“Party of One” and Ethical Hedonism

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So several hours after I posted my article on Pinkie Pie and ethical hedonism, it struck me that I forgot to discuss one of the most important Pinkie Pie episodes of them all; “Party of One.” While originally I was just going to go ahead and insert something about it into the previous article, I decided to re-watch it first. I then decided it warranted a small article in of itself. Why? Because I could honestly argue that Pinkie Pie follows one of two different forms of ethical hedonism based on this episode. Which one she follows depends in part on how cynical you want to be about her motivations. So, let’s get started.

Hedonistic Utilitarianism

This is the hedonism discussed primarily in the previous article, and the one that the majority of her episodes seem to suggest she follows. Under this situation, “Party of One” plays a role similar to what “Too Many Pinkie Pies” does; it shows the stress that following ethical hedonism can put on a person.

Deciding that throwing parties is enjoyable and pleasurable for everyone, Pinkie Pie decides to throw one immediately the next day. When presented with everyone making up excuses not to attend, Pinkie Pie loses it and starts asking herself questions. Did she do something wrong? Do they not like her parties? Does her very presence make everyone else unhappy? In short, she starts to question whether or not she is even capable of making her friends happy and seems to jump to the conclusion they are trying to get rid of her. Sure, she acts mad and upset at them for, and it’s a bit of an unreasonable jump of logic. When you’re placing the burden of making everyone else happy on your own shoulders to the point you forget even your own birthday, however, it’s not surprising the stress eventually catches up to you and you just snap for a bit.

At the end, when presented with evidence that she does in fact make her friends happy and they care for her, her crisis ends and she learns a valuable lesson about expecting the best of her friends. In short, she’s reaffirmed that yes she is making the right decisions on how to make everyone happy and there is no need for existential crisis.

Hedonistic Egoism

This type of hedonism was not discussed in the last article, but it’s one that is rather quick to sum up. It’s basically the idea that one’s own pleasure is what is important above all else. In the context of her other episodes, it is a bit of a stretch to assume this of Pinkie Pie, but the events of “Party of One” could be interpreted in such a manner as to tip the balance towards this form.

Obviously Pinkie Pie finds parties to be fun, especially when her friends are there. In fact, they are so fun she decides to have one immediately the next day without even considering the possibility that her friends might not enjoy that (regardless of Twilight’s “we should do this again soon”). She then goes to invite everyone to the party, but is met with a barrage of excuses that she eventually realizes are all lies. Instead of simply asking her friends, she begins to eavesdrop, sneak around, spy on them, and even interrogates Spike in a rather hostile manner. This leads her to conclude that her friends don’t want to be her friends anymore. Such immediately paranoid, suspicious, and hostile reactions to the denial of something one finds to be a source pleasure could be seen as evidence of the “egoism” part of hedonistic egoism.

Of course, the biggest evidence of a possible “egoist” form of hedonism is that this denial results in a complete and utter mental breakdown. She replaces all of her ‘friends’ with inanimate objects. These objects then stoke her ego, commenting on how horrible her friends were acting towards her and that she doesn’t need them anymore. When her old friend Rainbow Dash comes around, Pinkie Pie makes it obviously clear that she is content in her own little fantasy world and has to be dragged to what turns out to be a surprise party for her. It is only when this is revealed that she returns to her normal self. Of course now her friends are motivated to never say no to one of her parties ever again because doing so now risks her completely falling apart mentally. How’s that for emotional coercion?

In this sense then, all of Pinkie Pie’s actions that could be seen as a hedonistic utilitarian act could in fact be a subtle form of manipulation. Pinkie Pie thrives off of being the center of attention, whether it’s: at the Gala where she forces herself on stage to sing a song, Gummy’s party where she bumps everyone off the dance floor, during the Smile Song which turns into a literal parade all about her, etc. etc. Her supposed trying to make everyone happy is in fact her way of making herself happy; it just has the added benefit of making others happy. Except when it doesn’t, like in “Luna Eclipsed” where her enjoying Nightmare Night was quickly making Luna rather depressed, alone, and angry, something that Pinkie Pie apparently never catches onto.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I still think Pinkie Pie is more along the hedonistic utilitarian than egoist. Her actions overall do seem to suggest she genuinely wants to make others happy. She tends to mess up sometimes, and does seem to have some insecurity about whether or not she’s really doing a good job, but I do think she is honestly motivated to try and make others happy. The moments where I think she messes up big time, like “Luna Eclipsed” or “Swarm of the Century,” are more issues of a disconnect between how her mind works and how others are. This, in turn, can cause some serious issues of communication. But that is a topic which is probably going to be addressed in another article at some point.

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4 Comments

Filed under Episode Analysis

4 responses to ““Party of One” and Ethical Hedonism

  1. Nightsphere the Gnostic

    I can see both lines of argument working well here, however unnerving that may be for me (I’m strongly against utilitarian ethics). In particular the egoism argument reminds me of Digibrony’s video about Density: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=On1eBUIC7UE&list=PLw6UBKuaMyFD8yfqRdxxpmn1UA5D9ohMC&index=8 (around 2.35 mark) wherein he argues Pinkie cares about Applejack being ‘fun’ rather than how her behaviour will make AJ herself feel.

    Having said that I also feel, like Digi says, that rather than egoism her mind simply works in a different way from most other ponies (like AJ) and thus rather than being egotistically indifferent to AJ’s feelings she is simply oblivious to them.

    For my part I believe that, rather than hedonism, the ethics of the show – and thus Pinkie herself – are Aristotelian Virtue Ethics. This is essentially an ethics based on making the moral agent a good person, rather than dictating good action. The way they do this is by cultivating virtues, like Twilight learning about friendship. The elements can be seen as various virtues to be developed in order to be good people (ponies?). Thus Pinkie helps people develop the virtue of laughter, rather than merely giving pleasure.

    Cheers for reminding me of this btw, I’m definitely going to do a virtue ethics video now!

    And nice blog 🙂

    • …this is the time I should point out that in my “Topic Index” I have as a possible future topic “The Elements of Harmony and Virtue Ethics”, right? XD

      But yeah, one of the reasons I have so many articles on utilitarian ethics is that I, personally, am a utilitarian in terms of ethics (I think that’s mentioned in the Round Two article). Pinkie Pie, whether or not she would consider herself one, does at least seem to me to serve as a pretty good model of the mindset that a utilitarian should try and cultivate.

      • Nightsphere the Gnostic

        Glad to here Virtue Ethics is coming up, lets see who gets to do it first, and hopefully we’ll learn from each other’s perspectives on the same topic.

      • Meh, you’ll probably beat me to it. There’s an article about Celestia and the transcendence stage of the hierarchy of needs I’ve been meaning to get to I have to do first. But I’ll probably do the Virtue Ethics thing afterwards. I just need to read up on it a little more first.

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