About this topic

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

343 found
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  1. 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 (...)
  2. 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 (...)
  3. 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 (...)
  4. 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 (...)
  5. added 2018-08-01
    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 (...)
  6. added 2018-07-16
    Explaining the Paradox of Hedonism.Alexander Dietz - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    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 (...)
  7. added 2018-05-21
    Is Pleasure All That is Good About Experience?W. J. A. Van der Deijl - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies: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 (...)
  8. added 2018-04-12
    J.S. Mill on Calliclean Hedonism and the Value of Pleasure.Tim Beaumont - forthcoming - Dialogue:1-26.
    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 (...)
  9. added 2018-03-08
    Hedonism.Alex Gregory - 2017 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Wellbeing. Routledge.
    An overview of the hedonistic theory of wellbeing.
  10. 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 (...)
  11. 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 (...)
  12. added 2018-02-26
    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.
  13. 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 (...)
  14. added 2018-01-11
    Review of Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life. [REVIEW]Georges Chapouthier - 2004 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 194 (3):363.
  15. 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*.
  16. added 2017-12-11
    Review of Fred Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life. [REVIEW]Roger Crisp - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (222):152-154.
  17. 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.
  18. added 2017-11-27
    Pleasure in Kant: Toward an Account of Desire Formation.Iain Morrisson - 2006 - Journal of Philosophical Research 31:219-232.
    In this paper I present an interpretation of the role of pleasure in Kant’s theory of desire formation. On my reading Kant’s account of how desires are formed does—in spite of what some commentators say—commit him to hedonism. On the face of it, Kant writes of the determination of the faculty of desire in three distinct ways, but I argue that these accounts can be reconciled in a single, more comprehensive theory. This comprehensive theory has the virtue of complementing and (...)
  19. added 2017-11-20
    Achievement, Enjoyment, and the Things We Care About: A Theory of Personal Well-Being.Jason R. Raibley - 2007 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    This dissertation develops a theory of personal well-being---i.e., a theory of what is it for a person's life to go well for them. The proposed theory is called "the successful activity view of well-being." It is an end-neutral account of individual welfare that primarily values the pursuit, achievement, and enjoyment of ends that are important to a person. The parts of this process---e.g., the pursuit of ends, the achievement of ends, the enjoyment of activities and situations, and even the satisfaction (...)
  20. added 2017-11-08
    The Experience Machine Objection to Desire Satisfactionism.Dan Lowe & Joseph Stenberg - 2017 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (2):247-263.
    It is widely held that the Experience Machine is the basis of a serious objection to Hedonistic theories of welfare. It is also widely held that Desire Satisfactionist theories of welfare can readily avoid problems stemming from the Experience Machine. But in this paper, we argue that if the Experience Machine poses a serious problem for Hedonism, it also poses a serious problem for Desire Satisfactionism. We raise two objections to Desire Satisfactionism, each of which relies on the Experience Machine. (...)
  21. added 2017-10-26
    Western Historical Traditions of Well-Being.Alex Michalos & Dan Weijers - 2017 - In Richard Estes & Joseph Sirgy (eds.), The Pursuit of Well-Being: The Untold Global History. Springer. pp. 31-57.
    This chapter provides a brief historical overview of western philosophical views about human well-being from the eighth century BCE to the middle of the twentieth century. Different understandings of the concept of well-being are explained, including our preferred understanding of well-being as the subjective states and objective conditions that make our lives go well for us. While this review is necessarily incomplete, we aim to discuss some of the most salient and influential contributions to our subject. To that end, we (...)
  22. added 2017-10-26
    Intuitive Biases in Judgements About Thought Experiments: The Experience Machine Revisited.Dan Weijers - 2013 - Philosophical Writings 41 (1):17-31.
    This paper is a warning that objections based on thought experiments can be misleading because they may elicit judgments that, unbeknownst to the judger, have been seriously skewed by psychological biases. The fact that most people choose not to plug in to the Experience Machine in Nozick’s (1974) famous thought experiment has long been used as a knock-down objection to hedonism because it is widely thought to show that real experiences are more important to us than pleasurable experiences. This paper (...)
  23. added 2017-10-26
    Reality Doesn't Really Matter.Dan Weijers - 2011 - In David Kyle Johnson (ed.), Inception and Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 92-107.
    So you‘re leaving the cinema—you've just been blown away by Inception—and your mind is buzzing. There is a buzz around you too. Everyone‘s asking each other: ‗Does Cobb‘s spinning top fall?‘ Throughout Inception, Cobb has been struggling to achieve two things: to get back home so he can see his kids again and to keep a grip on reality in the process. What ends up happening to Cobb‘s totem bears on both of these struggles. So, most people who watch Inception (...)
  24. added 2017-07-01
    Enumeration and Explanation in Theories of Welfare.Eden Lin - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):65-73.
    It has become commonplace to distinguish enumerative theories of welfare, which tell us which things are good for us, from explanatory theories, which tell us why the things that are good for us have that status. It has also been claimed that while hedonism and objective list theories are enumerative but not explanatory, desire satisfactionism is explanatory but not enumerative. In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. When properly understood, every major theory of welfare is both enumerative and (...)
  25. added 2017-06-30
    Cyrenaics.Tim O'Keefe - 2013 - In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell.
  26. added 2017-06-24
    Review of The Birth of Hedonism: The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life. [REVIEW]Tim O'Keefe - 2017 - Ancient Philosophy 37 (1):185-192.
  27. added 2017-03-15
    Lopsided Lives.Theron Pummer - 2017 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 275-296.
    Intuitively there are many different things that non-derivatively contribute to well-being: pleasure, desire satisfaction, knowledge, friendship, love, rationality, freedom, moral virtue, and appreciation of true beauty. According to pluralism, at least two different types of things non-derivatively contribute to well-being. Lopsided lives score very low in terms of some types of things that putatively non-derivatively contribute to well-being, but very high in terms of other such types of things. I argue that pluralists essentially face a trilemma about lopsided lives: they (...)
  28. added 2017-03-06
    What is This Thing Called Happiness? By Fred Feldman.Alex Gregory - 2013 - Mind 122 (487):fzt092.
    A review of Feldman's "What is this thing called happiness"?
  29. added 2017-02-16
    The Hedonistic Interpretation of Subjective Value.H. W. Stuart - 1895 - Journal of Political Economy 4:64-84.
  30. added 2017-02-09
    A Dialectical Dissolution of Psychological Hedonism.Laurence J. Lafleur - 1953 - Review of Metaphysics 7 (3):368 - 378.
  31. added 2017-02-03
    Rats in the Sacristy.Llewelyn Powys - 1937 - Freeport, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press.
    Dionysos.--Akhenaton.--Confucius.--Aristippus.--Ecclesiastes.--Lucretius.--Lucian.--Julian the Apostate.--Omar Khayyám.--Machiavelli.--Rabelais.--Deloney.--Burton.--Hobbes.
  32. added 2017-01-31
    The Hedonism of Disillusionment in the Younger Generation.Rayna Raphaelson - 1922 - International Journal of Ethics 32 (4):379-397.
  33. added 2017-01-30
    The Hedonism of Disillusionment in the Younger Generation.Rayna Raphaelson - 1922 - Ethics 32 (4):379.
  34. added 2017-01-29
    Values and Economic Theory the Case of Hedonism.S. A. Drakopoulos - 1991
  35. added 2017-01-29
    Rem B. Edwards: "Pleasures and Pains - A Theory of Qualitative Hedonism". [REVIEW]Craig Knoche - 1981 - The Thomist 45 (1):170.
  36. added 2017-01-29
    Second Thoughts on Hedonism.C. J. Cadoux - 1930 - Hibbert Journal 29:623.
  37. added 2017-01-29
    Hedonism and Art.L. R. Farnell - 1928 - Journal of Philosophical Studies 3 (12):547-548.
  38. added 2017-01-29
    Scientific Ethics and Hedonism.Roy C. Cave - 1927 - Ethics 38:443.
  39. added 2017-01-29
    Rational Hedonism.Mary S. Gilliland - 1894 - Ethics 5:376.
  40. added 2017-01-29
    Rational Hedonism.F. H. Bradley - 1894 - Ethics 5:383.
  41. added 2017-01-28
    Interview: Kate Soper: An Alternative Hedonism.Ted Benton & Kate Soper - 1999 - Radical Philosophy 93.
  42. added 2017-01-28
    La Raison Gourmande Philosophie du Gocut.Michel Onfray - 1995
  43. added 2017-01-28
    Troubled Pleasures: Writings on Politics, Gender and Hedonism; Socialism and the Limits of Liberalism. [REVIEW]Dave Archard - 1992 - Radical Philosophy 60.
  44. added 2017-01-28
    Hedonism in Plato's "Protagoras" and "Gorgias".Richard Alan Bidgood - 1982 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    In this dissertation, I focus on the hedonism in Plato's Protagoras and Gorgias, paying close, but not exclusive, attention to the recent discussion by Terence Irwin in his Plato's Moral Theory and his translation of and commentary on the Gorgias. ;I argue that there is a genuine ethical hedonism discussed in the Protagoras, but that we are not forced by considerations in the Protagoras to ascribe that hedonism to Socrates. Furthermore, I argue, contra Irwin, that Socrates is not committed to (...)
  45. added 2017-01-28
    EDWARDS, R. B. "Pleasures and Pains: A Theory of Qualitative Hedonism". [REVIEW]J. Gosling - 1981 - Mind 90:619.
  46. added 2017-01-28
    Hedonism Reconsidered: A Critical Examination of Hilliard's Axiology Andits Implications for Ethical Theory.Arthur Bultmann Grenoble - 1973 - Dissertation, Tulane University
  47. added 2017-01-28
    Al-Sa'adah Wa-Al-Is 'Ad'.Abu Al-Hasan Muhammad Ibn Yusuf Amiri & Mujtabá Minuvi - 1957 - Danishgah.
  48. added 2017-01-28
    Hedonism & Art.Lewis Richard Farnell & British Academy - 1928 - H. Milford.
  49. added 2017-01-27
    Ruling Oneself: Platonic Hedonism and the Quality of Citizenship.R. K. Bentley - 2003 - Polis 20 (1-2):85-107.
    In this paper, I examine how the idea of self-rule is dramatised and articulated in the Protagoras and the Gorgias with respect to the apparently different treatments of hedonism. Looking at the former dialogue, I describe how the hedonist premise develops from a dramatic image of disorder, specifically the absence of self-rule. I then consider whether the evidence from that dialogue has any bearing on the Gorgias' discussion of hedonism. I conclude that the Socratic rejection of hedonism in that text (...)
  50. added 2017-01-27
    Troubles for Psychological Hedonism.John J. Tilley - 1999 - Skepsis: A Journal for Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Research 10.
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