ScriptGood afternoon, today I am going to share some notes on Ch4 ‘pleasure’ of Haybron’sbook The Pursuit of Unhappiness. In this chapter, He first introduces us to some basicconcepts of hedonism. Then he provides us with two objections to hedonism and twoalternative theories.Hedonistic theories basically equate happiness with pleasure. To them, happiness issolely pleasant states of mind or of pleasantness itself. Their general schema is that ifone has more pleasure than unpleasure, he is happy. If he has more unpleasure thanpleasure, he is unhappy. Their ultimate concern is past experiences. They look backinto the past to evaluate whether they are happy. Therefore Haybron states thathedonistic happiness is an essentially episodic and backward-looking phenomenon.There are two varieties of hedonistic theories, the internalists’ view and theexternalists’ view. Internalists think that pleasure is an intrinsic quality to allpleasurable experiences. They think pleasure is qualifiable and all pleasurableexperiences share some qualities. They think pleasure is a kind of sensation, feelingsor quality of experience. But Haybron urges us to think about whether all pleasuresreally share some features.Externalists think there is no intrinsic quality of pleasure; all depend on the subject’sattitude towards a given experience. Experiences themselves are neutral. However,Haybron thinks there are some human psychological rules that limit human’s attitude.For example, an ordinary human can hardly feel pleasant when he is experiencing asevere nausea. Some experiences are likely unpleasant.After a brief introduction to hedonism, Haybron proposes his objections to it. His firstobjection is about irrelevant pleasures. If happiness equates pleasure, this definitionwould be too broad to include some pleasures which he intuitively thinks cannot behappiness. In his opinion, some pleasures are too shallow and superficial; they arehardly happiness. Those pleasures are like the experience of eating cracker, hearing agood song, sexual intercourse, scratching an itch, solving a puzzle, playing football.Experiencing them, in his opinion, does not contribute much to the overall happiness.Similarly, some intense pleasures, like orgasm, do not increase the overall happinesssignificantly. Therefore he comes to the conclusion that happiness does not equalpleasure.
His second objection states that equating happiness with pleasure would result in a toonarrow definition, which excludes some deeper level of emotional and affective states,such as mood. He thinks pleasure does not actually equate happiness, pain does notequate unhappiness; they are just the sources of them.He then introduces us to two alternative theories. The first one is life satisfactiontheory. It states that happiness depends on one’s attitude towards his life. Being happyis being satisfied with one’s life. Compared to the backward-looking hedonism, thistheory concerns more about one’s present experience and include appraisals of a fairlydetached and reflective sort. One would judge, based on some standards, whether heis living a satisfying life.The second alternative theory is emotional state theory, which Haybron believes to bethe most plausible. This theory states that happiness consists in one’s emotional state.Being happy means having a positive emotion state. Emotional states, as explained byHaybron, are deep and central aspects of a person’s affective state; they are ‘profound,pervasive, and lasting, with far-reaching effects on one’s psychology and behaviour.’He uses the term mood propensity to mean ‘the aspect of a subject’s psychology thatdisposes her to experience certain moods rather than others’. To summarize, hisintuition tells him that happiness is not pleasure, but positive emotional state.Here I have done a comparison between pleasures and emotional states. As explainedbefore, pleasures are predominantly pleasant experiences, while emotional states arenot experience or reaction to experience; in other words they cannot be reduced topleasure. Pleasures are episodic and backward-looking, while emotional states aremore about the present and near future; it is forward-looking. Pleasures have verylimited disposition, but emotional states are essentially dispositional. If one feelspleasant about eating ice-cream, she might only dispose to eat ice-cream again. If onehas the emotional state of irritability, she might have the propensity to becomeirritable to many things. Also, pleasure is conscious that one must consciously knowshe wants to eat ice-cream. But, according to Haybron, emotional states can benonconscious that one might not know he is irritable until there is an outbreak. Fromthis example, we can also notice that pleasure is very localized and stimulus-driven;while emotional states do not need a particular object and it can alter one’s overall
psychic disposition. Last, pleasures lack causal depth which emotional states have.Haybron’s reasons for falsifying hedonism are that; first, it is against his own intuition.He feels happiness should be forward-looking, long-lasting, and dispositional. Hefeels pleasure is not like that, but emotional states are like that. Therefore happiness isnot pleasure but emotional state.Also, he thinks hedonistic theories are not predictive or explanatory enough. Even ifhedonistic theories predict, their predictions are much weaker and more indirect. Thepleasure from eating ice-cream could only predict that one would likely buy it again,but prediction from a depressed mood would say that a person is very likely to feelsad about many experiences. Therefore, emotional state theory is a better descriptivetheory.In my opinion, neither interanlists’ view nor externalists’ view give a full account ofpleasure. It should be the combination of two. To me, it is more like that internalistsfocus on the possibility of something being the objects of pleasant experience,externalists focus on the possibility of someone feeling pleasant towards something.As it involves both the experience and the object, a full account should include both.Second, I think it is not necessary for all pleasures to share some (obvious) features.Red and blue are colours, but they do not have any common features except they arecolours.Third, Haybron’s arguments based on his own intuition are not strong enough.Sometimes the correct things are against our intuition. It is hard to prove whyHaybron’s intuition is more correct than others’ intuition. In fact, I never feel whatHaybron feels before I read this chapter. After reading it, I still hardly think happinessis like that.Finally, according to Prof O’leary, Haybron generalizes hedonism for his convenience.He is not talking about ethical hedonism (Bentham & Mill) or welfare hedonism(Epicurus). So who does ‘hedonists’ refer to? Are there any true hedonists asdescribed by Haybron?