This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism — in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. “Happiness” can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value” — which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

In practice, men have no way of obeying the tenets of hedonism, except by taking their already formed feelings — their desires and aversions, their loves and fears — as the given, as irreducible primaries the satisfaction of which is the purpose of morality, regardless of whether the value-judgments that caused these feelings are rational or irrational, consistent or contradictory, consonant with reality or in flagrant defiance of it.

Objectivism holds that such a policy is suicidal; that if man is to survive, he needs the guidance of an objective and rational morality, a code of values based on and derived from man’s nature as a specific type of living organism, and the nature of the universe in which he lives. Objectivism rejects any subjectivist ethics that begins, not with facts, but with: “I (we, they) wish . . . . ” Which means: it rejects hedonism of any variety.

Leonard Peikoff, “Ethical Hedonism”
The Objectivist Newsletter, Feb. 1962, 7

I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality. Objectivism holds that the good must be defined by a rational standard of value, that pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence, that only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality. To say that pleasure should be the standard of morality simply means that whichever values you happen to have chosen, consciously or subconsciously, rationally or irrationally, are right and moral. This means that you are to be guided by chance feelings, emotions and whims, not by your mind. My philosophy is the opposite of hedonism. I hold that one cannot achieve happiness by random, arbitrary or subjective means. One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values. By rational values, I do not mean anything that a man may arbitrarily or blindly declare to be rational. It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue.

Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand
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