What is Good for Spock? A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism

Ephemeris 19:46-57 (2019)
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Attitudinal Hedonism is a theory of well-being which claims that welfare consists in states of attitudinal pleasure. Fred Feldman characterizes attitudinal pleasure as a state of consciousness similar to attitudes of hope and fear or belief and doubt. He employs the term, enjoyment for the relevant conscious state of attitudinal pleasure and disenjoyment for attitudinal pain. Attitudinal pleasures and pains contrast with sensory pleasures like sex or drugs and sensory pains like cuts or bruises which are felt with the senses in the same way that temperature is felt. So someone who enjoys sitting at home alone to quietly read a book experiences not sensory pleasure, but attitudinal pleasure. This makes Attitudinal Hedonism a much more plausible theory of well-being than Sensory Hedonism which would maintain that activities like quietly reading cannot increase one’s welfare even if one enjoys these activities. But Attitudinal Hedonism has a different flaw according to Peter de Marneffe who claims the view leads to the implausible conclusion that the concept of welfare does not apply to beings which are not capable of enjoyment or disenjoyment. In this paper I’ll defend Attitudinal Hedonism against de Marneffe’s objection. I’ll begin by examining de Marneffe’s objection more closely and identifying two distinct responses to it. First, I’ll argue that it is not a problem for Attitudinal Hedonism if the concept of welfare does not apply to the types of beings de Marneffe imagines. Second, I’ll propose a broader definition of attitudinal pleasure which allows us to apply the concept to de Marneffe’s hypothetical beings. For this purpose I’ll argue that attitudinal pleasure is the subjective satisfaction of desire.

Author's Profile

Isaac Shur
Northwestern University


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