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Hedonism; The Pursuit for Pleasure

“The world says: “You have needs – satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

In modern society, the reference to Hedonism usually brings upon the immediate thought of immodesty, more often than not being associated with rock musicians whose media presence showed them to be involved in mostly sex, drugs and alcohol during their free time. However, there are different types of hedonism, and this particular iteration is referred to as “Folk Hedonism”, the depiction that causes people to believe that the direct contrasting pursuit is Asceticism; the absolution of general forms of indulgence. 

To help you better understand this stereotypical view, an example of an extremely popular piece of literature that depicts it is “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”, a philosophical novel written by Oscar Wilde in 1890, which explores the corrupting influence of hedonism through the characters Lord Henry and, of course, Dorian Gray. 

The term “hedonism”, deriving from the Greek word ἡδονή (hēdonē) for pleasure, refers to theories about what is good for us, how we should behave and what motivates us to behave in the certain way that we do. Subsections of the hedonistic belief depict pleasure and pain as the singular most important elements in a fruitful life. In the most simple terms, the basic and main theory of hedonism is that only pleasure is the absolute most important value, while pain is, as such, not. 

There are a number of different types of Hedonistic beliefs; such as Motivational, Normative, the aforementioned Folk Hedonism, etc. 

Motivational Hedonism, otherwise referred to as Psychological Hedonism, believes that the desire for pleasure, which can materialise either consciously or subconsciously, and the evasion of pain is what motivates us to behave in the way that we do. However, strong accounts of this have been said to be untrue, as human behaviour has been seen to entertain painful acts selflessly or out of a sense of duty. Normative Hedonism has been used to argue for theories of whether specific actions are morally acceptable and unacceptable. It commonly uses happiness as the only criterion to measure the rightness of an act. Folk Hedonism is the one most commonly visible in media. It is the achievement of pleasure through frowned-upon means of achieving it. It is the indifference to long-term consequences, the avoidance of deferred gratification, and the willing sacrifice of other people’s pleasure if it stands between their own means of attaining it.

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