03-22-09 - Intelligent Hedonism

Often in life you find that really stupid people actually basically do the right thing, then semi-intelligent people reason about things but get it all wrong and wind up doing totally the wrong thing, and then the truly intelligent do the same thing as the dummies. You see this in poker of course a ton, people who just "bet when they have a hand" are actually sort of doing the right thing even though they have no concept of what's going on. Then semi-intelligent people start thinking all these cock-eyed things like "wait that makes no sense, the goal is to maximize EV weighted by the probability of each outcome, so let me estimate and do some mental math..." and they totally cock it all up. Another example I believe is the pursuit of base physical pleasures.

The most animal of pleasures are the greatest. Animal physical and mental pleasures are our reward for getting through this life of ours. The physical pleasures are the taste of food, the glow of exercise, the tingle of drugs, the haze of booze. The base mental pleasures are things like ego boosts, the feeling of acceptance by friends or peers, the feeling of being loved or wanted.

Now, the dumb obviously have no problem accepting the base pleasures. But they get it all wrong. They do it vulgarly, without discretion or sense. For example the dumb boys who chase every bit of tail in the bars. Yes, I applaud them for seeking out the wonderful physical pleasure of sex, but they make it vile, they make it unpleasant for the good girls to participate, and they cheapen the whole experience. It should be subtle, full of anticipation and hints. Similarly the dumb fatties all over the mid west. Yes, I agree, food is delicious, but they do it all wrong, just stuffing their gobs full of cheap filth all the time. Better to eat less and seek out new exciting pleasures all the time instead of just trying to get more and more of the same thing.

Intelligent Hedonism is about pursuing the physical pleasures in a smart way. Not over-indulging, not over-using one particular pleasure so that you tire of it, not pursuing one when it's not wanted, and not just doing it for a fix. The Intelligent Hedonist is always striving to find new pleasures, and to enhance an experience. You might not get it very often, but when you do it's really good.

It can be simple things - like the smell of the air after a rain, or seeing a sunrise from the top of a hill - those are the moments you stop and savor, and you might spend days or weeks working to set them up.

The Intelligent Hedonist doesn't just throw back wine to get drunk. They enjoy every moment. First the joy of the hunt - reading, searching, shopping, learning. Then just touching the bottle and seeing the label - the moment of anticipation, wondering what it will be like. The ritual of the opening and pouring, the sound of the pop as the cork comes out and the glug glug of the first pour (at a restaurant the whole ritual of the taste test). Then the nose the taste the feeling. But not just wine - obviously a lot of people pretend to do this with wine now because TV and Movies have told them to. You do this with everything because you love it. With a chocolate bar, you admire the wrapper, the sound of it tearing open - hopefully it has a nice gold foil under the paper and you get to lovingly fold that back; then the color of it, the shape it's pressed, the feel of it just slightly melting in your fingers, the scent of the cocoa notes, then the feel in your mouth, on your tongue, the melting velvet, and then the taste.

The Intelligent Hedonist is not just a complainer or a crank. He/she doesn't just moan about the shitty restuarants or the bad movies. He seeks out the good stuff. His life is an endless quest for things that are made with care and skill.

A lot of semi-smart people see things like typical drug users and rightly think "that's gross, that's a cheap way to get a high, I don't need that, I'm above that". Well, sort of. You're right that they way the dumb hedonist is using drugs is wrong, but you're wrong in thinking that the highest goal is to avoid them. The same thing goes for casual physical sex, many semi-intelligent people see it and think of it as manipulative, degrading, cheap, unfullfilling, and thus swear off it completely and spurn all those who partake of it. Well, yes, again you are right that the way dumb people pursue that pleasure is in fact gross, but that's because they're doing it wrong.


Wouter said...

Yup, I observed this myself. I terminally suck at poker nowadays, and I long for the days when I could bet without being scared of knowing what hands other people may have. I don't have the time to be *really* good at poker, and I already know too much to be a newbie, so therefore, according to your theory, I am condemned to suck forever. Thanks!

As to intelligent hedonism... damn right. Funny how its almost the polar opposite of buddism...

AK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
castano said...

That sounds to me more like moderate (epicurean) hedonism, which advocates simple living and moderate desires. In that sense Buddhism is not that different, after all its goal is the pursuit of nirvana, the state of eternal pleasure, and both believe that great excesses lead to great dissatisfaction.

cbloom said...



Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Nino Mojo said...

Hi there. Interesting blog. I like what you're saying about the different pleasures and the ways to enjoy them, and agree (mostly).

Nice reading you.

James said...

when i've had too many spoonfuls of nutella in a row and crave another I run outside and down the street as fast as I possibly can and tear up the bottoms of my feet as if wolves were chasing me

old rants