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The term "goal" [τέλος] is most immediately associated with the philosophy of Aristotle, as is the broader concept of teleology, i.e. the "study of goals". It is significant to bear in mind that the very same term in Greek also means "end" in the sense of finality. (This duality is echoed in the Latin term finis.)

In typically methodical manner, Aristotle reduces all conceivable human goals to the final one, which he defines as eudaimonia, his and the Greek world's common term for what we may, however approximately or inexactly, call "happiness" in current English. (Several present-day philosophers use the term "flourishing" as equivalent, dissatisfied with the possible triteness of happiness; yet flourishing is a complex, and perhaps confusing substitute.)

This final goal, according to Epicurus, is pleasure (Gr. hedone, hence "hedonism"). Considering the generally low opinion of pleasure held by supposedly "serious" thinkers, this assertion attracted harsh criticism and even ridicule by rival philosophical schools, and resounding condemnation by the founders of the early Church.

Yet Epicurean pleasure is far from indulgence, and involves temperance, moderation, and strikingly little that would be recognized as pleasure at all by popular culture, either in Epicurus' own time or the present.

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