Digest of terms


psychological hedonism is the view that people are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain; ethical hedonism is the view that pleasure is the ultimate good and that therefore people ought to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Pleasure appears as a value in other moral theories (eudaimonism) but not as the one supreme goal. It features most importantly in Utilitarianism. Here Bentham and Mill faced the difficulty that pleasures vary a good deal among each other, so which ought we 'really' to pursue? Bentham's solution was to introduce a 'hedonic calculus' by which pleasures could be measured and ranked in terms of seven criteria: intensity, duration, certainty/uncertainty, propinquity/ remoteness, fecundity, purity, and extent, but this has not gained general support, and was rejected by Mill, who introduced a distinction between 'higher' and 'lower' pleasures, the former to be preferred to the latter. This, though, seems to involve smuggling in criteria other than pleasure, and when at one point Mill suggests that the preferences be made by competent experts or judges in particular areas his utilitarianism begins to veer towards eudaimonism, in that a possible implication of the latter might be that higher pleasures will be those consequent upon expertise in living a life of virtue.

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