PHL 204-07

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RE Epicurus’ First Argument — Is premise 1 true (is hedonism correct?)

Standard anti-hedonist argument:

  1. If hedonism were correct, then we will be forced to evaluate the value of a life in a certain way
  2. but this evaluation is incorrect
  3. so hedonism is not correct

Problems with this argument:

  1. premise #2 above seems convincing only to those who already think hedonism is false
  2. premise #1 seems to rely on a bad interpretation of what hedonism says waht hedonism really is

A new argument against hedonism?

  • The Betrayed Businessman example
    1. B1: loves family, respects friends & colleagues, etc. (reciprocated)
    2. based on these relationships, he has a set of experiences (E1)
    1. B2: loves family, respects friends & colleagues, etc. (NOT reciprocated)
    2. based on these relationships, he has a set of experiences (E2)

Who, if anyone, in this example, is living a better life / whose life is going better?

Can what you don’t know hurt you??

The experience machine (VR/Matrix-like system)

  • experiences are indistinguishable from reality
  • prior memories are eliminated, replaced with new memories for continuity
  • feedback loop
  • you will experience more pleasure, guaranteed
  • Nagel’s argument against hedonism

  • everyone (including the hedonist) agrees that the discovery of betrayal causes sadness.
  • non-hedonist can explain this – the sadness results because we have learned something bad has happened
  • the hedonist cannot explain this – the betrayal is value neutral for the hedonist
  • we have reason to prefer theories that have more explanatory power so we have reason to prefer non-hedonist theories over hedonism
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