This paper argues against hedonistic theories of happiness. First, hedonism is too inclusive: many pleasures cannot plausibly be construed as constitutive of happiness. Second, any credible theory must count either attitudes of life satisfaction, affective states such as mood, or both as constituents of happiness; yet neither sort of state reduces to pleasure. Hedonism errs in its attempt to reduce happiness, which is at least partly dispositional, to purely episodic experiential states. The dispositionality of happiness also undermines weakened nonreductive (...) forms of hedonism, as some happiness-constitutive states are not pleasures in any sense. Moreover, these states can apparently fail to exhibit the usual hedonic properties; sadness, for instance, can sometimes be pleasant. Finally, the nonhedonistic accounts are adequate if not superior on grounds of practical and theoretical utility, quite apart from their superior conformity to the folk notion of happiness. (shrink)
That all pleasure is good and all pain bad in itself is an eternally true ethical principle. The common claim that some pleasure is not good, or some pain not bad, is mistaken. Strict particularism (ethical decisions must be made case by case; there are no sound universal normative principles) and relativism (all good and bad are relative to society) are among the ethical theories we may refute through an appeal to pleasure and pain. Daniel Dennett, Philippa (...) Foot, R M Hare, Gilbert Harman, Immanuel Kant, J. L. Mackie, and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the many philosophers addressed. (shrink)
Against Hume and Epicurus I argue that our selection of pleasure, pain and other objects as our ultimate ends is guided by reason. There are two parts to the explanation of our attraction to pleasure, our aversion to pain, and our consequent preference of pleasure to pain: 1. Pleasure presents us with reason to seek it, pain presents us reason to avoid it, and 2. Being intelligent, human beings (and to a degree, many animals) are disposed (...) to be guided by reason, and hence by what there is reason to choose, seek, and prefer, when they act. (shrink)
One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other issues: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either pleasure (...) or welfare commits one to recognizing that desires do provide reasons for action – i.e., commits one to abandoning the value-based theory of reasons. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not so. All of the following can be true: pleasure and welfare provide reasons; pleasure and welfare are to be understood in terms of desire; desires never provide reasons, in the relevant way. (shrink)
Pleasure is one of the strongest candidates for an occurrence that might be good, in some respect, unconditionally. Malicious pleasure is one of the most often cited alleged counter-examples to pleasure’s being an unconditional good. Correctly evaluating malicious pleasure is more complex than people realize. I defend pleasure’s unconditionally good status from critics of malicious pleasure.
In this article, I attempt to resuscitate the perennially unfashionable distinctive feeling theory of pleasure (and pain), according to which for an experience to be pleasant (or unpleasant) is just for it to involve or contain a distinctive kind of feeling. I do this in two ways. First, by offering powerful new arguments against its two chief rivals: attitude theories, on the one hand, and the phenomenological theories of Roger Crisp, Shelly Kagan, and Aaron Smuts, on the other. Second, (...) by showing how it can answer two important objections that have been made to it. First, the famous worry that there is no felt similarity to all pleasant (or unpleasant) experiences (sometimes called ‘the heterogeneity objection’). Second, what I call ‘Findlay’s objection’, the claim that it cannot explain the nature of our attraction to pleasure and aversion to pain. (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.
Most philosophers since Sidgwick have thought that the various forms of pleasure differ so radically that one cannot find a common, distinctive feeling among them. This is known as the heterogeneity problem. To get around this problem, the motivational theory of pleasure suggests that what makes an experience one of pleasure is our reaction to it, not something internal to the experience. I argue that the motivational theory is wrong, and not only wrong, but backwards. The heterogeneity (...) problem is the principal source of motivation for this, otherwise, highly counterintuitive theory. I intend to show that the heterogeneity problem is not a genuine problem and that a more straightforward theory of pleasure is forthcoming. I argue that the various experiences that we call pleasures all feel good. (shrink)
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)
I defend these claims: (1) 'Pleasure' has exactly one English antonym: 'unpleasure.' (2) Pleasure is the most convincing example of an organic unity. (3) The hedonic calculus is a joke. (4) An important type of pleasure is background pleasure. (5) Pleasures in bad company are still good. (6) Higher pleasures aren't pleasures (and if they were, they wouldn't be higher). Thesis (1) merely concerns terminology, but theses (2)-(6) are substantive, evaluative claims.
This paper argues that pleasure and pains are not qualia and they are not to be analyzed in terms of supposedly antecedently intelligible mental states like bodily sensation or desire. Rather, pleasure and pain are char- acteristic of a distinctive kind of evaluation that is common to emotions, desires, and (some) bodily sensations. These are felt evaluations: pas- sive responses to attend to and be motivated by the import of something impressing itself on us, responses that are nonetheless (...) simultaneously con- stitutive of that import by virtue of the broader rational patterns of which they are a part and that they serve to de?ne. This account of felt eval- uations makes sense of the way in which pleasures and pains grab our attention and motivate us to act and of the peculiar dual objectivity and subjectivity of their implicit evaluations, while o?ering a phenomenology adequate to both emotional and bodily pleasures and pains. (shrink)
I take up the issue of whether pleasure is a kind of sensation (a feeling episode) or not. This issue was much discussed by philosophers of the 1950's and 1960's, and no resolution was reached. There were mainly two camps in the discussion: those who argued for a dispositional account of pleasure, and those who favored an episodic feeling (sensational) view of pleasure. Here, relying on some recent scientific findings I offer an account of pleasure which (...) neither dispositionalizes nor sensationalizes pleasure. As is usual in the tradition, I compare pleasure with pain, and try to see its similarities and differences. I argue that pain and pleasure experiences have typically a complex phenomenology normally not so obvious in introspection. After distinguishing between affective and sensory components of these experiences, I argue that although pain experiences normally consist of both components proper to them, pleasure, in contradistinction to pain, is only the affective component of a total experience that may involve many sensations proper and cognitions. Moreover, I hold that although the so-called "physical" pleasure is itself not a sensation proper, it is nevertheless an episodic affective reaction (in a primitive sense) to sensations proper. (shrink)
How do the arts give us pleasure? Covering a very wide range of artistic works, from Auden to David Lynch, Rembrandt to Edward Weston, and Richard Strauss to Keith Jarrett, Pleasure and the Arts offers us an explanation of our enjoyable emotional engagements with literature, music, and painting. The arts direct us to intimate and particularized relationships, with the people represented in the works, or with those we imagine produced them. When we listen to music, look at a (...) purely abstract painting, or drink a glass of wine, can we enjoy the experience without verbalizing our response? Do our interpretative assumptions, our awareness of technique, and our attitudes to fantasy, get in the way of our appreciation of art, or enhance it? Examining these questions and more, we discover how curiosity drives us to enjoy narratives, ordinary jokes, metaphors, and modernist epiphanies, and how narrative in all the arts can order and provoke intense enjoyment. Pleasurable in its own right, Pleasure and the Arts presents a sparkling explanation of the enduring interest of artistic expression. (shrink)
The author comments on the article “The neurobiology of addiction: Implications for voluntary control of behavior,‘ by S. E. Hyman. Hyman presents that addiction is a brain disease or a moral condition. The authors present that addiction is a strong preference, similar to appetitive preferences. They state that addiction is merely a form of pleasure-seeking. The authors conclude that the problem of addiction is the problem of the management of pleasure, not treatment of a disease. Accession Number: 24077914; (...) Authors: Foddy, Bennett 1; Email Address: email@example.com Savulescu, Julian 2; Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne, Monash University, Australia; 2: University of Oxford; Subject: EDITORIALS; Subject: ADDICTIONS; Subject: HYMAN, S. E.; Subject: BRAIN -- Diseases; Subject: PLEASURE; Subject: NEUROBIOLOGY; Subject: BEHAVIOR; Number of Pages: 4p. (shrink)
Explaining the "intentional object" some people assign pleasure, I argue that a person is pleased about something when his thoughts about that thing cause him to feel pleasure. Bernard Williams, Gilbert Ryle, and Irving Thalberg, who reject this analysis, are discussed. Being pleased (or distressed) about something is a compound of pleasure (pain) and some thought or belief. Pleasure in itself does not have an "intentional object".
Utilitarianism, the ethical doctrine that holds in its most basic form that right actions are those that maximize pleasure and minimize pain, has been at the center of many of the ethical debates around animal welfare. The most well-known utilitarian of our time, Peter Singer, is widely credited with having sparked the animal welfare movement of the past 35+ years, using utilitarian reasoning to argue against using animals in invasive research that we aren’t willing to perform on humans. Yet (...) many people who have argued for the use of animals in invasive experimentation have also appealed to utilitarian ideas by claiming that insofar as lab animals suffer, the suffering is justified by greater benefits produced via the knowledge gained from research. In this paper, I will examine whether the classical utilitarian prescriptions “maximize pleasure” and “minimize pain” should be treated as equals by the theory and, if not, what the possible implications are for research involving nonhuman animals. -/- The idea that pain has a stronger influence than pleasure is accepted in much of the recent psychology literature on well-being. Some philosophers have also argued that minimizing suffering should play a more important role in ethical theorizing than maximizing pleasure. However, I will argue that neuroscience is uniquely positioned to provide definitive evidence that pleasure and pain are not merely two symmetrical poles of a single scale of experience, but in fact two different types of experiences altogether with dramatically different contributions to our wellbeing. I consider several different conceptions of symmetry, and argue that each is at odds with the most recent empirical results. (shrink)
In this study, George Rudebusch addresses whether Socrates was a hedonist--whether he believed pleasure to be the good. In attempting to locate Socrates' position on hedonism, Rudebusch examines the passages in Plato's early dialogues that are the most disputed on the topic. He maintains that Socrates identifies pleasant activity with virtuous activity, describing Socrates' hedonism as one of activity, not sensation. This analysis allows for Socrates to find both virtue and pleasure to be the good, thus solving the (...) textual puzzle and showing the power of Socratic argument in leading human beings toward the good. (shrink)
Provides a critical and analytical history of ancient Greek theories on the nature of pleasure, and of its value and rolein human lfie, from the ealriest times down to the period of Epicurus and the early Stoics.
This paper uses readings of two classic autobiographies, Edmund Gosse's Father & Son and John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, to develop a distinctive answer to an old and central question in value theory: What role is played by pleasure in the most successful human life? A first section defends my method. The main body of the paper then defines and rejects voluntarist, stoic, and developmental hedonist lessons to be taken from central crises in my two subjects' autobiographies, and argues for (...) a fourth, diagnostic lesson: Gosse and Mill perceive their individual good through the medium of pleasure. Finally, I offer some speculative moral psychology of human development, as involving the waking, perception, management, and flowering of generic and individual capacities, which I suggest underlies Gosse and Mill's experiences. The acceptance of one's own unchosen nature, discovered by self-perceptive pleasure in the operation of one's nascent capacities, is the beginning of a flourishing adulthood in which that nature is fully developed and expressed. (shrink)
Daniel Russell develops a fresh and original view of pleasure and its pivotal role in Plato's treatment of value, happiness, and human psychology. This is the first full-length discussion of the topic for fifty years, and Russell shows its relevance to contemporary debates in moral philosophy and philosophical psychology. Plato on Pleasure and the Good Life will make fascinating reading for ancient specialists and for a wide range of philosophers.
A developing neurobiological/psychological theory of positive motivation gives a key causal role to reward events in the brain which can be directly activated by electrical stimulation (ESB). In its strongest form, this Reward Event Theory (RET) claims that all positive motivation, primary and learned, is functionally dependent on these reward events. Some of the empirical evidence is reviewed which either supports or challenges RET. The paper examines the implications of RET for the concepts of 'motivation', 'desire' and 'reward' or ' (...) class='Hi'>pleasure'. It is argued (1) that a 'causal base' as opposed to a functional' concept of motivation has theoretical advantages; (2) that a causal distinction between the focus' and the 'anchor' of desire suggests an ineliminable 'opacity' of desire; and (3) that some affective concept, such as 'pleasure', should play a key role in psychological explanation, distinct from that of motivational (or cognitive) concepts. A concept of 'reward' or 'pleasure' as intrinsically positive affect is defended, and contrasted with the more 'operational' definitions of 'reward' in some of the hypotheses of Roy Wise. (shrink)
Surveying a wide range of cultural controversies, from the Mapplethorpe affair to Salman Rushdie's death sentence, from canon-revision in the academy to the scandals that have surrounded Anthony Blunt, Martin Heidegger, and Paul de Man, Wendy Steiner shows that the fear and outrage they inspired are the result of dangerous misunderstanding about the relationship between art and life. "Stimulating. . . . A splendid rebuttal of those on the left and right who think that the pleasures induced by art are (...) trivial or dangerous. . . . One of the most powerful defenses of the potentiality of art."--Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book Review "A concise and . . . readable account of recent contretemps that have galvanized the debate over the role and purposes of art. . . . [Steiner] writes passionately about what she believes in."--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times "This is one of the few works of cultural criticism that is actually intelligible to the nonspecialist reader. . . . Steiner's perspective is fresh and her perceptions invariably shrewd, far-ranging, and reasonable. A welcome association of sense and sensibility."-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Steiner has succeeded so well in [the] task she has undertaken. The Scandal of Pleasure is itself characterized by many of the qualities Steiner demans of art, among them, complexity, tolerance and the pleasures of unfettered thought."--Eleanor Heartly, Art in America "Steiner . . . provides the best and clearest short presentation of each of [the] debates."--Alexander Nehamas, Boston Book Review "Steiner has done a fine job as a historian/reporter and as a writer of sophisticated, very clear, cultural criticism. Her reportage alone would be enough to make this a distinguished book."--Mark Edmundson, Lingua Franca. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotle took pleasure to be a certain aspect of perfect activities of awareness, namely, their very perfection. I also argue that this reading facilitates an attractive interpretation of his view that pleasures differ in kind along with the activities they arise in connection with.
By what types of properties do we specify twinges, toothaches, and other kinds of mental states? Wittgenstein considers two methods. Procedure one, direct, private acquaintance: A person connects a word to the sensation it specifies through noticing what that sensation is like in his own experience. Procedure two, outward signs: A person pins his use of a word to outward, pre-verbal signs of the sensation. I identify and explain a third procedure and show we in fact specify many kinds of (...) mental states in this way. (shrink)
Many commentators have remarked upon the striking points of correspondence that can be found in the works of Freud and Nietzsche. However, this essay argues that on the subject of desire their work presents us with a radical choice: Freud or Nietzsche. I first argue that Freud’s theory of desire is grounded in the principle of inertia, a principle that is incompatible with his later theory of Eros and the life drive. Furthermore, the principle of inertia is not essentially distinct (...) from his later theory of the death drive. Consequently, Freud’s theory of desire can only be interpreted consistently as a monism of the death drive. I then analyze Nietzsche’s attempt to ground his theory of desire in the concept of the will to power. I argue that Nietzsche’s view of desire is fundamentally opposed to the key elements of Freud’s theory of desire: the principle of constancy, the Freudian definition of the drive, and the pleasure principle. Next, I explicate the stakes of this opposition by analyzing the social consequences of each view for morality and justice. I argue that the Freudian subject seeks to dominate the social other, and that there is an insurmountable conflict between the satisfaction of desire and the demands of social life. Consequently, Freud’s view allows only for a negative conception of the social good in which morality is defined as the intrinsically impossible task of eliminating evil, and justice can be achieved only through the equal distribution of instinctual frustration. Finally, I argue that in Nietzsche’s theory of desire there is no essential conflict between individual desire and social life. The Nietzschean subject desires to manifest power in the form of activity that is independent of external agents, not to dominate the other. Consequently, Nietzsche’s view allows for the possibility of a positively defined concept of the social good in which morality is the affirmation and enhancement of every subject’s happiness, and justice can be achieved through the promotion and protection of an equality of power among subjects. (shrink)
Plato links pleasure with illusion, and this link explains his rejection of the view that all desires are rational desires for the good. The Protagoras and Gorgias show connections between pleasure and illusion: the Republic develops these into a psychological theory. One part of the soul is not only prone to illusions, but also incapable of the kind of reasoning that can dispel them. Pleasure appears good; therefore this part of the soul (the appetitive part) desires pleasures (...) qua good but ignores reasoning about what is really good. Hence the new moral psychology of the Republic: not all desires are rational, and thus virtue depends on bringing one's non-rational desires under the control of reason. (shrink)
The paper deals with the question of the attribution to Epicurus of the classification of pleasures into 'kinetic' and 'static'. This classification, usually regarded as authentic, confronts us with a number of problems and contradictions. Besides, it is only mentioned in a few sources that are not the most reliable. Following Gosling and Taylor, I believe that the authenticity of the classification may be called in question. The analysis of the ancient evidence concerning Epicurus' concept of pleasure is made (...) according to the following principle: first, I consider the sources that do not mention the distinction between 'kinetic' and 'static' pleasures, and only then do I compare them with the other group of texts which comprises reports by Cicero, Diogenes Laertius and Athenaeus. From the former group of texts there emerges a concept of pleasure as a single and not twofold notion, while such terms as 'motion' and 'state' describe not two different phenomena but only two characteristics of the same phenomenon. On the other hand, the reports comprising the latter group appear to derive from one and the same doxographical tradition, and to be connected with the classification of ethical docrines put forward by the Middle Academy and known as the divisio Carneadea. In conclusion, I argue that the idea of Epicurus' classification of pleasures is based on a misinterpretation of Epicurus' concept in Academic doxography, which tended to contrapose it to doctrines of other schools, above all to the Cyrenaics' views. (shrink)
This paper defends hedonic intentionalism, the view that all pleasures, including bodily pleasures, are directed towards objects distinct from themselves. Brentano is the leading proponent of this view. My goal here is to disentangle his significant proposals from the more disputable ones so as to arrive at a hopefully promising version of hedonic intentionalism. I mainly focus on bodily pleasures, which constitute the main troublemakers for hedonic intentionalism. Section 1 introduces the problem raised by bodily pleasures for hedonic intentionalism and (...) some of the main reactions to it. Sections 2 and 3 rebut two main approaches equating bodily pleasures with non- intentional episodes. More precisely, section 2 argues that bodily pleasures cannot be purely non-intentional self-conscious feelings, by relying on Brentano’s objection to Hamilton’s theory of pleasure. Section 3 argues that bodily pleasures cannot be non-intentional sensory qualities by relying on Brentano’s objections to Stumpf’s theory of pleasure. Section 4 develops a brentanian view of the intentionality of bodily pleasures by claiming bodily pleasures are directed at a sui generis class of sensory qualities. Section 5 presents an objection to Brentano’s later theory of pleasure according to which all sensory pleasures are directed at sensing acts. (shrink)
The paper begins with a well-known objection to the idea that reasons for action are provided by desires. The objection holds that since desires are based on reasons (first premise), which they transmit but to which they cannot add (second premise), they cannot themselves provide reasons for action. In the paper I investigate an attack that has recently been launched against the first premise of the argument by David Sobel. Sobel invokes a counterexample: hedonic desires, i.e. the likings and dislikings (...) of our present conscious states. The aim of the paper is to defend the premise by bringing the alleged counterexample under its scope. I first point out that reference to hedonic desires as a counterexample presupposes a particular understanding of pleasure, which we might call desire-based. In response, following Sobel, I draw up two alternative accounts, the phenomenological and the tracking views of pleasure. Although Sobel raises several objections to both accounts, I argue in detail that the phenomenological view is not as implausible as he claims it to be, whereas the tracking view, on its best version advocated by Thomas Scanlon, is an instance of the phenomenological view and is therefore also defensible. (shrink)
I point out some unclarities in Allison's interpretation of Kant's aesthetic theory, specifically in his account of the free play of the faculties. I argue that there is a tension between Allison's commitment to the intentionality of the pleasure involved in a judgment of beauty, and his view that the pleasure is distinct from the judgment, and I claim that the tension should be resolved by rejecting the latter view. I conclude by addressing Allison's objection that my own (...) view fails to accommodate judgments of non-beauty or ugliness. (shrink)
In Plato's "Philebus" Socrates and Protarchus dispute whether pleasure, like belief, can be false. Their dispute illustrates a broader pattern of disagreement between them about how to evaluate pleasure. Of two contrasting conceptions of false pleasure-derived from work by Bernard Williams and by Sabina Lovibond respectively-false pleasure of the Lovibond type best answers the challenge to which Protarchus' resistance gives rise. Socrates' own example of false pleasure may be read in this way, in contrast to (...) its prevailing interpretation, and this alternative reading seems better suited to the argument's context, both immediate and distant. (shrink)
I defend Hume's account of tragic pleasure against various objections. I examine his account of the emotions in order to clarify his "conversion theory". I also argue that Hume does not give us a theory of tragedy as an aesthetic genre, but rather elucidates the felt experience of a particular work of tragedy. I offer a partial reading of King Lear by way of illustration. Finally, I suggest that the experiences of aesthetic pleasure, and aesthetic sadness, share certain (...) qualities. "Tragic pleasure" is possible, in part, because the pity of tragedy is realised through the pleasure of the aesthetic. (shrink)
We are unlikely to stop seeking pleasure, as this would prejudice our health and well-being. Yet many psychoactive substances providing pleasure are outlawed as illicit recreational drugs, despite the fact that only some of them are addictive to some people. Efforts to redress their prohibition, or to reform legislation so that penalties are proportionate to harm have largely failed. Yet, if choices over seeking pleasure are ethical insofar as they avoid harm to oneself or others, public health (...) strategies should foster ethical choice by moving beyond current risk management practices embodied in the harm reduction movement. The neuroscience of pleasure has much to offer neuroethics and public health strategies. Distinguishing between ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’ fosters new understandings of addiction. These hold promise for directing the search for pharmacotherapies which prevent addiction and relapse or disrupt associated neuromechanisms. They could inform new research into creating lawful psychoactive substances which give us pleasure without provoking addiction. As the health and well being of human and other animals rests upon the experience of pleasure, this would be an ethical objective within public health strategy. Were ethical and neurobiological obstacles to ending addiction to be overcome, problems associated with excessive consumption, the lure of unlawful psychoactive substances and the paucity of lawful means to achieve pleasurable altered states would remain. Non-addictive designer drugs, which reliably provided lawful access to pleasures and altered states, would ameliorate these public health concerns insofar as they fostered citizens’ informed, ethical choices according to a neurobiological taxonomy of pleasures. (shrink)
This paper discusses the structural relationship between ideals on pleasure and pleasure as a human psychological phenomenon in Chinese thought. It describes the psychological phenomenon of pleasure, and compares different approaches by pre-Qin Confucian and Daoist scholars. It also analyzes its development in Song and Ming Confucianism. Finally, in the conclusion, the issue is transferred to a general understanding of happiness, so as to demonstrate the modern value of the classical ideological experience.
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. (shrink)
As topics in the philosophy of emotion, pleasure and displeasure get less than their fair share of attention. On the one hand, there is the fact that pleasure and displeasure are given no role at all in many theories of the emotions, and secondary roles in many others.1 On the other, there is the centrality of pleasure and displeasure to being emotional. A woman who tears up because of a blustery wind, while an ill-advised burrito weighs heavily (...) upon her digestive tract, feels an impressive number of the sensations felt by someone who is gut-wrenchingly sad. Yet, unless she feels bad, the way she feels is only a pale echo of the feeling of sadness. If she feels good in spite of the burrito and the wind, then she does not feel at all the way she would if she were sad. Likewise, a man falling asleep can hardly fail to feel his muscles relax, his heart rate fall, and so on, but unless he feels good his state is only a shadow of feeling content. This paper will begin with a sketch of the nature of pleasure and displeasure, and the relation between them and the feelings that are characteristic of emotions. It will then argue that the capacity to feel pleased and displeased is, quite literally, a sense modality: one allowing us to perceive net change in the satisfaction of our intrinsic desires. As with any sense modality, the capacity to feel pleased and displeased displays substantial modularity. The paper concludes by considering the ways in which the modularity of pleasure and displeasure contributes to effects that might reasonably be called “the modularity of the emotions.”. (shrink)
In his discussion of pleasure, Aristotle assumes the thesis that a perfect activity always and necessarily yields pleasure. The occurrence of pleasure is even presented as a sign that the activity is perfect. But this assumption seems to be too easy. It is possible that we do feel pleasure in activities which are not perfectly performed, and on the other hand, it is not certain at all that I will enjoy a perfect activity. Pleasure falls (...) into the category of what J. Elster has called 'states that are essentially by-products'. Up to a point, Aristotle acknowledges this, but he does not follow this analysis to its final consequences. If one agrees, as Aristotle does, that there is a difference between the perfect activity and pleasure, it should be possible that an activity is perfect without yielding pleasure, or that pleasure will accompany even an activity which is not perfect. (shrink)
One of the leading approaches to the nature of sensory pleasure reduces it to desire: roughly, a sensation qualifies as a sensation of pleasure just in case its subject wants to be feeling it. This approach is, in my view, correct, but it has never been formulated quite right; and it needs to be defended against some compelling arguments. Thus the purpose of this paper is to discover the most defensible formulation of this rough idea, and to defend (...) it against the most interesting objections. (shrink)
Pleasure, in the inclusive usages most important in moral psychology, ethical theory, and the studies of mind, includes all joy and gladness — all our feeling good, or happy. It is often contrasted with similarly inclusive pain, or suffering, which is similarly thought of as including all our feeling bad. Contemporary psychology similarly distinguishes between positive affect and negative affect.[1..
I ARGUE THAT WE RECEIVE PLEASURE FROM TRAGEDIES BECAUSE WE ARE PLEASED TO FIND OURSELVES RESPONDING IN AN UNPLEASANT WAY TO HUMAN SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE. THE PLEASURE IS THUS A METARESPONSE, AND REFLECTS FEELINGS WHICH ARE AT THE BASIS OF MORALITY. THIS HELPS EXPLAIN WHY TRAGEDY IS SUPPOSED TO BE A HIGHER ART FORM THAN COMEDY, AND PROVIDES A NEW WAY OF SEEING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MORALITY OF AN ARTWORK AND ITS VALUE.
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that pleasure from certain sources is genuinely beneficial. These sources can be sorted into two classes: ones that involve others’ pain; and ones that involve what seems to be damage rather than benefit to the person involved. Here’s an example of the latter: a woman who claims that she enjoys her work performing in hard-core pornographic films. Some find it hard to take such a claim at face value – they instinctively assume (...) that the woman is insincere or self-deceived.1 The reason seems a strongly paternalistic one: because the activity is assumed to be bad, it’s thought that only someone who was in some way damaged could genuinely like it. A statement from Brian Hill, the director of a documentary about such women, illustrates this: ‘I felt certain that she couldn’t enjoy what she does, that there must be some reason why she’s undergoing this kind of experience. But there was nothing: no messed-up childhood, no sense of pain or humiliation.’ (Smith, 2003, 17) Forced to conclude that the woman in question really does enjoy her work, Hill changes his view to imply that the pleasure gained cannot be truly beneficial: ‘When I hear a young woman talking about doing videos of fisting and asphyxiation, I have to wonder what it’s doing to her – even if she says that she’s having fun.’ (Smith, 2003, 17). (shrink)
The first third of John Pollock’s Thinking about Acting is on the topics of pleasure, desire, and preference, and these topics are the ones on which this paper focuses. I review Pollock’s position and argue that it has at least one substantial strength (it elegantly demonstrates that desires must be more fundamental than preferences, and embraces this conclusion wholeheartedly) and at least one substantial weakness (it holds to a form of psychological hedonism without convincingly answering the philosophical or empirical (...) objections that might be raised). (shrink)
I argue for an alternative interpretation of some of the examples Fred Feldman uses to establish his theory of happiness. According to Feldman, the examples show that certain utterances of the form S is pleased/glad that P and S is displeased/sad that P should be interpreted as expressions of extrinsic attitudinal pleasure and displeasure and hence must be excluded from the aggregative sum of attitudinal pleasure and displeasure that constitutes happiness. I develop a new interpretation of Feldman’s examples. (...) My interpretation is plausible in its own right. Moreover, it is significant within the context of the debate. It allows the attitudinal hedonist to preserve the initial understanding of happiness that Feldman believes is open to counterexample: that happiness is the sum of attitudinal pleasure minus attitudinal displeasure and that all attitudinal pleasure and displeasure counts equally in the aggregation that constitutes happiness. (shrink)
This thesis introduces and defends the Axiological Theory of Pleasure (ATP), according to which all pleasures are mental episodes which exemplify an hedonic value. According to the version of the ATP defended, hedonic goodness is not a primitive kind of value, but amounts to the final and personal value of mental episodes. Beside, it is argued that all mental episodes –and then all pleasures– are intentional. The definition of pleasures I arrived at is the following : -/- x is (...) a pleasure of a person P =df x is an intentional episode of P which is finally good for P. (shrink)
There is considerable appeal to the Aristotelian idea that taking pleasure in an activity is sometimes simply a matter of attending to it in such a way as to render it wholehearted. However, the proponents of this idea have not made adequately clear what kind of attention it is that can perform the surprising feat of transforming otherwise indifferent activities into pleasurable ones. I build upon Gilbert Ryle's suggestion that taking pleasure in an activity is tantamount to engaging (...) in the activity while fervently desiring to do it and it alone. More specifically, I draw upon insights into the sort of evaluative attention involved in having a desire to generate corollary insights into the sort of attention that makes activity pleasurable. My aim is to offer a compelling account of a certain class of pleasures, and to shed light on their relation to reasons. I argue that prospective pleasures in this class are not always reasons for action, and that even when they are reasons they have this status only derivatively, as vivid apprehensions of an independent realm of values. This does not mean that such pleasures are never good. They are good provided that they track real values, for then they constitute a proper savoring of one's activities and/or circumstances, and provide a valuable respite from the distractions and unwarranted doubts that so often leave us at odds with ourselves and alienated from our own doings. (shrink)
According to several prominent philosophers, pleasure and pain come in measurable quantities. This thesis is controversial, however, and many philosophers have presented or felt compelled to respond to arguments for the conclusion that it is false. One important class of these arguments concerns the problem of aggregation, which says that if pleasure and pain were measurable quantities, then, by definition, it would be possible to perform various mathematical and statistical operations on numbers representing amounts of them. It is (...) sometimes argued that such operations cannot be sensibly applied to pleasure and pain, and that sentences expressing such operations must be false or meaningless. The purpose of this paper is to present, explain, and rebut several versions of this argument. In the first section, I present a generic version of the argument. In the second section, I present a defense of its key premise based on a case involving comparisons of relief from pain, and explain why I think it fails. In the third section, I present and rebut another defense, based on a pair of analogies with temperature. In the final section, I present a third defense, based on an analogy with spatial distances. I then present my reasons for rejecting it. Along the way, I explain my reasons for thinking that pleasure and pain are amenable to interval measurement. (shrink)
This paper examines the use of “pleasure” as the distinguishing mark of aesthetic experience in post-Kantian philosophy. It shows how the distinctive features of aesthetic experience, such as pleasure, qualify this experience as a platform for social criticism. The key argument is that the autonomy of the aesthetic experience is not “false”, rather it is paradoxical in the strong sense that the fact of its communicative efficacy, which follows from distinctive, “autonomous” aesthetic features, necessarily loads it with functions (...) and expectations that are external to the aesthetic moment. Kant takes a complicated path to qualify aesthetic judgment as disinterested in order that it may eloquently testify for morality. He thereby sets up the cogency of the modern pattern of looking to aesthetic experience as a locus of meaningful communication for ideas that are experientially poor or remote. (shrink)
Following Hume’s lead, Paul Draper argues that, given the biological role played by both pain and pleasure in goal-directed organic systems, the observed facts about pain and pleasure in the world are antecedently much more likely on the Hypothesis of Indifference than on theism. I examine one by one Draper’s arguments for this claim and show how they miss the mark.
Why is pain the opposite of pleasure? Several theories of pleasure and pain have substantial difficulty explaining this basic feature. Theories according to which pleasure and pain are individual sensations or features of sensations have particular difficulty, since it is difficult to understand how pairs of sensations could be opposites. Some philosophers argue that the pain is the opposite of pleasure because pain and pleasure are fundamentally a matter of desire and aversion, and desire and (...) aversion are clear opposites. I argue that the structure of desire and aversion does not correspond to that of pleasure and pain. I propose that pleasure and pain are opposites because pleasure is good and pain is bad, and good and bad are clear opposites. I show that this view explains the structure of opposition of pleasure and pain, and I answer several objections. (shrink)
IT WAS an outlandish, ethically questionable experiment, but this was the 1960s after all. Psychiatrist Robert Heath of Tulane University in New Orleans hoped to cure his patients' depression, intractable pain, schizophrenia, suicidal feelings, addiction, and even homosexuality - which in those days was considered a psychiatric disorder - by drowning them out with pleasure, induced by an electrode implanted deep in their brains.
The Cyrenaics assert that (1) particular pleasure is the highest good, and happiness is valued not for its own sake, but only for the sake of the particular pleasures that compose it; (2) we should not forego present pleasures for the sake of obtaining greater pleasure in the future. Their anti-eudaimonism and lack of future-concern do not follow from their hedonism. So why do they assert (1) and (2)? After reviewing and criticizing the proposals put forward by Annas, (...) Irwin and Tsouna, I offer two possible reconstructions. In the first reconstruction, I explain claim (1) as follows: happiness has no value above and beyond the value of the particular pleasures that compose it. Also, there is no "structure" to happiness. The Cyrenaics are targeting the thesis that happiness involves having the activities of one's life forming an organized whole, the value of which cannot be reduced to the value of the experiences within that life. I explain claim (2) as follows: a maximally pleasant life is valuable, but the best way to achieve it is to concentrate heedlessly on the present. In the second reconstruction, the good is radically relativized to one's present preferences. The Cyrenaics assert that we desire some particular pleasure, e.g., the pleasure that results from having this drink now. Thus, our telos -- which is based upon our desires -- is this particular pleasure, not (generic) 'pleasure' or the maximization of pleasure over our lifetime. As our desires change, so does our telos. I conclude that the scanty texts we have do not allow us to decide conclusively between these reconstructions, but I give some reasons to support the second over the first. (shrink)
What is Plato's view of pleasure in his dialogue the Phaedo? He clearly (and famously) rails against bodily pleasures, seeing them as shackles of sorts which prevent the soul from attaining its proper perfection apart from the body, but does he leave room in the carnate life for some other forms of pleasure? These are some of the questions I would like to try to address in this paper. As it turns out, I argue that Plato does indeed (...) recognize other types of pleasure, of the sort which figure as important items of value in the good life. (shrink)
Epicurean contractarianism is an attempt to reconcile individualistic hedonism with a robust account of justice. The pursuit of pleasure and the requirements of justice, however, have seemed to be incompatible to many commentators, both ancient and modern. It is not clear how it is possible to reconcile hedonism with the demands of justice. Furthermore, it is not clear why, even if Epicurean contractarianism is possible, it would be necessary for Epicureans to endorse a social contract. I argue here that (...) Epicurean contractarianism is both possible and necessary once we understand Epicurean practical rationality in a new way. We are left with an appealing version of teleological, individualistic contractarianism that is significantly different from Hobbesian contractarianism. (shrink)
In this essay, I examine Arendt's and Kristeva's account of the archaic event of natality, arguing that each attempts to show how this event is the source of our pleasure in the company of others. I first examine Arendt's understanding of natality, showing that in her early writings, specifically in The Origin of Totalitarianism, the event of natality carries with it a capacity for violence that Arendt does not continue to develop in her later formulations. This lack of development (...) leaves her later thought, specifically her notion of "public happiness" strangely light-minded on the topic of domination, unable to give an account of how violence can be part and parcel of our appearance in the public space itself. I then turn to Kristeva's understanding of the event of natality, arguing that her account, specifically the "violence beneath our desires" contributes significantly to Arendt's account of natality, allowing us to understand how pleasure in the company of others is possible despite such violence. I argue that Kristeva locates our capacity for public happiness in the aspect of natality Arendt abandons in her later thought. I conclude by showing how Kristeva's account of natality provides a foundation for Arendt's understanding of public happiness. (shrink)
For many of the ancient Greek philosophers, the ethical life was understood to be closely tied up with important notions like rational integrity, self-control, self-sufficiency, and so on. Because of this, feeling or passion (pathos), and in particular, pleasure, was viewed with suspicion. There was a general insistence on drawing up a sharp contrast between a life of virtue on the one hand and one of pleasure on the other. While virtue was regarded as rational and as integral (...) to advancing one’s well-being or happiness and safeguarding one’s autonomy, pleasure was viewed as largely irrational and as something that usually undermines a life of reason, self-control and self-sufficiency. I want to try to show that the hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene, a student and contemporary of Socrates, was unique in not drawing up such a sharp contrast. Aristippus, I argue, might be seen to be challenging the conception of passion and pleasure connected to loss of self-control and hubristic behavior. Not only do I try to show that pleasure according to Aristippus is much more comprehensive or inclusive than it is usually taken to be, but that a certain kind of control and self-possession actually play an important part in his conception of pleasure and in his hedonism as a whole. (shrink)
The fact that the notion of ‘practice’ has achieved an ever-increasing relevance in the most various fields of knowledge must not overshadow that it can be interpreted in so many different ways as to orient fairly different historiographical paradigms and philosophical conceptions. Starting with the two main issues of Hadot’s criticism of Foucault (the lack of a distinction between joy and pleasure and the fact that his account does not underscore that the individual Self is ultimately transcended by universal (...) Reason), I have tried to show how the two scholars’ philosophical and historiographical approaches entail a different notion of ‘practice’. According to Hadot, the performativity of a practice (or spiritual exercise) is intimately tied to a universal which transcends the individual self, whereas Foucault maintains that it does not require the appeal to any universal, being exclusively grounded on the modes of exertion of the practices which constitute the individual Self. According to this address, pleasure is a fundamental notion in order to historicize the different ways in which the ethical subject structures itself. (shrink)
The subject I intend to discuss deals with a problem which is central in the debate of ancient greek philosophy: the quest for happiness as the final end, the highest good for a human being. Fixing in the achievement of a life worth living the strategic aim of actions, ancient philosophers tried to define as well what a man should desire for himself to fully develop all the capabilities which lie inside human nature. On the one side they proposed major (...) normative models of wisdom, on the other side they gave an important practical indication: the “care of the self”, as a self-control discipline that aims to build a virtuous form of subjectivity, that is able to design and deserve the eudaimonia. In this context, my analysis will focus on the issue of pleasure. The hedone surely represents the critical point of all happiness models of Socratic origin, centred in different ways on the practice of the “care of the self”. While this practical proposal appears to be a complex and demanding alternative in the search for a life worth living, the hedonistic way seems to be much easier and simpler, as far as pleasure is intended as an unequivocal sign of goodness and wellness, immediately recognisable in the experience of happiness. The hedonism of the many appears to the philosophers as a serious menace to society and to the individual, because it conveys unlimited desires and interior disharmony, though, on the other hand, it not possible to deny the value of pleasure without making philosophical happiness unattractive. In the field of the important contemporary re-evaluation of bios models of ancient philosophers (Hadot, Foucault, Nussbaum, Annas) to test their strength and operative capabilities in human subject’s condition in the present days, I would like to outline a comparison between Plato’s and Aristotle’s views on the dilemmas set by pleasure in the enterprise of self-construction: their positions appear, as usual, close and at the same time opposite in the well-known “gigantomachy”. (shrink)
Abstract This paper argues for an integration of moral education and sex education curricula. In such an integration, the primary values that would be taught would not be those relating to specific sexual behaviour but those relating to the general treatment of human beings, suggesting that sex that involves coercion or exploitation as well as sex that causes harm is wrong. Sex educators must take as their goal the prevention of abuse, not by placing responsibility on girls to avoid victimisation (...) but by teaching boys how to express themselves sexually in moral??that is, considerate and respectful??ways. The paper discusses differential gender role socialisation and why integration of such material must be a part of every sex education curriculum. The paper also discusses how physical pleasure is not only a biological phenomenon but one that is culturally constructed, the discussion of which would be important to sex education. Finally, teaching about fantasy as well as sexual ?deviance? (in terms of the moral behaviours discussed above) may be the most important aspect of sex education to prepare or retrain boys to be ?good? sex partners rather than perpetrators of abuse. (shrink)
Theories about value struggles with the problem how toaccount for the motivational force inherent to value judgments. Whereasthe exact role of motivation in evaluation is the subject of somecontroversy, it’s arguably a truism that value has something to do withmotivation. In this paper, I suggest that given that the role of motivationin ethical theory is left quite unspecific by the “truisms” or “platitudes”governing evaluative concepts, a scientific understanding of motivationcan provide a rich source of clues for how we might go (...) about developingan empirically responsible theory of value. More specifically, I argue that naturalist hedonists should be eager to join forces with motivational science: the role of pleasure in themotivational system is such that a sound case for hedonism can be builton it. (shrink)
This essay examines the multifaceted roles of drinking parties in early Greece and in medieval China. It takes as paradigm examples descriptions of ritual intoxication in Plato’s Laws and in the poetry of Ouyang Xiu and Mei Yaochen, arguing that these divergent cultural and philosophical traditions can be both related and made distinct through concepts of pleasure, creativity, and social harmony.
Plato’s definition of pleasure as perceptible replenishment of a lack has been criticized as too narrow and incapable of accounting for some of the corporeal and all the non-corporeal pleasures. Plato’s suggested reply, based on objective standards in relation to which we are to estimate the reality and degree of replenishment we experience, seems to give rise to another difficulty, concerning the legitimate diversity of our natural inclinations and tastes. I argue that Plato’sdefinition of pleasure makes perfect sense (...) when integrated in the horizon of his metaphysical presuppositions and that he is successful in reconciling the diversity of subjective tastes with his view of an ultimate objective hierarchy of value by appeal to the notion of the mean. (shrink)