And since pleasure is our first and native good, for that reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but will often pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues from them. And often we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure. While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure should be chosen, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, that all these matters must be judged.
- Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus
The quintessential difference between hedonistic ethics and what is commonly, though falsely, called a hedonistic lifestyle is an evaluation of present and future gratification. Hedonism in the first case requires sacrificing some immediate gratifications for a greater return in the future, while hedonism in the second case is pursuing pleasure indiscriminately, which in practice means pursuing immediate gratification even when it is counterproductive and destructive towards a pleasant life in the long run. Hedonism of the former kind makes use of the cardinal virtues, especially temperance and prudence, in pursuit of pleasure while hedonism of the latter type falls back on the exact opposite vices. For this reason, I believe hedonism should be considered a religion in practice with an assortment of personal rituals that help people keep their focus on long-term goals while simultaneously staying grounded in the present.