Grinding and belching the choking gritty smoke

Roissy claims there is no afterlife and then writes his life philosophy:

My answer to the philosophical question I posed above is hedonism. It
is the only rational conclusion one can draw faced with the premises I
presented. When there is no second life or higher power to appease;
when our lives are machines – complex misunderstood machines cunningly
designed to conceal the gears and pulleys behind a facade of
self-delusional sublimation, but machines nonetheless – grinding and
belching the choking gritty smoke of status-whoring displays in service
to our microscopic puppetmasters… well, there can be only one
reasonable response to it all. It makes no sense to behave any other
way unless you never questioned the lies.

In my view the reasonable response to uncertainty about your long-term prospects is to be a good person and to try to create some value for other people.  With some probability you are protesting against your enslavement to the games.  With some probability the entire nature of the universe is deeply veiled and you will be fulfilling some higher purpose.  With some probability all possible choices by you are occurring anyway.  With some probability being nice is broadly consistent with hedonism, if not at every margin or every choice.  People will do things for you if you are nice to them.  Being nice is one of the best ways of participating in the mysteries.

Roissy gets too committed to his initial premises and does not sufficiently explore probabilistic reasoning; this is a common mistake in ethical reasoning.  Alex once wrote an excellent paper on this; when making a choice focus on the cases when your choice is likely to matter.

Nonetheless I agree with this paragraph from Roissy’s post:

Spend time with little children and old people. One is innocent, the
other is reacquainted with innocence. Their company is a world away
from the drone and ruckus of all the furious humanity in between. At
the extremes you will find perspective.

In reality Roissy (for the better) pursues a certain quality and vision of life, and for fear of failure he calls this hedonism.

Comments

Looks like the link for Alex's paper is broken...

Tyler,

I think your instincts are much better than your intellectual justifications for them. Of your entire paragraph explaining your view, only one sentence applied to "being nice" more than "being a serial killer." (The sentence was, "People will do things for you if you are nice to them.")

To make it less exaggerated, we could replace "being nice" with "being intimidating." And note that people will do things for you if you are intimidating.

Now it's true, maybe being intimidating doesn't protest "the games" as much as being nice, but if we are starting from scratch and trying to logically deduce our ethics, where is the argument establishing that we should want to protest "the games" that everyone else plays? That sounds like what Robin Hanson called evil a few weeks ago...

No, the problem with 'hedonism', if defined in the usual sense, is that you are sacrificing long-term well-being for short-term gain. For instance, smoking is hedonistic; you are giving in to immediate urges, but pay the price with later health problems. Be it a godless universe or a godful universe, the average person maximizes their well-being by always thinking decades ahead, working hard, being content with limited options, and playing by the rules.

I have previously shown using the GSS that people with one lifetime sex partner report being happier than people with more. The more sex partners people have, on average, the less happy they are. Men with the most sex partners report being the least happy with their lives.

PS - And this is odd coming from roissy, who has repeatedly warned that hedonism in women leads to unhappiness. e.g. eating too much leads to fat misery, delaying marriage and childbirth leads to pathetic cougardom.

The problem is that these same rules do, empirically, apply equally to men. The ultra-conservative lifestyle, ironically, is the true hedonism.

(... that is for the average person; in reality we are all genetically different, and find happiness in all manner of ways. This is a rule of thumb that works for the majority of people and genotypes)

Not only is Jason Malloy right that social science establishes that debauchery is generally not a very good path to true long-run hedonism, but this argument has a pretty ancient pedigree. In particular, Epicurus taught that the true secret to happiness was to live humbly in that the best way to reduce the gap between expectation and reality was to forgo attempts to satiate desires.

I'm not defending my particular lifestyle; as I said, people are very different, and I am well aware of this.

mk, is correct that there is a lot more research to be done, but it is incorrect that nothing is known, or that all viewpoints are equal. The person who behaves as if they are thinking about their needs three decades ahead, will end up more satisfied with their life when that milestone arrives, than the hedonist who (by definition) doesn't. This 'life philosophy' issue is a much broader issue than how much happiness person X will gain or lose by taking an additional sex parter, which is fairly trivial.

The literature, at the very least, is highly suggestive that marriage has a strong causal role in increasing well-being, and physical and mental health for both women and men.

I would say that people should behave under the averageness assumption: assume you are an average person unless you are confident otherwise. I'm pretty sure the happiest men probably are the ones who rolled the dice with their lives and ended up with the biggest pay-off. But for every one of these men there are 25 losers who risked it all and ended up much worse off. (but don't think too hard about the evolutionary implications of this or you can no longer be president of Harvard)

The averageness assumption is the one that works best for most people.

Rand's criticism of hedonism as ethics was that maximizing what feels good doesn't tell you what should feel good. What should you take pride in, what should anger you, and what should make you embarrassed?

How can one think probabilistically about a choice in which one of the payoffs is infinite? If you believe their is even a .1% chance of an afterlife in which you are rewarded or punished for eternity for your conduct in this world, then you should be willing to make any sacrifice at all to improve your P(heaven).

Tyler, you try to be nice and create value for others because it makes you feel good. You respect social norms, play by the rules, and just generally behave in a manner consistent with society's expectations of how a decent person behaves. You do this because your brain is wired in such a way as to make those things pleasurable to you, thus you are every bit the hedonist that Roissy is.

Once you dismiss any possibility of the existence of god (or the possibility of knowing what god would like us to do) hedonism is the only conclusion, not just logically, but definitionally. We do what makes us feel good, whatever that is. Roissy's hedonism includes chasing women, oh the horror, but apparently it also compels him to altruistically maintain a blog that brings happiness to many, for no personal gain other than the warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Also, for all of Roissy's fanfare about his shallow self-interest, his life would be much easier if he shut down his blog, put an Obama sticker on his car, and mouthed a few progressivist platitudes in his social life. Instead, he is taking on social and legal risk (says I anyways, as an inhabitant of Canada... the true, north strong and human rights commissioned) to pursue the higher power of TRUTH.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: yeah.

zdeno: the point is, psychological egoism/hedonism has nothing to do with the existence of God or the afterlife. they're completely independent things (and also perfectly compatible). somewhere David Hume is rolling over in his grave.

i don't even want to get into roissy's gross abuse of the concept "rationality."

jason malloy: only a problem if you apply a time discount to happiness. there's no inherent "rational" reason why i ought to value future happiness over current happiness. and in fact there are people who don't.

Roissy and his ilk are wankers. True alpha males have children all over the place. Roissy likes dry holes, i.e., he's just wanking.

How many progeny does Roissy have? Based on what I've read here on MR, I'm guessing none. He's a wanker.

And every time Tyler posts about Roissy I get the unmistakable impression that Tyler is pulling Roissy's chain. I.e., Tyler's wanking Roissy.

Having a child has truly been one of the greatest pleasures in life for me. It's pretty hard to enjoy that pleasure (at least for any reaonable length of time) without playing nice. Hedonism is a lonely road unless (as Tyler suggests), it's to be interpreted as a less selfish form of hedonism that permits us to take pleasure in others' pleasure as well.

Roissy's pretty easy to peg. He's a guy who's good with women - or claims to be - and likes to brag about it. Like most other people with an outstanding skill, Roissy elevates the importance of the skill, thereby elevating the importance of himself. His fine writing style and obvious intelligence obscure an old trick: I'm good at this, so it must be important.

Roissy's pretty easy to peg. He's a guy who's good with women - or claims to be

If the guy's sterile, then every hole will be dry. Talk is cheap, show us your kids.

Or maybe Roissy is a female imitating a male playa....

he's just so brave, so courageous, so alpha.

Does he have a pony?

In case nobody has noticed, Roissy puts many hours per week into crafting a fine blog, a use of time and energy that doesn't seem to have much to do with his stated philosophy. So, maybe there is more to life ...

@Roissy Fanboy:

Perfect satire. Good work.

Still can't believe that people are trying to have a serious intellectual engagement with Roissy! Yuck. I'd sooner engage with the average LGF commenter or a Freeper.

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