Discipline: Philosophy

Set of doctrines shared between philosophical psychology and ethics.

Ethical hedonism says either that pleasure alone (or 'happiness', which is usually not distinguished from pleasure by hedonists) is ultimately good, or that every action should aim to maximize pleasure; in neither case need the pleasure be the agent's (a point that is often forgotten, as is the distinction between psychological and ethical hedonism).

Qualitative hedonism - associated especially with John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) in his Utilitarianism (1861) - says that pleasures differ in quality as well as quantity, and that 'higher' ones should be preferred. This doctrine thus gravely complicates the task of aiming to produce the 'greatest' pleasure.

J C B Gosling, Pleasure and Desire (1969);
J S Mill, Utilitarianism (1861), ch. 2 (reprinted in J Plamenatz, The English Utilitarians (1949), 137

Also see:

· carpe diem


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