Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Hedonist or Libertine?

A few days ago, Lovertine Lady, posed the following question on my "Libertine FAQ" post:

Do you believe that libertinism and hedonism is the same thing? Is it just a matter of semantics? I had a slight problem agreeing that the two were the same thing, looking at hedonism as a far extreme. Thoughts?

My short reply to her was:

Hedonism is similar to libertinism, but not exactly the same. Hedonism covers a wider range of behaviors than simply sex: eating, drinking, drugging, gambling, and so on. Libertinism is generally understood just to apply to sexual hedonism.

I thought about this a bit more since making this reply. I am a libertine when it comes to sex, but I'm most assuredly not an across the board hedonist. I don't do everything to what some would consider excess. I am neither a gourmand nor a glutton, though I enjoy a good meal, like anyone else. I went through a stage of drunken partying in college, but that lasted no more than two or three years, and even then, I never drank hard liquor. I've not had a drink in years, nor do I want to. I've never taken any kind of drugs, as I prefer to remain in control and want to do nothing that could possibly interfere with my virility. I consider gambling, beyond buying an occasional lottery ticket, to be a waste of time -- I have a perfectly good toilet at home to flush my money down if I ever get the urge to throw away my hard earned dollars.

Thinking a bit more, I mused over the emotional overreactions that many people have about obesity and fat people in general. Instead of simply stating rationally that it would be a good idea for people to eat right and engage in moderate exercise for their health, I regularly see people referring to "lazy slobs who never get off the couch" in the same tones one would use to talk about people who beat their small children. Their level of disgust has always baffled me.

But after considering the idea of hedonism, I realized that fatness represents excess, a sort of a "food libertinism", to many people, regardless of whether or not the fat person in question is actually engaging in compulsive overeating. Having too much of a good time, whether it's with sex, food, or whatever, offends the moral sensibilities of many people in our culture, heavy with Puritan and Calvinist roots. Subconsciously, the overreaction many people have to overweight is no doubt actually a visceral revulsion of hedonism, or the implication of it, rather than overweight, per se.


1 comment:

Alexander Black said...

As someone introduced to libertinism by the Marquis de Sade's writings, I get how people might think libertinism is about sex. But through further study and consider, I believe libertism is simpler and broader: it is to reject the idea of inherit morality and to decide on your own desires and pseudo-morals and act on those regardless of socially expected morals/behaviours. That's what libertinism is about and the difference in hedonism is that hedonism is about actively engaging in as much excess as you can. They sometimes overlap or look similar but libertinism is much more about deliberate decisions and ideas than actions and indulgence.