• ultimate psychological hedonism;
  • metatelic orientations;
  • goals of action;
  • emotional reasons for action


In this paper we present a modern version of the classic theory of “ultimate psychological hedonism” (UPH). As does the UPH, our two-dimensional model of metatelic orientations also postulates a fundamentally hedonistic motivation for any human action. However, it makes a distinction between “telic” or content-based goals of actions and “metatelic” or emotional reasons for actions. In our view, only the emotional reasons for action, but not the goals of action, conform to the UPH. After outlining our model, we will elucidate the similarities and differences between our model and classic UPH. In this context we will clarify several basic misconceptions regarding classic UPH. In a next step, two major criticisms of the theory of ultimate psychological hedonism will be discussed, that is (1) the statement that the hedonistic principle has no motivating effect at all and (2) the argument that the hedonistic motivation is only one of many motivations of human actions. We believe that both of these arguments can be refuted. Finally, we will discuss the compatibility of our model with evolutionary theory.