Jul 14, 2016
Posted by Marios Kyriazis in categories: aging, environmental, life extension, philosophy
Philosophers have been debating the meaning of life for millennia. Billions of people believe that the principal aim in life is to experience pleasure, and they try to enjoy life as much as possible before they die. A minority of others, make it their life’s aim to achieve something which is over and above simple pleasure: not merely to help others, not even to help humanity at large. They aim, whether knowingly or unknowingly, to improve the evolutionary process of nature as a whole.
So far, so good. But it appears that the view we hold about our life, our worldview, has a direct impact on our biology. We know that thinking positively may help improve the immune system. But research also shows that people who aim for pleasure (Hedonia) may have an impaired genetic profile, compared to those who aim for higher virtues (Eudaimonia). There is a distinction between these two terms and it is worth providing a definition here:
Hedonia is an exclusive search for pleasure and avoidance of discomfort. It may involve increased emphasis on eating well, drinking, dancing, playing, and generally enjoying simple pleasures in life. It is contentment, gratification, fun, merriment, satisfaction and, perhaps necessarily, a lack of motivation to search for a nobler aim in life. One may argue that hedonia involves a risk that leads to bad health due to a tendency to excesses (smoking, alcohol, coffee, sweets), a general inclination to avoid uncomfortable physical activity, and a lack of challenging cognitive effort. The risk of addiction may be increased. Erosion of social bonds become a possibility when a hedonist is more concerned about his/her own pleasure and is less sensitive to the needs of others.
Eudaimonia is a term reflecting the highest ‘intellectual good’. It is virtue plus excellence, superior ethical refinement, cognitive sophistication, as well as other qualities such as persistent motivation, wisdom, imagination, creativity, vision and a feeling of purpose. The term has been discussed by many ancient Greek philosophers particularly Aristotle and the Stoics. In modern times and in a wider sense, eudaimonia may be equated with meaningful technological hyperconnection, or ‘Intentional Evolution’, an attempt to constructively improve the human condition in all respects (including those relating to the wider universe). Hedonia is found both in animals and in humans, whereas eudaimonia is only found in humans.