Not understanding that has to be the main reason for why criticism of hedonism involves pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself. Any student of Epicurus knows that happiness results as a byproduct of pleasurable activities. Any student properly schooled in American history knows that “the pursuit of happiness was included in the basic philosophy upon which America was founded. Think of this the next time someone tells you America was founded as a Christian nation. We are a nation of hedonists very ignorant of how to apply that fact.
Our ignorance deceives us when we think only of the physical hurting as pain, and fail to consider the immense harm we do by failing to deal with emotional pain—in ourselves and in others. The worst of us are those who purposefully inflict this kind of pain onto others who will never heal from it: bullies as kids; bullies as grownups; bullies as parents whose own parents taught raising kids that way as right.
Think: pain is pain, whether your own pain or observed in others. No true happiness comes from any of it. We need to take this nation back to its roots—its true roots in ethical hedonism—and study all it would take to keep it straight next time around.