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A hedonist is a person who believes in the philosophy of hedonism, which argues that pleasure is the only thing of value in the world. As such, a hedonist looks to experience a maximum amount of pleasure and a minimum amount of pain.
The term comes from the Greek word hedone, which means "pleasure."
Early hedonists were found in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations. Contemporary hedonists include the philosophers Torbjörn Tännsjö and Fred Feldman.
While some people interpret hedonism as having a strong sexual focus, the term simply refers to the pursuit of pleasure in all its forms. Aside from sex, hedonists may also derive pleasure from eating, drinking, taking drugs, gambling, and other activities seen as social vices; they will often pursue these activities in excess. Libertinism is the name for a hedonism which applies only to the pursuit of sexual pleasure.
Hedonists are critical of the ethical guidelines presented by society, the media, the church, and their family and friends, as they find that these unspoken rules often hinder their ability to attain pleasure. They tend to trust their own internal compass, rather than external forces, and pursue what feels "right" and "pleasurable" to them.
That is not to say that hedonists have no rules. Terms such as responsible hedonism or disciplined hedonism are based on the idea that hedonists must look to create a pleasurable existence for themselves and those around them. While a casual sexual encounter might feel good in the moment, if it leaves a hedonist’s partner hurt and betrayed, these negative emotions will impinge on the hedonist’s pleasure.
Hedonists also take responsibility for their own pleasure. Rather than waiting for pleasure to come to them, such as waiting for a partner to initiate sex, a hedonist will behave proactively. They may not just state that they want to have sex, but also how they want to have sex, to maximize their pleasure.