Journal of Value Inquiry 52 (4):411-427 (2018)

Andrew Alwood
Virginia Commonwealth University
Epicurus’ theory of what is good for a person is hedonistic: only pleasure has intrinsic value. Critics object that Epicurus is committed to advocating sensualist excess, since hedonism seems both to imply that more pleasure is always of some good for you, and to recommend even debauched, sensual kinds of pleasure. However, Epicurus can respond to this objection much like J. S. Mill responds to the objection that hedonism is a “doctrine worthy only of swine”. I argue that Epicurus’ hedonism is a version of qualitative hedonism on which static pleasure is intrinsically superior to other kinds of pleasure. I also argue that Epicurus conceives of pleasure as a phenomenal or felt quality of experience, and that this is compatible with his troublesome claim that there is an upper limit to pleasure and wellbeing.
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DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9623-8
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