Pleasure and aversion: Challenging the conventional dichotomy

Inquiry 52 (4):357 – 377 (2009)
Philosophy and its descendents in the behavioral sciences have traditionally divided incentives into those that are sought and those that are avoided. Positive incentives are held to be both attractive and memorable because of the direct effects of pleasure. Negative incentives are held to be unattractive but still memorable (the problem of pain) because they force unpleasant emotions on an individual by an unmotivated process, either a hardwired response (unconditioned response) or one substituted by association (conditioned response). Negative incentives are divided into those that are always avoided and those that are avoided only by higher mental processes—archetypically the passions, which are also thought of as hardwired or conditioned. Newer dichotomies within the negative have been proposed, hinging on whether a negative incentive is nevertheless sought (“wanted but not liked”) or on an incentive's being negative only because it is confining (the product of “rule worship”). The newer dichotomies have lacked motivational explanations, and there is reason to question conditioning in the motivational mechanism for the older ones.

Both experimental findings and the examination of common experience indicate that even the most aversive experiences, such as pain and panic, do not prevail in reflex fashion, but because of an urge to attend to them. The well-established hyperbolic curve in which prospective rewards are discounted implies a mechanism for such an urge, as well as for the “lower” incentives in the other dichotomies. The properties of these lower incentives are predicted by particular durations of temporary preferences on a continuum that stretches from fractions of a second to years
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00201740903087342
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 22,570
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
George Ainslie (2001). Breakdown of Will. Cambridge University Press.
Robert Merrihew Adams (1976). Motive Utilitarianism. Journal of Philosophy 73 (14):467-481.

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

62 ( #73,668 of 1,938,467 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #61,631 of 1,938,467 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.