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What Is Hedonism?

Hedonism is derived from the Greek hedone, meaning ‘sweetness’, ‘joy’, or ‘delight’, and refers to theories about the nature and function of pleasure. Originally, hedone was the sort of sweetness that could be appreciated by taste or smell; then hearing was involved; finally, it was applied metaphorically to any pleasant sensation or emotion. The word's history reminds us that much pleasure is rooted in physical needs and desires.

Hedonism is a school of ethics which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. The basic idea behind hedonistic thought is that pleasure is the only thing that has intrinsic value. This is often used as a justification for evaluating actions in terms of how much pleasure and how little pain (i.e. suffering) they produce. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize this net pleasure (pleasure minus pain).

There are a few different types of hedonism:

Motivational hedonism asserts that only pleasure and pain motivate people to do or to not do things.

Normative hedonism, however, asserts that only pleasure and all types of pleasure have worth, while only pain and all types of pain have no worth.

Egoistic hedonists believe that the happiness of the individual is paramount, while altruistic hedonists feel the happiness of all people is the most important.

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