Unformatted text preview: seful distinctions have been drawn
in philosophy between different types of theory of well-being. One is between those that claim well-being to consist
only in mental states, and those that allow well-being to be
constituted by states of the world independent of any effect
on conscious states. For example, some people think that if
you slander me behind my back, that can make me worse
off even if it has no effect at all on my conscious experience.
Hedonism must surely be a mental state theory, so we should
try to avoid that usage of the word 'pleasure' in which it can
refer to an activity rather than a mental state (as in, 'Golfing
is one of my pleasures').
Indeed we would be wise to avoid talk of 'pleasure' entirely,
for a reason noted by Aristotle and many writers since: 'the
bodily pleasures have taken possession of the name because
it is those that people steer for most often, and all share in
them' (Nicomachean Ethics, 7.13). There is no reason why a
hedonist should not allow that enjoying an opera can make my
life better for me: Hedonism is not the same as sensualism. So let us speak of enjoyment rather than pleasure; and, for
similar reasons, suffering rather than pain.
Hedonism, then, is the view that well-being consists in the
greatest balance of enjoyment over suffering in a person's life.
But this raises another question: What is enjoyment?
Wayne Sumner, in his excellent book Welfare, Happiness,
and Ethics, usefully distinguishes between two conceptions
of enjoyment. On the internalist view, found in David Hume
and Jeremy Bentham, enjoyable experiences have in common
a particular experiential quality — being enjoyable — which
both is available to introspection and cannot be analysed into
other qualities. Most people these days find this view unacceptable, because when they look inside their own heads they
can't find any such quality common to the experiences they
enjoy. So the standard view now is externalism, according to
which what enjoyable experiences have in common is that
they are objects of some attitude 'external' to the experience
itself, such as desire. So what the enjoyment of sex and the
enjoyment of opera share is not some experiential quality, but
the fact that they are both desired by the individual in question. Of course, any old desire will not do. A creative artist, for
example, who finds being creative acutely stressful, might still
desire that experience for its own sake, perhaps because she
believes it to be valuable in itself. In some sense, according
to externalism, one must desire the experience because of
how it feels.
But this restriction to how experiences feel is suspicious. For
if we are talking about those experiences that feel good (as
we do indeed seem to be), then we are back to some kind of
internalist model. Further, it seems quite natural to say that I
desire some experience because it is enjoyable, and for such
explanations to work we need a distinction between the desire
for the experie...
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- Fall '11
- experience machine, enjoyment, purely physical sex