What Is Hedonism?


Hedonism derives from the Greek word for "pleasure," but nowadays refers to the pursuit of pleasure or sensual self-indulgence. According to the "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy," there are two schools of hedonistic thought: Motivational Hedonism and Normative Hedonism (see Resources).

Motivational Hedonism

  • This philosophical school of thought subscribes to the belief that individuals are motivated by their own pleasure and pain, specifically the motivation for pleasure and against pain.

Normative Hedonism

  • Normative Hedonism subscribes to the thought that only pleasure has value, and pain holds no value. Actions can be judged through the pleasure they increase or the pain they diminish.


  • Hedonism throughout history has been represented by Greek and Roman orgiastic behavior, authors like Lord Byron, and nowadays the toga parties of college campuses. Famous philosophers that have contributed to the philosophy of hedonism include Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Famous Ties

  • "The Picture of Dorian Grey," written by Oscar Wilde, is often seen as the archetypal example of hedonistic behavior.


  • The debate surrounding hedonism is important because it is often characterized incorrectly as a selfish lifestyle choice, but in fact encompasses many schools of thought.

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