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 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)
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)
I ARGUE THAT WE RECEIVE PLEASURE FROM TRAGEDIES BECAUSE WE ARE PLEASED TO FIND OURSELVES RESPONDING IN AN UNPLEASANT WAY TO HUMAN SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE. THE PLEASURE IS THUS A METARESPONSE, AND REFLECTS FEELINGS WHICH ARE AT THE BASIS OF MORALITY. THIS HELPS EXPLAIN WHY TRAGEDY IS SUPPOSED TO BE A HIGHER ART FORM THAN COMEDY, AND PROVIDES A NEW WAY OF SEEING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MORALITY OF AN ARTWORK AND ITS VALUE.
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)
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.
The Key Themes in Ancient Philosophy series provides concise books, written by major scholars and accessible to non-specialists, on important themes in ancient philosophy that remain of philosophical interest today. In this volume Professor Wolfsdorf undertakes the first exploration of ancient Greek philosophical conceptions of pleasure in relation to contemporary conceptions. He provides broad coverage of the ancient material, from pre-Platonic to Old Stoic treatments; and, in the contemporary period, from World War II to the present. Examination of the (...) nature of pleasure in ancient philosophy largely occurred within ethical contexts but in the contemporary period has, to a greater extent, been pursued within philosophy of mind and psychology. This divergence reflects the dominant philosophical preoccupations of the times. But Professor Wolfsdorf argues that the various treatments are complementary. Indeed, the Greeks' examinations of pleasure were incisive and their debates vigorous, and their results have enduring value for contemporary discussion. (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)
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)
Pleasure, in the inclusive usages most important in moral psychology, ethical theory, and the studies of mind, includes all joy and gladness — all our feeling good, or happy. It is often contrasted with similarly inclusive pain, or suffering, which is similarly thought of as including all our feeling bad. Contemporary psychology similarly distinguishes between positive affect and negative affect.[1..
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)
Compare your pain when immersing your hand in freezing water and your pleasure when you taste your favourite wine. The relationship seems obvious. Your pain experience is unpleasant, aversive, negative, and bad. Your experience of the wine is pleasant, attractive, positive, and good. Pain and pleasure are straightforwardly opposites. Or that, at any rate, can seem beyond doubt, and to leave little more to be said. But, in fact, it is not beyond doubt. And, true or false, it (...) leaves a good deal more to be said: about the nature of sensory affect; its relations to perception, motivation, and rationality; its value; and the mechanisms underlying it. Much is said about these matters in the contributions that follow. Here, in this introductory essay, we map the dialectical landscape and locate our contributors’ papers within it. (shrink)
Rapid advances have recently been made in understanding how value-based decision-making processes are implemented in the brain. We integrate neuroeconomic and computational approaches with evidence on the neural correlates of value and experienced pleasure to describe how systems for valuation and decision-making are organized in the prefrontal cortex of humans and other primates. We show that the orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal (VMPFC) cortices compute expected value, reward outcome and experienced pleasure for different stimuli on a common value scale. (...) Attractor networks in VMPFC area 10 then implement categorical decision processes that transform value signals into a choice between the values, thereby guiding action. This synthesis of findings across fields provides a unifying perspective for the study of decision-making processes in the brain. (shrink)
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)
Plato links pleasure with illusion, and this link explains his rejection of the view that all desires are rational desires for the good. The Protagoras and Gorgias show connections between pleasure and illusion; the Republic develops these into a psychological theory. One part of the soul is not only prone to illusions, but also incapable of the kind of reasoning that can dispel them. Pleasure appears good; therefore this part of the soul (the appetitive part) desires pleasures (...) qua good but ignores reasoning about what is really good. Hence the new moral psychology of the Republic: not all desires are rational, and thus virtue depends on bringing one's non-rational desires under the control of reason. (shrink)
Experientialist accounts of wellbeing are those accounts of wellbeing that subscribe to the experience requirement. Typically, these accounts are hedonistic. In this article I present the claim that hedonism is not the most plausible experientialist account of wellbeing. The value of experience should not be understood as being limited to pleasure, and as such, the most plausible experientialist account of wellbeing is pluralistic, not hedonistic. In support of this claim, I argue first that pleasure should not be understood (...) as a broad term to describe valuable experiences generally. I then analyze responses to the main argument against a monistic view on the value of experience: the philosophy of swine objection. I argue that such responses deviate from the central hedonistic view that only pleasure and pain matter for wellbeing. I then argue that the argument can be avoided on a pluralistic account, and formulate a plausible candidate for an account of pluralistic experientialism, in which, besides pleasure, non-hedonic aspects of experience like novelty, compassion, and aesthetic value also contribute to wellbeing. (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.
Hampton illumines the overall structure of the Philebus. Taking the interrelations of pleasure, knowledge, and being as the keys to understanding the unity of the dialogue, she focuses on the central point.
According to attitudinal theories of pleasure and pain, what makes a given sensation count as a pleasure or a pain is just the attitudes of the experiencing agent toward it. In a previous article, I objected to such theories on the grounds that they cannot account for pleasures and pains whose subjects are entirely unaware of them at the time of experience. Recently, Chris Heathwood and Fred Feldman, the two leading contemporary defenders of attitudinal theories, have responded to (...) this objection, in very different ways. In this paper, I reconstruct and evaluate these responses. My conclusion is that neither response succeeds. (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 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)
ABSTRACTJacques Lacan studied Chinese classics and received much inspiration from Zhuangzi. This paper concentrates on the comparative study of morality in those two thinkers from three connecting levels, namely, nature as the source of ethical codes, reason as the means to arrive at the ethical state, and pleasure as the ultimate purpose of morality. The investigation into the topic is enlightening for posthuman morality. Zhuangzi’s idea of the poetics of oneness inspires the Lacanian concept of the Real and ushers (...) us into a new territory to rethink animal rights. (shrink)
Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I (...) further argue, against (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features. (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.
Human lives are full of pleasures and pains. And humans are creatures that are able to think: to learn, understand, remember and recall, plan and anticipate. Ancient philosophers were interested in both of these facts and, what is more, were interested in how these two facts are related to one another. There appear to be, after all, pleasures and pains associated with learning and inquiring, recollecting and anticipating. We enjoy finding something out. We are pained to discover that a belief (...) we hold is false. We can think back and enjoy or be upset by recalling past events. And we can plan for and enjoy imagining pleasures yet to come. This book is about what Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans and the Cyrenaics had to say about these relationships between pleasure and reason. (shrink)
Socrates’ claim that pleasure is a γένεσις unifies the Philebus’ conception of pleasure. Close examination of the passage reveals an emphasis on metaphysical-normative dependency in γένεσις. Seeds for such an emphasis were sown in the dialogue’s earlier discussion of μεικτά, thus linking the γένεσις claim to Philebus’ description of pleasure as ἄπειρον. False pleasures illustrate the radical dependency of pleasure on outside determinants. I end tying together the Philebus’ three descriptions of pleasure: restoration, indefinite, and (...) γένεσις. (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.
For many of the ancient Greek philosophers, the ethical life was understood to be closely tied up with important notions like rational integrity, self-control, self-sufficiency, and so on. Because of this, feeling or passion (pathos), and in particular, pleasure, was viewed with suspicion. There was a general insistence on drawing up a sharp contrast between a life of virtue on the one hand and one of pleasure on the other. While virtue was regarded as rational and as integral (...) to advancing one’s well-being or happiness and safeguarding one’s autonomy, pleasure was viewed as largely irrational and as something that usually undermines a life of reason, self-control and self-sufficiency. I want to try to show that the hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene, a student and contemporary of Socrates, was unique in not drawing up such a sharp contrast. Aristippus, I argue, might be seen to be challenging the conception of passion and pleasure connected to loss of self-control and hubristic behavior. Not only do I try to show that pleasure according to Aristippus is much more comprehensive or inclusive than it is usually taken to be, but that a certain kind of control and self-possession actually play an important part in his conception of pleasure and in his hedonism as a whole. (shrink)
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.
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.
The article starts with a brief overview of the kinds of approaches that have been attempted for the presentation of Phenomenology’s view on the emotions. I then pass to Husserl’s unsatisfactory efforts to disclose the intentionality of emotions and their intentional correlation with values. Next, I outline the idea of a new, “normalized phenomenological” approach of emotions and values. Pleasure and pain, then, are first explored as affective feelings . In the cases examined, it is shown that, primordially, (...) class='Hi'>pleasure and pain are recordings for our bodily and spiritual states resulting from our confrontation with beings and situations in the world. Delight and distress are, subsequently, approached as the first full-fledged emotive acts that animate or intentionally interpret pleasure and pain in specific ways. The elementary values of agreeableness and disagreeableness appear correspondingly to the latter in relation to the very pleasure or pain and to what has caused them. In other words, agreeable and disagreeable show how what we confront in the world weighs for us, what value it has for the embodied intentional consciousness, for its state and functioning as well as for its existentio-praxial possibilities in the lifeworld. (shrink)
In the Critique of Judgment Kant repeatedly points out that it is only the pleasure of taste that reveals to us the need to introduce a third faculty of the mind with its own a priori principle. In order to elucidate this claim I discuss two general principles about pleasure that Kant presents, the transcendental definition of pleasure from § 10 and the principle from the Introduction that connects pleasure with the achievement of an aim. Precursors (...) of these principles had been employed by Kant and others in empirical psychology. But how can such principles of empirical psychology be transferred to transcendental philosophy? I suggest that Kant accomplishes this by deriving the connection of pleasure with achievement of an aim from the transcendental definition and the assumption that faculties have interests. I finally reconstruct § 11 as a ‘regressive argument’ from the peculiarities of the pleasure of taste to the need to acknowledge a new faculty. (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.
In both the Laches (191d-e) and the Laws (1.633c-d, 1.634a-b, and 1. 635d), Plato has his protagonist defend the claim that courage (andreia) is not simply a matter of resisting pain and fear but about overcoming pleasure and desire as well. In this paper, I argue that Plato took the expansive view of courage seriously and that there are several reasons why we should too.
This thesis introduces and defends the Axiological Theory of Pleasure (ATP), according to which all pleasures are mental episodes which exemplify an hedonic value. According to the version of the ATP defended, hedonic goodness is not a primitive kind of value, but amounts to the final and personal value of mental episodes. Beside, it is argued that all mental episodes –and then all pleasures– are intentional. The definition of pleasures I arrived at is the following : -/- x is (...) a pleasure of a person P =df x is an intentional episode of P which is finally good for P. (shrink)
Philosophy and its descendents in the behavioral sciences have traditionally divided incentives into those that are sought and those that are avoided. Positive incentives are held to be both attractive and memorable because of the direct effects of pleasure. Negative incentives are held to be unattractive but still memorable (the problem of pain) because they force unpleasant emotions on an individual by an unmotivated process, either a hardwired response (unconditioned response) or one substituted by association (conditioned response). Negative incentives (...) are divided into those that are always avoided and those that are avoided only by higher mental processes—archetypically the passions, which are also thought of as hardwired or conditioned. Newer dichotomies within the negative have been proposed, hinging on whether a negative incentive is nevertheless sought (“wanted but not liked”) or on an incentive's being negative only because it is confining (the product of “rule worship”). The newer dichotomies have lacked motivational explanations, and there is reason to question conditioning in the motivational mechanism for the older ones.
Both experimental findings and the examination of common experience indicate that even the most aversive experiences, such as pain and panic, do not prevail in reflex fashion, but because of an urge to attend to them. The well-established hyperbolic curve in which prospective rewards are discounted implies a mechanism for such an urge, as well as for the “lower” incentives in the other dichotomies. The properties of these lower incentives are predicted by particular durations of temporary preferences on a continuum that stretches from fractions of a second to years. (shrink)
Why is pain the opposite of pleasure? Several theories of pleasure and pain have substantial difficulty explaining this basic feature. Theories according to which pleasure and pain are individual sensations or features of sensations have particular difficulty, since it is difficult to understand how pairs of sensations could be opposites. Some philosophers argue that the pain is the opposite of pleasure because pain and pleasure are fundamentally a matter of desire and aversion, and desire and (...) aversion are clear opposites. I argue that the structure of desire and aversion does not correspond to that of pleasure and pain. I propose that pleasure and pain are opposites because pleasure is good and pain is bad, and good and bad are clear opposites. I show that this view explains the structure of opposition of pleasure and pain, and I answer several objections. (shrink)