Pleasure is very good indeed

7 januari 2010 | In Hedonism Meta-ethics Self-indulgence | Comments?

Hardly anyone denies that pleasure is good. ”Because it is pleasant” is an excellent answer to the question ”why do it?”, even if some people find it a slightly to self-indulgent one. But so what? Pleasure is good, but so are a lot of things. Justice is great. Knowledge is just excellent. Excellence to has a lot going for it. And True Friendship and Self-knowledge and Health and Success are all good. At least we talk as if they are, and a good theory of goodness, or of any common sensical concept, should respect the objects that we group under the term that expresses that concept. Right?

If we respect our actual evaluations, then, something like pluralism seems to be right.

We could perhaps think up a concept that would cover the things we usually value, and such a concept would probably chime well with our ordinary language (good luck finding such a concept that cover an uncontroversial set of things, however). But when I say that Pleasure is Good, I say something slightly different from when I say that friendship, knowledge or excellence is good. Pleasure has some more intimate relationship to goodness than any of those things. Pleasure is not only one of the things that we value, it is the basic means by which we value. To experience pleasure is already to pass an evaluative ”judgment” on whatever object that happens to be saliently in our mind at that moment.

I believe this means that pleasure should be given a foundational role in the theory of value. The value that accrues to it is much more fundamental than the ”value” we might want to assign to other objects. The scope of the common sensical concept ”value” has probably evolved to extend beyond its humble origin in hedonic processes, but its origin is still relevant to that concept. Pleasure, I say, is not only good, it is very good indeed.

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