Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

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

The feels good theory of pleasure

  • Aaron SmutsEmail author
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgements

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.

References

  1. Alston, W. (1968). Pleasure. In P. Edwards (Ed.), The encyclopedia of philosophy. New York: Collier-Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Bengtsson, D. (2004). Pleasure and the phenomenology of value. In W. Rabinowicz & T. Rønnow-Rasmussen (Eds.), Patterns of value. Lund: Lund University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brandt, R. (1979). A theory of the good and the right. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Broad, C. D. (1959). Five types of ethical theory. New York: Littlefield, Adams and Co.Google Scholar
  5. Carson, T. (2000). Value and the good life. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  6. Crisp, R. (2006). Reasons and the good. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Csikszentmihaly, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  8. Davis, W. (1981). Pleasure and happiness. Philosophical Studies, 39, 305–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunker, K. (1941). On pleasure, emotion, and striving. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 1.4, 391–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edwards, P. (1979). Pleasure and pains: A theory of qualitative hedonism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Feagin, S. (1983). The pleasures of tragedy. American Philosophical Quarterly, 20(1), 95–104.Google Scholar
  12. Feldman, F. (1992). Confrontations with the reaper. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Feldman, F. (1997a). On the intrinsic value of pleasures. Ethics, 107, 448–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feldman, F. (1997b). Two questions about pleasure. In F. Feldman (Ed.), Utilitarianism, hedonism, and desert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Feldman, F. (2004). Pleasure and the good life. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Feldman, F. (2006). Timmermann’s new paradox of hedonism: Neither new nor paradoxical. Analysis, 66.1, 76–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feldman, F. (2007). Reply to Elinor Mason and Alastair Norcross. Utilitas, 19.3, 308–406.Google Scholar
  18. Goldstein, I. (1985). Hedonic pluralism. Philosophical Studies, 48.1, 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gosling, J. C. B. (1969). Pleasure and desire. New York: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  20. Heathwood, C. (2006). Desire satisfactionism and hedonism. Philosophical Studies, 128, 539–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heathwood, C. (2007a). The reduction of sensory pleasure to desire. Philosophical Studies, 133, 23–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heathwood, C. (2007b). Review of: Roger Crisp, reasons and the good. Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews. http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=10363.
  23. Hume, D. (1985). Of tragedy. In D. Hume (Ed.), Essays moral, political, and literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  24. Kagan, S. (1992). The limits of wellbeing. In E. F. Paul, F. D. Miller, & J. Paul (Eds.), The good life and the human good. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kenny, A. (1963). Action, emotion, and will. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Mason, E. (2007). The nature of pleasure. Utilitas, 19.3, 379–387.Google Scholar
  27. Moore, G. E. (2004). Principia ethica. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  28. Morreall, J. (1985). Enjoying negative emotions in fictions. Philosophy and Literature, 9.1, 95–103.Google Scholar
  29. Price, A. (1998). Nietzsche and the paradox of tragedy. British Journal of Aesthetics, 4, 384–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rachels, S. (2000). Is unpleasantness intrinsic to unpleasant experiences? Philosophical Studies, 99, 187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rachels, S. (2004). Six theses about pleasure. Philosophical Perspectives, 18, Ethics, 247–267.Google Scholar
  32. Shaw, D. (2007). Power, horror, and ambivalence. Horror: Film and Philosophy.Google Scholar
  33. Sidgwick, H. (1981). The methods of ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  34. Smuts, A. (2007). The paradox of painful art. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 41.3, 59–77.Google Scholar
  35. Smuts, A. (2009). Art and negative affect. Philosophy Compass, 4.1, 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smuts, A. (2010). Rubber ring: Why do we listen to sad songs? In J. Gibson & N. Carroll (Eds.), Narrative, emotion, and insight. Philadelphia: Penn State University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sobel, D. (2002). Varieties of hedonism. Journal of Social Philosophy, 33.2, 240–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sumner, L. W. (1996). Welfare, happiness, and ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tännsjö, T. (1998). Hedonistic utilitarianism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Timmermann, J. (2005). Too much of a good thing? Another paradox of hedonism. Analysis, 65.2, 144–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTemple University PhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations