Dissertation, Princeton University (1986)
AbstractI develop and defend a hedonistic view of the constitution of human subjectivity, agency and value, while disassociating it from utilitarian accounts of morality and from the view that only pleasure is desired. Chapter One motivates the general question, "What really is of value in human living?", and introduces evaluative hedonism as an answer to this question. Chapter Two argues against preference satisfaction accounts of pleasure and of welfare, and begins the explication and defense of the hedonist's conception of pleasure as immediate experiencing liked for its own sake in its experiential moment, and which obtains or not in an experiential moment regardless of what obtains at other times. Chapter Three begins the task of finding a motivational theory that will support, or at least cohere with, evaluative hedonism. I here work toward my own position by discussing, criticizing and distinguishing some aspects of the views of earlier hedonistic writers, both ancient and modern. Chapter Four further explains the hedonist's conception of pleasure, and treats some contextualist objections to its tenability suggested by Plato, Moore and Anscombe. In the course of answering these objections, the view of consciousness belonging to the hedonist's view of mind is contrasted with that which the objections presuppose. Chapter Five first outlines the general kind of hedonistic view resulting from the work of the earlier sections, and then develops a specific view of this kind, drawing on contemporary work in philosophy, psychology and psychobiology. The result is an account of action, and of the kind of attention and consciousness connected with it, in which pleasure has a central organizing role. Such an account, if sustained and filled out by ongoing scientific work, would further motivate, and cohere with, evaluative hedonism and the related contention that the dimension of subjectivity in which human value consists is in the lives of human beings and other higher vertebrates much the same
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