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Hedone (Ancient Greek: ἡδονή, hēdonē) is the Greek word meaning "pleasure." It was an important concept in Ancient Greek philosophy, especially in the Epicurean school. It is also the root of the English word "hedonism".
In Greek mythology, Hedone is personified as a goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight, as the daughter born from the union of Eros (personification of love) and Psyche (personification of the soul). She was associated more specifically with sensual pleasure. Her opposites were the Algea, personifications of pain. Her equivalent in Roman mythology is Voluptas. There is no evidence that she was ever the object of cult worship.
Aristotle identified it as one of the two elements or components of pathe, with the other being lype or pain. The philosopher described pathe in these words: "Let the emotions be all those things on account of which people change their minds and differ in regard to their judgments, and upon which attend pain and pleasure."
Hēdonē, in Aristotelian ethics, is part of the philosopher's account of virtue and that pleasure (along with pain) is said to reveal a person's character. It is good if it is a consequence of a virtuous life as opposed to the position of some philosophers such as Aristippus, which holds that it is wholly good. For the concept to be good or true, it must conform to nature, reason, or virtue and that, although, hēdonē can harmonize with these three, Aristotle gave it less value. An example is the concept of proper pleasure or oikeia hedone, which has been discussed in Poetics and considered a process of restoration. Martin Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy explains that pleasure is a movement of the soul and that tranquility arises from it.
In the philosophy of Epicurus, hēdonē is described as a pleasure that may or may not derive from actions that are virtuous, whereas another form of pleasure, terpsis, is always virtuous. Another Epicurean reading, which distinguished hēdonē from terpsis, referred to it as a feeling of pleasure that is episodic and might or might not be beneficial. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Epicurus uses hēdonē in reference to only physical pleasures.
The Stoics held a negative view of hēdonē, arguing that it is not in accordance with nature and reason. This can be understood within the philosophy's position that emotions are by definition excessive or are excessive impulses that exceed the measure of natural reason and – as in other forms of excess – leads to other evils of irrationality.
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- Media related to Hedone at Wikimedia Commons