hedonism (hēˈdənĭzˌəm) [key] [Gr., = pleasure], the doctrine that holds that pleasure is the highest good. Ancient hedonism expressed itself in two ways: the cruder form was that proposed by Aristippus and the early Cyrenaics, who believed that pleasure was achieved by the complete gratification of all one's sensual desires; on the other hand, Epicurus and his school, though accepting the primacy of pleasure, tended to equate it with the absence of pain and taught that it could best be attained through the rational control of one's desires. Ancient hedonism was egoistic; modern British hedonism, expressed first in 19th-century utilitarianism, is universalistic in that it is conceived in a social sense—"the greatest happiness for the greatest number."

See J. C. Gosling, Pleasure and Desire (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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