Unconscious Pleasure as Dispositional Pleasure

Australasian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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A good deal of recent debate over the nature of pleasure and pain has surrounded the alleged phenomenon of unconscious sensory pleasure and pain, or pleasures and pains whose subjects are entirely unaware of them while experiencing them. According to Ben Bramble, these putative pleasures and pains present a problem for attitudinal theories of pleasure and pain, since these theories claim that what makes something a sensory pleasure or pain is that one has a special sort of pro- or con-attitude toward it at the time one experiences it. In this paper, I look at the two existing defenses of attitudinal theories against this worry and explain (following Bramble) that each is inadequate. I show that this inadequacy is in part a result of existing attitudinal theories failing to recognize an important distinction in pro- and con-attitudes, and I propose and defend an amended attitudinal view that does recognize this distinction. I then offer a more promising response to the objection from unconscious sensory pleasures and pains: that experiences of apparently unconscious pleasure or pain only seem pleasant or unpleasant because their subjects are disposed to experience pleasantness or unpleasantness. In this sense, unconscious pleasures and pains are not really pleasures or pains at all.



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James Fanciullo
Lingnan University

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