Butler's Stone

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (4): 891–909 (2018)
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Abstract

Early in the eleventh of his Fifteen Sermons, Joseph Butler advances his best-known argument against psychological hedonism. Elliott Sober calls that argument Butler’s stone, and famously objects to it. I consider whether Butler’s stone has philosophical value. In doing so I examine, and reject, two possible ways of overcoming Sober’s objection, each of which has proponents. In examining the first way I discuss Lord Kames’s version of the stone argument, which has hitherto escaped scholarly attention. Finally, I show that Butler’s stone does something important, which I have not found previously discussed. Butler’s stone blocks an inference, persuasive to many people, which purports to show that we intrinsically desire only pleasure.

Author's Profile

John J. Tilley
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

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