Criticisms of evolutionary hedonism are given below:
The theory of Evolutionary Hedonism presents a history of social behaviour but does not mention the normative principles of ethics. Ethics determines the form of man’s ideals; it does not describe his history.
The biological description of the history of human behaviour made by Spencer is manifestly incorrect. The theories of moral and biological evolution are completely different the development of the living being takes place due to the effect of heredity and environment.
Ethical laws are independent of time and place. The animal world is dominated by the casual law and it precludes any volitional freedom. Morality is based on the freedom of will.
Even though affected somewhat by the environment ethical developments depend almost entirely upon the person’s insight and actions natural selection and survival of the fittest and such like theories do not find application in the world of morality.
In the moral world power is not good rather it is good which the power is, and here it is the moral power which is victorious, not physical power. In it, co-operation is established in place of conflict and love in place of egoism.
In the same vein, the biological explanation of pleasure and pain made by Spencer is wrong. Pleasure is not always indicative of an improvement in life and neither does pain indicate the decrease in life. Pleasure also decreases the vitality. People steeped in pleasure do not live long.
Martial races survive for a longer period. Excessive pleasure is seen to have led to deterioration in health. Physical labour and exercise even though painful, improve health. Pleasure obtained in lethargy is also detrimental to health. Thus it is difficult to believe, as Spencer does that pleasure improves health and pain spoils it
Similarly, to look upon pleasure as the motivating cause for actions is a mistake. The motivation for actions comes from the painful feeling of some need.
The motivation for the obtaining of some object is activated by the desire to get rid of the pain once it is obtained, there may be satisfaction and subsequent pleasure. In this way, pleasure does not motivate action.
Long life does not bear any relation to morality, lie short life of an altruistic person or saint is superior to the long life of an egoist. In the same way, breadth or complexity cannot be the ideal of life.
Often it is the ordinary unpretending life which is more ethical. Besides, length has no inevitable compromise with breadth. There being more conflict and pain in a complex life, the chances of a long life is more remote. Then die length and breadth of life are biological ideals not moral ones.
Spencer explains evolution from its origin and not its objective. He tries to extract the ideal from the real, which is impossible. ‘Ought’ cannot be evolved from ‘is’. Morality cannot spring from non-moral elements. It is wrong to search the origin of moral consciousness in instincts.
Ethical values cannot evolve from non-ethical facts. The method of ethics is teleological and therefore its explanation by the historic or evolutionary method is inconceivable.
Spencer’s theory is like putting the cart before the horse. An adjustment to the environment is made with some, ideal in mind, not that the ideal emerges as an outcome of the adjustment.
The main moral problem is not to harmonies the internal with the external but rather to make the external concur with the internal. The need is not to mould the self according to nature but to mould nature according to the increasing adjustment with ethical and aesthetic ideals.
The external forces mentioned by Spencer cannot create moral consciousness because moral obligation is not the result of external forces moral consciousness also necessitates an internal force. Morality is no subjective feeling. It cannot be explained by any internal or external forces.
It is wrong to consider moral obligation a temporary constituent of moral consciousness. It is a permanent element in moral consciousness. The feeling of moral obligation increases with the moral evolution.
Moral obligation will be as intense and high as moral ideal and moral improvement. Moral obligation cannot be explained in terms of deficiency in social adjustment. It can be of use in the explanation of a feeling of pressure.
Moral obligation is related to moral ideal and the latter being infinite, it cannot be completely realized in life. Thus a feeling of moral obligation is a permanent part of moral consciousness and can be explained only in terms of moral ideal.
Spencer’s imagination of a complete society contradicts his theory of evolution. Evolution can never create a condition of equilibrium. Some equilibrium is established only to be disturbed immediately by the creation of new forces.
An adjustment between individual and society completely devoid of a conflict and pain is no better than death. The supernatural or spiritual dissatisfaction of man cannot rest satisfied with any state of society.
The ideal of absolute ethics propounded by Spencer is not ethical. Morality can neither be developed from nature nor can it be a part of nature. The conflict of ideal and real is external.
Moral obligation is permanent. Thus the imagination of absolute ethics is against reason. At the same time it cannot yield any clear ideal for human behaviour.