A New Defense of Hedonism about Well-Being

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 3 (2016)
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Abstract

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.

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