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Cyrenaics (sĪrĭnāˈĭks, sĭ–) [key], one of the minor schools of Greek philosophy, flourishing in the late 4th and early 3d cent. B.C. Cyrenaic philosophy taught that present individual pleasure is the highest good. It is thus an early version of hedonism, but its importance in philosophy declined in favor of the later version of Epicurus. It drew upon certain of Socrates' ethical views and also upon aspects of the view of knowledge held by the Sophists. Aristippus of Cyrene, its founder, held that since each person can know only his own sensations, there can be no universal standard of what is pleasurable—hence, all pleasures are equally valuable. His followers modified this doctrine by distinguishing between greater and lesser pleasures. Theodorus held man's happiness to be a state of cheerfulness, while Anniceris stressed the pleasures of friendship, society, and patriotism. Hegesias (called the Death-Persuader) taught that a happy life is pure illusion and that the complete suppression of pain, i.e., death, is the only end worth pursuing.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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