First Comes Survival, Then Comes Meaning

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For Tomorrow We Die

Saturday, October 25, 2008 by Jonathan Paul

Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead.

- Anonymous Scotsman

There are so many ways to express this philosophy: Carpe Diem; Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Die; Memento Mori; Be Happy.

These endeavors go on record as the most pleasurable search for meaning: hedonism, in which the main pursuit of life is pleasure. Hedonism espouses the fact that man is in essence selfish and lustful. Hedonism is often joined with utilitarianism, which claims that we should act based upon the best interest of the group, or on a grander scale, everyone. We seek good for both ourselves and our families.  Coupling hedonism and utilitarianism, therefore, should result in everyone aiming for the happiness of everyone.

Hedonism has a long history. As early as the 5th century BC, Democritus was advocating the chief goal of life being "contentment," long before Plato was advocating the relentless search for knowledge. Epicurus advocated a similar position a century later, emphasizing the highest pleasure of a simple, moderate life of friends and philosophical discussions. Of course, most people today would associate Epicurus with the term Epicurean and high dining. There are also those who would say that Freud was a proponent of hedonism. His description of a "life instinct" is very similar to the philosophy's claims that people pursue pleasure.

Hedonism is closely associated with Egoism, a theory that claims that humans act solely in their own self-interest. They are sometimes combined and referred to as ethical hedonism. This combines ethical egoism, individuals seeking their own good, with hedonism. Ethical hedonism, in short, advocates that humans should rightly seek their own pleasure and act accordingly. It is important to distinguish, however, the search for pleasure from selfish acts. In order to contribute to one's meaning, the intention must be a pleasurable life rather than just a selfish, pleasurable act.

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