Page through the works of Jeremy Bentham, Oscar Wilde, Epicurus, William James, Sigmund Freud, John Stuart Mill, and Paris Hilton, and you’ll find at least one common theme: people in the club be getting tipsy. The through-line comes in their investigations into the concepts of motivational hedonism, or psychological hedonism. It’s a philosophy that holds that all human behavior is motivated by the pursuit of pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. The teachings of Epicurus and Hilton can be read as having the most overlap in the case of her new video “Good Time.” Everything we do, Epicurus said, we do for the ultimate goal of attaining pleasure for ourselves, a process that begins at infancy and continues on throughout our lives. Even those acts that might otherwise be considered noble are actually directed toward obtaining pleasure, say, Afrojack’s agreeing to produce a song for Paris fucking Hilton, or Lil Wayne guesting on a verse.
“I came here just to party, oh please don’t you hate on me,” Hilton sings, and this can be read as a blunt declaration of her motivational hedonism philosophy. One cannot fault her for the application of the most commonplace of human motives. This is because there is no intermediate state between pleasure and pain, Epicurus thought. Not being in the midst of satiating one’s appetite for pleasure — food, drink, lust and so on — is itself pain. In this sense, not being tipsy at a party with all of your sexy friends is actually an inescapable state of anxiety for the hedonist. Not being in the act of “sucking” and “fucking”, per Lil Wayne, is similarly a direct cause of pain to the psyche. As Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”
Nietzsche critiques hedonism, of course, writing “only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit,” but it’s the brief wandering into the state of pain encountered when one’s desires are not being met that allows us to experience joy in the first place. You can’t rage in the club, in other words, without having encountered the plane of clublessness.
One doubts Hilton’s soul has wandered into that place of longing too frequently. “Are you having a good time?” she asks. “Because I’m having a good time.” This here is the fulcrum upon which all of human psychology is balanced. Am I having a good time? we ask ourselves. And if we’re not, we correct for it. To do otherwise would be to submit to the death of the soul, which is lame as fuck.