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PH1026: Week 4a Lecture

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Nathaniel Jezzi

on 17 November 2015

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Transcript of PH1026: Week 4a Lecture

Week 4a Lecture

i. Good Consequences
ii. Well-being
a. Mental States
b. Preferences
c. Objective List
Good Consequences
Mental States
Welfare Hedonism
If an act will have bad consequences, that is a reason not to perform it.

If an act will have good consequences, that is a reason to perform it.
Other Things Being Equal vs. All Things Considered
'Consequences' in a Broad Sense
“Suppose five people are in danger of losing their lives, but if I try to rescue any of them at all, I will only be able to save one of them. Luckily, however, there is someone else willing to perform the rescue – and she will indeed be able to save all five, provided that I don’t get in the way. (If I am in the way, she won’t be able to save any.) Now what should I do? If I sit back and let the other person perform the rescue, I don’t actually produce any good at all myself, whereas if I do try to perform the rescue, my act would at least produce the good outcome of one life saved…Even though I save the one, the other four will die. Yet were I only to sit back and allow the woman to rescue all five, then no one would die at all!” (Kagan 1998, 27)
A.Mental State Theories – The only thing that matters for people’s well-being are their mental states (e.g. hedonism)

B.Preference Theories – The only thing that matters for people’s well-being is that their preferences (or desires) are satisfied.

C.Objective List Theories – The only thing that matters for people’s well-being is having certain goods in their lives that are worth having, objectively speaking.
“… all other things being equal, one outcome is better than another if people are better off in that outcome. And, all other things being equal, if people are less well off, if their lives are going less well, then the outcome is worse.” (ibid, 30)
Well-being consists solely of pleasure and the absence of pain.
Value Hedonism
Pleasure is the only intrinsic good and pain the only intrinsic evil.
Ethical Hedonism
The only thing you morally have reason to do is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
“Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Super duper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, pre-programming your life’s experiences? If you are worried about missing out on desirable experiences, we can suppose that business enterprises have researched thoroughly the lives of many others. You can pick and choose from their large library or smorgasbord of such experiences, selecting your life’s experiences for, say, the next two years. After two years have passed, you will have ten minutes or ten hours out of the tank, to select the experiences of your next two years. Of course, while in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think it’s all actually happening. Others can also plug in to have the experiences they want, so there’s no need to stay unplugged to serve them. (Ignore problems such as who will service the machines if everyone plugs in.) Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside? Nor should you refrain because of the few moments of distress between the moment you’ve decided and the moment you’re plugged. What’s a few moments of distress compared to a lifetime of bliss (if that’s what you choose), and why feel any distress at all if your decision is the best one?” (Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, p. 42-3)
Experience Machine
“Suppose, then, that I am a fan of large prime numbers, and so I hope and desire that the total number of atoms in the universe is a prime. Imagine, furthermore, that the total number of atoms in the universe is, in point of fact, prime. Since this desire is satisfied, the preference theory must say that I am better off for it, that my life is the better for it. (I don’t know that my desire is satisfied, of course. But … the question of whether a desire is satisfied should not be confused with the question of whether one realizes it and consequently has a feeling of satisfaction.)” (Kagan 1998, 37)
Trivial Desires
Unrestricted Preference Theory – Well-being consists in the satisfaction of people’s preferences no matter what those preferences are for.

Restricted Preference Theory – Well-being only consists in the satisfaction of the subset of people’s preferences that concern their own lives.
Imagine that Tex, a cowboy from the Old West, has a very bad tooth infection from chewing tobacco. Tex knows that this infection will spread to his brain, in which case he will die, unless he has the tooth pulled (no anaesthetic is available). But his fear of the gruesome procedure overcomes him and he prefers not to have the procedure. Is Tex better off having his preference satisfied in this case?
Irrational Desires
Actual Preference Theory – Well-being consists in the satisfaction of your actual desires (those you in fact have), whatever their basis.

Ideal Preference Theory – Well-being consists in the satisfaction of the desires the desires you would have if you were informed and fully rational.
Suppose that Joan is an intelligent, well-informed, and otherwise extremely rational person. Although she is physically fit and a picture of good health, she suffers from a rare condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). A consequence of this is that she has an overwhelming desire to have all of her limbs amputated. Is Joan better off having this preference satisfied?
Bad Desires
Objective List
- Pleasure
- Preference Satisfaction
- Accomplishment
- Creativity
- Health
- Knowledge
- Friendship
- Freedom
- Fame
- Respect
(a)Not Explanatory – What is it in virtue of which the good factors are good? What unifies the things on the list? Why does the list include all and only these things?

(b) Like it or not – Objective lists theories say that possessing these things is what your well-being consists of whether you like it or not. There is no guarantee that you will enjoy or desire the things on the list.
Intrinsic vs. Instrumental
Full transcript