Secular Alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous & Applying Hedonic Calculus to Public Policy

The May-June 2015 issue of The Humanist includes a few pieces on a secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous, which has recently been exposed by EXPAA,, Penn & Teller and others as an inefficient recovery therapy that’s only supported with public funds because it’s filled with religious propaganda. In the editor’s note for the issue, Jennifer Bardi writes:

Case Western Reserve researchers showed that when people think God “made” them a certain way, they’re more apt to blame him for their moral transgressions.

The piece that details the secular alternative to AA, known as SMART (Self-Management & Recovery Training), is here. For this issue of The Humanist, your truly wrote Whose Pleasure? Whose Pain? Applying the Hedonic Calculus to Public Policy, where I discuss whether it makes sense to apply the Epicurean ethical method of hedonic calculus at the collective level. In the piece I argue:

These considerations raise questions about what happens to the credibility and usefulness of humanist ethical concepts, like the hedonic calculus, when corporations appropriate them in their lobbying strategies. While we would like Epicurean humanism to influence public policy, it is imperative that the teachings are properly understood and used.

I then praise Senator Dick Durbin for including factors like obesity and heart disease among the long-term considerations in his calculus of benefit and loss, but in the end I conclude

It seems the hedonic calculus works best as a guide to making ethical choices at the individual level. At the societal level, we should omit its use, and instead simply recognize the right to happiness, leisure, clean air and water, and other basic rights.

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About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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