Different Perspectives on Dworkin’s Ideas
Dworkin’s remark can be considered in terms of three theories. Notably, the three theories focus on different aspects and this leads to different conclusions. According to hedonists, the major aim of a human’s life is being happy and the best way to become happy is to have lots of pleasures. Noteworthy, hedonists do not think pursuing sensual pleasure is the major goal.
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On the contrary, hedonists believe that “intellectual and artistic pleasures” are at the top of the pleasure list while “sensual pleasures” are at the bottom (Shafer-Landau 24). Importantly, life, for hedonists, should be full of pleasures and there can be no misery. Thus, it is possible to assume that a hedonist would not agree with Ronald Dworkin as the latter notes that a person who enjoys his/her life cannot be happy.
Dworkin claims that even if a person enjoys a life that is deprived of major goals and commitments, he/she cannot be happy as this life is incomplete and rather meaningless. However, if a person has some intellectual pleasures with no definite goals and accomplishments, a hedonist will still say that the person has a happy and complete life. Being happy, for hedonists, is trying to get more pleasures and avoiding misery.
According to hedonists, there is no need in having certain life plans and accomplishments to enjoy life. A hedonist would argue that the individual in question can be totally happy as his/her life is full of joy. Though, it is necessary to note that Dworkin addresses one of the major issues which are regarded as the hedonist theory flaws. Hedonists simply ignore everything but pleasures and joy in life.
A desire satisfaction theorist would have a bit different standpoint. There are two possible viewpoints on Dworkin’s remark. First of all, it is necessary to note that desire theorists believe a person can be happy only when his/her desires are satisfied. Thus, even though an individual gets some pleasures, he/she cannot be happy until his/her desires are satisfied. Hence, if the major desires of the individual mentioned by Dworkin are concerned with getting pleasures and living without accomplishments and close friends, this person can still be happy, according to desire satisfaction theorists.
Therefore, if a person desires not to strive for goals or commitment, he/she is happy if his/her life contains joys. Of course, this viewpoint is contrasting with Dworkin’s remark. In other words, desire satisfaction theorists stress that if a person does not want to adopt other people’s ways and lifestyles, it is but natural that they can be happy in their ways (Shafer-Landau 45).
On the other hand, desire satisfaction theorists can also agree with Dworkin if an important premise is met. For instance, if the person mentioned desires to have close relationships and some achievements, he/she cannot possibly be happy since, irrespective of having some joys, the person cannot be happy unless his/her desires are satisfied. From this perspective, Dworkin’s viewpoint complies with the desire satisfaction theory. Of course, in this case, Dworkin’s remark is simply incomplete. To make it fit in the desire satisfaction theory, it is necessary to add that this person cannot be happy if he/she desired to have close relationships and accomplishments.
At the same time, a person who believes in “an objective theory of human welfare” will agree with Dworkin (Shafer-Landau 44). According to the objective theory, there are certain objective goals which people share (or should share). These people claim that people should set some goals and strive for achieving them in their lifetime. Having close relationships and achieving some goals make people happy and satisfied with their lives. Noteworthy, even though some people may fail to desire close relationships and accomplishments, they will understand the value of these achievements in the long run.
Therefore, even though a person enjoys his/her life, he/she cannot be happy unless the life is full of achievements and accomplishments. This complies with the objective theory. Remarkably, it is possible to note that Dworkin is an advocate of the ‘objective theory of human welfare’ as he claims the person with no objective achievements (no close relationships, no accomplishments) can never be happy. Importantly, Shafer-Landau notes that supporters of the present theory do not answer the question concerning people’s subjective needs and do not take into account people’s individuality (47).
Likewise, Dworkin does not mention whether the individual in question wants to have close relationships or have some accomplishments which are generally seen as important. The individual can desire to alienate him/herself from the rest of the world and remain happy without pursuing other peoples’ dreams. Nevertheless, it is also possible that the person in question can soon understand that he/she is not happy and has never been happy as life is incomplete without the objective values mentioned above.
Flaws of the Desire Satisfaction Theory
Shafer-Landau starts talking about the desire satisfaction theory as the one that best fits the real world (50). The author claims that people are all different and individuals have different desires, which is normal. Hence, it is quite acceptable that there are no objective values in the world as all people have different needs. This makes sense as some lifestyles can be good for some people and simply inappropriate or even harmful for others. For instance, a shy person can desire to live in certain seclusion, while easy-going people can find such kind of life intolerable. Thus, desire satisfaction theory is the one that explains to people what happiness is.
Nonetheless, Shafer-Landau draws a different conclusion. The author considers such desires as suicidal or destructive ones. The author concludes that people “are forced to” the conclusion that “the good life depends on objective values” (Shafer-Landau 58). Admittedly, if a person desires to commit suicide, this can make him happy as, according to the desire satisfaction theory, the fulfillment of desires makes people happy.
However, such happiness is simply impossible as the individual ceases to exist. Admittedly, life is an objective value. Even though some people do not cherish their lives, life does not become less valuable. In other words, it is worth living and all people do (or, at least, should) share this view. For instance, a lot of people who attempt to kill themselves start cherishing their lives.
Furthermore, people may desire to misbehave, but they often regret those deeds and people become miserable even though they have satisfied their desires. The author stresses that people may have destructive desires but the fulfillment of these desires will make those people miserable (Shafer-Landau 57). Therefore, it is natural to assume that objective values cannot be ignored as they also make people happy even when they do not understand or cherish (or notice) their happiness. More so, objective values help people develop and societies prosper.
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Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals of Ethics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.