Philosophy and Hedonism


Hedonism, from the Greek "hedone" which means pleasure.

Three different philosophies have arisen when discussing hedonism.

The first one is ethical hedonism, the moral view that the only thing which is good is pleasure. Epicurus and Bentham are famous examples of moralists who have held this view.

Secondly, is psychological hedonism, which is the psychological theory that we can desire nothing but pleasure; though this view has often been confused with ethical hedonism it is strictly incompatible with it, for if we can desire nothing else it is pointless to recommend desires for pleasure as it is pointless to recommend falling when one is released in mid-air. This theory, frequently held by earlier British empiricists, was heavily attacked by Joseph Butler; but it nonetheless appears as a support for ethical hedonism in J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism.

And the third view holds to the notion that "good" is to be defined in terms of "pleasure". Thus Locke in his Essay (II.xx.2) says "That we call good which is apt to cause or increase pleasure, or diminish pain in us." This view also has been confused with ethical hedonism in spite of the fact that "pleasure alone is good" can have no moral content if it is a mere definition.

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