If I am a momentary conscious self, and might have (numerically) the same experience as I do now even if I were not causally connected to anything more remotely past or future than the before and after internal to my momentary experience […], then it seems that my continuant personal identity should not be of all that much special interest to me-now. For if the way that I am a continuant is by being a collection of, say, segments of continuing physical processes coming together into integrated systems of neural events at one moment only to come apart the next, why should I identify with the future of some of these causal processes rather than with others? Why not care equally about other momentary consciousnesses that I can causally affect, rather than just about that which bears my name? Why not about those that carry the effects of my deeds, or of my social interaction, equally? None of these will be the same momentary consciousness as I this moment am. All will be tied to my present consciousness by causal connections.
These considerations seem plausible to me. But, of course, they cannot really be used to foster the moral virtue of benevolence—which, like all of morality, essentially concerns our relations to persons as such. If this scene of thought undermines egoism and the egocentric fears (such as, perhaps especially, the fear of death), it might seem equally to undermine morality, too—by weakening the grip that our biologically- and socially based perception and attitudes toward persons as such have. For it seems to be here that morality finds its natural ground—on which the existence of moral facts and motivation, and the application of the distinctive normative force of morality (irreducible to that of seeking pleasure or any other form of welfare or good) depends. But philosophical hedonism, while perhaps undermining morality and self-interest together in this way by suggesting the momentary view, could also provide some justification for self-interest and morality in those moments in which we wonder how it all matters, at a fundamental level, by showing a deeper ground and point to human living—a ground in the momentary experience of pleasure (no matter whose), a ground beyond self interest and morality that lies deeper in the nature of things than does our perception of persons or of prudential and moral norms.
Leonard Katz, Hedonism as Metaphysics of Mind and Value, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1986, pp. 177-179
I think that while some parts of natural human morality may rest on illusion, hedonically grounded practical reasons, and at least those parts of morality that rest on them, very likely have some objective normative standing.
Leonard Katz, ‘Hedonic Reasons as Ultimately Justifying and the Relevance of Neuroscience’, in Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 3: The Neuroscience of Morality: Emotion, Brain Disorders, and Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008, p. 409
What is my good? The good of something, it seems—and, in particular, the well-being of whatever thing I am. But what can the good of things such as we are be? Some things—for example, automobiles and government agencies—appear to have fixed essential functions or goals, and a good deriving from these. But when something is truly said to be ‘for the good of’ such things, this seems to be said differently than it would be about ourselves. Such things are essentially purposive because they are artifacts or institutions, and as such have essentially just whatever functions they are essentially conceived (or constitutively intended) to have. Whatever maintains or furthers the automobile’s or government agency’s capacity to perform its essential function well is for its good. Replacing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator was for its good; and lubrication was for the automobile’s. But such a thing’s good seems not to be a good for the thing itself in the way that ours seems to be. The meaning of life seems to be unlike the essential purpose of a government agency or of a machine. And this is because our capacity for faring well or ill seems to be unlike any capacity we believe artifacts or institutions to have.
Leonard Katz, Hedonism as Metaphysics of Mind and Value, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1986, pp. 7-8
Nature, by whatever mixture of chance and natural necessity, of natural selection and other less predictable evolutionary processes, has given us capacities for theoretical understanding in fundamental physics and higher mathematics that were of no conceivable use (as such) in the adaptive environments in which our hominid line evolved. For similarly unknown reasons it has made us phenomenally conscious experiencers of affective happiness and suffering.
Leonard Katz, ‘Hedonic Reasons as Ultimately Justifying and the Relevance of Neuroscience’, in Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 3: The Neuroscience of Morality: Emotion, Brain Disorders, and Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008, p. 416
Nature, as we know, regards ultimately only fitness and not our happiness, and does not scruple to use hate, fear, punishment and even war alongside affection in ordering social groups and selecting among them, just as she uses pain as well as pleasure to get us to feed, water and protect our bodies and also in forging our social bonds.
Leonard Katz, ‘Toward Good and Evil’, in Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, Thorverton, 2000, p. xv