Fred Feldman's fascinating new book sets out to defend hedonism as a theory about the Good Life. He tries to show that, when carefully and charitably interpreted, certain forms of hedonism yield plausible evaluations of human lives. Feldman begins by explaining the question about the Good Life. As he understands it, the question is not about the morally good life or about the beneficial life. Rather, the question concerns the general features of the life that is good in itself for (...) the one who lives it. Hedonism says (roughly) that the Good Life is the pleasant life. After showing that received formulations of hedonism are often confused or incoherent, Feldman presents a simple, clear, coherent form of sensory hedonism that provides a starting point for discussion. He then presents a catalogue of classic objections to hedonism, coming from sources as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Brentano, Ross, Moore, Rawls, Kagan, Nozick, Brandt, and others. One of Feldman's central themes is that there is an important distinction between the forms of hedonism that emphasize sensory pleasure and those that emphasize attitudinal pleasure. Feldman formulates several kinds of hedonism based on the idea that attitudinal pleasure is the Good. He claims that attitudinal forms of hedonism - which have often been ignored in the literature -- are worthy of more careful attention. Another main theme of the book is the plasticity of hedonism. Hedonism comes in many forms. Attitudinal hedonism is especially receptive to variations and modifications. Feldman illustrates this plasticity by formulating several variants of attitudinal hedonism and showing how they evade some of the objections. He also shows how it is possible to develop forms of hedonism that are equivalent to the allegedly anti-hedonistic theory of G. E. Moore and the Aristotelian theory according to which the Good Life is the life of virtue, or flourishing. He also formulates hedonisms relevantly like the ones defended by Aristippus and Mill. Feldman argues that a carefully developed form of attitudinal hedonism is not refuted by objections concerning 'the shape of a life'. He also defends the claim that all of the alleged forms of hedonism discussed in the book genuinely deserve to be called 'hedonism'. Finally, after dealing with the last of the objections, he gives a sketch of his hedonistic vision of the Good Life. (shrink)
[This is the penultimate version, please send me an email for the final version]. Some sensations are pleasant, some unpleasant, and some are neither. Furthermore, those that are pleasant or unpleasant are so to different degrees. In this essay, I want to explore what kind of a difference is the difference between these three kinds of sensations. I will develop a comprehensive three-level account of sensory pleasure that is simultaneously adverbialist, functionalist and is also a version of a satisfied (...) experiential-desire account. (shrink)
The main claim of the paper is that, on Kant's account, aesthetic pleasure is an exercise of rational agency insofar as, when proper, it has the following two features: (1) It is an affective responsiveness to the question: “what is to be felt disinterestedly”? As such, it involves consciousness of its ground (the reasons for having it) and thus of itself as properly responsive to its object. (2) Its actuality depends on endorsement: actually feeling it involves its endorsement as (...) an attitude to have. I claim that seeing that nature of aesthetic pleasure requires that we divest ourselves of the following dilemma: either feelings are the non-cognitive, passive ways through which we are affected by objects; or they are cognitive states by virtue of the theoretical beliefs they necessarily involve. On my reading of Kant, this dilemma is false. Aesthetic pleasure is neither passive, nor theoretically cognitive, and yet, it is an exercise of rational agency by virtue of belonging to a domain of rationality that is largely overlooked in the history of philosophy, but that deserves, I argue following Kant, our close attention: aesthetic rationality. In the first section, I explain this nature of aesthetic pleasure, and in the second section, I respond to a charge of “over-intellectualism.". (shrink)
In this article, I attempt to resuscitate the perennially unfashionable distinctive feeling theory of pleasure (and pain), according to which for an experience to be pleasant (or unpleasant) is just for it to involve or contain a distinctive kind of feeling. I do this in two ways. First, by offering powerful new arguments against its two chief rivals: attitude theories, on the one hand, and the phenomenological theories of Roger Crisp, Shelly Kagan, and Aaron Smuts, on the other. Second, (...) by showing how it can answer two important objections that have been made to it. First, the famous worry that there is no felt similarity to all pleasant (or unpleasant) experiences (sometimes called ‘the heterogeneity objection’). Second, what I call ‘Findlay’s objection’, the claim that it cannot explain the nature of our attraction to pleasure and aversion to pain. (shrink)
This paper presents a new account of aesthetic pleasure, according to which it is a distinct psychological structure marked by a characteristic self-reinforcing motivation. Pleasure figures in the appreciation of an object in two ways: In the short run, when we are in contact with particular artefacts on particular occasions, aesthetic pleasure motivates engagement and keeps it running smoothly—it may do this despite the fact that the object we engagement is aversive in some ways. Over longer periods, (...) it plays a critical role in shaping how we engage with objects to get this kind of pleasure from them. This account is yoked to a broadly functional understanding of art: it is not the nature of the object that makes it art, but the nature of the response that it is designed to elicit. The view does not, however, rest on individual psychology alone, as some other functional accounts do. Crucially, it is argued that shared cultural context is a key determinant of the pleasure we derive from aesthetic artefacts. The pleasure of art is always communal and communicative. (shrink)
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 to pleasures that we produce by exercising our rational capacities and by establishing control over our lives. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to reassess the prospects of a widely neglected affective conception of the aesthetic evaluation and appreciation of art. On the proposed picture, the aesthetic evaluation and appreciation of art are non-contingently constituted by a particular kind of pleasure. Artworks that are valuable qua artworks merit, deserve, and call for a certain pleasure, the same pleasure that reveals (or at least purports to reveal) them to be valuable in the way that they (...) are, and constitutes their aesthetic evaluation and appreciation. This is why and how art is non-contingently related to pleasure. Call this, the Affective View. While I don’t advance conclusive arguments for the Affective View in this paper, I aim to reassess its prospects by (1) undermining central objections against it, (2) dissociating it from hedonism about the value of artworks (the view that this value is grounded in, and explained by, its possessors’ power to please), and (3) introducing some observations on the practice of art in support of it. Given that the objections I discuss miss their target, and given the observations in support of it, I conclude that the Affective View is worth serious reconsideration. (shrink)
One of the leading approaches to the nature of sensory pleasure reduces it to desire: roughly, a sensation qualifies as a sensation of pleasure just in case its subject wants to be feeling it. This approach is, in my view, correct, but it has never been formulated quite right; and it needs to be defended against some compelling arguments. Thus the purpose of this paper is to discover the most defensible formulation of this rough idea, and to defend (...) it against the most interesting objections. (shrink)
A lot of qualitatively very different sensations can be pleasant or unpleasant. The Felt-Quality Views that conceive of sensory affect as having an introspectively available common phenomenology or qualitative character face the “heterogeneity problem” of specifying what that qualitative common phenomenology is. In contrast, according to the Attitudinal Views, what is common to all pleasant or unpleasant sensations is that they are all “wanted” or “unwanted” in a certain sort of way. The commonality is explained not on the basis of (...) phenomenology but by a common mental, usually some sort of conative, attitude toward the sensation. Here I criticize both views and offer an alternative framework that combines what is right in both while avoiding their unintuitive commitments. The result is the reductive (psychofunctionalist) adverbial sensory modification view of pleasure and displeasure. (shrink)
That all pleasure is good and all pain bad in itself is an eternally true ethical principle. The common claim that some pleasure is not good, or some pain not bad, is mistaken. Strict particularism (ethical decisions must be made case by case; there are no sound universal normative principles) and relativism (all good and bad are relative to society) are among the ethical theories we may refute through an appeal to pleasure and pain. Daniel Dennett, Philippa (...) Foot, R M Hare, Gilbert Harman, Immanuel Kant, J. L. Mackie, and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the many philosophers addressed. (shrink)
Beyond the Pleasure Principle is Freud's most philosophical and speculative work, exploring profound questions of life and death, pleasure and pain. In it Freud introduces the fundamental concepts of the "repetition compulsion" and the "death drive," according to which a perverse, repetitive, self-destructive impulse opposes and even trumps the creative drive, or Eros. The work is one of Freud's most intensely debated, and raises important questions that have been discussed by philosophers and psychoanalysts since its first publication in (...) 1920. The text is presented here in a contemporary new translation by Gregory C. Richter. Appendices trace the work's antecedents and the many responses to it, including texts by Plato, Friedrich Nietzsche, Melanie Klein, Herbert Marcuse, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, among many others. (shrink)
Most philosophers since Sidgwick have thought that the various forms of pleasure differ so radically that one cannot find a common, distinctive feeling among them. This is known as the heterogeneity problem. To get around this problem, the motivational theory of pleasure suggests that what makes an experience one of pleasure is our reaction to it, not something internal to the experience. I argue that the motivational theory is wrong, and not only wrong, but backwards. The heterogeneity (...) problem is the principal source of motivation for this, otherwise, highly counterintuitive theory. I intend to show that the heterogeneity problem is not a genuine problem and that a more straightforward theory of pleasure is forthcoming. I argue that the various experiences that we call pleasures all feel good. (shrink)
Jonathan Lear argues that the established purgation, purification, and cognitive stimulation interpretations of Aristotle’s concepts of catharsis and tragic pleasure are off the mark. In response, Lear defends an anti-cognitivist account, arguing that it is the pleasure associated with imaginatively “living life to the full” and yet hazarding nothing of importance that captures Aristotle’s understanding of catharsis and tragic pleasure. This analysis reveals that Aristotle’s account of imagination in conjunction with his understanding of both specific intellectual virtues (...) and rational emotions of an educated citizen not only tells against Lear’s anti-cognitivist construal, but also divulges an alternative cognitive stimulation reading. (shrink)
The heterogeneity problem, which stems from the alleged difficulty of finding out what all pleasant experiences have in common, is largely considered as a substantial issue in the philosophy of pleasure, one that is usually taken as the starting point for theorizing about the essence of pleasure. The goal of this paper is to move the focus away from the heterogeneity problem and toward a new approach to pleasure. To do this, I first show that, although the (...) approach stemming from the heterogeneity problem – what I call the heterogeneity approach – has led to an interesting discussion on the essence of pleasure, it has significant methodological problems that make it unlikely to make more progress. I thus propose a natural-kind approach to pleasure, which has been surprisingly overlooked so far, and which seeks to determine what, if any, the natural kind of pleasure would consist in. This approach overcomes the obstacles which the heterogeneity approach is confronted with. It also broadens the investigation of pleasure by enabling the use of a larger range of methodological tools, thus opening new promising directions for research. (shrink)
This paper argues that pleasure and pains are not qualia and they are not to be analyzed in terms of supposedly antecedently intelligible mental states like bodily sensation or desire. Rather, pleasure and pain are char- acteristic of a distinctive kind of evaluation that is common to emotions, desires, and (some) bodily sensations. These are felt evaluations: pas- sive responses to attend to and be motivated by the import of something impressing itself on us, responses that are nonetheless (...) simultaneously con- stitutive of that import by virtue of the broader rational patterns of which they are a part and that they serve to de?ne. This account of felt eval- uations makes sense of the way in which pleasures and pains grab our attention and motivate us to act and of the peculiar dual objectivity and subjectivity of their implicit evaluations, while o?ering a phenomenology adequate to both emotional and bodily pleasures and pains. (shrink)
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 that resists existing solutions, and I explain why even this version of the problem does not undermine phenomenological theories. Second, I argue that a grand reconciliation can be effected between the two types of theory: it can be true both that pleasures are pleasures in virtue of the way they feel and that they are pleasures in virtue of how they are related to their subjects’ favorable attitudes, so long as the attitudes that are constitutively related to pleasures are ones that feel a certain way. Hybrid views of this sort have significant advantages over pure attitudinal or phenomenological views. (shrink)
One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other phenomena: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either pleasure (...) or welfare commits one to recognizing that desires do provide reasons for action – i.e., commits one to abandoning the value-based theory of reasons. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not so. All of the following can be true: pleasure and welfare provide reasons; pleasure and welfare are to be understood in terms of desire; desires never provide reasons, in the relevant way. (shrink)
Daniel Russell develops a fresh and original view of pleasure and its pivotal role in Plato's treatment of value, happiness, and human psychology. This is the first full-length discussion of the topic for fifty years, and Russell shows its relevance to contemporary debates in moral philosophy and philosophical psychology. Plato on Pleasure and the Good Life will make fascinating reading for ancient specialists and for a wide range of philosophers.
This paper responds to a new objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures and pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations in only (...) a weak sense, and this weak sort of unawareness of a sensation does not preclude its being an object of one’s attitudes. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to explore nuances within the field of bodily self-awareness. My starting-point is phenomenological. I focus on how the subject experiences her or his body, i.e. how the body stands forth to the subject. I build on the phenomenologist Drew Leder’s distinction between bodily dis-appearance and dys-appearance. In bodily dis-appearance, I am only prereflectively aware of my body. My body is not a thematic object of my experience. Bodily dys-appearance takes place when the body appears (...) to me as “ill” or “bad.” This is often the case when I experience pain or illness. Here, I will examine three versions of bodily dys-appearance. Whereas many phenomenological studies have explored cases of bodily dys-appearance, few studies have focused on the opposite of bodily dys-appearance, i.e. on bodily modes of being where the body appears to the subject as something good, easy or well. This is done in this article. When the body stands forth as good, easy or well to the subject, I suggest that the body eu-appears to this person. The analysis of eu-appearance shows that the subject can attend to her or his body as something positive and that this attention need not result in discomfort or alienation. Eu-appearance can take place in physical exercise, in sexual pleasure and in some cases of wanted pregnancies. I also discuss, briefly, the case of masochism. (shrink)
Recent results from the neurosciences demonstrate that pleasure and pain are not two symmetrical poles of a single scale of experience but in fact two different types of experiences altogether, with dramatically different contributions to well-being. These differences between pleasure and pain and the general finding that “the bad is stronger than the good” have important implications for our treatment of nonhuman animals. In particular, whereas animal experimentation that causes suffering might be justified if it leads to the (...) prevention of more suffering, it can never by justified merely by leading to increased levels of happiness. (shrink)
What is the contrary of pleasure? “Pain” is one common answer. This paper argues that pleasure instead has two natural contraries: unpleasure and hedonic indifference. This view is defended by drawing attention to two often-neglected concepts: the formal relation of polar opposition and the psychological state of hedonic indifference. The existence of mixed feelings, it is argued, does not threaten the contrariety of pleasure and unpleasure.
In this paper, I present my solutions to two closely related questions about pleasure. One of these questions is fairly well known. The second question seems to me to be at least as interesting as the first, but it apparently hasn't interested quite so many philosophers.
This paper argues against hedonistic theories of happiness. First, hedonism is too inclusive: many pleasures cannot plausibly be construed as constitutive of happiness. Second, any credible theory must count either attitudes of life satisfaction, affective states such as mood, or both as constituents of happiness; yet neither sort of state reduces to pleasure. Hedonism errs in its attempt to reduce happiness, which is at least partly dispositional, to purely episodic experiential states. The dispositionality of happiness also undermines weakened nonreductive (...) forms of hedonism, as some happiness-constitutive states are not pleasures in any sense. Moreover, these states can apparently fail to exhibit the usual hedonic properties; sadness, for instance, can sometimes be pleasant. Finally, the nonhedonistic accounts are adequate if not superior on grounds of practical and theoretical utility, quite apart from their superior conformity to the folk notion of happiness. (shrink)
What is the role of pleasure in determining a person’s well-being? I start by considering the nature of pleasure (i.e., what pleasure is). I then consider what factors, if any, can affect how much a given pleasure adds to a person’s lifetime well-being other than its degree of pleasurableness (i.e., how pleasurable it is). Finally, I consider whether it is plausible that there is any other way to add to somebody’s lifetime well-being than by giving him (...) some pleasure or helping him to avoid some pain. (shrink)
Provides a critical and analytical history of ancient Greek theories on the nature of pleasure, and of its value and rolein human lfie, from the ealriest times down to the period of Epicurus and the early Stoics.
What makes it the case that a given experience is pleasurable? According to the felt-quality theory, each pleasurable experience is pleasurable because of the way that it feels—its “qualitative character” or “felt-quality”. According to the attitudinal theory, each pleasurable experience is pleasurable because the experiencer takes certain attitudes towards it. These two theories of pleasure are typically framed as rivals, but it could be that they are both partly right. It could be that pleasure is partly a matter (...) of felt-quality, and partly a matter of attitudes. It could be that a hybrid theory is true. In this paper, I aim to advance the cause of hybrid theories of pleasure. I do this in two ways. I begin by examining the challenges which motivate the search for a hybrid theory. I call these the HONEST challenges: Heterogeneity, Oppositeness, Normativity, Euthyphro, Separateness, and Togetherness. The first three challenges—HON—are challenges for the felt-quality theory. The second three challenges—EST—are challenges for the attitudinal theory. Having established the HONEST challenges, I then describe and motivate a particular cluster of hybrid theories which I will call dispositional hybrid theories. According to these theories, pleasurable experiences are all and only those experiences which dispose us to desire them in virtue of feeling the way that they do. The dispositional theories deliver on the promise of hybrid theories: because they appeal to both felt-qualities and attitudes, they have the resources to avoid most, if not all, of the HONEST challenges. (shrink)
I take up the issue of whether pleasure is a kind of sensation or not. This issue was much discussed by philosophers of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and apparently no resolution was reached. There were mainly two camps in the discussion: those who argued for a dispositional account, and those who favored an episodic feeling view of pleasure. Here, relying on some recent scientific research I offer an account of pleasure which neither dispositionalizes nor sensationalizes pleasure. (...) As is usual in the tradition, I compare pleasure with pain, and try to see its similarities and differences. I argue that pain and pleasure experiences have typically a complex phenomenology normally not so obvious in introspection. After distinguishing between affective and sensory components of these experiences, I argue that although pain experiences normally consist of both components proper to them, pleasure, in contradistinction to pain, is only the affective component of a total experience that may involve many sensations proper and cognitions. Moreover, I hold that although the so-called “physical” pleasure is itself not a sensation proper, it is nevertheless an episodic affective reaction to sensations proper. (shrink)
I defend these claims: (1) 'Pleasure' has exactly one English antonym: 'unpleasure.' (2) Pleasure is the most convincing example of an organic unity. (3) The hedonic calculus is a joke. (4) An important type of pleasure is background pleasure. (5) Pleasures in bad company are still good. (6) Higher pleasures aren't pleasures (and if they were, they wouldn't be higher). Thesis (1) merely concerns terminology, but theses (2)-(6) are substantive, evaluative claims.
Against Hume and Epicurus I argue that our selection of pleasure, pain and other objects as our ultimate ends is guided by reason. There are two parts to the explanation of our attraction to pleasure, our aversion to pain, and our consequent preference of pleasure to pain: 1. Pleasure presents us with reason to seek it, pain presents us reason to avoid it, and 2. Being intelligent, human beings (and to a degree, many animals) are disposed (...) to be guided by reason, and hence by what there is reason to choose, seek, and prefer, when they act. (shrink)
Stephen Davies’ book The Artful Species is a nuanced and learned attempt to show how evolution does, and does not, account for the human capacity to produce and appreciate beautiful things. In this critical note, his approach to aesthetic pleasure is examined. Aesthetic pleasure, it is argued, is a state that encourages us to continue with our perceptual or intellectual engagement with something. Such pleasure displays a different profile from states that urge us to use an object (...) to satisfy a need, and which terminate when that need has been met. Davies subsumes aesthetic pleasure to the latter kind of state. This is a mistake. (shrink)
In this study, George Rudebusch addresses whether Socrates was a hedonist--whether he believed pleasure to be the good. In attempting to locate Socrates' position on hedonism, Rudebusch examines the passages in Plato's early dialogues that are the most disputed on the topic. He maintains that Socrates identifies pleasant activity with virtuous activity, describing Socrates' hedonism as one of activity, not sensation. This analysis allows for Socrates to find both virtue and pleasure to be the good, thus solving the (...) textual puzzle and showing the power of Socratic argument in leading human beings toward the good. (shrink)
Pleasure is one of the strongest candidates for an occurrence that might be good, in some respect, unconditionally. Malicious pleasure is one of the most often cited alleged counter-examples to pleasure’s being an unconditional good. Correctly evaluating malicious pleasure is more complex than people realize. I defend pleasure’s unconditionally good status from critics of malicious pleasure.
This paper uses readings of two classic autobiographies, Edmund Gosse's Father & Son and John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, to develop a distinctive answer to an old and central question in value theory: What role is played by pleasure in the most successful human life? A first section defends my method. The main body of the paper then defines and rejects voluntarist, stoic, and developmental hedonist lessons to be taken from central crises in my two subjects' autobiographies, and argues for (...) a fourth, diagnostic lesson: Gosse and Mill perceive their individual good through the medium of pleasure. Finally, I offer some speculative moral psychology of human development, as involving the waking, perception, management, and flowering of generic and individual capacities, which I suggest underlies Gosse and Mill's experiences. The acceptance of one's own unchosen nature, discovered by self-perceptive pleasure in the operation of one's nascent capacities, is the beginning of a flourishing adulthood in which that nature is fully developed and expressed. (shrink)
In this essay, I’ll argue, first, that an art object's aesthetic value (or merit) depends not just on its intrinsic properties, but on the response it evokes from a consumer who shares the producer's cultural background. My question is: what is the role of culture in relation to this response? I offer a new account of aesthetic pleasure that answers this question. On this account, aesthetic pleasure is not just a “feeling” or “sensation” that results from engaging with (...) a work of art. It is rather a mental state that facilitates engagement with an artwork, and (in the long run) enables a consumer to learn how to maximize this kind of pleasure. This is where culture comes in. If you belong to a culture, you know how to engage pleasurably with an artwork that is produced so you can engage with it in just this way. The aesthetic value of an artwork is that it plays into such a culture-pleasure nexus. -/- . (shrink)
The author comments on the article “The neurobiology of addiction: Implications for voluntary control of behavior,‘ by S. E. Hyman. Hyman presents that addiction is a brain disease or a moral condition. The authors present that addiction is a strong preference, similar to appetitive preferences. They state that addiction is merely a form of pleasure-seeking. The authors conclude that the problem of addiction is the problem of the management of pleasure, not treatment of a disease. Accession Number: 24077914; (...) Authors: Foddy, Bennett 1; Email Address: email@example.com Savulescu, Julian 2; Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne, Monash University, Australia; 2: University of Oxford; Subject: EDITORIALS; Subject: ADDICTIONS; Subject: HYMAN, S. E.; Subject: BRAIN -- Diseases; Subject: PLEASURE; Subject: NEUROBIOLOGY; Subject: BEHAVIOR; Number of Pages: 4p. (shrink)
One of the oldest platitudes about beauty is that it is pleasant to perceive or experience. In this article, I take this platitude at face value and try to explain why experiences of beauty are seemingly always accompanied by pleasure. Unlike explanations that have been offered in the past, the explanation proposed is designed to suit a “realist” view on which beauty is an irreducibly evaluative property, that is, a value. In a nutshell, the explanation is that experiences of (...) beauty are experiences in which it appears that something is beautiful, and that such experiences are identical to experiences of aesthetic pleasure. (shrink)
The problem of tragedy is the problem of explaining why tragedy gives us the pleasure that it does, given that it has the content that it has. I propose a series of constraints that any adequate solution to the problem must satisfy. Then I develop a solution to the problem that satisfies those constraints. But I do not claim that the solution I develop uniquely satisfies the constraints I propose. I aim merely to narrow the field of contending solutions, (...) and then to draw attention to an overlooked contended in that narrowed field. (shrink)
While I welcome Mohan Matthen’s insistence that art is connected to aesthetic pleasure, I worry about his commitment to viewing pleasure as prior to, and constitutive of, the value of art. I raise my reservations by (i) dispelling his criticism of the reversed explanatory direction, and (ii) showing problems for his commitment. As an alternative, I offer an account of pleasure that explains it in terms of the independent value of art—an account that is free of the (...) problems Matthen raises against this explanatory approach. (shrink)
No matter how unintuitive it might seem that aesthetic pleasure should be the point where art and morality meet, this is a noteworthy possibility that has been overshadowed by aestheticians’ more visible concerns. Here I briefly survey relevant strands in the literature over the past century, before introducing themes covered in this inaugural issue of Australasian Philosophical Review.
At least since Burnyeat’s “Aristotle on Learning to Be Good,” one of the most popular ways of explaining moral development in Aristotle is by appealing to mechanisms of pleasure and pain. Aristotle himself suggests this kind of explanation when he says that “in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain” (Nicomachean Ethics X.1, 1172a21). However, I argue that, contrary to the dominant view, Aristotle’s view on moral development in the Nicomachean Ethics is (...) not mainly about learning to feel pleasures and pains in relation to the right kinds of objects and activities. I show that given Aristotle’s account of the relationships between pleasure and virtuous actions, on the one hand, and between pleasure and virtuous dispositions, on the other, pleasure can only have a supporting role in our learning to be good, and not a guiding one. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotle took pleasure to be a certain aspect of perfect activities of awareness, namely, their very perfection. I also argue that this reading facilitates an attractive interpretation of his view that pleasures differ in kind along with the activities they arise in connection with.
Most commentators think that Plato's account of the varieties of false pleasure is disjointed and that various types of false pleasure he identifies are false in different ways. It really doesn't look that way to me: I think that the discussion is unified, and that Plato starts with less difficult cases to build up to a point about more important but less clear cases. In this paper, I do my best to show how this might work. I don't (...) think I will ever work on this again: the experience of writing this paper and dealing with frustrating refereeing practices has led me to pretty much switch to aesthetics. I'm much happier. But here are the fruits of my labor. I know there are a few details I got wrong (in particular a place or two where I should have scrutinized Frede's translation more closely), but I still think that I'm on the right track. I hope it's useful to someone. (shrink)
The paper begins with a well-known objection to the idea that reasons for action are provided by desires. The objection holds that since desires are based on reasons (first premise), which they transmit but to which they cannot add (second premise), they cannot themselves provide reasons for action. In the paper I investigate an attack that has recently been launched against the first premise of the argument by David Sobel. Sobel invokes a counterexample: hedonic desires, i.e. the likings and dislikings (...) of our present conscious states. The aim of the paper is to defend the premise by bringing the alleged counterexample under its scope. I first point out that reference to hedonic desires as a counterexample presupposes a particular understanding of pleasure, which we might call desire-based. In response, following Sobel, I draw up two alternative accounts, the phenomenological and the tracking views of pleasure. Although Sobel raises several objections to both accounts, I argue in detail that the phenomenological view is not as implausible as he claims it to be, whereas the tracking view, on its best version advocated by Thomas Scanlon, is an instance of the phenomenological view and is therefore also defensible. (shrink)
: Although Kant holds that the universal communicability of aesthetic judgments logically follows from the disinterested character of the pleasure upon which they are based, Kant’s emphasis on the a priori validity of judgments of beauty can be viewed as a rebuttal of the kind of empiricist arguments that Burke offers to justify the social nature of the experience of beauty. I argue that the requirement of universal communicability is not a mere addition to the requirement of universal validity (...) and is far more relevant to an adequate characterisation of the beautiful than has customarily been assumed. I further argue that the ‘exemplary necessity’ of pure judgments of taste, if understood correctly, reveals beauty’s primordial social significance, enabling us to become alive to a profound universal solidarity among aesthetic subjects. (shrink)
The history of the political thought on pleasure is not a cloistered affair in which scholars only engage one another. In political thought, one commonly finds a critical engagement with the wider public and the ruling classes, which are both perceived to be dangerously hedonistic. The effort of many political thinkers is directed towards showing that other political ends are more worthy than pleasure: Plato battles vigorously against Calicles' pleasure seeking in the Gorgias, Augustine argues in The (...) City of God against the human tendency to hedonism in favor of a profound distrust of pleasure, and even Machiavelli claims in The Prince that it is in the prince's best interest to separate his pursuit of pleasure from his pursuit of political power. The thrust of the majority of political thought is to interrupt the popular equation that links pleasure with the good. Instead, political thought has largely followed Plato's lead and has worked to contain hedonism on two fronts. First, pleasure is rigorously separated from ethical and political good: what is good is not identical with what is pleasurable even if the two sometimes overlap. Second, even where the pursuit of pleasure is judged to be coincident with the good, pleasure should only be pursued to the degree it is rational to do so and pursued in the most rational way. Of course, it is not true that all thinkers hold to these two positions on pleasure. Epicureanism and utilitarianism are two major schools of thought that challenge the first precept equating pleasure with the good. Both Epicureanism and utilitarianism argue that the only good is pleasure. However, it is much less frequently that one finds a thinker challenging the second Platonic position that reason must master and guide our pursuit of pleasure—even the Epicureans and utilitarians believe that pleasure is best pursued rationally. However, Foucault has attracted recent attention by challenging the idea that reason should dominate the pursuit of pleasure. (shrink)
I argue for an alternative interpretation of some of the examples Fred Feldman uses to establish his theory of happiness. According to Feldman, the examples show that certain utterances of the form S is pleased/glad that P and S is displeased/sad that P should be interpreted as expressions of extrinsic attitudinal pleasure and displeasure and hence must be excluded from the aggregative sum of attitudinal pleasure and displeasure that constitutes happiness. I develop a new interpretation of Feldman’s examples. (...) My interpretation is plausible in its own right. Moreover, it is significant within the context of the debate. It allows the attitudinal hedonist to preserve the initial understanding of happiness that Feldman believes is open to counterexample: that happiness is the sum of attitudinal pleasure minus attitudinal displeasure and that all attitudinal pleasure and displeasure counts equally in the aggregation that constitutes happiness. (shrink)
The object of the present work is to rectify the neglect that pleasure and displeasure have been suffering from in the philosophy of mind, and to give an account of pleasure and displeasure which reveals a striking degree of unity and theoretical tractabiliy underlying the diverse phenomena: a representationalist account.