I recently wrote Whose Pleasure? Whose Pain? Applying the Hedonic Calculus to Public... for the latest issue of The Humanist, where I discuss whether it makes sense to apply the Epicurean ethical method of hedonic calculus at the collective level. After some considerations, in the piece I argue
These considerations raise questions about what happens to the credibility and usefulness of humanist ethical concepts, like the hedonic calculus, when corporations appropriate them in their lobbying strategies. While we would like Epicurean humanism to influence public policy, it is imperative that the teachings are properly understood and used.
I then praise Senator Dick Durbin for including factors like obesity and heart disease among the long-term considerations in his calculus of benefit and loss, but in the end I conclude
It seems the hedonic calculus works best as a guide to making ethical choices at the individual level. At the societal level, we should omit its use, and instead simply recognize the right to happiness, leisure, clean air and water, and other basic rights.