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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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 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.
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".
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
Although Kant (wrongly) holds that the universal communicability of aesthetic judgments logically follows from the disinterested character of the pleasure upon which they are based, Kant's emphasis on the a priori validity of judgments of beauty can be viewed as a rebuttal of the kind of empiricist arguments that Burke offers to justify the social nature of the experience of beauty. I argue that the requirement of universal communicability is not a mere addition to the requirement of universal validity (...) and is far more relevant to an adequate characterisation of the beautiful than has customarily been assumed. I further argue that the 'exemplary necessity' of pure judgments of taste, if understood correctly, reveals beauty's primordial social significance, enabling us to become alive to a profound universal solidarity among aesthetic subjects. (shrink)
It is time to challenge the issue of pleasure associated with the core of medical practice. Its importance is made clear through its opposite: unhappiness—something which affects doctors in a rather worrying way. The paper aims to provide a discussion on pleasure on reliable grounds. Plato’s conception of techne is a convenient model that offers insights into the unique practice of medicine, which embraces in a single purposive action several heterogeneous dimensions. In Aristotle’s Ethics, pleasure appears to (...) play a central role for action’s assessment and intensification. Pleasure is also tightly associated with the Kantian faculty of reflective judgment, which operates at the heart of clinical reasoning. Indeed, practicing medicine means to deal with the particular and the manifold, requiring clinical judgment, but also relying on embodied habitus . With Bourdieu’s notion of habitus , pleasure is the mark of a happy practice, which presupposes a deep involvement in one’s field. Throughout our inquiry, the question of pleasure comes to offer a critical reappraisal of real medical practice and leads to consider ethics more as a component of techne than as a separate realm of concern. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to explore nuances within the field of bodily self-awareness. My starting-point is phenomenological. I focus on how the subject experiences her or his body, i.e. how the body stands forth to the subject. I build on the phenomenologist Drew Leder’s distinction between bodily dis-appearance and dys-appearance. In bodily dis-appearance, I am only prereflectively aware of my body. My body is not a thematic object of my experience. Bodily dys-appearance takes place when the body appears (...) to me as “ill” or “bad.” This is often the case when I experience pain or illness. Here, I will examine three versions of bodily dys-appearance. Whereas many phenomenological studies have explored cases of bodily dys-appearance, few studies have focused on the opposite of bodily dys-appearance, i.e. on bodily modes of being where the body appears to the subject as something good, easy or well. This is done in this article. When the body stands forth as good, easy or well to the subject, I suggest that the body eu-appears to this person. The analysis of eu-appearance shows that the subject can attend to her or his body as something positive and that this attention need not result in discomfort or alienation. Eu-appearance can take place in physical exercise, in sexual pleasure and in some cases of wanted pregnancies. I also discuss, briefly, the case of masochism. (shrink)
Pleasure, the defining object of kāmaśāstric scholarship, is harmonious sensory experience, the product of a “good fit” between the self and the world. It comes about when one moves in a world of fitting sense objects, and one has made oneself fit to enter that world. The bulk of kāmaśāstric literature is devoted to developing, enhancing, and enacting specific bodily and sensory capabilities in order to maximize one’s ability to affect and be affected by the world. This article examines (...) the model of subjectivity implied by kāmaśāstra, tracking two sorts of changes to the self assumed by this body of texts. First, it presents and analyzes the ways in which the social actors described in this literature come into being in and through the cultivation and performance of particular bodily and social acts; the “artifactual” nature of the self is presumed. Second, it considers the changing set of acts that are described and prescribed over the course of kāmaśāstric history, noting the increasing place of physiognomy and of magico-medical alterations of the body, and the elision of the social sphere of sensual activity. Finally, this article situates the kāmaśāstric model of subjectivity in relation to the larger śāstric project, drawing out the model of empiricism that it presupposes, and speculating upon the epistemological/ontological implications of kāmaśāstra as a science. (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.
The focus of this paper is Aristotle's solution to the problem inherited from Socrates: How could a man fail to restrain himself when he believes that what he desires is wrong? In NE 7 Aristotle attempts to reconcile the Socratic denial of akrasia with the commonly held opinion that people act in ways they know to be bad, even when it is in their power to act otherwise. This project turns out to be largely successful, for what Aristotle shows us (...) is that if we distinguish between two ways of having knowledge (potentially and actually), the Socratic thesis can effectively account for a wide range of cases (collectively referred to here as drunk-akrasia) in which an agent acts contrary to his general knowledge of the Good, yet can still be said to know in the qualified sense that his actions are wrong. However, Book 7 also shows that the Socratic account of akrasia cannot take us any farther than drunk-akrasia, for unlike drunk-akrasia, genuine akrasia cannot be reduced to a failure of knowledge. This agent knows in the unqualified sense that his actions are wrong. The starting-point of my argument is that Aristotle's explanation of genuine akrasia requires a different solution than the one found in NE 7 which relies on the distinction between qualified and unqualified knowing: genuinely akratic behaviour is due to the absence of an internal conflict that a desire for the proper pleasures of temperance would create if he could experience them. (shrink)
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)