Hegesias; the Death-Persuader; or, the Gloominess of Hedonism

Wallace I. Matson 


Hegesias (3d c.BC), as hedonist, held that the sage will kill himself. For: One should pursue pleasure and avoid pain. But life is virtually certain to contain more pain than pleasure. Therefore death, which is neither pleasurable nor painful, is better than life.

The flaw in the argument lies in the underlying game-theoretical model of life as a game in which play and payoff are distinct. Hegesias's conclusion, that life is not ‘worth living,’ is inescapable by any philosophy so based, including John Rawls's. Why shouldn't his rational persons behind the veil of ignorance opt for prenatal suicide?