A Defense of Basic Prudential Hedonism

Dissertation, Duke University (2020)
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Prudential hedonism is a school of thought in the philosophy of welfare that says that only pleasure is good for us in itself and only pain is bad for us in itself. This dissertation concerns an especially austere form of prudential hedonism: basic prudential hedonism (BPH). BPH claims that all pleasure is good for us in itself, and all pain is bad for us in itself, without exception; that all pleasures feel fundamentally alike, as do all pains; and that the amount of welfare in a person’s life can (in principle) be calculated just by adding up the amount of pleasure it contains and subtracting the amount of pain. The dissertation presents a positive argument for the claim that pleasures and pains are defined by common phenomenal properties, defends BPH against a battery of objections, and outlines an argument for accepting BPH on the grounds that it is simpler than competing views.
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