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Gross and Refined Egoistic Hedonism

Gross and Refined Egoistic Hedonism

Gross Egoistic Hedonism:

  • According to this doctrine, all pleasures are alike in kind, they differ only in intensity or degree; there is no qualitative difference among them. The pleasures of the body are preferable to those of the soul, because the former are more intense than the latter.
  • To sacrifice the present to the future is foolish. The past is gone forever and will never return. The future is uncertain and doubtful. Only the present is certain.
  • Therefore a careless surrender to present momentary pleasures of the senses is the true rule of life.


  • Aristippus (500 BCE), the founder of the Cyrenaic school, was a sensualist Sophist before joining Socrates. He was an advocate of psychological hedonism and regarded the desire for pleasure as the sole motive of our actions.
  • He showed the influence of Socrates in advocating moderation in the enjoyment of pleasure by overcoming the allurements of sense and controlling the gross instincts of our nature.
  • He recognized the superiority of mental pleasures such as friendship, paternal and filial love, art and literature over fleeting sensuous feelings. He gave preference to a permanent state of moral content over transitory pleasures.
  • Thus, he paved the way for Epicurus. Some Cyrenaics regarded momentary bodily pleasures as the highest good; others regarded permanent pleasure or happiness as the highest good.

Thomas Hobbes

  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an advocate- of materialism, egoism and hedonism. According to him, soul is governed by appetites, instincts, emotions and passions. It is subject to the law of necessity and devoid of freedom of the will.                                      Gross and Refined Egoistic Hedonism
  • Man naturally seeks only what pleases him and avoids what gives him pain. Desire for pleasure and aversion to pain are the principal motives. Man pursues his own pleasure; he is entirely selfish. Thus, egoistic hedonism is implied in his theory. Benevolence, sympathy and compassion are not truly altruistic emotions, but self-love in disguise.
  • However, Hobbes was an advocate of modified egoistic hedonism. He emphasised on the Law of the State to which man’s egoistic impulses must be subjected. According to him, men were at first in a state of nature, constantly quarrelling with one another for their advantage.                                      Gross and Refined Egoistic Hedonism
  • The Law of the State curbed their natural egoistic impulses, regulated them and made social life possible. Thus, he regarded an individual’s own pleasure and power curbed by the Law of the State as the moral standard.

Refined Egoistic Hedonism:


  • Epicurus (341-270 BCE) is an advocate of refined egoistic hedonism, he recognizes the importance of reason in our moral life. Epicurus differed from the Cyrenaics. For Epicurus, momentary bodily pleasures are not the highest good. But a happy life as a whole is the greatest good.
  • Pleasures differ in intensity and duration, they should be measured in terms of both. Sensibility gives us the end of life, but reason gives us the means to realize it. It guides us how to eliminate pain as much as possible and attain the maximum amount of pleasures in one’s life.                              Gross and Refined Egoistic Hedonism
  • By pleasure, the Epicureans mean the absence of pain. The important maxim of Epicurean life is to cultivate a temper of indifference to pleasure and pain, a tranquillity of the soul which cannot be disturbed by the assaults of the fortunes. The end of the life is a state of indifference, of neutral feelings, of insensibility, than a positive state of feeling or enjoyment.
  • Epicurus gives pre-eminence to the intellectual pleasures over the physical pleasures because of their comparative freedom from pain and greater durability, though he does not distinctly recognize the qualitative superiority of the former over the latter, as Mill has maintained. Epicurus regards prudence, temperance and fortitude as great virtues.



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