About this topic
Summary

Hedonism about well-being, roughly put, says that how good or bad our lives are for us is just a matter of our pleasures and pains. 

Whether hedonism counts as a subjective or objective theory of well-being depends on whether it is paired with an attitude-based or felt-quality theory of pleasure.

The most influential contemporary challenge to hedonism is Robert Nozick's "experience machine" thought experiment, according to which hedonism entails that it would be best for one to plug into a machine that would give one any future course of experiences one wanted, when this plainly would not be best for one.

Key works

Important historical discussions of hedonism are found in Plato's Philebus, Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus, Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, and Mill's Utilitarianism. The most comprehensive contemporary defenses of hedonism are Feldman 2004, Crisp 2006 (Ch. 4), and Bramble 2016. Other defenses include Bradley 2009 (Ch. 1), Heathwood 2006, and Lazari-Radek & Singer 2014 (Ch. 9). Nozick's experience machine thought experiment appears in Nozick 1989.

Introductions Feldman 2004 provides the most thorough introduction to hedonism about well-being. See also Crisp 2013 (Sec. 4.1) and Heathwood 2014 (Sec. 3.1). 
Related categories

344 found
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1 — 50 / 344
  1. added 2020-04-19
    Knowing What's Good for You.Guy Fletcher - unknown
    An accessible introduction to some of the main issues in the philosophy of well-being, aimed at the general reader.
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  2. added 2020-03-25
    Some Difficult Intuitions for the Principle of Universality.Stephen Kershnar - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (4):478-488.
    The Principle of Universality asserts that a part retains its intrinsic value regardless of the whole in which it is a part or even whether it is part of a whole. The idea underlying this principle is that the intrinsic value of a thing supervenes on its intrinsic properties. Since the intrinsic properties remain unchanged so does the thing’s intrinsic value. In this article, I argue that, properly understood, the Principle of Universality can handle seemingly troublesome intuitions about the relative (...)
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  3. added 2020-03-25
    The Time of Intrinsic Value.Stephen Kershnar - 2008 - Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (3):317-329.
    The issue of the time of intrinsic value focuses on the time during which a state has a level of intrinsic value. This is distinct from the time that desert makes a state of affairs good or bad (time of desert) and the time that statements about desert are true or false (time of the desert statement). To arrive at this conclusion, I assumed that intrinsic value is a function of desert-adjusted well-being. Both desert and well-being should be understood as (...)
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  4. added 2020-01-30
    What is Good for Spock? A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism.Isaac Shur - 2019 - Ephemeris 19:46-57.
    Attitudinal Hedonism is a theory of well-being which claims that welfare consists in states of attitudinal pleasure. Fred Feldman characterizes attitudinal pleasure as a state of consciousness similar to attitudes of hope and fear or belief and doubt. He employs the term, enjoyment for the relevant conscious state of attitudinal pleasure and disenjoyment for attitudinal pain. Attitudinal pleasures and pains contrast with sensory pleasures like sex or drugs and sensory pains like cuts or bruises which are felt with the senses (...)
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  5. added 2020-01-17
    A Defense of Free-Roaming Cats From a Hedonist Account of Feline Well-Being.C. E. Abbate - 2019 - Acta Analytica:1-23.
    There is a widespread belief that for their own safety and for the protection of wildlife, cats should be permanently kept indoors. Against this view, I argue that cat guardians have a duty to provide their feline companions with outdoor access. The argument is based on a sophisticated hedonistic account of animal well-being that acknowledges that the performance of species-normal ethological behavior is especially pleasurable. Territorial behavior, which requires outdoor access, is a feline-normal ethological behavior, so when a cat is (...)
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  6. added 2019-12-18
    Aesthetic Hedonism and Its Critics.Servaas Van der Berg - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (1):e12645.
    This essay surveys the main objections to aesthetic hedonism, the view that aesthetic value is reducible to the value of aesthetic pleasure or experience. Hedonism is the dominant view of aesthetic value, but a spate of recent criticisms has drawn its accuracy into question. I introduce some distinctions crucial to the criticisms, before using the bulk of the essay to identify and review six major lines of argument that hedonism's critics have employed against it. Whether or not these arguments suffice (...)
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  7. added 2019-11-13
    Intuitions and Values: Re-Assessing the Classical Arguments Against Quantitative Hedonism.David Lanius - 2019 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy (AO):1-32.
    Few philosophers today embrace quantitative hedonism, which states that a person’s well-being depends only on the amount of her experienced happiness and suffering. Despite recent attempts to rehabilitate it, most philosophers still consider it untenable. The most influential arguments levelled against it by Mill, Moore, Nozick and Kagan purport to demonstrate that well-being must depend on more than only the amount of experienced happiness and suffering. I argue in this paper that quantitative hedonism can rebut these arguments by pointing out (...)
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  8. added 2019-11-09
    Non-Repeatable Hedonism Is False.Travis Timmerman & Felipe Pereira - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6:697-705.
    In a series of recent papers, Ben Bramble defends a version of hedonism which holds that purely repetitious pleasures add no value to one’s life (i.e. Non-Repeatable Hedonism). In this paper, we pose a dilemma for Non-Repeatable Hedonism. We argue that it is either committed both to a deeply implausible asymmetry between how pleasures and pains affect a person’s well-being and to deeply implausible claims about how to maximize well-being, or is committed to the claim that a life of eternal (...)
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  9. added 2019-10-26
    A Defense of Free-Roaming Cats from a Hedonist Account of Feline Well-being.C. E. Abbate - 2019 - Acta Analytica 2019:1-23.
    There is a widespread belief that for their own safety and for the protection of wildlife, cats should be permanently kept indoors. Against this view, I argue that cat guardians have a duty to provide their feline companions with outdoor access. The argument is based on a sophisticated hedonistic account of animal well-being that acknowledges that the performance of species-normal ethological behavior is especially pleasurable. Territorial behavior, which requires outdoor access, is a feline-normal ethological behavior, so when a cat is (...)
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  10. added 2019-10-01
    Hedonism, Desirability and the Incompleteness Objection.Vuko Andrić - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):101-109.
    Hedonism claims that all and only pleasure is intrinsically good. One worry about Hedonism focuses on the “only” part: Are there not things other than pleasure, such as personal projects and relationships, that are intrinsically good? If so, it can be objected that Hedonism is incomplete. In this paper, I defend Hedonism against this objection by arguing for a distinction between goodness and desirability that understands “desirability” as a deontic concept, in terms of “reason to desire”, but goodness as an (...)
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  11. added 2019-09-25
    A Complex Experiential Account of Pleasure.Stephen Kershnar - 2010 - Journal of Value Inquiry 44 (2):153-165.
    In this paper, I argue for the Complex Experiential Theory. It asserts that pleasure is a pro-attitude toward a de se experience. I argue that it is better than its competitors. In particular, it is better than monadic theories that view pleasure as a distinct type of experience or a pro-attitude in isolation. It is also better than other non-monadic theories. In particular, it is better than accounts that involve pro-attitudes and beliefs in states of affairs or propositions (or ones (...)
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  12. added 2019-09-16
    Our Intuitions About the Experience Machine.Richard Rowland - 2017 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 12 (1):110-117.
    This article responds to a recent empirical study by De Brigard and Weijers on intuitions about the experience machine and what it tells us about hedonism.
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  13. added 2019-09-09
    Desire-Satisfaction Theories of Welfare.Chris Heathwood - 2005 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Theories of welfare answer the ancient question, What makes a person's life go well? Prominent among these are desire-satisfaction or preferentist theories, according to which welfare has to do ultimately with desire. This dissertation aims to criticize some recent popular arguments against standard desire-satisfaction theories of welfare, to develop and defend a novel version of the desire-satisfaction theory capable of answering the better objections, to defend the thesis that pleasure is reducible to desire, and to demonstrate an interesting link between (...)
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  14. added 2019-07-07
    Epicurean Advice for the Modern Consumer.Tim O'Keefe - forthcoming - In Kelly Arenson (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy.
    Epicurus thought that the conventional values of Greek society—in particular, its celebration of luxury and wealth—often led people astray. It is by rejecting these values, reducing our desires, and leading a moderately ascetic life that we can attain happiness. But Epicurus’ message is also pertinent for those of us in modern Western culture, with an economy based on constant consumption and an advertising industry that molds us to serve that economy by enlarging our desires. This paper begins with an outline (...)
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  15. added 2019-06-06
    On Kant’s Hedonism.Ha Poong Kim - 2005 - Idealistic Studies 35 (1):83-100.
    Kant’s ethical writings contain a hedonistic view of human motivation. This has been pointed out by several commentators. Less noticed, however, is his hedonic life perspective, present in his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View and Critique of Judgment. This life outlook covers the full range of experience, so that Kant speaks not only of pleasures of the senses and the aestheticimagination but also of pleasures felt through concepts and ideas. In the first part of the paper, I discuss (...)
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  16. added 2019-06-06
    Utilitarianism, Hedonism, and Desert: Essays in Moral Philosophy. [REVIEW]Henry R. West - 2003 - International Studies in Philosophy 35 (4):244-245.
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  17. added 2019-06-06
    The Place of Hedonism in Plato’s Laws.Gabriela Roxana Carone - 2003 - Ancient Philosophy 23 (2):283-300.
  18. added 2019-06-06
    Sumner On Desires and Well-Being.Krister Bykvist - 2002 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (4):475-490.
    In a recent book, Wayne Sumner gives a lucid and very thorough treatment of the standard accounts of well-being. While his criticisms of hedonism and objectivism are convincing, his objections to preferentialism are less so. He argues that preferentialism is seriously mistaken, for preference satisfaction is neither sufficient nor necessary for well-being. In this paper, I show that Sumner’s arguments do not support this conclusion. In particular, I show that some of his main criticisms are based on a straw man (...)
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  19. added 2019-06-06
    Early Criticisms of Mill’s Qualitative Hedonism.David Crossley - 2000 - Bradley Studies 6 (2):137-175.
    Virtually all the earlier critics — including Sidgwick and the Oxford Idealists — thought J. S. Mill’s arguments for qualities of pleasure and their ranking unacceptable. More recently there has been something of a reversal of this opinion, with commentators such as Skorupski, Donner, Berger and Wilson supporting Mill, and other writers, such as Edwards and Sprigge, arguing that qualitative hedonism is plausible. This paper reconsiders some of the arguments of F.H. Bradley and other earlier critics who dismissed Mill’s quantity-quality (...)
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  20. added 2019-06-06
    Utilitarianism, Hedonism, and Desert: Essays in Moral Philosophy. [REVIEW]Robert L. Frazier - 2000 - Dialogue 39 (3):626-627.
    Our most basic moral intuition, according to Feldman, is simply stated: we ought to do the best we can. And, according to him, it is this intuition that underlies the utilitarian doctrine. However, Feldman thinks it is no easy task to develop a theory that adequately expresses this intuition. Indeed, he thinks that many philosophers “have vigorously defended ‘utilitarianism’ without succeeding in formulating the doctrine precisely”. He describes debating the merits of utilitarianism before it is adequately formulated as “Rambo philosophy”, (...)
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  21. added 2019-06-06
    Butler’s Argument Against Psychological Hedonism.Robert M. Stewart - 1992 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):211-221.
    It is widely thought among philosophers that Joseph Butler's criticism of psychological egoism in his Sermons is, in the words of A.E. Duncan-Jones, 'the classic refutation of it.' Indeed, no less a philosopher than David Hume restated and put forth Butler's central argument against hedonistic egoism - without due credit - as part of his own critique. Yet recent commentators have begun to question Butler's arguments, albeit usually with sympathy and in the hope of saving what they take to be (...)
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  22. added 2019-06-06
    J. S. Mill’s Qualitative Hedonism: A Textual Analysis.Elliot David Cohen - 1980 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 18 (2):151-158.
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  23. added 2019-06-06
    The Influence of Gassendi on Locke’s Hedonism.Edward A. Driscoll - 1972 - International Philosophical Quarterly 12 (1):87-110.
  24. added 2019-06-05
    Fred Feldman, What is This Thing Called Happiness? , Pp. Xv + 286.Erik Angner - 2011 - Utilitas 23 (4):458-461.
  25. added 2019-06-05
    Hedonism and Welfare Economics: Daniel M. Hausman.Daniel M. Hausman - 2010 - Economics and Philosophy 26 (3):321-344.
    This essay criticizes the proposal recently defended by a number of prominent economists that welfare economics be redirected away from the satisfaction of people's preferences and toward making people happy instead. Although information about happiness may sometimes be of use, the notion of happiness is sufficiently ambiguous and the objections to identifying welfare with happiness are sufficiently serious that welfare economists are better off using preference satisfaction as a measure of welfare. The essay also examines and criticizes the position associated (...)
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  26. added 2019-06-05
    Multi-Dimensional Utility and the Index Number Problem: Jeremy Bentham, J. S. Mill, and Qualitative Hedonism: Tom Warke.Tom Warke - 2000 - Utilitas 12 (2):176-203.
    This article develops an unconventional perspective on the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill in at least four areas. First, it is shown that both authors conceived of utility as irreducibly multi-dimensional, and that Bentham in particular was very much aware of the ambiguity that multi-dimensionality imposes upon optimal choice under the greatest happiness principle. Secondly, I argue that any attribution of intrinsic worth to any form of human behaviour violates the first principles of Bentham's and Mill's utilitarianism, and that this (...)
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  27. added 2019-06-05
    Utilitarianism, Hedonism, and Desert.Fred Feldman - 2000 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (3):734-737.
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  28. added 2019-06-05
    The Relation Between Jeremy Bentham's Psychological, and His Ethical, Hedonism: T. L. S. Sprigge.T. L. S. Sprigge - 1999 - Utilitas 11 (3):296-319.
    The relationship between Bentham's ‘enunciative principle’ and his ‘censorial principle’ is famously problematic. The problem's solution is that each person has an overwhelming interest in living in a community in which they, like others, are liable to punishment for behaviour condemned by the censorial principle either by the institutions of the state or by the tribunal of public opinion. The senses in which Bentham did and did not think everyone selfish are examined, and a less problematic form of psychological hedonism (...)
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  29. added 2019-06-05
    J. S. Mill's Language of Pleasures*: Robert W. Hoag.Robert W. Hoag - 1992 - Utilitas 4 (2):247-278.
    A significant feature of John Stuart Mill's moral theory is the introduction of qualitative differences as relevant to the comparative value of pleasures. Despite its significance, Mill presents his doctrine of qualities of pleasures in only a few paragraphs in the second chapter of Utilitarianism, where he begins the brief discussion by saying: utilitarian writers in general have placed the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly … in their circumstantial advantages rather than in their intrinsic nature.… [B]ut they might (...)
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  30. added 2019-06-05
    Frederick Vaughan, "The Tradition of Political Hedonism From Hobbes to J. S. Mill". [REVIEW]Timothy Fuller - 1984 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 22 (4):499.
  31. added 2019-06-05
    Pleasures and Pains: A Theory of Qualitative Hedonism. Rem B. Edwards.Henry R. West - 1981 - Ethics 91 (2):314-317.
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  32. added 2019-06-05
    Rational Hedonism.J. S. Mackenzie - 1894 - Ethics 5:377.
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  33. added 2019-03-11
    Attitudinal and Phenomenological Theories of Pleasure.Eden Lin - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):510-524.
    On phenomenological theories of pleasure, what makes an experience a pleasure is the way it feels. On attitudinal theories, what makes an experience a pleasure is its relationship to the favorable attitudes of the subject who is having it. I advance the debate between these theories in two ways. First, I argue that the main objection to phenomenological theories, the heterogeneity problem, is not compelling. While others have argued for this before, I identify an especially serious version of this problem (...)
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  34. added 2018-12-31
    The Philosophes’ Criticism of Religion and D’Holbach’s Non-Hedonistic Materialism.Hasse Hämäläinen - 2017 - Diametros 54:56-75.
    Baron d’Holbach was a critic of established religion, or a philosophe, in late 18 th -century France. His work is often perceived as less inventive than the work of other materialist philosophes, such as Helvétius and Diderot. However, I claim that d’Holbach makes an original, unjustly overlooked move in the criticism of religious moral teaching. According to the materialist philosophes, this teaching claims that true happiness is only possible in the afterlife. As an alternative, Helvétius and Diderot offer theories according (...)
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  35. added 2018-12-09
    VIII—Epicurus on Pleasure, a Complete Life, and Death: A Defence.Alex Voorhoeve - 2018 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 118 (3):225-253.
    Epicurus argued that the good life is the pleasurable life. He also argued that ‘death is nothing to us’. These claims appear in tension. For if pleasure is good, then it seems that death is bad when it deprives us of deeply enjoyable time alive. Here, I offer an Epicurean view of pleasure and the complete life which dissolves this tension. This view is, I contend, more appealing than critics of Epicureanism have allowed, in part because it assigns higher value (...)
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  36. added 2018-11-30
    The Experience Machine and the Expertise Defense.Guido Löhr - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (2):257-273.
    Recent evidence suggests that participants without extensive training in philosophy (so-called lay people) have difficulties responding consistently when confronted with Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment. For example, some of the participants who reject the experience machine for themselves would still advise a stranger to enter the machine permanently. This and similar findings have been interpreted as evidence for implicit biases that prevent lay people from making rational decisions about whether the experience machine is preferable to real life, which might (...)
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  37. added 2018-09-26
    Wireheading as a Possible Contributor to Civilizational Decline.Alexey Turchin - manuscript
    Abstract: Advances in new technologies create new ways to stimulate the pleasure center of the human brain via new chemicals, direct application of electricity, electromagnetic fields, “reward hacking” in games and social networks, and in the future, possibly via genetic manipulation, nanorobots and AI systems. This may have two consequences: a) human life may become more interesting, b) humans may stop participating in any external activities, including work, maintenance, reproduction, and even caring for their own health, which could slowly contribute (...)
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  38. added 2018-07-31
    James Warren, “The Pleasures of Reason in Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic Hedonists.” Review by Facundo Bey. [REVIEW]Facundo Bey - 2016 - Boletín de Estética 36:71-76.
    The Pleasures of Reason in Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic Hedonists se centra en la relación mutua entre las capacidades humanas de sentir placer y dolor y el carácter afectivo que las une con las facultades cognitivas de aprender, comprender, recordar, evocar, planificar y anticiparse. Para esto, Warren consagra toda su agudeza analítica a eminentes obras del pensamiento antiguo: particularmente nos referimos a los diálogos platónicos República, Protágoras y Filebo. Otro tanto hace con De Anima, De Memoria et Reminiscentia, Ética (...)
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  39. added 2018-07-16
    Explaining the Paradox of Hedonism.Alexander Dietz - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (3):497-510.
    The paradox of hedonism is the idea that making pleasure the only thing that we desire for its own sake can be self-defeating. Why would this be true? In this paper, I survey two prominent explanations, then develop a third possible explanation, inspired by Joseph Butler's classic discussion of the paradox. The existing accounts claim that the paradox arises because we are systematically incompetent at predicting what will make us happy, or because the greatest pleasures for human beings are found (...)
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  40. added 2018-05-21
    Is Pleasure All That is Good About Experience?Willem Deijl - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies 176 (7):1-19.
    Experientialist accounts of wellbeing are those accounts of wellbeing that subscribe to the experience requirement. Typically, these accounts are hedonistic. In this article I present the claim that hedonism is not the most plausible experientialist account of wellbeing. The value of experience should not be understood as being limited to pleasure, and as such, the most plausible experientialist account of wellbeing is pluralistic, not hedonistic. In support of this claim, I argue first that pleasure should not be understood as a (...)
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  41. added 2018-04-12
    J.S. Mill on Calliclean Hedonism and the Value of Pleasure.Tim Beaumont - 2019 - Dialogue 58 (3):553-578.
    Maximizing Hedonism maintains that the most pleasurable pleasures are the best. Francis Bradley argues that this is either incompatible with Mill’s Qualitative Hedonism, or renders the latter redundant. Some ‘sympathetic’ interpreters respond that Mill was either a Non-Maximizing Hedonist or a Non-Hedonist. However, Bradley’s argument is fallacious, and these ‘sympathetic’ interpretations cannot provide adequate accounts of: Mill’s identification with the Protagorean Socrates; his criticisms of the Gorgian Socrates; or his apparent belief that Callicles is misguided to attempt to show that (...)
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  42. added 2018-03-08
    Hedonism.Alex Gregory - 2015 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Wellbeing. Routledge.
    An overview of the hedonistic theory of wellbeing.
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  43. added 2018-03-06
    J. S. Mill’s Hedonism: Activism, Experientialism and Eudaimonism.Tim Beaumont - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (3):452-474.
    Many contemporary scholars defend the position that J. S. Mill was a ‘eudaimonist’, in a sense implying that he was not an ‘experiential’ hedonist. One ‘activist’ argument for this interpretation rests on the claim that Mill’s core axiological uses of ‘pleasure’ in Utilitarianism should be understood to refer to worthy or pleasurable activities rather than mental states. This paper offers a three-stage rebuttal of the activist interpretation. Firstly, in the Analysis, the Examination and the Logic, Mill explicitly identifies pleasures and (...)
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  44. added 2018-03-05
    Quand nos émotions sont-elles raisonnables?Stéphane Lemaire - 2016 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141 (2):215-234.
    Nous jugeons les réponses émotionnelles comme plus ou moins raisonnables étant donné leur objet et le contexte. Je soutiens que la légitimité de ces jugements repose sur le caractère raisonnable des désirs ou des dispositions émotionnelles qui expliquent ces réponses émotionnelles. Il est déraisonnable d’être triste de ne pas satisfaire un désir déraisonnable. Mais comment un désir peut-il être déraisonnable ? Je rejette l’idée selon laquelle les désirs seraient raisonnables parce que cohérents. Je suggère que nos désirs et nos dispositions (...)
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  45. added 2018-02-25
    Painism Defended.Richard D. Ryder - 2015 - Think 14 (41):47-55.
    In a previous essay, Richard Ryder argued against Utilitarianism's aggregation of pains across individuals. He continues this argument and rebuts several criticisms of his moral theory of painism. Painism not only rejects the aggregation of pains across individuals, it also questions the trade-off of pains against pleasures.
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  46. added 2018-02-09
    How Pleasures Make Life Better.Andrew Alwood - 2017 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):1-24.
    In this paper, I argue that Phenomenalists about pleasure can concede a key claim, Heterogeneity, commonly used to object to their theory. They also can then vindicate the aspirations of J. S. Mill’s doctrine of higher pleasures, while grounding their value claims in a naturalistic metaethics. But once Phenomenalists concede Heterogeneity they can no longer consistently endorse Hedonism as the correct theory of wellbeing, since they implicitly commit to recognizing distinct kinds of pleasure that are independently good-making. I also explore (...)
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  47. added 2018-01-10
    Review of Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life. [REVIEW]Georges Chapouthier - 2004 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 194 (3):363.
  48. added 2017-12-11
    Feldman on the Nature and Value of Pleasure.Michael J. Zimmerman - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 136 (3):425-437.
    Part of a book symposium on Fred Feldman's *Pleasure and the Good Life*.
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  49. added 2017-12-11
    Review of Fred Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life. [REVIEW]Roger Crisp - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (222):152-154.
  50. added 2017-12-11
    Review of J. C. B. Gosling, Pleasure and Desire: The Case for Hedonism Reviewed. [REVIEW]William P. Alston - 1972 - Philosophical Quarterly 22 (86):86-87.
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1 — 50 / 344