Posts by Daniel Van Orman


    Looking over the hedonism summary now, I see it really needs to be reworded. However, I am not sure what parts, if any, are incorrect. If you would please help me remake or fix the hedonism summary, I would appreciate it.

    I created the current summary from searching online and trying to match what I learned to sources. The points I wanted to cover in the summary were:

    Hedonism in General - All pleasure and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable ; all pain and only pain is intrinsically disvaluable

    Motivational/Psychological Hedonism - Pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain influence every decision one makes, whether consciously or unconsciously

    Normative/Ethical Hedonism - It is morally correct to pursue or increase pleasure and avoid or decrease pain

    Prudential Hedonism - Happiness = Pleasure – Pain

    Value Hedonism - What makes an action important is the amount of pleasure or pain it creates

    Would you mind using a conversation on the website to help create a simple explanation of hedonism for newcomers?

    The "Teachings on Higher Pleasures" is only based on utilitarianism. Thank you for the "Reasonings About Philodemus’ On Choices and Avoidances" article. Hopefully, I wil lbetter understand what Epicurus meant by different kinds of pleasures.

    Your "Utilitarian Reasonings" are interesting. I will enjoy reading more thoroughly later. Thank you.

    Criticisms against Principle of Maximal Utility:

    This thread is dedicated to arguments against the principle of maximal utility. It focuses more on theoretical and generic applications and meanings of it.

    The four principles listed under "Before Continuing" in this thread are meant to quickly explain concepts discussed throughout the rest of the thread. It is not what the thread is about. Each of those concepts could have its own thread.

    Daily Application of Principle of Maximum Utility:

    This thread is dedicated to following the principle of maximal utility each day. It focuses on the pros and cons of applying it in realistic, day-to-day situations.


    If Jim killed one of the Indians, wouldn't he be a murderer? Why should Jim be morally obligated to do something evil? Also, if murder is acceptable in certain cases, is everything acceptable? (see the "Possible Exceptions for Everything" section)

    Jim feels stressed and worried about killing, since he feels it is wrong, doesn't that mean he would be violating his personal integrity if he killed one of the Indians? No moral system should ask one to violate their integrity (see the "Distastefulness" section).

    Jim's uneasiness to do something difficult to help the villagers and the Indians is not what forms his integrity. Refusing to act whenever challenges arise is the opposite of integrity as it means one would not hold to any moral principles except when life is easy. Jim's integrity would not be violated if he held to the foundational principles he believes in. If those were utilitarian principles, he would be holding to moral principles which ask him to do what he can to best help others, even if it causes some pain (including Jim's own uneasiness) for the benefit of great, long-lasting happiness.

    If Jim's uneasy feelings were the basis of the ethics he followed, then what value are those ethics which would be based on whatever he felt like? If ethics did not require one to change their personal beliefs to pursue higher moral ends, then what value does ethics have? If one's personal opinions about ethics are flawed, it is their responsibility to change their opinions (see the "Distastefulness" section).


    I don't Like your Ethics

    General Distastefulness

    Most criticisms are caused by how utilitarianism ethics do not match one's current thinking. This is not a problem with utilitarianism, this is a problem with ethics – ethics asks people to change their thinking and actions for the sake of doing what is right. It would be concerning for an ethical system to base itself on one's individual impressions and judgements.

    Other criticisms seem to caused by complete misunderstandings – misinterpretations of utilitarianism principles which no one should ever approve of. Every ethical system experiences this and the solution is to calmly and rationally listen to what that ethical system actually teaches. Remember, utilitarianism's goal is to help everyone be the happiest they can be. Is an honest, wholesome pursuit of happiness a bad thing?

    Common Criticisms

    Criticism: Emotion is required to make good judgements. Impartiality seems to make people emotionless and therefore causes bad judgements. A common example, helping someone in great need over helping family in some need.

    My response: Is it not concerning to prefer not helping people in the greatest need? Utilitarianism does rely on emotion, it relies on pure love for all others. This pure love has been integral to utilitarianism since its foundation: "to do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbour as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality" (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2).

    Criticism: Consequentialism seems to encourage people to choose morally unthinkable actions.

    My response: Most example criticisms are complaining about making the best of a bad situation and not about how utilitarianism does so. A common example is choosing not to try to save someone in danger when the danger is still present since it means abandoning someone in their time of need. Such an example often ignores how saving them is more likely to end up injuring one's self, causing the would-be rescuer and the other person to both require rescuing – worsening the problem. Unfortunately, a bad situation generally means bad things will happen. Consequentialism just tries to minimize the damage. Is that not what anyone should do?

    Criticism: Hedonism seems to not care about rights. It should support deontological ideals.

    My response: Why are rights, freedoms, etc. good? Because they provide happiness? Since they give pleasure and lessen pain in the world? Those reasons are why hedonism supports rights, freedoms, etc. (see the "Do Rights Matter?" subsection of "Possible Exceptions for Everything").

    Blind Obedience

    Your Ethics are simply Rules to Follow Robotically

    Ethics =/= Mathematics

    Trying to calculate or estimate the moral correctness of an action is trying to turn ethics into mathematics.

    Ethics requires judgement, which utilitarianism seeks to teach. Judgement (not mathematics) will always be required for any moral scenario. Jeremy Bentham did create a form of calculus (hedonistic calculus) meant to help estimate what might be better decisions. It is an optional tool one may use – nothing more. Concerning it, he taught, "it may, however, be always kept in view" (Jeremy Bentham, Of the Principle of Utility) rather than strictly applied.

    Does Consequentialism Care about Character?

    Consequentialism is about good actions – not good people. Your ethics seem to be creating better robots, not better people.

    Good people are those who tend to do good actions with good motives. Whether a good person or an evil person does something evil, the action is still evil. The moral of the action is what consequentialism is concerned with.

    Good character is essential – it is part of how one becomes happy. Utilitarianism fosters pure love for all others, teaching that a true desire to help others as best as one can is the possible attribute one may obtain (be happy by making others happy). This is not something which may be achieved through strict obedience or calculations. Remember that utilitarianism teaches, "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life" (Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 5).

    Teachings on Higher Pleasures

    "There is no known Epicurean theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments, a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2

    Not all things which cause joy are equal – some, such as intellectual pursuits and charitable attributes – are so superior they are worth more than any amount of a lower pleasure.

    A pleasure is superior to another if one would not trade the superior pleasure for any amount of the inferior pleasure. This is because one "can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence" (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2). An intelligent person would not trade their wisdom, knowledge, and ability to learn to become even the happiest animal. A kind and charitable person would not become cruel and sadistic for any amount of wealth.

    Exceptions to preferring superior pleasures occur as people make mistakes and temporarily trade a superior pleasure for an inferior one. As John Stuart Mill teaches, "Men often, from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less valuable; and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures, than when it is between bodily and mental. They pursue sensual indulgences to the injury of health, though perfectly aware that health is the greater good." (Utilitarianism, Chapter 2)".

    People can lose their desire for higher pleasures. Often, this occurs since they do not have time nor opportunity for higher pleasures. Additionally, one may addict themself to lower pleasures. The addiction remains as one only has access to lower pleasures or lower pleasures are the only ones they are capable of enjoying.

    John Stuart Mill explains this concept, "many who begin with youthful enthusiasm for everything noble, as they advance in years sink into indolence and selfishness. But I do not believe that those who undergo this very common change, voluntarily choose the lower description of pleasures in preference to the higher. I believe that before they devote themselves exclusively to the one, they have already become incapable of the other. Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance . . . . Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying" (Utilitarianism, Chapter 2).

    Hypothetical Acceptance of Unequal Distribution of Happiness

    Are slave societies justifiable?

    Utilitarianism focuses on total happiness – not individual happiness. Focusing on total happiness does not account for an uneven distributions of happiness. What if slavery increases total happiness most?

    Any action which is legitimately helpful is good under utilitarianism. Most criticisms concerning this concept are centered on unhelpful actions, which no one should approve of. For example, a slave society would never actually produce more happiness than a free society, therefore utilitarianism would never endorse it and would always oppose it.

    Slavery causes more pain than pleasure as it always hurts the slave more than it benefits their masters. It also slows their country's progress towards greater happiness. John Stuart Mill teaches a sacrifice is only good if it succeeds in generating more overall happiness: "The utilitarian morality does recognise in human beings the power of sacrificing their own greatest good for the good of others. It only refuses to admit that the sacrifice is itself a good. A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted" (Utilitarianism, Chapter 2). Slavery is not a good sacrifice and never will be.

    Possible Exceptions for Everything

    Nothing Forbidden

    The maximal utility principle never strictly forbids any type of action. For the right reasons, even mass killings could be considered morally correct. Would a sadist be justified in tormenting others? (See "Sadism" subsection under "Robert Nozick's Utility Monster".)

    No type of action is strictly forbidden since it is impossible to know whether a situation exists where any action truly is the best choice possible. Exceptions to general teachings only exist when following one good moral principle violates another. These exceptions are allowed since they enable one to use rules and good judgement to find better choices, even if those choices would not be better under normal circumstances. This creates more happiness for everyone than absolutely forbidding certain actions can.

    Not all actions are allowable in any given case. General rules exist to guide people toward better choices. These rules encourage or discourage actions based on whether those actions tend to have good or bad results in the long-term in the vast majority of cases. Exceptions must be made, even rarely, to help others the most, and these exceptions occur when rules prevent good decision-making instead of help it.

    Most actions people believe should be forbidden are nearly impossible to justify under utilitarianism. One must have very good and clear reasons to justify doing something which is normally very bad to do. The actions are only justified if they truly are a good decision to make - if their results in their specific situation truly will help everyone become happier overall.

    Do Rights Matter?

    Since every action can be justified, do rights even matter?

    Why are rights valuable in the first place? Rights are valuable since they contribute to happiness. Utilitarianism values them because of this fact. If a right destroys happiness, then it is not valuable but destructive and should not be supported (pseudo-rights, such as the right to own a slave, fall into this category). Actions violating rights are supported if they truly produce more happiness than following the right would (such as a policeman violating the right to private property by entering someone's home to save a life).

    Bernard Williams' Jim and the Indians

    Negative Responsibility (accountability for inaction when one could have prevented harm to others) and Integrity

    Jim and the Indians

    Below is a quick summary of Bernard Williams' Jim and the Indians.

    Twenty indians protest against their government, ending with military capturing and sentencing them to public execution. Jim, a foreigner, arrives just before the execution. Since Jim is an honored visitor, there is a special occasion. The military captain offers the opportunity for Jim to kill one of the Indians and spare the rest. If Jim refuses, there is no special occasion and all twenty will be killed. Jim panics and is uncertain about what to do. He has never even held a gun before; he feels nervous and does not want to hurt anyone. The local villagers beg Jim to kill one of the twenty. What should Jim do?

    Negative Responsibility

    Utilitarianism supports negative responsibility, which states one is responsible for what they do not prevent if they could have prevented some evil action. Following this principle, utilitarianism states Jim should kill one of the Indians to prevent the captain from killing all of them; after all, one dead Indian is better than twenty dead Indians. However, does this not reduce an ethical problem into simple mathematics, essentially turning morality in equations and people into robots? (See the "Blind Obedience" section.)

    Additionally, people should not be held responsible for what they did not do. Why should Jim be responsible for the deaths of nineteen Indians if he refuses to kill one? The captain is the one who gave the order to execute – he is responsible for the deaths of all twenty. In fact, the only power Jim has to prevent the deaths is the power the captain gives Jim. It is entirely up to the captain to decide who lives and who dies.

    If a parent neglects their child, leading to the child suffering from hunger and severe weather despite the parent having surplus food and a good house, does it make sense to say the parent is not responsible for the easily preventable and terrible things happening to their own child? This why negative responsibility is important; it states one should be held responsible for how they did not help and uplift others when they could have. If one is held accountable not to do evil, then why not to do good or prevent evil? It seems ridiculous to claim one is ethical when they would actively refuse to sacrifice to uplift and support others. Negative responsibility is enforcing that one should actively help others the best one can.

    "The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." - Jeremy Bentham

    As with any philosophy theory, the Principle of Maximal Utility may be criticized and defended in numerous ways - connections to ideas, example scenarios, emotional or logical reasoning, and so forth. This is the thread for that.

    Below are quick summaries of very common arguments concerning this principle and responses to them. Please note that many of these arguments also apply to Epicureanism.

    Before Continuing

    Please understand the deciding factor for most of these arguments is simply one's personal opinion. Please remain respectful of each others' beliefs and understand people are trying to do their best, even if they are misguided.

    Many of the arguments below concern four foundational principles of utilitarianism. These principles uphold the maximal utility principle and seek to help one apply it. Be sure you understand these principles to best communicate:


    Pleasure (anything which creates pleasant, nice, or good feelings) is the only good and pain (anything which creates unpleasant, nasty, or bad feelings) is the only evil in life. Every decision one makes, whether consciously or unconsciously, is made to pursue pleasure or avoid pain. It is everyone's moral responsibility to be the happiest they can by maximizing their pleasure while minimizing their pain.

    Simplification: "What matters is that you are happy"


    The moral correctness of an action depends on its predicted and actual results (consequences). A good action produces good and uplifting outcomes, whatever they are defined to be. An action which produces bad outcomes, even if done with good intentions, is still immoral.

    Simplification, in the Extreme: "The ends justify the means"


    When determining the most morally correct action, one should use objective criteria – never prejudice, hatred, bias, or other non-objective reasoning. Every person’s interests should be considered as equally, even though individuals are not equal because of talents, skills, personalities, and other attributes.

    Simplification: Do not judge others based on prejudice and/or bias.


    The morality of an action or set of actions can be determined through combining their outcomes, through using some consistent system to compare, total, average, or otherwise combine outcomes. The best actions produce the most good.

    Simplification: "Please, let me make it up to you"

    Table of Contents

    - Robert Nozick's Utility Monster: What if One Person Loves Something more than Others? Can They Take Away Others' Property?

    o Sadism

    o Love of Destruction

    o Teachings on Higher Pleasures

    - Hypothetical Acceptance of Unequal Distribution of Happiness: Are slave societies justifiable?

    - Possible Exceptions for Everything

    o Nothing Forbidden

    o Do Rights Matter?

    - Bernard Williams' Jim and the Indians

    o Jim and the Indians

    o Negative Responsibility

    o Integrity

    - Distastefulness: I don't Like your Ethics

    o General Distastefulness

    o Common Criticisms

    - Blind Obedience: Your Ethics are simply Rules to Follow Robotically

    o Ethics =/= Mathematics

    o Does Consequentialism Care about Character?

    Robert Nozick's Utility Monster

    What if One Person Loves Something more than Others? Can They Take Away Others' Property?

    Utility Monster

    Theoretically, a person (a "utility monster") who loves resources of any kind with such exceedingly gargantuan love could justify taking resources from all other people. After all, those resources would create more utility if the utility monster used them than if anyone else used them. Note: this argument applies to all consequentialist ethics which focus on maximizing a variable.

    The most common response to this is: why is that such a bad thing? Nozick never explains why a utility monster would be a bad thing, he just creates a bad-sounding scenario with no point.

    Examining why one would think the utility monster is bad, it is easy to see it built purely on emotion (it is simply demonizing some scenario) and fails entirely if put into any realistic scenario. One such realistic scenario could be numerous people across the world donating their resources to help those in Africa and other impoverished nations. This is good as the impoverished enjoy the resources more than those donating the resources. The impoverished would be similar to utility monsters, who take resources from numerous others for their own pleasure. While in theory, this sounds bad, it clearly is not as it helps the impoverished greatly while requiring only relatively minor sacrifices from those who donated the resources.

    Additionally, a utility monster which always gains immense pleasure from taking resources from others and never decreases in the pleasure they gain would never exist in reality. While there may be some who gain immense pleasure from resources, diminishing marginal utility (a concept from economics) would cause the pleasure generated to decrease until it is equal to the pleasure it would generate for everyone else – making it unnecessary to sacrifice to give resources to what used to be the utility monster. To give an example for this, if a poor, hungry, homeless person lived in a wealthy country, the wealthy should help the person as the person would appreciate the resources far more than the wealthy. As the person is cared for, diminishing marginal utility would take effect and the benefit they would gain from the wealthy's donations would decrease until it would no longer be worth donating to the person (since the person would be well taken care of). The point when the donations stop would likely be when the person is nearing the wealthy's own standard of living.


    If a terrible person gains more pleasure from causing suffering than pain is generated, then their destructive actions could be justified under utilitarianism. Would not their acts of torture and mayhem produce more pleasure than pain overall?

    Sadistic pleasures could never justify the pain it inflicts. Sadistic pleasure is low level and temporary while the pain inflicted is not (see teachings on higher pleasures below).

    Additionally, the pleasure gained would never in reality be more than the pain inflicted. Justifying such pain would require unrealistically massive benefits, which would never be obtainable. Sacrifice is only justified if it brings a net positive change in utility and making up for great or widespread pain would require enormous and long-lasting benefits – which sadism will never bring. Not to mention, decreases in utility are never justified under utilitarianism, thus sadistic acts are never justified as they cannot generate more overall utility.

    But what if a very depressed or guilt-ridden person wants a sadist to torture them to death? I think the question becomes: what benefit would their death bring compared to therapy treatment or some other alternative? If the person is a dangerous criminal who cannot stop hurting others and thinks being tortured to death is a just punishment, then perhaps execution of some kind (electric chair, harvest for organs, etc.) is the best choice. I believe it would be very unlikely for the best option to be handing the person to a sadist. (If execution still sounds immoral, then please see the "Distastefulness" section.) If the person may learn to contribute to society, then therapy treatment is better as it makes them happier and enables them to make society happier.

    Love of Destruction

    Since people may gain pleasure from destructive means, pleasure cannot be the highest good.

    While people may gain some pleasure from destructive actions, the actions most often lead to greater pain and a reduced capacity to gain or feel pleasure. This does not mean pleasure is not the highest good, it means people may pursue pleasure in a bad way – just as one could pursue any ethical goal poorly.

    Using pleasure as the highest good still denounces destructive actions in similar ways as most other ethical systems do. Destructive actions are morally incorrect since they cause pain and can reduce pleasure for all involved, even over an extended time period.

    Morally incorrect actions, which are destructive and reduce pleasure overall, tend to bring much pain to those committing the actions. They may suffer from worry, fear of being caught, shame, and low self-esteem. Also, their memories may bring frequent reminders of past wrongs and guilt.

    These actions tend to reduce one's capacity to gain or feel pleasure. They imprison one with sufferings (such as addiction or lost opportunities/freedoms). They prevent one from enjoying higher pleasures (see teachings on higher pleasures below). For example, one cannot enjoy a loving family if their actions do not allow for a stable home or for family members to grow closer to one another. Immoral actions also create feelings of hatred in the actor and others, making it difficult to make restitution and work with others. Resultant feelings of revenge or a grudge (which causes pain by itself) can drive one toward making bad choices, causing more pain for all involved.

    Most of the happiness which destructive actions bring (if it does bring any happiness) is very weak and temporary. It does not bring joy, only lower pleasures (see teachings on higher pleasures below)

    Arguments against Maximizing Total Happiness

    Position: One should not be concerned for the happiness of others.

    I apologize for the lack of content in this section. I had trouble finding points to add.

    - Unnatural

    Typically, a person's natural instincts are to maximize their own happiness - not that of others! Why should one go against their nature and sacrifice their happiness for others?

    "Happiness and bliss are produced not by great riches nor vast possessions nor exalted occupations nor positions of power, but rather by peace of mind, freedom from pain, and a disposition of the soul that sets its limits in accordance with nature." - Selected Fragments, 548,

    Utilitarianism teaches this principle must be taught as it does not occur naturally: "education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2

    - Sacrificing Happiness for Others is Based on Emotion, not Reason

    Unless one cultivates emotional feelings driving them to sacrifice their happiness for others, there is no motivation for it. Creating this motivation is an attempt to make their own happiness derive from others' happiness, causing them to indirectly focus on increasing their own happiness. This is less effective for increasing one's own happiness than simply focusing on one's own happiness.

    "And often we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure." - Letter to Menoeceus

    "No one chooses a thing seeing that it is evil; but being lured by it when it appears good in comparison to a greater evil, he is caught." - Vatican Sayings, 16

    - Causes Stress

    Unnecessary worry concerning others may cause stress, lowering one's own happiness without helping anyone.

    "All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary, but the desire is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to obtain or the desires seem likely to produce harm." - Principal Doctrines, 26

    - May Cause Anxiety or Depression

    Worrying about and enduring failures when attempting to help others may deteriorate one's mental health.

    "Unhappiness is caused by fears, or by endless and empty desires; but he who is able to rein these in creates for himself a blissful understanding." - Selected Fragments, 485,

    - Strains One's Time and Resources

    Frequently spending one's efforts on others may lower or exhaust their time and resources.

    "Some men want fame and status, thinking that they would thus make themselves secure against other men. If the life of such men really were secure, they have attained a natural good; if, however, it is insecure, they have not attained the end which by nature's own prompting they originally sought." - Principal Doctrines, 7

    - Restricts Freedom

    Having to worry about actions which may negatively or not positively affect others may limit one's choices.

    - Motivational/Psychological Hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain) is Traditionally about One's Self - Not Others

    Many of the ancients spoke of hedonism as centered on one's self. Attempting to shift its focus toward others is violating its foundation.

    "we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything" - Letter to Menoeceus

    "For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled." - Letter to Menoeceus

    "The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." - Jeremy Bentham

    Applying this principle in one's daily life will require sacrificing one's own happiness to maximize the happiness of others. Following it, there are times when one will want to rest or enjoy a possession, but instead will give up their pleasure to give more to another. In other cases, one will labor or provide services to others to please them despite how those efforts may be painful.

    Is it best to follow this teaching? If so, should it be applied only to an extend or followed limitlessly?

    To focus this thread, please make sure your contributions are oriented towards applying this principle in one's daily life. Please save comments concerning the principle's overall validity for the "Criticisms against Principle of Maximal Utility" thread (i.e. talk about realistic scenarios here and about theoretical ones such as Robert Nozick's Utility Monster over there).

    Table of Contents

    - A Word before Participating: Just some thoughts to consider to help any discussion

    - Arguments for Maximizing Total Happiness: Why should one sacrifice to actively help others?

    - Arguments against Maximizing Total Happiness: Why should one not sacrifice to actively help others?

    A Word before Participating

    Remember to be respectful and kind in your discussions here. Anything else would accomplish nothing and may prevent convincing others of your perspective as well as prevent the learning of all involved.

    Remember to thoroughly consider others' words, even if you disagree. This is to your benefit since "the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner" (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2).

    Remember not to take offense to others' words. You may not know the reasons why they said something. If they said something, there must be reasoning they saw good enough to say it. Additionally, it may be you are misinterpreting it in a way even the person who said it would find offensive. If you disagree with someone, try to convince them of your perspective. If you cannot convince them, then feel sorry for them as that is their punishment.

    Arguments for Maximizing Total Happiness

    Position: One should be concerned for the happiness of others.

    - Many Experience a Strong, Indispensable Feeling to Help Others and Cherish it

    "the feeling of duty, when associated with utility, . . . would make us feel it congenial, and incline us not only to foster it in others . . ., but also to cherish it in ourselves" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3

    - Often Makes One Happy

    People commonly say helping others brings them joy, therefore it can be a source of joy: "the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it. If the end which the utilitarian doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory and in practice, acknowledged to be an end, nothing could ever convince any person that it was so. No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 4

    "So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it." - Letter to Menoeceus

    - Makes Friends, Leading to a Happier Life

    "Of all the means to insure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends." - Principal Doctrines, 27

    "Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness." - Vatican Sayings, 52

    - Society Runs on Sacrificing One's Happiness for Others and Society Gives more to each Individual than each Individual Sacrifices

    Communities are created and maintained through people willingly sacrificing their own happiness to help the group. By cooperating in a society, each person gains more than possible alone.

    As an example, consider a fort protecting against hostiles in the surrounding lands. No one soldier may defend each side of the fort nor stand watch twenty-four hours a day. However, the soldiers may coordinate to every side simultaneously and take shifts to be best protected, even if it means some must guard at 3am each day when they do not want to.

    "This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become stronger, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilisation" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3

    - Builds Good Habits and Avoids Bad Habits

    "Don't avoid doing small favors, lest you seem to be the same with regard to greater things." - Selected Fragments, 214,

    "Let us completely rid ourselves of our bad habits as if they were evil men who have done us long and grievous harm." - Vatican Sayings, 46

    - Humans are Social Creatures, Every Person is Born with an Inherent Need to Work with Others and Sacrificing for Others is Essential for That

    People naturally feel they must interact with and cooperate with others to survive and prosper. This inherent need, at times, requires one to sacrifice their happiness for the group.

    - Creates Peace and Contentment

    "While we are on the road, we must try to make what is before us better than what is past; when we come to the road's end, we feel a smooth contentment." - Vatican Sayings, 48

    - Avoids Self-Absorption, which may Cause Unhappiness and Loss of Direction

    "When people who are tolerably fortunate in their outward lot do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to make it valuable to them, the cause generally is, caring for nobody but themselves" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 2

    - Encourages Cooperation; One may Accomplish more with Others than Alone

    "The wise man who has become accustomed to necessities knows better how to share with others than how to take from them, so great a treasure of self-sufficiency has he found." - Vatican Sayings, 44

    "a person in whom the social feeling is at all developed, cannot bring himself to think of the rest of his fellow creatures as struggling rivals with him for the means of happiness . . . . The deeply rooted conception . . . tends to make him feel it one of his natural wants that there should be harmony between . . . [himself and] his fellow creatures. If differences of opinion and of mental culture make it impossible . . . he still needs to be conscious that his real aim and theirs do not conflict; that he is . . . promoting [their own good]. . . . [This feeling] possesses all the characters of a natural feeling. It . . . [is] an attribute which it would not be well for them to be without. This conviction is the ultimate sanction of the greatest happiness morality" - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 3

    - Often Leads to Greater Security since Others may come to One's Aid

    "The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life." - Principal Doctrines, 39

    - Increases Gratitude

    Giving to others helps one appreciate what they have and receive.

    "Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance." - Epicurus

    "The fool's life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future." - Epicurus

    "But allow me to extend an olive branch before making my argument"

    Do not worry, it is difficult to offend me. I felt no offense of any kind as I was reading your post.

    I think I interpreted that quote from the Letter to Menoeceus very differently. As always, please correct me if I am wrong.

    I think Epicurus was not against having much, but against addicting one's self to having much. I agree with you that one should not "grow acclimated to these unnecessary pleasures, at which point they become our baseline and no longer are as pleasing as they once were".

    As long as one fully appreciates having much in some pleasure (a fine taste to enjoy costly meals or a love of big TV screens or a personal library full of enjoyable literature), I think Epicurus would have been fine with them enjoying much.

    I have condensed and underlined portions of the quote to better show where my thoughts are coming from.

    "regard independence of outward things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little . . . To habituate one's self, therefore, to . . . all that is needful for health, . . . enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition . . . and renders us fearless of fortune."

    "Your claim is that freedom from pain = pleasure."

    That is not my claim. My claim is pleasure and pain are not defined as the lack of one another - they may both be present at the same time. To clarify that point (thinking the bean jar analogy was unclear), I used an RGB color analogy: "more red does not undo green, but blends with green to make yellow". I have no idea how pleasure and pain blend. Maybe it is heterogeneous, like water and oil shaken together. Maybe it is homogeneous, like hydrogen and oxygen combining to make water.

    "I 100% disagree that in increasing pleasure we are becoming increasingly free from pain."

    I 100% agree with your disagreement.

    "Choose pleasurable activities carefully so as not to suffer unnecessary significant pain that in your context 'outweighs' the pleasure? Absolutely YES.

    Choose pleasurable activities ONLY if you can be sure that NO pain will result from them? Absolutely NOT, and that implication has to be firmly dismissed."

    Teachings such as this is why I love calculus. Calculus emphasizes there are multiple variables one must consider to find the best solution to a problem. It describes nature so well.

    It is great to learn so much from others on the forum! I hope I will help contribute your learning as well. :)

    The emphasis that happiness should be maximized for all has been present in utilitarianism since its foundation: "The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." - Jeremy Bentham

    I find the argument against this interesting. Honestly, it had never occurred to me as unnatural until I spoke with a mormon (they are predominant where I live) about it.

    The mormon (who may not have been representing his church) said focus on maximizing the happiness of others leads to stress (because of unnecessary worry concerning others) and anxiety/depression (because of worry of and inevitable failures) while straining one's time and resources (because of constantly spending them on others).

    I think accepting or rejecting this part of utilitarianism comes down to personal opinion. I would love to get your thoughts on this. If you are willing, we can enter a private conversation on the website.

    That is fine, Cassius. I appreciate your help and I think it was very good for me to check over that post.

    I do appreciate your openness to admit error. I think it shows much about one's character of how they handle when (not if) they are wrong.

    "To me, it is crucially foundational to emphasize that Epicurus stressed that there are ONLY two categories of feelings - pleasure and pain. In any measurement system, if the universe is composed of only two components, then in rigorous terms YES - the absence of one IS exactly the measure of the presence of the other, and vice versa."

    I have to disagree with this.

    There are many times I think pleasure and pain come together, such as when one feels both happy and sad at the same time.

    Using the jelly bean analogy, it started with pleasurable jelly beans and painful jelly beans, not one type of jelly bean and air. Two jars could have only painful jelly beans, but one jar could have twice as many painful jelly beans as the other.

    To use a different analogy (I hope this will not be confusing), consider someone colorblind to the color blue, so they only see red and green. More red does not undo green, but blends with green to make yellow. Less green and twice that amount of red blends to make orange. However, one cannot truly see red at its maximum if green is in the way since they would see shades of yellow, gold, or orange and not red.

    I realize this perspective may be in violation of PD3. That is likely because I do not understand PD3 nor "the Platonists and others who argue that pleasure cannot be the guide of life because it can never be satisfied".

    It sounds like both of you have learned much from your discussion. However, I think this thread has drifted from its original topic: "All pleasure may be desirable, . . . but is all pleasure is equally desirable?".

    I think Epicurus taught different pleasures have different desirabilities.

    One subject this is brought up is bodily pleasures and mental pleasures: "The flesh receives as unlimited the limits of pleasure; and to provide it requires unlimited time. But the mind, intellectually grasping what the end and limit of the flesh is, and banishing the terrors of the future, procures a complete and perfect life, and we have no longer any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless the mind does not shun pleasure, and even when circumstances make death imminent, the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life" (PD20)

    In other texts, he seems to point out more desirable pleasures:

    "To those who are able to reason it out, the highest and surest joy is found in the stable health of the body and a firm confidence in keeping it" (Peter Saint-Andre's Selected Fragments, 68,

    "The noble man is chiefly concerned with wisdom and friendship; of these, the former is a mortal good, the latter an immortal one" (Vatican Sayings, 78).

    What do you guys think?

    Welcome! We are very happy to have you here.

    I am glad you have such a love for the idea that pleasure drives motivation. Just so you know, that is called Motivational/Psychological Hedonism. I think everyone, whether they realize it or not, acts to gain pleasure (or avoid pain). Examples demonstrating this are everywhere.

    Being a utilitarian, I feel obligated to correct you and say the motivating strength of pleasure is vital to utilitarianism, as taught by utilitarian leaders:

    "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think" (Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation)

    "whether mankind do desire nothing for itself but that which is a pleasure to them, or of which the absence is a pain; we have evidently arrived at a question of fact and experience, dependent, like all similar questions, upon evidence. It can only be determined by practised self-consciousness and self-observation, assisted by observation of others" (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter 4)

    I am happy you have joined us and hope you will be a great Epicurean friend.

    Having a screenshot and list of sources in the post are excellent ideas! Thank you.

    How to input data into the database is explained in the "Contributing Passages" section. Please see the "Example" subsection to see what data my Java converter will take. For quality control, I plan to manage any data going into the master copy of the database.

    I am unfamiliar with creating front ends, but have experience with backends (I am a college student, studying computer science). I do not know to begin creating a front end for an SQL database and I am new to SQL.

    The background and goals of my project are described in the "Background" section, the very last section of the post, which is available at the bottom of this file:…/Topical%20Guide.txt?dl=0 (I use a separate file since I hit the character limit for posts on the forum).

    I am glad you are excited for this project. I hope it will be useful to many.

    I am creating an SQL database for Epicurean and utilitarian passages/quotes from texts (I am a utilitarian, see the "Background" section for details). The passages have citations and are tagged with topics. One may search using a topic and find a number of passages from multiple sources to find quotes or know where to go to learn more about a topic.

    I am a 20 year old nerdy, asocial computer science major (I am learning to make software; I aspire to be a highly educated programmer/scientist). I am attending Brigham Young University Idaho because of its high quality degree, fantastic honor code, and low cost. I was raised an hour away from Portland, Oregon and recently moved to San Diego, California because of my father's work (I miss omnipresent clouds and Seattle-like rain).

    I am a utilitarian, mainly following John Stuart Mill. While studying, I repeatedly encountered quotes from Epicurus, being cited as a wise authority on ethics. I believe most Epicurean teachings explain what I think is the core of utilitarianism: a selfless love for others based on hedonism with humility and wisdom. As I study Epicurean teachings, I find numerous aspects essential to and expanded upon in utilitarianism. To study philosophy, I searched for complete sources on any website I could find (thus how I found Epicurean Friends) and took notes while doing so. A small part of those notes become the topical guide linked above. Look there for a better understanding of my understanding of Epicurean philosophy.

    I have a highly analytical mindset, enhanced by my electrical engineer-filled family and technical education starting from an early age (ex: I have been programming since the age of seven. I finished five programming and five engineering classes before graduating high school. The list goes on.). From this, I know criticism (mainly constructive criticism) is vital for learning and improving. Please remain respectful and I will be very difficult to offend. Thank you.


    Want to contribute to a thread but only halfway remember that quote you read the other day? To help you with finding quotes and learning more about a given subject, the topical guide below allows you to search through indexed passages using a keyword. Follow the instructions in below in "How to Use" to gain an SQL database containing passages and a desktop browser to help you use it.

    # of Epicurean Indexed Passages: 190

    # of Epicurean Sources Used: 6

    In Use

    In Use.jpg

    Important Information

    This topical guide is still being built.

    Suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

    Download Link to SQL Database:…sjql/topicalGuide.db?dl=0

    Please see "How to Use" below for help with using SQL.

    List of Possible Topics:

    Not every topic may have a passage associated with it. The topical guide is still being built. Please have patience.

    Want to help?

    See "Contributing Passages" below, review the topical guide so far, and start reading any of the texts below. Thank you!

    Diogenes Laertius’ Life of Epicurus (

    On the Nature of Things (

    Letter to Herodotus (

    Letter to Pythocles

    Cicero's "On Ends"

    Cicero's "On The Nature of the Gods"

    And so many more texts!

    Table of Contents

    - How to Use

    o What it Does

    a. Example

    o How to Search

    - Topics

    - SQL Database Contents

    o Currently Used Sources

    o topicalGuide

    o sources

    o topics

    - Contributing Passages

    o How to Index Passages

    o Example

    - Background

    How to Use

    What it Does

    There are two major uses of a topical guide:

    1. Find passages useful for describing certain topics

    2. Find sources or where to look for certain topics

    This is done by searching for topics within the topical guide. For each topic, the guide will display every indexed passage tagged with the topic. Each passage should be useful for describing the topic and have a reference to where it may be found, allowing one to know where to look to learn more about the topic.


    Topic = Limit Desires


    All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary, but the desire is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to obtain or the desires seem likely to produce harm.

    - Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 26

    [Shortened for brevity] a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. [Shortened for brevity]

    - Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

    If you want to make Pythocles wealthy, don't increase his riches but reduce his desires.

    - Epicurus, Selected Fragments, 135

    These results would go on for as many passages there are in the topical guide tagged with "Limit Desires", since that was the topic selected.

    How to Search

    For every useable topic, please see the separate file, "Topics.txt", located at:

    Assuming one does not have any knowledge of SQL, this section will cover how to install a user-friendly SQL browser and explain how to use it.

    -Installing SQL Browser:-

    1. Go to

    1 Website.jpg

    2. Choose and download the correct installer for your machine.

    3. Run the installer.

    3 Run Installer.jpg

    -Using SQL Browser:-

    1. Open the SQL browser.

    2. Click on "Open Database" at the top-left. Navigate to and select the .db file you wish to open. To use the topical guide, please download the .db file located at:…sjql/topicalGuide.db?dl=0.

    a2 Open Database.jpg

    3. Click on "Browse Data" at the top-left. You may now see and filter through each table and entry within the database.

    a. Use the "Table" dropdown menu to view any table within the database.

    a3 Browse Database.jpg

    b. Type into the "Filter" textbox underneath any field to display only entries whose fields have the keywords in the textbox. For topics, it is recommended to search for only one topic at a time.


    For every useable topic, please see the separate file, "Topics.txt", located at:

    Not every topic may have a passage associated with it. The topical guide is still being built. Please have patience.

    Make sure you understand a topic's definition before using it. Many of the topics may have unusual definitions since their definitions are based on bible dictionaries and various religions.

    For example, the common definition for compassion makes sympathetic its synonym. This topical guide defines compassion according to biblical definitions and describes it as the desire to actively relieve pain or bring joy to others. If one wanted to find passages on sympathy, they may be find the search difficult if using compassion and may wish to refine or broaden their search with mercy, reverence, charity, and other topics.

    SQL Database Contents

    This section describes what is in the SQL database holding the topical guide.

    Currently Used Sources

    The following list are Epicurean sources with indexed passages:

    Principal Doctrines

    Letter to Menoeceus

    Epistles to Lucilius (1 passage)

    Peter Saint-Andre's Selected Fragments

    Vatican Sayings

    Sayings about the Wise Man


    Holds every passage and their keywords.

    author: The name of whomever originally wrote the passage.

    passage: A quotation, teaching, or other words.

    source: Where the passage may be found.

    topics: Keywords associated with the passage.

    notes: Information to help users better understand the passage.


    Describes sources referred to in the topical guide.

    title: The name of the text containing passages.

    author: The name of whomever originally created the text.

    translator: The name of whomever converted the text from one language into the source's language.

    datePublication: Whenever the text was first released.

    dateTranslation: Whenever the text was translated.

    links: Where to find the source.

    description: Notes or background concerning the source.


    Lists every possible topics within the topical guide.

    Please see this link for an alternate view of the topics:

    topic: A keyword associated with passages in topicalGuide.

    definition: A description or synonym of a topic.

    occurrences: The number of passages marked with the topic within the topical guide.

    Contributing Passages

    The topical guide may be missing your favorite passages or perhaps even an entire book you liked. Unfortunately, this may be because I have different interests than you or have difficulty understanding certain literature (such as Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things").

    You may fix these gaps within the topical guide. Please read this section to learn how. Thank you.

    I have a simple converter which turns .txt files filled with passages into commands to add to the topical guide.

    This is meant to allow people to take quick notes while reading to index passages without having to worry too much about technical details.

    If you have passages you would like to add to the topical guide, please format them as described below and send your file to me. I will try to add them to the topical guide.

    How to Index Passages

    The converter uses symbols placed at the beginning of each line to tell the computer if the line contains a passage, name of the author, a source, topics pertaining to the passage, or notes.

    These symbols are removed before the content is added to the topical guide. There is no need to place a space before a symbol.

    The order the symbols are placed in does not matter. Whether or not every symbol is used for a given passage does not matter.

    Each passage must have exactly one blank line between it and the next passage to load properly.

    Please use only the topics listed in "Topics.txt" (Link: and make sure you understand the definition of the topic before using it.

    This will improve consistency and prevent problems with not finding passages because of synonyms or disagreements between definitions of topics.

    Additionally, please try to use the links given for sources within the topical guide.

    This will help people find passages attributed to the same source within a single translation (as opposed to searching across multiple translations of the same source).

    If the topical guide gives multiple links for a source, please try to use the first link listed.

    Converter Symbols:

    [None] = Quote

    - = Author

    > = Source

    # = Topics

    * or ^ = Notes


    The following, when placed into a .txt file and fed into the converter, succeeded in converting the passages into SQL commands for adding to the topical guide:

    I summon you to sustained enjoyment and not to empty and trifling virtues, which destroy your confidence in the fruits of what you have.


    >Selected Fragments, 116

    #Soundbite, Indoctrination, Superstition, Long-Term

    {<--- The single blank lines between two passages are necessary!}

    >Principal Doctrines, 16

    Chance seldom interferes with the wise man; his greatest and highest interests have been, are, and will be, directed by reason throughout his whole life.

    *Chance = Misfortune


    #Limit Desires, Humility, Greed

    #Obedience, Long-Term


    Exercise yourself in these and related precepts day and night, both by yourself and with one who is like-minded

    >Letter to Menoeceus


    #Ethics, Hedonism

    Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering.


    Oh no! My post is too long. Do not worry, the "Background" section may be found at:…/Topical%20Guide.txt?dl=0.