Eudaemonism is a fairly general moral doctrine according to which the purpose of action is happiness.
Hedonism is more specific. It affirms that it is by seeking pleasure that we find happiness.
Epicureanism says that we should seek mainly simple, natural pleasures. Thus, epicureanism is a particular form of hedonism, which in turn is one of the possible approaches to eudaemonism.
Epicureanism can also be regarded as a middle path between hedonism and stoicism. Stoicism, a form of morality from ancient times, teaches indifference to the things of the senses and sees happiness in virtue and in that which accords with the divine plan.
|THE PHILOSOPHIES OF PLEASURE
Though the concept of hedonism (see sidebar) was not formalized until
the 19th century, what it refers to goes back much earlier. Since
ancient times, many philosophers have defended this way of conceiving
the quest for happiness, centred on seeking
pleasure while fleeing from pain.
Epicurus (347 to 270 B.C.) is undoubtedly the key proponent of this
philosophy. In his Letter to Menoeceus, he sets out the
principles of his sensualist, rationalist ethic. His main point in
this letter is that one can live to seek pleasure without being debauched
||For the Epicureans, happiness
is thus something attainable. But to attain it, we must distinguish
those pleasures that are natural and necessary, such as eating
and drinking, from those that are not. Since Epicureanism teaches
that we must seek only those pleasures that are natural and
necessary, it implies a certain asceticism. Compared with the
unchecked pleasure-seeking that the word Epicureanism evokes
today, the Epicureanism of antiquity thus involved a certain
reserve. It was a fairly austere philosophy, which sacrificed
certain pleasures to avoid greater displeasures.
many centuries of repression, the philosophies inspired by
the body were revived by Locke (1632-1704)
and Hume (1711-1776) in England, as well
as by Diderot (1713-1784) in France. These
three men are the major representatives of what has been
called sensualist ethics. Combining hedonism, materialism,
and empiricism, sensualist morality, which appeared in the
17th and 18th centuries, was immediately criticized by idealist
and religious philosophers.
is no surprise because, according to sensualist ethics, it is our
senses that must be the criteria for judging good and bad. What
brings satisfaction to our senses is called “good” and
what displeases them is called “bad”. These philosophers
recognized that we naturally seek to satisfy certain bodily needs,
and that the pursuit of our desires and our pleasures enables us
to establish standards for just action. For them, our knowledge
and ideas also come from our senses, from the combination of our
senses, and from the repetition of our experiences and observations.
This idea that the well-being of the individual must be the foundation
for morality evolved into Utilitarianism,
a radical conception of the economic individual and economic society
that emerged in the 19th century.