Essays on the Gita - Track 806

When the conflict is only between Adharma and Dharma, and that was the conflict that he had already resolved, when Arjuna entered in the battlefield, he knew that the fight is between Adharma and Dharma; and the "I" stands for Dharma and "they" stand for Adharma. But when "Dharma" collides with "Dharma", and that is the real conflict, the problem became irresolvable, because Dharma to establish justice was collided with the price that had to be paid which would create Adharma. While doing Dharma, if you are going to produce another Adharma, if the offspring becomes varoasaokara, when all the Dharmas of the family and the clan are to be destroyed, then how are we to reconcile? If by doing Dharma you are going to produce Adharma; how are we to resolve the problem? If we don't fight then Adharma already reigns, therefore you must fight, but if by fighting you are going to produce Adharma then, should you fight? This is the dilemma, this is the great question.

It raises the basic question: what is Dharma, what is Adharma? Are all our notions of Dharma and Adharma, exactly correct, accurate? This raises the question of the entire ethics: ethics actually is a study of decision of what is right and what is wrong. And if you study the entire history of ethics, if you want to summarise the entire history of ethics, you will find that ethical philosophy has given no unanimous answer as what is right and what is wrong. Normally in a science you have one unanimous answer: this is the decease and this is the answer to cure it. But in the field of what is right and what is wrong, even after so many thousands of years, people have decisive questions: what is right and what is wrong? This has not been answered unanimously. And that is why there is a big question.

If you study even the modern ethics developed by Europe, it pasts through three stages of the ethical thought. There is a doctrine that the highest good is pleasure: this is one, the highest good is pleasure and you must pursue pleasure because it is the highest good. This is called the doctrine of "Egoistic Hedonism": to seek one's own pleasure, and to maximise this pleasure, and to have the longest duration of pleasure; that is the doctrine of "Ethical Egoistic Hedonism".

Question: it is ethical?

It is ethical, it is the doctrine of "Ethics": there is a difference between Psychological Hedonism and Ethical Hedonism. Psychological Hedonism only says that all human beings pursue their own pleasure, this is Psychological Hedonism. There is a long debate in Europe: `is it a correct doctrine?' But without going into this debate, the general proposition that is made is: that is a fact that every human being seeks his own pleasure, psychologically. And then the argument is that since everybody seeks one's own pleasure, that which is 'desired' is `desirable': this is the argument.

Therefore one ought to desire: that is the transition from Psychological Hedonism to Ethical Hedonism. From what one normally does, what you cannot prevent, what automatically happens; it is that which should be desired then: what is `desired' is `desirable'. Of course there is a fallacy in the argument, but this is the argument which is put forward. What is `eatable'? That which you can `eat', isn't it? You cannot eat a cassette; it is not eatable because it is not an object of eating. That which is eaten, that which can be 'eaten', is `eatable'. So what is desirable, that which can be desired. So this is the first answer to what is right and what is wrong. Everybody normally seeks one's own pleasure, since it is desired, it is desirable; therefore everybody ought to seek one's own pleasure.

Second point: since everybody seeks to maximise one's pleasure, therefore one should maximise one's pleasure and how to maximise it? Europeans ethical thinkers have even gone to the length of making a calculus: they propose that you should have a kind of a chart and make all your objects of desire into a kind of a scale, and then see from what object you get a maximum pleasure. Because it is also accepted that the world is such that pleasure is always mixed with pain, and pain is something that you like to reject; and pleasure is what you like to embrace; therefore, you should try to maximise by making a chart: there are so many objects of pleasure, which one gives the best pleasure, highest pleasure? So, while doing so, first of all you have the quantity of pleasure; that which gives you the highest quantity of pleasure is the object of your seeking. Second is, the duration of pleasure; you may have some great pleasure quantity may be very great but duration is fraud; then, in calculus you should give less marks to it; you should have the greatest quantity of pleasure and then you should have the longest duration.

Third is the intensity of pleasure: it is not enough that you have duration is long; some pleasures are long in duration but the intensity is not so great; so you should have intensity. So `quantity', `intensity' and `duration', all the three maximise them; and that, you can do only by making a chart: it is not easy to find out which is that pleasure that gives you the longest pleasure, the most intense pleasure, the most durable pleasure. This is the first answer of Ethical Egoistic Hedonism. It is ethical because it says "you ought to"; you ought to seek this pleasure, therefore it is ethical. And why is it ethical? Because you are desiring; what is 'desired' is `desirable'; therefore you should pursue this. This is the straight argument.

I am only summarising the argument given by one great thinker called Bentham (jeremy Bentham,1748-1832). Bentham was a great philosopher of morality, ethical thinker and this is his doctrine which he gave in this ...I am only summarising, but this is the offshoot of his whole argument.

Now, he had a pupil called Mill, (john Stuart, 1806-1873). He was not satisfied with Bentham's doctrine. So, he went one step forward. He granted that everybody seeks pleasure, everybody seeks maximum amount of pleasure, greatest intensity of pleasure, longest duration of pleasure; but he argued that even your own pleasure is not so great when your pleasure is shared by others. Your own pleasure is one thing, but it has to be shared by others, and when shared by others your own pleasure increases. There are certain pleasures which are enjoyed by you alone, but that is not all; there are certain pleasures which are enjoyed better, when they are shared with others and their enjoyment increases your enjoyment. So in you calculus there should be another column. Your own pleasure should be maximise in context of the greatest pleasure of others.