The 1998 elections were held just about two weeks ago.1 All across the country, Americans went to the polls to vote for Senators, Representatives to the House, Governors, and local officials. In many states they were also given the opportunity to vote on a wide variety of ballot questions, and among these ballot questions several concerned physician assisted suicide.
Reflection on death gives rise to a variety of philosophical questions. One of the deepest of these is a question about the nature of death. Typically, philosophers interpret this question as a call for an analysis, or definition, of the concept of death. Plato proposed to define death as the separation of soul from body. This definition is not acceptable to materialists, who think that there are no souls. It is also unacceptable to anyone who thinks that plants and lower (...) animals have no souls, but can die. Others have defined death simply as the cessation of life. This too is problematic, since an organism that goes into suspended animation ceases to live, but may not die. (shrink)
There is a lively debate about the descriptive concept of happiness. What do we mean when we say (using the word to express this descriptive concept) that a person is “happy”? One prominent answer is subjective local desire satisfactionism. On this view, to be happy at a time is to believe, with respect to the things that you want to be true at that time, that they are true. Wayne Davis developed and defended an interesting and sophisticated version of this (...) view in a series of papers. I present, explain, and attempt to refute his version of the theory. I then sketch what I take to be a better theory of happiness -- a form of intrinsic attitudinal hedonism. (shrink)
We are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self; we feel its existence and its continuing to exist, and are certain - more even than any demonstration could make us - both of its perfect identity and of its simplicity. The strongest sensations and most violent emotions, instead of distracting us from this view ·of our self·, only focus it all the more intensely, making us think about how these sensations and emotions affect our self by bringing (...) it pain or pleasure. To offer further evidence of the existence of one’s self would make it less evident, not more, because no fact we could use as evidence is as intimately present to our consciousness as is the existence of our self. If we doubt the latter, we can’t be certain of anything. (shrink)
In recent years there has been a tremendous surge of academic interest in happiness. It seems that just about every week there is an announcement of a new book on the nature of happiness, or the measurement of happiness2, or the causes of happiness, or the history of happiness3. Some of these books have been written by philosophers. Others have been written by psychologists, economists, sociologists, and other empirical scientists.4 The surge of interest in happiness is truly interdisciplinary.5 Everybody wants (...) to get into the act. (shrink)
Political activists drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming their commitment to equality. Perhaps the bumper sticker loudly asserts “=!” Oppressed people lament their lack of equality. Political philosophers contemplate equality and try to formulate general principles about it. In recent days, some advocates of marriage rights for same-sex couples argued for their view by claiming it’s just a matter of equality. Indeed, one of their advocacy websites uses the name ‘Equality’.1 They want equal rights. Everyone seems to take it for (...) granted that equality is important. This seems entirely wrong to me. It seems to me that equality is legally (and politically and socially and economically and morally) irrelevant. (shrink)
When we speak of a “good life” there are several different things we might mean. We might mean a morally good life. We might mean a life good for others, or good for the world in general. We might mean a life good in itself for the one who lives it. This last may also be described as the life high in individual welfare.
Abstract According to the Deprivation Approach, the evil of death is to be explained by the fact that death deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had lived longer. But the Deprivation Approach confronts a problem first discussed by Lucretius. Late birth seems to deprive us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet no one is troubled by late birth. So it’s hard to see why we should be troubled (...) by its temporal mirror image, early death. In a 1986 paper, Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer appealed to a version of Derek Parfit’s “Bias toward the Future”; they claimed that early death deprives us of future goods that we care about, while late birth deprives us of past goods that we don’t care about. In this paper I show that the Brueckner–Fischer principle is open to several possible interpretations, but that it does not solve the Lucretius problem no matter how we understand it. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9766-6 Authors Fred Feldman, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
Act-utilitarianism and other theories in normative ethics confront the implementability problem: normal human agents, with normal human epistemic abilities, lack the information needed to use those theories directly for the selection of actions. Two Level Theories have been offered in reply. The theoretical level component states alleged necessary and sufficient conditions for moral rightness. That component is supposed to be true, but is not intended for practical use. It gives an account of objective obligation. The practical level component is offered (...) as an implementable system for the choice of actions by agents lacking some relevant information. It gives an account of subjective obligation. Several different ways of developing Two Levelism are explained and criticized. Five conditions that must be satisfied if the practical level principle is to be a good match for a given theoretical level principle are stated. A better form of Two Levelism is presented. (shrink)
Some puzzles about happiness -- Pt. I. Some things that happiness isn't. Sensory hedonism about happiness -- Kahneman's "objective happiness" -- Subjective local preferentism about happiness -- Whole life satisfaction concepts of happiness -- Pt. II. What happiness is. What is this thing called happiness? -- Attitudinal hedonism about happiness -- Eudaimonism -- The problem of inauthentic happiness -- Disgusting happiness -- Our authority over our own happiness -- Pt. III. Implications for the empirical study of happiness. Measuring happiness -- (...) Empirical research; philosophical conclusions -- The central points of the project as a whole. (shrink)
The most popular concepts of happiness among psychologists and philosophers nowadays are concepts of happiness according to which happiness is defined as "satisfaction with life as a whole". Such concepts are "Whole Life Satisfaction" (WLS) concepts of happiness. I show that there are hundreds of non-equivalent ways in which a WLS conception of happiness can be developed. However, every precise conception either requires actual satisfaction with life as a whole or requires hypothetical satisfaction with life as a whole. I show (...) that a person can be "happy" (in any familiar sense that might be relevant to eudaimonism) at a time even though he is not actually satisfied with his life as a whole at that time. I also show that a person can be "happy" at a time even though it is not correct to say that if he were to think about his life at that time, he would be satisfied with it as a whole. My thesis is that if you think that happiness is the Good, you should avoid defining happiness as whole life satisfaction. (shrink)
Utilitarians are attracted to the idea that an act is morally right iff it leads to the best outcome. But critics have pointed out that in many cases we cannot determine which of our alternatives in fact would lead to the best outcome. So we can’t use the classic principle to determine what we should do. It’s not “practical”; it’s not “action-guiding”. Some take this to be a serious objection to utilitarianism, since they think a moral theory ought to be (...) practical and action-guiding. In response, some utilitarians propose to modify utilitarianism by replacing talk of actual utility with talk of expected utility. Others propose to leave the original utilitarian principle in place, but to combine it with a decision procedure involving expected utility. What all these philosophers have in common is this: they move toward expected utility in order to defend utilitarianism against the impracticality objection. My aim in this paper is to cast doubt on this way of replying to the objection. My central claim is that if utilitarians are worried about the impracticality objection, they should not turn to expected utility utilitarianism. That theory does not provide the basis for a cogent reply to the objection. (shrink)
...there can be cases in which we reject pleasure because there is too much of it. Sometimes we decide that pleasure is bad, or not worth having, not because of an extrinsic factor like moral, aesthetic etc. constraints but rather because one is experiencing enough pleasure to the point that more would in itself be undesirable. (2005: 144).
Fred Feldman's fascinating new book sets out to defend hedonism as a theory about the Good Life. He tries to show that, when carefully and charitably interpreted, certain forms of hedonism yield plausible evaluations of human lives. Feldman begins by explaining the question about the Good Life. As he understands it, the question is not about the morally good life or about the beneficial life. Rather, the question concerns the general features of the life that is good in itself for (...) the one who lives it. Hedonism says (roughly) that the Good Life is the pleasant life. After showing that received formulations of hedonism are often confused or incoherent, Feldman presents a simple, clear, coherent form of sensory hedonism that provides a starting point for discussion. He then presents a catalogue of classic objections to hedonism, coming from sources as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Brentano, Ross, Moore, Rawls, Kagan, Nozick, Brandt, and others. One of Feldman's central themes is that there is an important distinction between the forms of hedonism that emphasize sensory pleasure and those that emphasize attitudinal pleasure. Feldman formulates several kinds of hedonism based on the idea that attitudinal pleasure is the Good. He claims that attitudinal forms of hedonism - which have often been ignored in the literature -- are worthy of more careful attention. Another main theme of the book is the plasticity of hedonism. Hedonism comes in many forms. Attitudinal hedonism is especially receptive to variations and modifications. Feldman illustrates this plasticity by formulating several variants of attitudinal hedonism and showing how they evade some of the objections. He also shows how it is possible to develop forms of hedonism that are equivalent to the allegedly anti-hedonistic theory of G. E. Moore and the Aristotelian theory according to which the Good Life is the life of virtue, or flourishing. He also formulates hedonisms relevantly like the ones defended by Aristippus and Mill. Feldman argues that a carefully developed form of attitudinal hedonism is not refuted by objections concerning 'the shape of a life'. He also defends the claim that all of the alleged forms of hedonism discussed in the book genuinely deserve to be called 'hedonism'. Finally, after dealing with the last of the objections, he gives a sketch of his hedonistic vision of the Good Life. (shrink)
The students and colleagues of Roderick Chisholm admired and respected Chisholm. Many were filled not only with admiration, but with affection and gratitude for Chisholm throughout the time we knew him. Even now that he is dead, we continue to wish him well. Under the circumstances, many of us probably think that that wish amounts to no more than this: we hope that things went well for him when he lived; we hope that he had a good life.
Hedonism: the view that (i) pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically good, and (ii) pain is the only thing that is intrinsically bad; furthermore, the view that (iii) a complex thing such as a life, a possible world, or a total consequence of an action is intrinsically good iff it contains more pleasure than pain.
The Termination Thesis (or “TT”) is the view that people go out of existence when they die. Lots of philosophers seem to believe it. Epicurus, for example, apparently makes use of TT in his efforts to show that it is irrational to fear death. He says, “as long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist.”1 Lucretius says pretty much the same thing, but in many more words and more poetically: “Death (...) therefore to us is nothing, concerns us not a jot, since the nature of the mind is proved to be mortal; . . . when we shall be no more, when there shall have been a separation of body and soul, out of both of which we are each formed into a single being, to us, you may be sure, who then shall be no more, nothing whatever can happen to excite sensation.”. (shrink)
Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Brentano, Moore, and Chisholm have suggested marks or criteria of intrinsic goodness. I distinguish among eight of these. I focus in this paper on four: (a) unimprovability, (b) unqualifiedness, (c) dependence upon intrinsic natures, and (d) incorruptibility. I try to show that each of these is problematic in some way. I also try to show that they are not equivalent – they point toward distinct conceptions of intrinsic goodness. In the end it appears that none of them (...) is fully satisfactory. Insofar as none of these succeeds, a fundamental problem remains for those who make use of the concept of intrinsic value. Precisely what do we have in mind when we say that some sort of value is intrinsic? (shrink)
Fred Feldman is an important philosopher, who has made a substantial contribution to utilitarian moral philosophy. This collection of ten previously published essays plus a new introductory essay reveal the striking originality and unity of his views. Feldman's version of utilitarianism differs from traditional forms in that it evaluates behaviour by appeal to the values of accessible worlds. These worlds are in turn evaluated in terms of the amounts of pleasure they contain, but the conception of pleasure involved is a (...) novel one and the formulation of hedonism improved. In Feldman's view pleasure is not a feeling but a propositional attitude. He also deals with problems of justice that affect standard forms of utilitarianism. The collection is ideally suited for courses on contemporary utilitarian theory. (shrink)
What is death? Do people survive death? What do we mean when we say that someone is "dying"? Presenting a clear and engaging discussion of the classic philosophical questions surrounding death, this book studies the great metaphysical and moral problems of death. In the first part, Feldman shows that a definition of life is necessary before death can be defined. After exploring several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life and demonstrating their failure, he goes on to (...) propose his own conceptual scheme for death and related concepts. In the second part, Feldman turns to ethical and value-theoretical questions about death. Addressing the ancient Epicurean ethical problem about the evil of death, he argues that death can be a great evil for those who die, even if they do not exist after death, because it may deprive them of the goods they would have enjoyed if they had continued to live. Confrontations with the Reaper concludes with a novel consequentialist theory about the morality of killing, applying it to such thorny practical issues as abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. (shrink)
In this paper, I present my solutions to two closely related questions about pleasure. One of these questions is fairly well known. The second question seems to me to be at least as interesting as the first, but it apparently hasn't interested quite so many philosophers.
However, if we take a more generous view about possibility, then more alternatives present themselves. The best of these may be something that we formerly took to be impossible, and which is better than the best of the earlier possibilities.