On Hedonism and Sustainability

It’s a perplexing paradox that what often feels undeniably good – indulging in hedonistic pleasures such as parties, savoring chocolate, traveling, or shopping – may not genuinely contribute to our individual well-being or the greater good of society.

Hedonism, as a philosophy, revolves around the pursuit of immediate pleasure and happiness rather than delaying gratification. This concept has been debated for centuries. Some, like the Stoics, argue that this pursuit doesn’t lead to a good life. However, from personal experience, I can attest that hedonism can indeed offer deep fulfillment and meaning.

A pivotal moment frequently arrives when we begin to genuinely care about personal and planetary health. For me, this transformation occurred when environmental concerns took center stage in my mind.

The majority of hedonistic pursuits don’t align with healthy ecosystems, societal well-being, or personal health. This is primarily due to the fact that contemporary hedonistic pleasure, as commonly practiced, heavily relies on consumption. Such consumption not only depletes resources but also generates waste. And last time I checked, indulgences like alcohol and chocolate aren’t typically found on lists of the top 100 healthiest foods.

As a result, those advocating for hedonism as a valid life philosophy may find their position challenged, particularly in today’s context. In reality, contemporary hedonism, as it’s practiced, is no longer a sustainable life strategy. It adversely affects both humans and non-humans, contributing to various societal and environmental problems.

However, if shifting away from hedonism implies adopting a life of renunciation, it’s essential to consider that this too may not necessarily lead to a good life. One of the main arguments for hedonism is that it aligns with our inherent human desire for pleasure and happiness. From the earliest stages of life, the pursuit of comfort, joy, and satisfaction is a fundamental aspect of our existence. If any of you have ever lived with a toddler, you can’t deny that the pursuit of pleasure is all the rage, all day, every day.