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University of Toronto St. George
Tom Hurka

Hedonism-the view that only intrinsic good is pleasure and only intrinsic evil is pain. The two main objections to hedonism: 1)mindless pleasures – experience machine 2)vicious pleasures; discussed objection about mindless pleasures Objection about mindless pleasures-three key things missing from hedonism: 1) knowledge-general facts, but mostly about yourself and your place in the world. You think that you are doing things such as climbing Mt. Everest, but instead you are sitting in a machine with electrodes in your brain. You don’t have knowledge but false beliefs about where you are. 2) actual achievement, or actually making changes in the world 3) real personal relationships Objection about vicious pleasures -if a torturer takes sadistic pleasure in his victim’s pain and also in his own inflicting of that pain, hedonism says this makes the overall situation better than if he were neutral about his victim’s pain or, worse, pained by it. Many find that hard to accept. Alternatives to hedonism-competing theories about what’s good, to see if the two objections can be avoided. 1)desire-fulfilment theories (parfit) -what is good is what would best fulfill your desires -prominent in economics tend to equate the good/utility with the satisfaction of desires, economists like this because it is “subjective” like hedonism and measurable Hedonism denies that any one activity is best for everyone. It all depends on what you would enjoy and not enjoy. If you’d get pleasure from studying physics, then studying physics might be good for you, but if you’d hate it, it wouldn’t be good. This is the same with desire-fulfilment theory, if you want to study physics and will keep wanting to while you’re doing it, then studying physics is good for you; but if you don’t want to study physics and will wish you weren’t doing it, then it’s not good. For desire-fulfilment theory, as for hedonism, what’s good for you depends on what you would like, though now
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