The word hedonism is of Greek origin, formed by hedone that means “pleasure” and the suffix – ism that expresses “doctrine.” Therefore, hedonism is a philosophical doctrine that places pleasure as the supreme good of human life.
The philosopher Aristipo de Cirene, father of hedonism and disciple of Socrates, made a distinction between the two sides of the human soul. On the one hand, there was a gentle movement of the soul, which would be what is known as pleasure and, on the other, a rough movement of the soul, that is, pain. By virtue of this, he concluded that pleasure is aimed at reducing pain, being the only way to conquer happiness. For the philosopher, Cyrene the pleasure of the body is the meaning of life.
With respect to the hedonism philosophical doctrine, there are two classical schools, which are sometimes confused, and yet there are differences between them:
- The school of Cyrenaica (IV – III century BC), founded by the father of the hedonism Aristipo de Cirene, with origin in the groups of the Cyrene. It defended that pleasure was a superior good and promoted bodily gratifications over mental ones.
- Epicureans, formulated by epicureans or rational hedonists, followers of the philosopher Epicurus of Samos. In the first place, it was created to improve hedonism and, on the other hand, associated pleasure with tranquility and evidenced the diminution of desire over the immediate acquisition of pleasure. The epicureans aim to achieve the omission of pain, and that is why pleasure has a more passive role and the individual must give up everything that causes pain and suffering.
In contemporary hedonism, the most relevant figure is the French philosopher Michel Onfray who proposes to give more importance to being than to having, and that is why he invites all individuals to enjoy the little things in life such as: love, Smell, like, among others.
The synonyms of hedonism are: pleasure, taste, voluptuousness, materialism, utilitarianism, sensuality, among others. On the other hand, the antonyms of the word hedonism are: spirituality and mortification.
Psychological and ethical hedonism
According to psychology, hedonism argues that the only action or activity that human beings are capable of is the pursuit of pleasure to avoid pain or unhappiness. All the actions that the human being undertakes are with the aim of seeking pleasure and less pain, and that is what fosters human action.
For its part, ethical hedonism, has as its principle or objective to contemplate pleasure and material goods as the most important thing in his life.
Hedonism is totally contrary to the conduct and attitude of Christian life. Catholicism believes that hedonism goes against the values of its dogma, once it places pleasure above love of God and love of neighbor.
Hedonism and utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is a philosophical doctrine in which utility is a moral principle. Utilitarianism is developed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), in which it stipulates that moral actions are those that provide pleasure and decrease pain.
To define what a moral action is, it is enough to estimate its positive or negative actions, and if it overcomes evil, it can be considered that it is without a doubt a moral action. Bentham’s utilitarianism resembles hedonism as he considers that moral actions diminish pain and provide happiness.
For his part, the philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), developed this doctrine, and moved away from the conception given initially to utilitarianism, since he stressed that pleasure and happiness should be calculated from the greatest well for the greater number of people who benefited positively in reference to certain pleasures that some are superior to others, and anything that obstructs happiness is considered useless, so it must be removed from life.
Hedonism and Stoicism
The doctrine is stoicism whose principles are based on undisturbed tranquility, cessation of passions and submissive adaptation to the individual’s destiny to know the full and possible happiness.
On the other hand, Stoicism is contrary to the hedonism of Epicurus, since the doctrine is developed in an effort to achieve apathy and live according to our rational nature, that the only good is virtue, and evil is vice and conduct passionate and irrational.