reality.

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