Tag Archives: pleasure

Timothy Wilson, David Centerbar, Deborah Kermer & Daniel Gilbert

The benefit of knowledge is that it makes the world more predictable, but the cost is that a predictable world sometimes seems less delicious, less exciting, less poignant.

Timothy Wilson, David Centerbar, Deborah Kermer & Daniel Gilbert, ‘The Pleasures of Uncertainty: Prolonging Positive Moods in Ways People Do Not Anticipate’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 88, no. 1 (2005), p. 5

Ole Martin Moen

If we take for granted that consciousness evolved, consciousness would somehow have to promote survival and reproduction in order to be selected for. If consciousness did not promote survival and preproduction, it would not be selected for, and to the extent that it were biologically costly, it would be selected against. The only way consciousness could promote survival and reproduction, moreover, is by virtue of guiding an organism’s actions, prompting it to perform survival and reproduction enhancing actions – and the only way in which consciousness could prompt an organism towards survival and reproduction seems to be by imbuing experiences with a certain valence or a pro/con attitude. Without a valence or a pro/con attitude, it is unclear how an experience would be able to guide an organism’s actions. Evolution, moreover, cares for action, not for experiences as an end in itself. It therefore seems that if consciousness were to ever get going, valence would have to be present from the very start. Otherwise, consciousness would disappear as fast as it occurred. This suggests that hedonic valence phylogentically is as old as consciousness itself, which in turn lends support to the view that hedonic valence lies at the heart of consciousness. This supports dimensionalism, moreover, since according to dimensionalism, pleasure and pain—rather than being two things out of the many things we can experience—imbues all […] our experiences. Indeed, one might, from a dimensionalist approach to consciousness, argue that the first experience any organism ever had was an experience of either pleasure or pain, and that consciousness of the kind our species has today is a more fine-grained version of something that is most fundamentally a pleasure/pain mechanism.

Ole Martin Moen, ‘The Unity and Commensurability of Pleasures and Pains’, Philosophia, vol. 41, no. 2 (June, 2013), pp. 540-541

Shelly Kagan

[P]retty much everyone believes at least this much: the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain is at least one component of well-being. (It is quite hard to deny this. The value of pleasure and the disvalue of pain seem virtually self-evident to anyone experiencing them.)

Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, Boulder, 1998, p. 30

Shelly Kagan

[E]ven though there may be components of well-being that go beyond one’s experiences—and thus can plausibly be thought to come in imperceptible amounts—it seems undeniable that one important component of well-being is indeed the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain.

Shelly Kagan, ‘Do I Make a Difference?’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 39, No. 2 (2011), p. 115

Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert

The more quickly people reach an understanding of negative events, the sooner they recover from them. […] Virtually all tests […], however, have examined people’s understanding of negative events. The AREA [attend, react, explain, and adapt] model is unique in predicting that explanation also leads to the diminution of affective reactions to positive events. We predict that anything that impedes explanation—such as uncertainty—should prolong affective reactions to positive events. […] These studies highlight a pleasure paradox, which refers to the fact that people have two fundamental motives—to understand the world and to maintain positive emotion—that are sometimes at odds.

Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert, ‘Explaining away: A model of affective adaptation’, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 3, No. 5 (September, 2008), pp. 377-378

Karl Duncker

The unpleasantness of a toothache and the pleasantness of a beautiful view are not likely to coexist—not so much because the two hedonic tones have opposite signs, but rather because the two underlying experiences or attitudes are incompatible. The pain so “absorbs me” that I cannot give myself over to the view enough really to enjoy it, or, on the other hand, the view may absorb me away from the pain. For two attitudes or absorptions thus to detract from each other, it is not at all necessary that the two hedonic tones be opposite. I have made experiments like the following: while listening to the marche funèbre in Beethoven’s Seventh, I ate a piece of delicious candy and observed whether I could maintain the two enjoyments unimpaired alongside each other. It was impossible.

Karl Duncker, ‘On Pleasure, Emotion, and Striving’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 1, no. 4 (June, 1941), p. 409

Galen Strawson

[I]t is true that ‘I seem to see a table’ does not entail ‘I see a table’; but ‘I seem to feel a pain’ does entail ‘I feel a pain’. So scepticism loses its force—cannot open up its characteristic gap—with regard to that which ultimately most concerns us, pleasure and pain.

Galen Strawson, Freedom and Belief, Oxford, 1986, p. 223, n. 29

Karl Duncker

The degrees of intensity are often more accurately described as degrees of saturation (of an experience with pleasantness) that are characteristic of the experience in question. Lust, for instance, is so highly saturated with pleasantness that is has usurped its very name.

Karl Duncker, ‘On Pleasure, Emotion, and Striving’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 1, no. 4 (June, 1941), p. 408

Leonard Katz

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

Timothy Sprigge

Our view does not deny the importance, and indeed inevitability, of our sustaining the construction of a world in which values pertain to things which are not conceived as anyone’s mere personal experience. It will, however, think that for critical reflection the values of the constructed world only matter to whatever extent they, or the belief in them, are values realized in immediate experience.

Timothy Sprigge, The Rational Foundations of Ethics, London, 1988, p. 182

Timothy Sprigge

[I]t is an objective fact whether a certain experience is pleasurable or unpleasurable, and relatedly whether a particular conscious individual is presently experiencing something pleasurable or painful. It is an objective fact, so we may put it, about a subjective state.

Timothy Sprigge, ‘Is the esse of Intrinsic Value percipi?: Pleasure, Pain and Value’, in Anthony O’Hear (ed.), Philosophy, the Good, the True and the Beautiful, Cambridge, 2000, p. 123

Siri Leknes and Irene Tracey

The strong historical association between shame, guilt and pleasure might help to explain a number of paradoxical human behaviours, as well as the historical preference for formulating scientific research questions in terms of behaviour rather than pleasure and other hedonic feelings.

Siri Leknes and Irene Tracey, ‘A Common Neurobiology for Pain and Pleasure’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol. 9, no. 4 (April, 2008), p. 315

C. D. Broad

The pleasure of pursuit will not be enjoyed unless we start with at least some faint desire for the pursued end. But the intensity of the pleasure of pursuit may be out of all proportion to the initial intensity of the desire for the end. As the pursuit goes on the desire to attain the end grows in intensity, and so, if we attain it, we may have enjoyed not only the pleasure of pursuit but also the pleasure of fulfilling a desire which has become very strong. All these facts are illustrated by the playing of games, and it is often prudent to try to create a desire for an end in order to enjoy the pleasures of pursuit. As Sidgwick points out, too great a concentration on the thought of the pleasure to be gained by pursuing an end will diminish the desire for the end and thus diminish the pleasure of pursuit. If you want to get most pleasure from pursuing X you will do best to try to forget that this is your object and to concentrate directly on aiming at X. This fact he calls “the Paradox of Hedonism.”

It seems to me that the facts which we have been describing have a most important bearing on the question of Optimism and Pessimism. If this question be discussed, as it generally is, simply with regard to the prospects of human happiness or misery in this life, and account to be taken only of passive pleasures and pains and the pleasures and pains of fulfilled or frustrated desire, it is difficult to justify anything but a most gloomy answer to it. But it is possible to take a much more cheerful view if we include, as we ought to do, the pleasures of pursuit. From a hedonistic standpoint, it seems to me that in human affairs the means generally have to justify the end; that ends are inferior carrots dangled before our noses to make us exercise those activities from which we gain most of our pleasures; and that the secret of a tolerably happy life may be summed up in a parody of Hegel’s famous epigram about the infinite End, viz., “the attainment of the infinite End just consists in preserving the illusion that there is an End to be attained.”

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, London, 1930, pp. 191-192

Paul Feyerabend

One night […] I dreamed that I had a rather pleasant sensation in my right leg. The sensation increased in intensity, and I began to wake up. It grew even more intense. I woke up more fully and discovered that it had been a severe pain all the time. The sensation itself told me that it had been a sensation of immense pain, which I had mistaken for a sensation of pleasure.

Paul Feyerabend, Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend, Chicago, 1995, p. 117

Francis Ysidro Edgeworth

[T]he general term [‘pleasure’] does not appear to call up with equal facility all the particulars which are meant to be included under it, but rather the grosser feelings than for instance the ‘joy and felicity’ of devotion.

Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Mathematical Psychics: An Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences, London, 1881, pp. 56-57

Jeremy Bentham

Intense, long, certain, speedy, fruitful, pure—
Such marks in pleasures and in pains endure.
Such pleasures seek if private be thy end:
If it be public, wide let them extend.
Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view:
If pains must come, let them extend to few.

Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, London, 1789, chap. 4, fn. 1