Philosophical Studies

, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 241–265 | Cite as

The feels good theory of pleasure

  • Aaron SmutsEmail author


Most philosophers since Sidgwick have thought that the various forms of pleasure differ so radically that one cannot find a common, distinctive feeling among them. This is known as the heterogeneity problem. To get around this problem, the motivational theory of pleasure suggests that what makes an experience one of pleasure is our reaction to it, not something internal to the experience. I argue that the motivational theory is wrong, and not only wrong, but backwards. The heterogeneity problem is the principal source of motivation for this, otherwise, highly counterintuitive theory. I intend to show that the heterogeneity problem is not a genuine problem and that a more straightforward theory of pleasure is forthcoming. I argue that the various experiences that we call “pleasures” all feel good.


Pleasure Motivational theory of pleasure Hedonic tone C. D. Broad Sidgwick Chris Heathwood Fred Feldman Paradox of painful art Desire 



I thank Chris Heathwood for two sets of extensive comments on previous drafts of this paper. I also thank that audience at the first annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress in 2007 for feedback on an earlier draft of this paper. In particular, I thank Fred Feldman for raising several difficult objections. I also thank the audience at the Eastern division meeting of the American Society of Aesthetics in April 2009, where I delivered an early version of this paper. In addition, I thank Heidi Bollich for discussing an early draft.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTemple University PhiladelphiaUSA

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