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Hedonistic imperative

The Hedonistic Imperative outlines goals and motives in the endeavor to use genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to improve the quality of life for all lifeforms.

The author, David Pearce, mainly argues from a utilitarian ethic. If we assume happiness is equivalent to value, he asserts, then our goal should necessarily be the abolition of suffering and the instating of continual happiness for all conscious organisms. Pearce's idealistic ontological views also lead him to conclude that no living thing should be exempt from the abolitionist program.

Furthermore, by rejecting dualism, Pearce opens the door to nontraditional means of attaining his goal. If mental states are equivalent to physical states (or if there are no physical states, or if mental states are causally inert (the view of epiphenomenalists)), then -- at least in theory -- we can scientifically determine the neurological basis of happiness. At this point we would have the option of chemically or genetically ensuring permanent happiness for all organisms.

Much of the actual case for the hedonistic imperative hinges on the reader's subjective interpretation of the nature of happiness. Pearce peppers his manifesto with phrases such as "magical joy" and "all-consuming orgasmic bliss" in an attempt to convey to the reader exactly what he is talking about. A lifelong depressive could conceivably be unable to fathom the qualitative experience of bliss. Conversely, a hypothetical unipolar manic with leprosy might wonder what everyone is so concerned about, having never experienced suffering. Most people, however, have been subjected to a wide range of affective states and therefore must be at least marginally enticed by Pearce's description of "post-darwinian" existence.

See also: hedonism, utopia, transhumanism

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