He stated that bliss of Socratic theory meant physical pleasure. Thus, the theory of Cyrenaics is called pure hedonism or, sensualistic or egoistic hedonism. According to this theory, all pleasures belong to the same class.
Thus, the best pleasure is the one which is the most intense and permanent. Being more intense, physical pleasures are better than intellectual pleasures. Intense sensuous pleasure is the aim of life.
In the words of James Seth, “To sacrifice the present to the future, is unwarranted and perilous, the present is ours, and the future may never be.
To look before and after were to defeat the end of life, to miss that pleasure which is essentially a thing of the present. A life of feeling, pure and simple, heedless and unthinking, undisturbed by reason—such is the Cyrenaic ideal.”
Aristippus accepts the relativism of sophists. The sole objects of knowledge are feelings and experience. The past is dead, the future is yet unborn, only the present is in our hands. The only good is the immediate pleasure. Behaviour giving pleasure is good and that which brings pain is bad.
Anstippus believes in the psychological hedonism, according to which man always seeks pleasures. He is concerned only with the immediate pleasure. Pleasure is the sole motivation behind actions.
Man’s pleasure increases along with his stock of knowledge and experience. Man finds pain in the absence of knowledge of ethics. At this stage it is worth noting that though he calls himself follower of Socrates, Aristippus believes, contrary to Socrates, that man should not worry about the future.
The propriety of actions depends upon their consequences. Actions are not good or bad of themselves. Actions giving pleasure are good while those giving pain are bad.
In this way under certain circumstances even theft, sin, corruption, etc are good But Aristippus also accepts that those pleasures whose consequences are painful are definitely deplorable. The ethical importance of any action, knowledge, culture, etc. is according to the pleasure.
Aristippus was the first thinker who made materialism an ideal. Thus there exists in his theory a paradox. On the one hand, he advocates the acquisition of the most intense pleasure even if it is accompanied by infamy and says that intelligence lies in the maximum enjoyment of physical pleasure, while on the other hand he also asserts the necessity, on the man’s part of retaining his intrinsic freedom.
On the one hand, a life free of excitement and emotion has been called base and, assuming man to be an irrational being in the enjoyment of pleasure, sensual pleasure has been exalted to the objective of life while on the other hand reason has been made necessary for the attainment of pleasure
Actually the theory of Aristippus of is based on ethical skepticism which is a natural result of materialism. According to the materialist there is natural result materialism. According to the materialist there is no self, the body is temporary, the theory of karma is false, and no ethical law is permanent.
God does not exist, everything is matter. Thus the only intelligent, thing is to enjoy pleasures in the present and worry not about the rest. But a lot has been said against materialism in the philosophical world and now even the scientists do not credit materialism.
Thus any theory based on materialism cannot be appropriate. Secondly, no intelligent person will relish living in the present without any worry for the future because, whether he likes it or not, the future must come one day.
Thus it would be very foolish to concern oneself with the present without a worry for the future and even Aristippus accepts the importance of reason. Then there is no reason why intellectual pleasures should not be considered superior to physical pleasures.
Thirdly, physical pleasure may intense but the more permanent are the spiritual and mental paleasurs but which of them is superior? Fourthly, a feeling of selflessness is just as natural as a feeling of selfishness.
Even if one gets pleasure, an intellectual person will not like to like beasts. Actually, the theory of Cyrenaics is completely thoughtless, pessimistic, selfish, unrefined and unethical.
Distinctions from Cyrenaics:
Contrary to Aristippus, Epicurus established refined hedonism and his theory is known by his name. Aristippus and Epicurus differed in their assumptions in respect of human psychology.
Although both of them believed that man naturally searches for pleasure, Epicurus emphasized his superiority in comparison to animals. He is a self-conscious being and possesses reason.
He thinks of the past and the future. His life is not a life of mere sensations. He also has in him mental and intellectual tendencies. The fulfillment of these tendencies is pleasure and it is, in fact, superior to physical pleasure.
A man would not like to spend the aimless, unorganized and impulsive life of an animal he wants calm pleasure. His reason tells him that health is destroyed by uncontrolled enjoyment and control yields intellectual peace.
To avoid dissatisfaction, it is necessary to reduce one’s desires because all of them cannot be fulfilled. Epicurus has classified desires as natural, essential unnecessary and meaningless etc.
Only those desires should be fulfilled which promote physical and intellectual well being. The pleasure of passivity is superior to the hustle and bustle of life. It brings permanent pleasure.
Kinds of Pleasure:
In this way Epicurus recognized two types of pleasure—sensuous pleasure and intellectual pleasure, the latter being, contrary to the view of Aristippus, superior to the former sensual pleasure is active, empirical, alive, intense and momentary. Intellectual pleasure is calm, serious and lasting longer.
The standard of pleasure is not its intensity, but rather its permanence, painlessness and longevity. Life can be pleasant in the absence of physical pain and with mental peace.
Intellectual pleasure is superior to physical pleasure because it affords pleasure in the present as well as in the future. Thus, Epicurus bitterly criticized the cheap sensuousness. A life of mad activity is not a happy life. A calm undisturbed life is in reality an ideal life. It is a life of mental pleasure.
Based on Atomism:
A similar calm life necessitates freedom from the fear of death, hell, result of action etc. Basing hedonism on the hedonism on the atomism of Democritus, Epicurus tries to make man free from his fears.
According to atomism God is not the creator of the world. The world is a mere conglomeration of atoms and death is the agglomeration of atoms. The fear of death has no cause.
Another world does not exist. Epicurus holds that though there are gods, they have no hand in the working of the world and one need not fear them.
Means of Pleasant Life:
Epicurus looks upon ten qualities as the essential constituents of a happy life, the superior most and desirable being prudence. It only can guide one to a happy life. Qualities like control, justice, good feelings, friendliness, etc., enhance the pleasure in life.
A man is consistently unhappy with injustice. Epicurus like Plato and Aristotle believes that reason leads the way to a happy life. Prudence is the only means to the attainment of the life’s objective, pleasure.
Reason tells one to sacrifice the momentary pleasure of the present in the face of the possibility of more pleasure in the future. The first requirement for it is to be devoid of sorrow. In this way Epicurus struck a compromise between the discursive reason of Socrates and hedonism of Aristippus.
(1) Intellectual pleasure is a mere means to a happy life:
The theory of Epicurus is undoubtedly superior to that of Aristippus to whose gross hedonism he gave a cultured form and gave superiority to intellectual pleasure over physical pleasure.
He did of course, accept that reason directs human life and that it is a permanently happy life which is the ultimate good, and not momentary pleasure, but his theory also comes to the level of prudence when the good qualities are said to be the means to happy life. In the same way intellectual pleasure is not in itself good neither does it constitute an aim but it is a mere means to a happy life.
(2) Passive and negative viewpoint:
An ethical life is not passive. According to Epicurus, real pleasure is freedom from pain. In this way, pleasure is a negative feeling. Thus a calm life is superior to a life of disturbance.
The ethical ideal is a life without misery. A man should practice a detached life. He should remain unaffected by both pleasure and pain. In this way, Epicurus encourages a negative approach, forgetting in the process that the basis of morality is action. He lays excessive stress on mental peace.
(3) Selfish pleasure is not the supreme good:
Selfish pleasure can never be the supreme good. Self sacrifice is as fundamental as is self-defense. Social feelings cannot emanate from selfish feelings; selfless feelings have an equal place in human life.
(4) Based on prudence:
Morality based on prudence is not real morality. Good qualities as means to the attainment of good are not good qualities in reality. Real morality is inspired by a selfless feeling of duty. Its basis is pure intellect not prudence. Morality is itself an end being independent of any result
(5) Selfish feeling:
No universal law can be derived from selfish hedonism. An object giving pleasure to one may cause pain to another. If pleasure is going to be die objective then no law can be universal.
(6) Defects of psychological hedonism:
Being based on psychological hedonism, selfish hedonism acquires all the defects of the former.