“Seek and ye shall find.” In turn, when one speaks of “special interests” and women within the context of politics and international affairs, they are essentially euphemisms for money and sex. As a result, money and sex are a means to the primary end for many people, namely, pleasure. Bertrand Russell once said that most people acquire education and knowledge in order to have good sex, or perfect coitus.
Thus, one can argue that at the core of international affairs is pleasure-seeking. As Epicurus said: “I…do not even know what I should conceive the good to be, if I eliminate the pleasures of taste, and eliminate the pleasures of sex, and eliminate the pleasures of listening, and eliminate the pleasant motions caused in our vision by a sensible form.” Epicurus was the forerunner to the broader philosophical notion that human life amounts essentially to the singular principle of enhancing pleasure and the reduction of pain. In essence, whatever is good brings pleasure, and whatever is evil brings pain. Modern-day relativism also stems from Epicurus to a certain extent, although modern-day relativism takes relativism to heights that Epicurus may have never imagined.
However, Epicurus also warned that the pursuit of pleasure in a myopic and short-sighted manner can bring severe long-term pain, whereas the endurance of pain in the short-term can bring long-term pleasure. Epicurus also considered friendship to be the greatest source of pleasure for a truly virtuous human being. Also, Epicurus was most concerned with the individual’s sensory experiences as well as the relationship between sensory experience and nature. Thus, Epicurus saw human nature as being defined by “hedonic calculus” and moderation. From an Epicurean standpoint, pleasure within the confines of “hedonic calculus” and moderation is at the heart of human existence, not abstraction and ideation. As Epicurus wrote:
“Wherefore we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a blessed life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.”
Modern-day psychoanalysis deconstructs human behavior and thoughts down to three possible underlying causes. For one, there is pleasure, which is derived from the philosophical underpinnings put forth by Epicurus and others, including Freud. There is also power, which amounts to the ability to control or influence the actions and thoughts of others. The philosophical underpinnings of power as the main cause of human action and thought in the psychoanalytic tradition come from Nietzsche and Adler.
Finally, there is “meaning,” or the pursuit of meaning. Viktor Frankl – a philosopher and scientist who also happened to be a Holocaust survivor – laid out the pursuit of meaning as the fundamental cause of human action and thought in the 20th century. Frankl divided the human race into two groups. For one, there were the pleasure-seeking “pigs” on one hand, and then there were the “Saints” who assumed a certain level of asceticism and withdrawal and thus transcended everyone else on the other hand. But in the end, asceticism, withdrawal, and transcendence are balanced with a certain level of pleasure, due to the confines of “hedonic calculus” and moderation which were aforementioned.