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Hedonism is the belief that pleasure, or the absence of pain, is the most important principle in determining the morality of a potential course of action. Pleasure can be things like “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll,” but it can also include any intrinsically valuable experience like reading a good book.

Hedonism can be based on looking at consequences. Utilitarianism judges consequences by a “greatest good for the greatest number” standard. Hedonism, on the other hand, says something is “good” if the consequence produces pleasure or avoids pain. However pleasure and pain is not the only motivation for people to do what they do. For example, it can be very painful to train for fitness, yet it has many benefits.

Egotistical hedonism requires a person to consider only his or her own pleasure in making choices. On the other hand, altruistic hedonism says that the creation of pleasure for all people is the best way to measure if an action is ethical.

Regardless of the type of hedonism, critics fault it as a guide for morality because hedonism ignores all other values, such as freedom or fairness, when evaluating right and wrong.

See also: The Concept of Good

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