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 article covers four types of hedonism: ancient hedonism; ethical hedonism; axiological hedonism; and psychological hedonism. It concentrates on the latter two types, both by clarifying them and by discussing arguments in their behalf. It closes with a few words about the relevance of those positions to applied ethics.
Hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory of welfare are typically seen as archrivals in the contest over identifying what makes one's life go best. It is surprising, then, that the most plausible form of hedonism just is the most plausible form of desire satisfactionism. How can a single theory of welfare be a version of both hedonism and desire satisfactionism? The answer lies in what pleasure is: pleasure is, in my view, the subjective satisfaction of desire. This thesis (...) about pleasure is clarified and defended only after we proceed through the dialectics that get us to the most plausible forms of hedonism and desire satisfactionism. (shrink)
According to hedonism about well-being, lives can go well or poorly for us just in virtue of our ability to feel pleasure and pain. Hedonism has had many advocates historically, but has relatively few nowadays. This is mainly due to three highly influential objections to it: The Philosophy of Swine, The Experience Machine, and The Resonance Constraint. In this paper, I attempt to revive hedonism. I begin by giving a precise new definition of it. I then argue (...) that the right motivation for it is the ‘experience requirement’ (i.e., that something can benefit or harm a being only if it affects the phenomenology of her experiences in some way). Next, I argue that hedonists should accept a felt-quality theory of pleasure, rather than an attitude-based theory. Finally, I offer new responses to the three objections. Central to my responses are (i) a distinction between experiencing a pleasure (i.e., having some pleasurable phenomenology) and being aware of that pleasure, and (ii) an emphasis on diversity in one’s pleasures. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that hedonism about well-being faces a powerful dilemma. However, as I shall try to show here, this choice creates a dilemma for hedonism. On a subjective interpretation, hedonism is open to the familiar objection that pleasure is not the only thing desired or the only thing for which we possess a pro-attitude. On an objective interpretation, hedonism lacks an independent rationale. In this paper, I do not claim that hedonism fails (...) once and for all. However, this dilemma illustrates a serious problem for hedonism, the solution to which is not immediately obvious, and which must be addressed if hedonism is to be considered a serious competitor for the true theory of well-being. (shrink)
Robert Nozick's experience machine thought experiment is often considered a decisive refutation of hedonism. I argue that the conclusions we draw from Nozick's thought experiment ought to be informed by considerations concerning the operation of our intuitions about value. First, I argue that, in order to show that practical hedonistic reasons are not causing our negative reaction to the experience machine, we must not merely stipulate their irrelevance (since our intuitions are not always responsive to stipulation) but fill in (...) the concrete details that would make them irrelevant. If we do this, we may see our feelings about the experience machine becoming less negative. Second, I argue that, even if our feelings about the experience machine do not perfectly track hedonistic reasons, there are various reasons to doubt the reliability of our anti-hedonistic intuitions. And finally, I argue that, since in the actual world seeing certain things besides pleasure as ends in themselves may best serve hedonistic ends, hedonism may justify our taking these other things to be intrinsically valuable, thus again making the existence of our seemingly anti-hedonistic intuitions far from straightforward evidence for the falsity of hedonism. (shrink)
I develop a distinction between two types of psychological hedonism. Inferential hedonism (or “I-hedonism”) holds that each person only has ultimate desires regarding his or her own hedonic states (pleasure and pain). Reinforcement hedonism (or “R–hedonism”) holds that each person's ultimate desires, whatever their contents are, are differentially reinforced in that person’s cognitive system only by virtue of their association with hedonic states. I’ll argue that accepting R-hedonism and rejecting I-hedonism provides a conciliatory (...) position on the traditional altruism debate, and that it coheres well with the neuroscientist Anthony Dickinson’s theory about the evolutionary function of hedonic states, the “hedonic interface theory.” Finally, I’ll defend R-hedonism from potential objections. (shrink)
Fred Feldman is an important philosopher, who has made a substantial contribution to utilitarian moral philosophy. This collection of ten previously published essays plus a new introductory essay reveal the striking originality and unity of his views. Feldman's version of utilitarianism differs from traditional forms in that it evaluates behaviour by appeal to the values of accessible worlds. These worlds are in turn evaluated in terms of the amounts of pleasure they contain, but the conception of pleasure involved is a (...) novel one and the formulation of hedonism improved. In Feldman's view pleasure is not a feeling but a propositional attitude. He also deals with problems of justice that affect standard forms of utilitarianism. The collection is ideally suited for courses on contemporary utilitarian theory. (shrink)
In this paper we present a modern version of the classic theory of “ultimate psychological hedonism” . As does the UPH, our two-dimensional model of metatelic orientations also postulates a fundamentally hedonistic motivation for any human action. However, it makes a distinction between “telic” or content-based goals of actions and “metatelic” or emotional reasons for actions. In our view, only the emotional reasons for action, but not the goals of action, conform to the UPH. After outlining our model, we (...) will elucidate the similarities and differences between our model and classic UPH. In this context we will clarify several basic misconceptions regarding classic UPH. In a next step, two major criticisms of the theory of ultimate psychological hedonism will be discussed, that is the statement that the hedonistic principle has no motivating effect at all and the argument that the hedonistic motivation is only one of many motivations of human actions. We believe that both of these arguments can be refuted. Finally, we will discuss the compatibility of our model with evolutionary theory. (shrink)
This paper is a contribution to the debate about eudaimonism started by Kashdan, Biswas-Diener, King, and Waterman in a previous issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology. We point out that one thing that is missing from this debate is an understanding of the problems with subjective theories of well-being that motivate a turn to objective theories. A better understanding of the rationale for objective theories helps us to see what is needed from a theory of well-being. We then argue (...) that a suitably modified subjective theory can provide what is needed and that this is the theory that ought to be favored by psychologists. Keywords: well-being; happiness; hedonism; eudaimonia; subjective well-being; theory; values.. (shrink)
Examines the assumption of hedonism that lies at the core of many social constructionist accounts of human interaction, and illustrates how it precludes an adequate understanding of agency, morality, and intimacy. The implications of such a hedonism are discussed, and a possible alternative to this hedonism which would allow for a more adequate account of agency, morality, and intimacy is briefly explored. It is argued that if social constructionism is going to come to grips with morality and (...) agency it must abandon explanations that invoke the necessary causation of metaphysical abstractions such as hedonism. In order to successfully accomplish this task, social constructionist accounts of human motivation and action must take into account the moral obligation to others that is intimately associated with becoming a person. 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
A popular objection to hedonist accounts of personal welfare has been the experience machine argument. Several modifications of traditional hedonism have been proposed in response. In this article I examine two such responses, recently expounded by Feldman and Sumner respectively. I argue that both modifications make hedonism indistinguishable from anti-hedonism. Sumner's account, I claim, also fails to satisfy the demands of theoretical unity.
I advocate an ad hominem reading of the hedonism that appears in the final argument of the Protagoras. I that attribute hedonism both to the Many and to Protagoras, but my focus is on the latter. I argue that the Protagoras in various ways reflects Plato’s view that the sophist is an inevitable advocate for, and himself implicitly inclined toward, hedonism, and I show that the text aims through that characterization to undermine Protagoras’ status as an educator. (...) One of my objectives in the course of my arguments is to explore connections between the final argument of the Protagoras and the Man-Measure Doctrine as it is developed in the Theaetetus. (shrink)
This paper discusses psychological hedonism with a special reference to the writings of Bishop Butler, and Elliot Sober and David Sloan Wilson. Contrary to philosophical orthodoxy, Sober and Wilson have claimed that Butler failed to refute psychological hedonism. In this paper it is argued: (1) that there is a difference between reductive and ultimate psychological hedonism; (2) that Butler failed to refute ultimate psychological hedonism, but that he succeeded in refuting reductive psychological hedonism; and, finally (...) and more importantly, (3) that Butler’s criticism of reductive hedonism can be used as a stepping-stone in another argument showing the implausibility of ultimate psychological hedonism as well. (shrink)
The dispute over Socrates’ apparent endorsement of hedonism in the Protagoras has persisted for ages among scholars and students of Plato’s work. The solution to the query concerning the seriousness and sincerity of Socrates’ argument from hedonism established in the dialogue is of considerable importance for the interpretation of Plato’s overall moral theory, considering how blatantly irreconcilable the defense of this doctrine is with Plato’s other early dialogues. In his earlier works, Socrates puts supreme importance on virtue and (...) perfection of the soul, so the puzzle apparent in the Protagoras merits a thorough examination. Several scholars have argued that, since Socrates’ defense of hedonism in this work clashes significantly with his views on morality in other dialogues, Socrates must only have been defending hedonism ironically, or with the intention of “diagnosing” his opponent’s point of view. In this paper, I examine the approaches according to which Socrates didn’t in fact mean to defend hedonism, but merely used it as a diagnostic tool; I argue that there is no compelling evidence for this resolution of Socrates’ defense of hedonism, and that the views that attempt to defend it really have no convincing grounds for it apart from the desire to reconcile the Protagoras with other Socratic dialogues. (shrink)
In refutation of hedonism, Nozick offered a hypothetical thought experiment, known as the Experience Machine. This paper maintains that end-of-life-suffering of the kind that is resistant to state-of-the-art palliation provides a conceptually equal experiment which validates Nozick’s observations and conclusions. The observation that very many terminal patients who suffer terribly do no wish for euthanasia or terminal sedation is incompatible with motivational hedonism. Although irreversible vegetative state and death are equivalently pain-free, very many people loath the former even (...) at the price of the latter. This attitude cannot be accounted for by hedonism. Following these observations, the goals of palliative care are sketched along four circles. The first is mere removal or mitigation of noxious symptoms and suffering. The second targets sufferings that stymie patients’ life-plans and do not allow them to be happy, the third targets sufferings that interfere with their pursuance of other goods (palliation as a primary good). The fourth is the control of sufferings that do not allow the person to benefit from any human good whatsoever (“total pain” or critical suffering). Only in the fourth circle are people hedonists. (shrink)
In this paper, two different axiologies of pleasure are attributed to Hutcheson and Mill. Hutcheson endorsed a hedonist axiology, where quality of pleasure works as a still quantitative factor, able to counterbalance other quantitative features of pleasurable mental states - such as intensity and duration. By contrast, in Mill's view of value, the quality of pleasures is the only value-making feature, silencing any contribution from other quantitative elements. Therefore, the presence of certain qualitative characteristics - namely, the connection of certain (...) pleasures with human active faculties - becomes a necessary and sufficient condition of value. Due to this unique role of quality, Mill's axiology opens the way to non-pleasurable experiences being valuable - for non-pleasurable exercises of the human active faculties meet the condition to be valuable states. Thus, Mill's theory of value is declared non-hedonistic - against the recent claims to the contrary put forth by W. Donner. (shrink)
This book concisely explicates and evaluates four doctrines concerning the nature of moral obligation: hedonism (one's sole moral obligation is to enjoy oneself); egoism (one's sole moral obligation is to serve one's own interests); consequentialism (the ends justify the means), and deontology (the ends do not justify the means).
Plato often rejects hedonism, but in the Protagoras, Plato's Socrates seems to endorse hedonism. In this book, J. Clerk Shaw removes this apparent tension by arguing that the Protagoras as a whole actually reflects Plato's anti-hedonism. He shows that Plato places hedonism at the core of a complex of popular mistakes about value and especially about virtue: that injustice can be prudent, that wisdom is weak, that courage is the capacity to persevere through fear, and that (...) virtue cannot be taught. The masses reproduce this system of values through shame and fear of punishment. The Protagoras and other dialogues depict sophists and orators who have internalized popular morality through shame, but who are also ashamed to state their views openly. Shaw's reading not only reconciles the Protagoras with Plato's other dialogues, but harmonizes it with them and even illuminates Plato's wider anti-hedonism. (shrink)
This thesis defends a hedonistic theory of value consisting of two main components. Part 1 offers a theory of pleasure. Pleasures are experiences distinguished by a distinct phenomenological quality. This quality is attitudinal in nature: it is the feeling of liking. The pleasure experience is also an object of this attitude: when feeling pleasure, we like what we feel, and part of how it feels is how this liking feels: Pleasures are Internally Liked Experiences. Pleasure plays a central role in (...) the motivational system such that pleasure tends to influence, and in turn be influenced by, other motivational, dispositional and evaluative states of the agent. While this connection is strong, it is often indirect and contingent - the necessary attitudinal connection is a matter of how pleasure feels, not of how it functions. -/- Part 2 is concerned with the nature of value. What kind of problem is it that value poses, and what ought a theory of value to do? In face of the fundamental disagreements that persist over these questions, we try to gather and systemize what we can agree upon about value, and then develop a theory that accounts for (enough of) those things. Meta-ethical naturalism, as developed here, is the view that value is a natural property, identified via the role “value” plays according to the best systematization of moral and evaluative thought. The theory engaging meta-ethics with the scientific investigation of matters relevant to value: we need to understand the causal processes behind our beliefs in order to make an informed decision about which of the competing theories offers the best explanation of value. Finally, the argument is made that the nature and function of pleasure shows it to play the kind of explanatory role necessary for a sound naturalistic reduction of value: it makes many of our beliefs about value true, and it is causally responsible for most of our attributions and beliefs about value. (shrink)
I defend hedonism about moral value by first presenting an argument for moral skepticism, and then showing that phenomenal introspection gives us a unique way to defeat the skeptical argument and establish pleasure's goodness.
This paper is a plea for hedonism to be taken more seriously. It begins by charting hedonism's decline, and suggests that this is a result of two major objections: the claim that hedonism is the 'philosophy of swine', reducing all value to a single common denominator, and Nozick's 'experience machine' objection. There follows some elucidation of the nature of hedonism, and of enjoyment in particular. Two types of theory of enjoyment are outlined-intemalism, according to which enjoyment (...) has some special 'feeling tone'. and externalism, according to which enjoyment is any kind of experience to which we take some special attitude, such as that of desire. lnternalism-the traditional view--is defended against current externalist orthodoxy. The paper ends with responses to the philosophy of swine and the experience machine objections. (shrink)
In this article, I examine two of the standard objections to forms of value hedonism. The first is the common claim, most famously made by Bradley and Moore, that Mill's qualitative hedonism is inconsistent. The second is the apparent problem for quantitative hedonism in dealing with malicious pleasures. I argue that qualitative hedonism is consistent, even if it is implausible on other grounds. I then go on to show how our intuitions about malicious pleasure might be (...) misleading. (shrink)
This paper re-evaluates the role that Plato confers to pleasure in the "Philebus." According to leading interpretations, Plato there downplays the role of pleasure, or indeed rejects hedonism altogether. Thus, scholars such as D. Frede have taken the "mixed life" of pleasure and intelligence initially submitted in the "Philebus" to be conceded by Socrates only as a remedial good, second to a life of neutral condition, where one would experience no pleasure and pain. Even more strongly, scholars such as (...) Irwin have seen the "Philebus'" arguments against false pleasures as an actual attack on hedonism, showing -- in Irwin's words -- "why maximization of pleasure cannot be a reasonable policy for the best life." Against these claims, I argue that the mixed life of pleasure and intelligence is presented in the "Philebus" as a first best and not just as a second best for humans, and that, accordingly, Socrates proposes to incorporate -- rather than reject -- pleasure as one of the intrinsically desirable aspects of the happy life. Thus, I offer alternative readings of controversial passages that have given rise to the prevalent interpretation criticized here, and advance positive evidence that at least some pleasures are seen by Plato as inherently good. In addition, I demonstrate that Plato's arguments against false pleasures do not by themselves constitute an attack on hedonism. Rather, they can be seen as a strategy to show the hedonist that, in order to be a maximal, or even a consistent, hedonist, he should go for true, and not fake pleasures, if after all pleasure is the object of his pursuit. But, since this cannot be achieved without intelligence, then the mixed life of pleasure and intelligence is to be accepted even by hedonist themselves. (shrink)
In the second half of their recent, critically acclaimed book Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior , Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson discuss psychological hedonism. This is the view that avoiding our own pain and increasing our own pleasure are the only ultimate motives people have. They argue that none of the traditional philosophical arguments against this view are good, and they go on to present theirownevolutionary biological argument against it. Interestingly, the first half of (...) their book, which is a defense of group selectionism, has received almost all of the attention of those people who have published reactions to the book. No one has published a detailed reaction to the argument of the latter half of the book. In this article, the author explains and critically discusses their evolutionary biological argument against psychological hedonism, concluding that in its current form it is not strong enough to support its conclusion. However, the author goes on to argue that despite recent criticisms of Robert Nozick’s experience-machine argument, it is still a good argument against psychological hedonism. In support of the latter point, the author responds to the objections of Sober and Wilson and to the more recent criticisms offered by Matthew Silverstein. Key Words: hedonism • psychological egoism • evolution • Robert Nozick • Elliott Sober. (shrink)
Geoffrey Scarre has recently argued that the version of qualitative hedonism which I attribute to Mill is unsatisfactory for various reasons. In his view, even if it is formally compatible with value monism, involves non-hedonistic elements and offers an implausible account of the relationship between and pleasures. In this paper, I show that his objections, which are similar in spirit to those pressed earlier by Bradley, Moore and others against Mill, are unfounded where not confused. The Mill/Riley line does (...) not rely on non-hedonistic standards and has sufficient flexibility to account for many different kinds of pleasures and pleasing activities. It remains a coherent version of qualitative hedonism, worthy of further consideration and study. (shrink)
Francis Hutcheson’s theory of value is often characterized as a precursor to the qualitative hedonism of John Stuart Mill. The interpretation of Mill as a qualitative hedonist has come under fire recently; some have argued that he is, in fact, a hedonist of no variety at all.1 Others have argued that his hedonism is as non-qualitative as Bentham’s.2 The purpose of this essay is not to critically engage the various interpretations of Mill’s value theory. Rather, I hope to (...) show that Hutcheson should not be read as a qualitative hedonist. The evidence for Hutcheson as a qualitative hedonist is strong and striking. The most commonly cited passages are taken from his posthumous opus, A System of Moral .. (shrink)
This article argues that attitudinal hedonism is false as atheory of what is intrinsically good for us because it impliesthat nothing is intrinsically good for someone who does nothave the psychological capacity for the propositional attitudeof enjoyment even if he has other important mental capacitiesthat humans have.
This article develops an unconventional perspective on the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill in at least four areas. First, it is shown that both authors conceived of utility as irreducibly multi-dimensional, and that Bentham in particular was very much aware of the ambiguity that multi-dimensionality imposes upon optimal choice under the greatest happiness principle. Secondly, I argue that any attribution of intrinsic worth to any form of human behaviour violates the first principles of Bentham's and Mill's utilitarianism, and that this (...) renders both authors immune to the claim by G. E. Moore that they committed a. Thirdly, in light of these contentions, I find no flaw in Mill's. Fourthly, I use the notion of intrapersonal utility weights to provide an interpretation of Mill's qualitative hedonism that is entirely consistent with his value monism. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question of whether or not Epicurus was a psychological hedonist. Did he, that is, hold that all human action, as a matter of fact, has pleasure as its goal? Or was he just an ethical hedonist, asserting merely that pleasure ought to be the goal of human action? I discuss a recent forceful attempt by John Cooper to answer the latter question in the affirmative, and argue that he fails to make his case. There is considerable (...) evidence in favour of a psychological reading of Epicurean hedonism, evidence that includes some of the very texts that Cooper cites in support of the ethical reading. (shrink)
Callicles, Socrates’ main interlocutor in Plato’s Gorgias, has traditionally been interpreted as a kind of sybaritic hedonist, as someone who takes the ultimate goal in life to consist in the pursuit of physical pleasures and, further, as someone who refuses to accept the value of any restraint at all on a person’s desire. Such an interpretation turns Callicles into a straw man and Plato, I argue, did not create Callicles only to have him knocked down in this easy way. Plato’s (...) construction of Callicles’ position is much more formidable and not reducible to any simple classification. In the first part of this paper, I challenge the traditional interpretation of Callicles. In the second, I speculate as to why Plato has attributed this much more formidable position to Callicles, one which Socrates is never really made to get at the heart of. (shrink)
In her 2006 bestseller about the rise of 'raunch culture' and of such self-ascribed 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' as the tawdry socialite Paris Hilton, Ariel Levy describes these phenomena as being indicative of a drastic cultural shift. Serious concerns have been raised, most recently by the American Psychological Association, about the effects of this culture on young girls. Recent Web sources have coined a term for the self-concept embodied and projected by Paris Hilton and her admirers: 'Hiltonism'. In this paper, I (...) examine this type of self-concept. I begin by exploring raunch culture and Hiltonism in some detail and by delineating three main principles of Hiltonism. Two sections follow in which I scrutinise two putative hypotheses on the provenance of the Hiltonistic self-concept: the postmodern and the hedonistic hypotheses. I conclude that only the hedonistic hypothesis holds water. I close by extracting some of the moral and educational implications of Hiltonism as a modern form of hedonism. (shrink)
In these comments on Fred Feldman's Pleasure and the Good Life, I first challenge the dichotomy between sensory and attitudinal hedonisms as perhaps presenting a false dilemma. I suggest that there may be a form of hedonism that employs the concept of a that is not purely sensory. Next, I raise some problems for several of the versions of hedonism explored in the book.
: According to the long orthodox interpretation of Kant's theory of motivation, Kant recognized only two fundamental types of motives: moral motives and egoistic, hedonistic motives. Seeking to defend Kant against the ensuing charges of psychological simplism, Andrews Reath formulated a forceful and seminal repudiation of this interpretation in his 1989 essay “Hedonism, Heteronomy and Kant's Principle of Happiness.” The current paper aims to show that Reath's popular exegetical alternative is untenable. His arguments against the traditional view miss the (...) mark, and his revisionist interpretation of Kant's theory of motivation cannot bear the considerable weight of the countervailing evidence. (shrink)
In contrast to the conventional view of Ludwig Feuerbach as a left-wing Young Hegelian, this article argues that his primary contribution to philosophy is to be found in his later ethics, the basis of which may be discerned in his earlier writings. Over and above recent work on Feuerbach's aesthetics, his relation to Herder, and the relationship between aesthetics and ‘theological politics’ in his thought, Feuerbach's philosophy can re-evaluated, in relation to Epicurus and the French libertin tradition, as articulating an (...) ethics of hedonism. In The Essence of Christianity , the Nachlass fragment ‘Elementary Aesthetics’ , and his Principles of the Philosophy of the Future Feuerbach moves towards the vitalist materialist position that culminates in his insight in ‘Against the Dualism of Body and Soul, Flesh and Spirit’ into the world as an ‘aesthetic phenomenon’, thus laying the foundations for his recognition of the centrality of sensuous pleasure to the ethical life. (shrink)
Hedonism can take many forms. In this paper I sketch a particular version of hedonism which has its roots in some of the ancient Greek theories, like in the perceived theory put forth in Plato’s dialogue the Protagoras and in Epicurus, and which motivates, and extends to some, 18th and 19th century hedonists, like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. I then try to raise some questions and test certain claims when it seems pertinent to do so, and (...) try to suggest, or bring some awareness of, possible reformulations or amendments. Although most of what I will have to say has been said before in some form or another, at times, I try, however brief, to offer a few novel speculations of my own. (shrink)
The hoary philosophical tradition of hedonism – the view that pleasure is the basic ethical or normative value – suggests that it is at least reasonably and roughly intuitive. But philosophers no longer treat hedonism that way. For the most part, they think that they know it to be obviously false on intuitive grounds, much more obviously false on such grounds than familiar competitors. I argue that this consensus is wrong. I defend the intuitive cogency of hedonism (...) relative to the dominant desire-based and objectivist conceptions of well-being and the good. I argue that hedonism is still a contender, and indeed that our current understanding of commonsense intuition on balance supports it. (shrink)
I 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. (shrink)
The relationship between Bentham's and his is famously problematic. The problem's solution is that each person has an overwhelming interest in living in a community in which they, like others, are liable to punishment for behaviour condemned by the censorial principle either by the institutions of the state or by the tribunal of public opinion. The senses in which Bentham did and did not think everyone selfish are examined, and a less problematic form of psychological hedonism than Bentham's is (...) proposed. (shrink)
according to some interpreters of John Locke’s moral philosophy, there is an inconsistency between Locke’s adoption of hedonism and his commitment to a natural law view of ethics. Indeed, Locke is not fully explicit about the relationship between pleasure and pain and the natural law in the Essay concerning Human Understanding. But the thesis I defend in this paper is that the idea of convenientia, according to which God harmonizes the natural law with human nature, can be used to (...) understand how Locke synthesizes the hedonism he adopts in the 1670s, and ultimately expresses in Book II, chapter 20 of the Essay, with the natural law doctrine he maintains over the course of his lifetime. As I argue, God’s providential.. (shrink)
Hegesias (3d c.BC), as hedonist, held that the sage will kill himself. For: One should pursue pleasure and avoid pain. But life is virtually certain to contain more pain than pleasure. Therefore death, which is neither pleasurable nor painful, is better than life. The flaw in the argument lies in the underlying game-theoretical model of life as a game in which play and payoff are distinct. Hegesias's conclusion, that life is not ‘worth living,’ is inescapable by any philosophy so based, (...) including John Rawls's. Why shouldn't his rational persons behind the veil of ignorance opt for prenatal suicide? (shrink)
Understanding the causes of behavior is one of philosophy's oldest challenges. In analyzing human desires, Bertrand Russell's position was clearly related to that of psychological hedonism. Still, though he seems to have held quite consistently that desires and emotions govern human behavior, he claimed that they do not necessarily do so by making us want to maximize pleasure. This claim is related to several being made in today's psychology and philosophy. I point out a string of facts and arguments (...) indicating the weakness of this position, and briefly discuss the possibility of developing a set of assumptions regarding behavioral causation common to students of thinking and behavior. (shrink)
What is the 'good life'? Is it a life completely devoted to intellect, or should we take for granted the hedonistic position, which says that pleasure is the absolute good? The hedonist subordinates everything to pleasure, and tests anything in a rigorous calculus for the amount of pleasure it yields. It is against this hedonism that Plato turns himself in a unique manner in his dialogue Philebus. After having reached a deadlockin a sterile opposition between hedonism and intellectualism (...) in his former works, Platonow wants to dig deeper. He wants to criticize hedonism from within. In the first place, Plato investigates the proper nature of pleasure. It is to be situated within the continuous fluxus of our lives; a going back and forth between lack and replenishment. The limit that gives sense to this movement is the 'natural state', which we never attain in its purity. The role of intellect is hereby reduced to a strictminimum. It seems to be mainly a faculty which concerns the recognition and experience of pleasure as pleasure. In this way, Plato strives to establish a certain degree of consensus of opinion with hedonism, in order to be able to refute it afterwards. This refutation is supported by the formal structure of the dialogue: it consists in a gradual 'conversion' of a hedonist, who will eventually be brought into the intellectualist camp of Socrates. The critique to which Socrates' interlocutor yields is based on three main ideas. 1.Hedonism pretends to know what the good is. Plato counters this with a moderate intellectualism, taking the good to be undecided, and providing a place also for pleasure within the good life. 2. Moreover, Plato reveals an internal contradiction in hedonism: every hedonist will, if possible, prefer a 'pure' pleasure, in which the mixture with its contrary, pain, is as small as possible. However, this purity cannot be reduced to the hedonistic calculus. 3. Finally, the choice of the title of this dialogue is to be seenas a part of Plato's critique against hedonism. The main character Philebus refuses to engage in the debate. Plato suggests by this that he who proclaimspleasure to be the only intrinsic good is unable to partake in a discussion about pleasure. For he would, before any argument whatever, subordinate pleasure to truth and reason. If a hedonist is willing to argue he has already surrendered, and will be 'converted' whether he wants it or not. (shrink)
Psychological hedonism is the theory that all of our actions are ultimately motivated by a desire for our own pleasure or an aversion to our own pain. Peirce offers a unique critique of PH based on a descriptive analysis of self-controlled action. This essay examines Peirce's critique and his accounts of self-controlled action and of desire.