This philosophy is judged to be not only erroneous but also cynical by philosophers of ethics who stress the absolute rightness and wrongness of specific acts whatever the calculable or incalculable outcomes. When it comes to doing something wrong, no amount of pleasure that could accompany or result from the act can make it good. If you think about it, when even skeptics and cynics think that something is wrong, they never calculate the pleasure involved. If anyone thinks that rape is good because of the pleasure of the rapist, he or she wouldn’t dare say so!
However, there is a sense of the hedonistic calculus that pertains not to choosing between good and evil, but between two goods. Sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously, when deciding, say, between visiting grandma at the rest home this Sunday or not, whatever excuses are given; probably the real reason for doing so or not involves a calculus of pleasure and pain such as – the pleasure of going to the movies instead is greater than the pain of a twinge of guilt at disappointing grandma. Or, that the pain of the guilt at the thought of grandma’s disappointment is greater than the possible pleasure of going to the movies.
I find it helpful in avoiding excuses and denial to admit that the hedonistic calculus is probably behind many such decisions, even the most trivial ones. I see a piece of paper someone dropped in the garden. Should I stop, stoop down, pick up the paper and throw it in the trash bin, or proceed toward my parked car without picking up the paper? The excuse for not doing the tiny good deed might be something like “it’s someone else’s job to clean the lawn. Let them do it.” Is that not-wholly-invalid excuse, however, a good reason not to pick up the litter out of love for the family and/or love for the beauty of the lawn?
Probably reading these paragraphs you are praising the Lord that you never studied enough philosophy to be able to analyze such daily matters so closely! From the angle of spirituality in our daily lives, however, the thought that occurred to me, which I preferred to write down rather than stoop down to pick up the litter by the way, (smile), was that, if I was more of a penitent, I wouldn’t have to think twice. “Ah, litter! Good, a little chance to offer something to God for all my usual pious intentions!”
Did you know you can take courses on-line for B.A. or M.A. credit from minds like mine at Holy Apostles College and Seminary? Google it.