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Hedonism and the Dark Triad

Artwork by Thomas Couture of the Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, made in 1847.

Thomas Couture

Artwork by Thomas Couture of the Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, made in 1847.

Oliver Pomeroy, ECU Reporter

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We all indulge in pleasures throughout our lives. Even if we try to suppress these desires, in the end they ultimately drive us.

Hedonism, put simply, is the pursuit of self-indulgence. For a more detailed description, Desirée Kozlowksi’s 2012 chapter on hedonic pleasure (found within Beyond Sensation: Exploring the Nature of Sensory Pleasure) has an answer.

It says: “Things that give us pleasure – something delicious to eat, or beautiful to look at, the feeling of a caress, or the shiver we feel when listening to wonderful music – are known as hedonic pleasures.”

These feelings are the things that we all seek, but there are those who would say they are not positive emotions.

In Kozlowski’s publication, she explored the notorious Hedonism, specifically the positive side of it, and now even websites such as The Conversation have published articles analysing the often dismissed good side of Hedonism.

Hedonism is often linked to darker personality traits, in particular, the Dark Triad.

This triad refers to the relationship between machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy within an individual.

Effectively, it is a measure of evil. If you’re brave enough, the BBC has a quick quiz you can do to find out how evil you are (I got Decidedly Dastardly, which is a little concerning).

The relationship between hedonism and the Dark Triad is based on your personal ranking on the scale.

A study conducted in 2015 found that those who sat highest on the Dark Triad prioritised Hedonism above all other values, as well as achievement, power, and stimulation.

The study also linked a high score to other values. The authors wrote: “We contend that those characterized by high scores on the Dark Triad traits hold values that entail the exclusion of others and the enhancement of oneself.”

From both of these results, hedonism has been characterised as a negative emotion. Those who are high on the scale are self-centred and will exclude others. These are the same kind of people who would call themselves hedonists.

Although, this isn’t necessarily true. Kozlowski owns and operates a website called Pleasure Lab. This site encourages the audience to accept their desires, and to embrace them. And, this isn’t a standalone opinion, as there are other studies that tote hedonism as a positive emotion.

A study conducted in February by a group of German researchers took at a look the breadth of human motives, in order to try and map the different reasons for certain actions. Among those studied, a cluster of hedonistic motives were referred to as a “veritable cocktail of healthy hedonism”.

This definition of hedonism was found within the self-actualization cluster, a series of motives that focuses on the self. However these were not as evil as those in the Dark Triad, with machiavellianism replaced with happiness and wisdom.

While it is easy to read a study and make a snap decision, it seems hedonism is far more complex than simple desire. Its links to the Dark Triad and positive emotions make it a far more conflicting emotion that can’t be defined specifically as either one.

As with most things, it comes down to the individual. Those who use hedonism as an excuse for their evil and depraved deeds should be condemned for it, but using it in search of happiness and well-being is the optimal scenario.

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About the Writer
Oliver Pomeroy, ECU Reporter

Oliver Pomeroy is a young broadcaster studying broadcasting and journalism at Edith Cowan University. After a brief encounter in 2014, Oliver fell in love...

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Hedonism and the Dark Triad