Axioms of the human condition

Axioms of the human condition

The primary aim of hedonism is to acquisition of pleasure, sometimes formulated as the absence of pain. The fact that pleasure is desirable is seen as axiomatic by defenders of hedonism I have had the pleasure of conversing with, and I would say that most laymen would agree on this point.

The general “argument” states that those who have felt pleasure have, alongside the sensation, received some information about it being desirable or good. An argument of the exact same shape was used by Plato when discussing the forms. A man who apprehends the forms will apprehend them as true. A man who fails to apprehend the forms is lacking in some regard. Plato does not go into the manner in which this person is lacking, but later Neoplatonists have attributed this lack largely to either a natural (birth) defect or a lack of training.

There are of course also people who do not see pleasure as desirable, though the exact nature of such a condition is contested, as one may argue that the absence of pleasure is pleasurable to these people. Nevertheless, it seems that the desirability of pleasure is not something that can be taught or trained. The same goes for a number of so-called “axioms” of the human condition.

Ironically, when a person is pressed to argue for such an axiom, then they are pushed in a Socratic manner to define their terms, few if any live up to the challenge.

I had a conversation recently with an acquaintance concerning the nature of romantic relationships. We agreed on a number of premises, namely that romantic relationships are in some way different from Platonic relationships and from sexual ones. This left me with the question of what defines a romantic relationship. Is it merely a friendly relationship at a level of intimacy that most require it to be exclusive?

If we wish to explain this exclusiveness, one must make a claim about the nature of the relationship. Is it such that one wishes the other to be happy, or merely wishes that for oneself? In the case of the latter, romantic relationships would be defined by possession and selfishness. Alternatively, in the former case, one may claim that the exclusivity agreement is natural, in the sense that it leads to the best relationships for both parties, but in that case, the agreement hardly seems necessary. That is not to say that I will often be found arguing for open relationships, but given the preceding line of argument, this was my conclusion.

There were a number of other liens of argumentation we pursued, such as treating a romantic interest as someone who one wishes to be family, or defining them entirely sexually. Both of these lines of argumentation proved unsatisfactory. Ultimately, my conversation partner landed on the statement along the lines of “those who know, know”, much like the statements discussed in the opening paragraphs. I fear I may be repeating myself, but this answer was of course an entirely unsatisfactory answer. Much like most Socratic dialogues, our conversation ended here, having only learned how little we know.

If anyone has a more satisfying answer, my mailbox is open at