Moral philosophy takes two basic forms. One is morality that judges actions based on what consequences they have. This is known as teleology or consequentialism, and the most common form of consequentialism is Utilitarianism or Ethical Hedonism: The belief that the greatest good is to create as much happiness as possible for as many people as possible.
As a trope, Ethical Hedonism is known as ForHappiness. Darker forms of utilitarianism are expressed by tropes such as TotalitarianUtilitarian and UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans. Such darker Utilitarianism can also be a motivation behind a WellIntentionedExtremist, although a WellIntentionedExtremist may just as easily be a [[PrinciplesZealot darker form of Deontologist]] or an adherent to some other ethical philosophy.
The other basic form is morality that judges actions based on the principles behind the actions. This is known as [[ForGreatJustice Deontology]]. Some light forms of Deontology are related to TheGoldenRule. Darker forms of deontology are expressed by tropes such as PrinciplesZealot.
One could say that Ethical Hedonism tends more toward ChaoticGood while Deontology tends more toward LawfulGood, although those are generalizations and in specific cases the opposite can be true (e.g. a Deontologist might believe in a ChaoticGood duty to oppose an unjust law, or a Utilitarian may hold a LawfulGood belief that a good government should be supported because it keeps everyone happy). Deontology stresses principles and duty to oneself and others, while consequentialism such as Utilitarianism stresses keeping people, both oneself and others, as happy as possible.
!!Maximize happiness, minimize suffering
Ethical Hedonism is not about getting total happiness for everyone: While such a goal would be great to achieve, it's too unrealistic to aim for. Instead, the goal is to create as much happiness as possible for as many as possible.
This may include creating destructive suffering as a necessary evil for the greater good. This doesn't have to lead all the way down to UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans, it can stop at some much earlier point along the SlidingScaleOfUnavoidableVersusUnforgivable.
The thing is, no matter how evil or destructive a person is, an Ethical Hedonist believes that it is a bad thing to hurt that person. In itself, his happiness is just as important as anyone else's, and his suffering just as undesirable as anyone else's.
Abuse, violence and other violations are unacceptable in Ethical Hedonism, for two reasons. First, the act usually generate more suffering and deprivation of happiness (for the victim) than it creates happiness (for the abuser). Second, if abuse was accepted, then people would be more afraid and thus less happy. Thus, hurting abusers to make them stop is sometimes necessary, but if possible then it's better to redeem them without hurting them - two wrongs don't make one right.
In theory, a pure Ethical Hedonist has no problem with lies and deceit as long as it's done in a friendly and well-meaning manner. She would rather let her fallen comrades [[LetThemDieHappy Die Happy]] than [[WillNotTellALie letting her honesty go too far]]. Of course, in most situations ethical hedonism consider lies and deceit to be a bad thing. But that's not because it's bad in principle but rather because it has a tendency to have [[SnowballLie unforseen bad consequences]]. When it seems clear that a lie will have no such bad consequences, an Ethical Hedonist may even see telling the truth as the evil action in that situation. This applies to many of the cases people view as "white lies."
Trying one's best for happiness is a required trait of any character who is an ethical hedonist without being a StrawHypocrite or HollywoodAtheist. However, a character doesn't have to be philosophically inclined to be for happiness. The desire to make the world a better place through spreading or enabling happiness can come from anything from simple empathy to the religious worship of a deity that fits the concept.
!!The dark side
An ethical hedonist character that strives for happiness doesn't try to force people to be "[[LotusEaterMachine happy]]" or otherwise violate them for the greater good. That's the realm of the TotalitarianUtilitarian.
Given enough InsaneTrollLogic, or simply disconnected from empathy, human dignity and the spirit behind the principle, ANY principle can be twisted into something vile. Either by interpreting "Happiness" in a way that the person receiving the "happiness" wouldn't agree with, or taking the principle to some narrowminded extreme. With Ethical Hedonism, there are three main such subversions:
# We should maximize the average happiness. This can be done by killing off everyone who's unhappy. (This is like saying that the best way to end your computer problems is to blow up your computer.)[[note]]While this is technically true, doing so also deprives you of the privileges granted by owning a computer, and can be seen as running away from problems instead of facing them; conversely, killing anyone that's unhappy deprives the rest of the world of any services or happiness they would have imparted in the future, and is basically an admittance that you're incapable of making them happy. And that's without even getting into the moral issues.[[/note]]
# We should maximize the total happiness. Since even starving people are capable of happiness, we should reproduce as much as possible without any sense of sustainable development. (This fails to take into account the long-term consequences of unsustainability, which will end up reducing happiness in the long run.)
# Negative Utilitarianism: Instead of maximizing happiness, we should only focus on minimizing suffering. However, all living things suffer to some extent, so we should just put them out of their misery. (This assumes that death is not bad at all, and doesn't count as suffering.)
Any of these three versions makes for a entertaining StrawmanPolitical TotalitarianUtilitarian.