PHL 204-07

Stage II: Your pleasure is the only thing intrinsically good for you

  • Mill tries to show this by supporting psychological hedonism (it is not possible for anyone to desire anything for its own sake except her own pleasure)
  • Mill grants that people can and do desire such things as virtue, money, etc. for their own sakes
  • how can Mill say this?
  • Mill claims:

  • pleasurable activity + pleasurable mental state = intrinsically good
  • the problem is that Mill’s defense seems to claim that something other than pleasure is intrinsically good
  • claims that sources of pleasure can be intrinsically good
  • What Mill should have said and actually did say:

  • associationism: a theory of how the mind operates; specifically that if two experiences are constantly conjoined, they tend to blend into one (Pavlovian conditioning)
    • desire for money
    • every time you get money, you experience pleasure
    • eventually desire for pleasure transfers over to desire for money
  • HOWEVER — if the desire for the other thing brings enough pain, then our true intrinsic desire for pleasure should kick in and moderate this desire
  • Mill’s defense of psychological hedonism has 2 parts:

  • responding to counter-examples (Wilson claims that Mill has failed here)
  • provide a positive reason to believe it
  • Mill’s theory of pleasures/desires: my desire for “Rice Krispie Squares” is a mental state that feels a certain way is directed at a future object.

    The pleasure in eating the treat is a mental state that feels a certain way and is directed at a current state of affairs

    desires and pleasures are the exact same mental state — they differ only in their objects

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