Intuitions and Values: Assessing the Classical Arguments Against Quantitative Hedonism

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Few philosophers today embrace traditional hedonism, which states that aperson’s well-being depends only on the amount of her experienced happiness and suffering. Despite recent attempts to rehabilitate it, most philosophers still consider it untenable. The most influential arguments levelled against it by Mill, Moore, Nozick and Kagan purport to demonstrate that well-being must depend on more than only the amount of experienced happiness and suffering. They do so by seemingly invoking intuitions that we value more a state, world or action for the sole reason of its beauty, its autonomy, the truth or, in the case of Mill, that it generates more noble pleasures. I will argue that the arguments all share the same systematic flaw. In particular, I argue that they are based on thought experiments that invoke either structurally unreliable intuitions or intuitions that are reliable, but not in tension to the tenets of traditional hedonism.
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