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Belief that pleasure {Gk. ‘ηδονη [hêdonê]} is the highest or only source of intrinsic value. Although commonly defended as a moral theory about the proper aim of human conduct, hedonism is usually grounded on the psychological claim that human beings simply do act in such ways as to maximize their own happiness. Aristotle argued against any attempt to identify pleasure as the highest good, but Epicurus held that physical pleasure and freedom from pain are significant goals for human life. The utilitarianism of Bentham proposes a practical method for calculating hedonic value.

Recommended Reading: F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (NYU, 1967); The Essential Epicurus, tr. by Eugene Michael O'Connor (Prometheus, 1993); Lionel Tiger, The Pursuit of Pleasure (Transaction, 2000); Fred Feldman, Utilitarianism, Hedonism, and Desert: Essays in Moral Philosophy (Cambridge, 1997); Rem B. Edwards, Pleasures and Pains: A Theory of Qualitative Hedonism (Cornell, 1987); and Kate Soper, Troubled Pleasures: Writings on Politics, Gender, and Hedonism (Verso, 1991).

Also see IEP, SEP, Roberto Dante Flores, ISM, CE, and PP.

Hegel, Georg W.F. (1770-1831)

German philosopher who employed a dialectical logic (moving from thesis to antithesis to synthesis) and its corollary analysis of historical inevitability in support of an idealism in which human culture is properly seen as a manifestation of the self-consciousness of the Absolute.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Hegel.

Also see ISM.

Heidegger, Martin (1889-1976)

German philosopher who used the techniques of Husserl's phenomenology in a more openly metaphysical programme, which resulted in the development of existentialism.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Heidegger.

Heisenberg, Werner (1901-1976)

German physicist who expressed the uncertainty principle, according to which the position and momentum of a subatomic particle cannot both be determined precisely at the same time, as a crucial element of modern quantum mechanics, described in his Physik und Philosophie (Physics and Philosophy) (1958). Heisenberg won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1932.

Recommended Reading: Werner Heisenberg, Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory (Dover, 1930); Werner Heisenberg, Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics (Ox Bow, 1979); and David C. Cassidy, Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (Freeman, 1993).

Also see SEP, MMT, Eric W. Weisstein, EB, and WSB.

Held, Virginia Potter (1929- )

American philosopher; author of Rights and Goods: Justifying Social Action (1984), Feminist Morality: Transforming Culture, Society, and Politics (1993), and Liberalism and the Ethics of Care (1997). Held maintains that the experience of women in our culture promotes the development of ethical practices appropriate in a private rather than in a public sphere of influence.

Recommended Reading: Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics, ed. by Virginia Held (Westview, 1995) and Ethics in International Affairs, ed. by Andrew Valls and Virginia Held (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000).

Helvétius, Claude-Adrien (1715-1771)

French philosopher, Encyclopedist, and committed hedonist. Both De l'esprit (Of Mind) (1758) and De l'homme (Of Man) (1773) use empiricist methods to defend a strictly materialist account of human life, according to which ethical egoism is generated by the natural desire to maximize pleasure.

Recommended Reading: Claude-Adrien Helvetius, Philosophical Works (Thoemmes, 2000) and David W. Smith, Helvetius: A Study in Persecution (Greenwood, 1982).

Also see IEP, ELC, EB, and John Stuart Mill.

Hempel, Carl Gustav (1905-1997)

German-American philosopher of science. In Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science (1952) and Aspects of Scientific Explanation (1965) Hempel pointed out that a paradox arises from the supposition that confirming evidence provides equal support for all logically equivalent hypotheses: Since "All swans are white" is logically equivalent to "All non-white things are non-swans" (by contraposition), it follows that observing a brown dog should increase confidence in our belief that swans are white.

Recommended Reading: Carl Gustav Hempel, Selected Philosophical Essays, ed. by Richard C. Jeffrey (Cambridge, 2000); Carl Gustav Hempel, Philosophy of Natural Science (Prentice-Hall, 1966); and The Philosophy of Carl G. Hempel: Studies in Science, Explanation, and Rationality, ed. by James H. Fetzer (Oxford, 2000).

Also see SEP, IEP, ELC, EB, and Michael Huemer.

Heraclitus (540-475 B.C.E.)

Greek presocratic philosopher who used paradox and riddles to argue that the world is constantly changing in discussions preserved only in fragmetary reports. Although he identified fire as the original stuff {Gk. αρχη [archê]} of the universe, Heraclitus supposed that its changeable nature results in the formation of all of the traditional opposites.

Recommended Reading: Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus, tr. by Bruce Haxton and James Hillman (Penguin, 2001); Henry W. Johnstone, Jr., Heraclitus (Bryn Mawr, 1989); and Richard G. Geldard, Remembering Heraclitus (Lindisfarne, 2000).

Also see SEP, IEP, John Burnet, ELC, and EB.

Herbert of Cherbury, Baron (1583-1648)
Herbert of Cherbury

English philosopher. His rationalistic defence of theology in De Religione Laici (The Layman's Religion) (1645) and De Religione Gentilium (On the Religion of the Gentiles) (1663) was an early statement of the principles of seventeenth-century deism. Herbert's claim, in De Veritate (On Truth) (1624), that human beings are divinely endowed with "common notions" about god and religion, however, was a primary target of Locke's attack on innate ideas.

Recommended Reading: John A. Butler, Lord Herbert of Cherbury 1582-1648: An Intellectual Biography (Edwin Mellen, 1990); Eurgen D. Hill, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (Twayne, 1987); and R. D. Bedford, The Defence of Truth: Herbert of Cherbury and the Seventeenth Century (Princeton, 1987).

Also see IEP, EB, and ELC.


Formal study of appropriate methods of interpretation {Gk. ‘ερμηνευμα [hermêneuma]}, first developed as a formal discipline of study by Schleiermacher. Following the work of Dilthey, Gadamer, and Ricouer, the hermeneutical process is often regarded as involving a complex interaction between the interpreting subject and the interpreted object. The task is complicated by the apparent circularity of understanding particular elements in light of the text as a whole, which can in turn be understood only by reference to them.

Recommended Reading: John D. Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project (Indiana, 1987); John D. Caputo, More Radical Hermeneutics: On Not Knowing Who We Are (Indiana, 2000); Jean Grondin and Hans-Georg Gadamer, Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics, tr. by Joel Weinsheimer (Yale, 1997); Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation, ed. by John B. Thompson (Cambridge, 1981); Hans Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics (California, 1977); and Gianni Vattimo, Beyond Interpretation: The Meaning of Hermeneutics for Philosophy, tr. by David Webb (Stanford, 1997).

Also see SEP, Patrick Heelan, Alexander Kremer, Endre Kiss, PP, and CE.


Submission to the moral authority of external influences, hope, or fear; see autonomy / heteronomy of the will.


Self-referentially inapplicable; see homological / heterological.


An informal method for solving problems in the absence of an algorithm for formal proof. Heuristics typically have only restricted applicability and limited likelihood of success but, as George Polya showed, contribute significantly to our understanding of mathematical truths.

Recommended Reading: George Polya, How to Solve It (Princeton, 1971); Gerd Gigerenzer amd Peter M. Todd, Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Oxford, 1999); and George Polya, Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning (Princeton, 1990).

Also see Rudy Garns and S. L. Katretchko.


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