Crisp PH reading week 3

Distinctions have been drawn in philosophy between

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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? 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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