Finally, a video version that discusses what has been my most popular topic: Is Pinkie Pie an Ethical Hedonist?
“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do”
This quote from Jeremy Bentham’s “An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation” summarizes the philosophical belief known as ethical hedonism. As a philosophy, hedonism has a rather long history, tracing back to the ancient Greeks in the forms of the Cyrenaic School and Epicureans as well as more modern versions in the form of classical utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick.
What does this have to do with Friendship is Magic, you ask? I propose that Pinkie Pie can be viewed as following some form of hedonistic ethics.
Before we can go much further with this, however, we must start by defining a few concepts. The most important, of course, is what exactly is ethical hedonism? Common ideas of hedonism tend to revolve the idea of extravagant indulgence of every whim. Pinkie Pie does admittedly indulge quite a bit, considering her diet seems to consist primarily of baked goods.
However, ethical hedonism in the philosophical sense does not have this meaning. Instead, hedonism holds that the only good to have an intrinsic value, in other words valuable in of itself, is pleasure, as well as the only thing to be intrinsically bad is pain. All other goods only hold an instrumental value in so much as they are able to increase pleasure or decrease pain. Therefore, hedonism argues, ethical actions are ones that have the consequence of increasing pleasure and/or minimizing pain.
From these principles come two major strains of ethical hedonist thought. The first is hedonistic egoism, which argues one should focus on one’s own personal pleasure and pain. For our discussion, however, we’ll be focusing primarily on the hedonistic utilitarianism as the argument for Pinkie Pie acting based on its principles is much stronger. Utilitarianism focuses on maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain at a societal level. In short, it focuses on maximizing pleasure for the greatest number possible.
So in order to argue that Pinkie Pie can be viewed as utilitarian, we must first prove several things:
1) She hold pleasure to be the only intrinsic good
2) She attempts to maximize pleasure for the greatest number of ponies.
Between these two, the second point is probably the easiest one to prove. How?
[Smile Song Clip]
Seriously, this song could be the theme song for utilitarianism. Anyway, major point is that the Smile Song definitely suggests that Pinkie Pie is motivated to make others happy. Furthermore, Pinkie Pie received her Cutie Mark after throwing a party for her own family in attempt to share the joy and happiness she felt after seeing the Sonic Rainboom. But if you still need convincing she wants to maximize it for everyone
[Everypony is my friend Quote]
Yeah, I think we’ve hammered that point in enough. So what about the first point then, that she holds pleasure as the only intrinsic good? I’ll admit, it is a harder point to make since she never does explicitly say anything to that regard. Instead, we have to extrapolate from her behaviors. The best scene I can give as evidence of her holding pleasure as intrinsically good is from the “Winter Wrap Up” episode
[Winter Wrap Up Clip]
As we can see, Pinkie Pie had absolutely no problems with lying in an attempt to make Twilight feel better, which can be suggested as showing her first concern at least is making others happy. I’ll admit though this is the only thing that comes to mind for me in regards to this point, and it may very well be Pinkie Pie does not believe pleasure is the only intrinsic good. Still, she obviously places a very high value on happiness and is attempting to maximizing it amongst everyone she can. This is enough for me to at least consider her to be acting in a utilitarian manner, hedonistic version or otherwise.
However, there is something that could be brought up as an argument for her holding something else as intrinsically valuable; the issue of Pinkie Promises. As seen in both “Green Isn’t Your Color” and “The Last Roundup”, Pinkie Pie holds promises very seriously, and is very upset when someone does not hold a promise to a friend. This does suggest that maybe she holds a particular value for honesty or commitment, especially since in “Green Isn’t Your Color” it could be suggested the conflict would have been resolved much faster if Twilight Sparkle had ignored her promises and simply said something.
I do think I am capable of rebutting this, however. When explaining why breaking promises is bad, Pinkie appeals not to any value of honesty or integrity or any other value of that sort, but instead to consequences. Specifically, she states that “Losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose a friend forever!” This suggest then it’s not the promise itself that has value, but that failing to keep promises risks losing your friends. I don’t think I need to argue that having friends is a very big plus in terms of increasing pleasure. If you are interested though, the Epicureans did have some interesting thoughts about the importance of friendship in regards to living a pleasurable life.
Anyway, the issue of Pinkie Promises does give me an excuse to mention another aspect of utilitarianism; the debate between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism is the belief that an act is wrong if it produces less good than some alternative act, and calculates this on an act by act basis. Rule utilitarians, however, emphasize that an act is wrong if and only if it is forbidden by rules justified by consequences. Pinkie’s rule regarding promises seems to fit more in the latter category; breaking promises is wrong because it leads to the bad consequence of losing friends. I honestly don’t know if there is enough to suggest whether or not Pinkie Pie is an act or rule utilitarian in general, but at least when dealing with promises she is clearly a rule utilitarian.
Is Pinkie Pie An Ethical Hedonist?: https://analysisismagic.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/is-pinkie-pie-an-ethical-hedonist/
Pinkie Pie and Ethical Hedonism: Round 2: https://analysisismagic.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/pinkie-pie-and-ethical-hedonism-round-two/
OC Character designed using DavionX’s Model Kit: http://www.deviantart.com/art/News-pony-model-Kit-369445124