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Narrow hedonism is defined and defended, as a view according to which pleasurable states are individuated as concrete and total experiential situations of a sentient being at a time. Typical of such situations is that, when we are in them, we are at a certain hedonic level. They feel in a certain way for the creature in them. On this understanding of narrow hedonism, which is the only one making good sense of the theory and which was probably also intended by classical hedonists such as Bentham and Edgeworth, standard objections to hedonism, based on the claim that different pleasures have nothing in common, can be set to one side as misplaced and irrelevant. It is also hard to see how this kind of hedonism can be refined, or revised, in the direction indicated by J.S. Mill, when he wants to distinguish “higher” pleasures from “lower” ones. On this understanding of hedonism, we must claim that, those who want to follow Mill will have to rely on non-hedonistic intuitions and thus desert the hedonist camp altogether.

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Correspondence to TORBJÖRN TÄNNSJÖ.

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TÄNNSJÖ, T. NARROW HEDONISM. J Happiness Stud 8, 79–98 (2007).

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  • experience machine
  • hedonic tone
  • higher and lower pleasures