What Kind of Hedonist was Epicurus?

In: Phronesis
Author: Raphael Woolf
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Abstract

This paper addresses the question of whether or not Epicurus was a psychological hedonist. Did he, that is, hold that all human action, as a matter of fact, has pleasure as its goal? Or was he just an ethical hedonist, asserting merely that pleasure ought to be the goal of human action? I discuss a recent forceful attempt by John Cooper to answer the latter question in the affirmative, and argue that he fails to make his case. There is considerable evidence in favour of a psychological reading of Epicurean hedonism, evidence that includes some of the very texts that Cooper cites in support of the ethical reading.

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