Imagine Brenda, a woman who will not under any circumstances trade her life in order to be conditioned, and then live as a Beta in the Brave New World (BNW), universe. If this is the case, then Brenda could not consistently accept Hedonism. This is due to the definition of Hedonism, the amount and intensity of bodily pleasure in Brave New World (BNW), and the amount and intensity of bodily pleasure here in real life.
The definition of Hedonism leads one to maximize the amount of pleasure and minimize the amount of pain: The only thing intrinsically good in life is pleasure, and the only thing intrinsically bad in life is pain. Other things in life have extrinsic value – they can lead to either pain or pleasure, but do not produce the sensations by themselves. However, Hedonists are only concerned with pleasure and pain, as these are the only intrinsic values. The distinctive factor that determines a better life from a worse one, is the amount of net pleasure in one’s life.
The net pleasure is determined by subtracting the amount of pain in one’s life from the amount of pleasure. Notice that Hedonism only determines better lives from worse ones, not good from bad. To make the distinction between good and bad is an arbitrary decision and cannot be measured through a comparable medium such as net pleasure. Quantitative Hedonism states that quantity and intensity are the only criteria that determine just how good a certain pleasure is.
If all pleasures differ only in quantity and duration, then the world in BNW is a dream for hedonists. One’s life in BNW is conditioned to be content and happy with one’s, job, class in life, and the daily schedule of life. This schedule for one’s life never changes and so delivers a maximum amount of pleasure due to being happy and content. High pleasure in BNW also comes from the open sexual relations between people. Basically, it is encouraged from childhood to have as many sex partners as possible, therefore maximizing the amount of pleasure from sex. The drug of choice in BNW is called Soma, and it delivers an amazing feeling without any hangover effect like alcohol. This drug is distributed daily at one’s work to maximize one’s amount of body pleasure.
With all of these factors enhancing pleasure, it is also important to state that not much causes pain for one’s life in BNW. There are no personal relationships to cause pain, jobs and education are given specifically for people, and life is very much planned and repetitive. This repetition is what maximizes the amount and duration of pleasure in BNW lives. In real life, there does not exist anything like the above mentioned pleasures, in either quantity or duration. Therefore, when comparing the net pleasure of a life in BNW to a real earthly life, a hedonist finds that BNW lives have a higher net pleasure, and are thus far better. This is because they in BNW have much more intrinsically good pleasure, and much less disappointment and intrinsically bad events. So, if Brenda refuses to trade her life in order to be conditioned and live a BNW life, then she could not consistently accept hedonism because trading her life would give her a higher net pleasure, and by definition, a better life.
Brenda still could accept hedonism if she accepted qualitative hedonism, based on Mill’s distinction between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures. According to Mill’s, certain pleasures have a distinct higher value than other pleasures. This can be due to a mere preference for one pleasure over another, with the preferred pleasure having more intrinsic value because it is preferred, and thus more net pleasure. This can also be due preferring higher intellectual ‘mind’ pleasures, as opposed to body pleasures like those in BNW. Mill’s distinction goes hand in hand with qualitative hedonism, which adds quality to the criteria distinguishing pleasure (intensity and duration). Higher quality pleasure are generally thought to be intellectual and creative pleasures as compared to bestial pleasures.
Intimate relationships can also be thought of as being a higher quality pleasure. It is not substantial, however, that these higher pleasures merely exist – for a hedonist, these higher pleasure must contribute to a higher net pleasure in life in order to be of value. Since there are absolutely no intellectual or intimate pleasures in BNW, the argument could be made that the intellectual and intimate pleasures in real life give higher net pleasure, and thus a better life. This theory also takes into account the pain that may be caused by relationships or by not attaining certain intellectual milestones. However, the argument can be made that the pleasure derived from these higher pleasures far surpasses any pain caused by them and guarantees a higher net pleasure than any life in BNW. If Brenda adopts this method of thinking, then she could both accept hedonism and still not want to trade her life for a life in BNW.
A qualitative hedonist, in order to consistently believe that actual life is better, must claim that the overall net pleasure one receives in real life is more than the net pleasure one receives in the BNW universe. One must claim that experiences in actual life, including but not limited to intellectual and intimate pleasures, produce more net pleasure than a life of bestial pleasures in BNW. This includes all of the pain and hardships experienced in real life, but not in BNW. The argument is that even with all of this pain, the net pleasure is still higher in real life. This is also what Brenda must adhere to if she wishes to not trade her real life for a conditioned BNW life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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