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April 05, 2006

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"What is bad for me, according to the hedonist, is discovering the betrayal, and then becoming displeased by the discovery."

But upon discovery, the cause of that displeasure is instrumentally bad. So it isn't just the discovery that is bad, it is also the thing discovered.

"So a question arises for the hedonist: why should it be the case that I become displeased when I discover this fact that is, by the hedonist’s own standard, completely neutral in terms of welfare value?"

Suppose I am now experiencing an electric shock. A moment ago I wasn't. Just a moment ago, you say, the current was passing through the wire and you didn't think it was bad. Why should you think it is bad now that you're experiencing it?
Well, isn't the answer that, as a matter of physiological fact, now it hurts, now it is painful, and then it wasn't? And isn't the answer in the betrayal case that, as a matter of psychological fact, learning about the betrayal hurts, now it is painful? More exactly, I don't want to be betrayed. But the fact that I don't want that doesn't make betrayal bad. The fact that I don't want to be betrayed makes learning about betrayal painful. And that's what is bad.

You say,

The explanation is that the discovery of facts that constitute a harm to us makes us displeased, while the discovery of facts that constitute a benefit to us makes us pleased. If the states of affairs of which we become aware were not already seen by us as being good or bad for us, then our reaction to them, with either pleasure or pain, would be mysterious. …However, the hedonist will find himself with just this mystery on his hands. The hedonist denies that any state of affairs has any independent final welfare value at all.

Now I take it that you’re talking about hedonism as a theory of welfare, not about hedonism as a theory of value. So a hedonist is someone who thinks that pleasure/pain is the only prudential good/bad, but not necessarily the only good/bad. In that case, though, there’s a perfectly good explanation for why, for instance, I’m displeased with our war in Iraq even though I don’t think the war has harmed me. The explanation is that the suffering that has resulted from the war is bad, not that it is bad for me. So I don’t think that the only explanation for my being displeased about X is that X is bad for me. So the hedonist is not stuck with an inexplicable mystery.

Perhaps, though, you could salvage the argument by arguing that we are often displeased upon becoming aware that we’ve been betrayed in a way that we’re not displeased upon becoming aware that some stranger has been betrayed, and that we can explain this kind of displeasure only by appeal to betrayal being prudentially bad.

But I also wonder whether you’re trying to give a causal explanation for our feelings of displeasure or a normative explanation for our feelings of displeasure (the latter being an account of why the feelings are warranted). It seems to me that you need the latter, as there are all sorts of causal explanations for why we might feel displeased upon learning that we’ve been betrayed that hedonist can appeal to—for instance, there might be good evolutionary explanations for this. But if it’s the latter, then it seems that you must assume that our being displeased upon becoming aware of being betrayed is something that is necessarily warranted, and this seems to beg the question against the hedonist.

Regarding Doug's concern, I wonder if Scott couldn't just say that he's talking about hedonism both as a theory of welfare and as a theory of value. Scott's hedonist believes not just that well-being (hers or anyone else's) is cashed out in terms of pleasure and pain, but also that welfare is the only good there is. In other words, she's a welfarist hedonist. That strikes me as a not uncommon way of understanding "hedonism" when it's unspecified.

For what it's worth, I agree with Mike Almeida's way of putting the response. One concern, though, is that it might be drawing too strong an analogy between the physiological fact that electrocution is painful and the psychological fact that I don't want to be betrayed (and, we should add, that I therefore find it painful when I discover that I am). One significant difference is that I can likely do something about the latter sort of fact, and I can't usually do anything about the former.

This presents a kind of sour grapes problem. By the hedonist's own lights, it would then be best to make the betrayal irrelevant to her own good somehow--either by avoiding discovery of the betrayal or by overcoming the desire for loyalty. Either way, this seems to be an inappropriate and unsatisfying way of responding to betrayal.

It seems to me that as a theory of welfare, the most powerful expression of hedonism would be something like:

(H) X contributes to (detracts from) S's welfare onlf if S would experience pleasure (pain) upon knowing of X.

As Doug noted, it seems unlikely that the right hand side would also be sufficient if hedonism is a theory of individual welfare. Treating the pleasure or pain as counterfactual also seems to allow us to say, e.g., that being betrayed detracts from my welfare even if I don't actually know I've been betrayed.

I've generally understood the kind of argument offered by Nagel not as doubting the truth of (H), but asking about the direction of explanation contained therein: whether X impacts S's welfare because it pleasant or painful, or whether X is pleasant or painful to S because X impacts S's welfare. There will be cases like Mike Almeida's electroschock examples where they converge in such a way that the former is more plausible. Electroshock is bad for me because it's painful, not the reverse (though there are interesting physiological theories that see pain as a response to threats to one's welfare). On the other hand, there seem to me cases that favor the latter direction of explanation, in particular, cases where the pleasure or pain is not 'raw' but mediated by my beliefs. So suppose I get great pleasure in seeing my enemies humiliated. It seems strained to say that seeing my enemies suffer contributes to my welfare because it causes me pleasure. Rather, I believe my enemies ought to suffer and I derive pleasure from knowing that has occured. So if seeing my enemies humiliated contributes to my welfare, this can't be ultimately explained in terms of the pleasure I'd get from such an event.

"Non-hedonistic theories can explain a fact that everyone agrees is true"

I don't think being betrayed is intrinsically bad for me. So not everyone agrees. And I think Michael's (H) is false. Thousands of people will die today and I will never know about them. Take one such person X. If I knew X died, I would be displeased. But since I won't find out about it, X's death does not affect my wellbeing. Thank god, because my life would be horrible if the deaths of all those people made my life worse.

Pushing Doug's last point, a hedonist could offer (for example) an evolutionary explanation along these lines: When people experience the negative emotion of feeling betrayed, it causes them to do things like dissociating from the betrayer and retaliating against the betrayer, which tend to prevent similar future betrayals from both that person and others. Things that human beings consider "betrayals" typically lower one's evolutionary fitness, and so this is why the negative emotion of feeling betrayed has survival value.

Now, consider three ways of understanding Scott Wilson's argument.

1. Perhaps the argument is that hedonists don't have a causal explanation for the fact that being betrayed upsets people, whereas nonhedonists do. The above suggestion shows that this isn't so.

2. Perhaps the argument is that hedonists lack an explanation for why we ought to feel bad about being betrayed. But if the hedonist has a good causal explanation for why we in fact have this negative emotion, it's unclear why we should insist on this further kind of explanation; it's unclear why one should assume that "we ought to feel bad about being betrayed" expresses a genuine fact.

3. Perhaps the argument is that non-hedonists can give a better explanation for why we react negatively to betrayal, because explanations of human reactions in terms of an assumption of rationality are ceteris paribus better than other explanations of the same reactions. This is the interpretation on which the argument seems most plausible. However, it's debatable how far the assumption of rationality should extend--for instance, does the principle of trying to interpret human beings as rational extend to the sources of human emotions, or only to beliefs and deliberate choices?

Mike A,

I do not deny that the hedonist can claim that betrayal is extrinsically bad for me. My agument, however, is that the way it is extrinsically bad for me, according to the hedonist, stands in need of explanation. The hedonist cannot claim that I become displeased because I have discovered something bad has been happening to me all along: the betrayal was, before my discovery, nuetral in terms of welfare value.

Second, your analogy to the electric shock is interesting, but I'm not sure what it proves. It is not the electric current running through the wires that is bad for me. Rather, it is the sensation that the electric shock causes that is bad for me. This is a case of sensory pain, and the badnees of a sensory pain consists in something about the sensation, not the cause of the sensation. But the case of betrayal presents us with another kind of pain, what I will call, following Feldman, attitudinal pain. I become displeased when I doscover that I have been betrayed, and this is not a sensation, but is instead a certain kind of propostional attitude (being displeased that...) that I take to a state of affairs (I have been betrayed).

Your explanation of the displeasure caused by learning of the betrayal is that it is "a psychological fact", just as the pain caused by touching a live wire is a physiological fact. But then you write that this displeasure is due to my desires being thwarted: I desire not to be betrayed, and so become displeased when I learn I have been. But this might lead us to accept the desire theory instead of hedonism. The desire theorist can meet the explanatory challenge that I have put to the hedonist: the reason we become displeased when we learn of certain facts is that we do not want those facts to obtain, and having your desires thwarted is bad for you. Using desire frustration only pushes the problem for the hedonist one step back: why does learning that your desires have been thrwarted cause us to be displeased if it is not bad for us to have them thwarted?

Mike C, you write,

"It seems to me that as a theory of welfare, the most powerful expression of hedonism would be something like:

(H) X contributes to (detracts from) S's welfare only if S would experience pleasure (pain) upon knowing of X"

But I don't think (H) can be the best expression of this view. First, given the subjunctive in the consequent, you do not make it a necessary condition of X's contributing to S's well-being that X plays a causal role in S's coming to know that X. So it looks like the consequent in (H) can't be a necessary condition X's contributing (positively or negatively) to S's well-being. Suppose S would experience (dis)pleasure upon believing (but not knowing) X? Suppose S would experience (dis)pleasure upon imagining X or hoping for X or wishing for X? On the other hand suppose S would experience (dis)pleasure upon causing X (without ever believing X or knowing X or imagining X or hoping for X or wishing for X)?
In all of these cases X need not be the cause the relevant propositional attitude. But then the fact that hoping for (believing that, wishing for, etc.) X causes me displeasure does not seem a necessary or sufficient condition of X's negative contribution to my well-being. X needn't play any role at all in the acquisition of the particular propositional attitude and so needn't play any role at all in determining the particular mental state I happen to be in.
So I hope that (H) is not the most powerful expression of hedonism.

Doug,

You are corrct that I am understanding hedonism as a theory of welfare. And I do agree that there are other types of values that are not identical to or reducible to welfare value. However, when I discover that I have been betrayed, I do not see what other kind of value I would be able to recognize as pertinent to my my becoming displeased other than welfare value. It is not that I discover that my life will not be a great narrative now, or that it is not a supreme example of a human life, or what have you. Rather, the natural response is that I discover that something bad has been happening *to me* all along.

If I discover that someone else has been betrayed, I do not normally become displeased by this: I am not pained by it. I may express my disapproval of the fact that someone else has been betrayed, but disapproval is not the same as displeasure. But if I discover that my wife has been betrayed by her colleagues, I may become displeased by this. But isn't this because I desire that my wife's life go well for her, and learning that it is has not causes me to be displeased?

But notice how this response meets the challenge I have put to the hedonist. My becoming displeased upon learning of this fact is something that is reasonable, something that makes sense given the facts about us as people. The point I want to make against the hedonist is that the attitudes of "being pleased that..." or "pained that..." are not to be thought of as mere brute psychological facts, but are instead reasonable reactions to the value of the situations we perceive.

Consider, for example, Feldman's version of Intrinsic Attitudinal Hedonism (IAH). He makes the claim that sensory pains are to be defined in terms of attitudinal pains: to experience a sensory pain is to experience a sensation that the person takes intrinsic attitudinal pain in. My general argument scheme against hedonism takes issue with this claim: for isn't the attitude of displeasure that we take towards a painful sensation one that is warranted to take, given the nature of that sensation? In other words, I agree with Feldman that I do take attitudinal pain in the fact that I am experiencing, for example, Mike A's electric current, but the reason I do is that it is so damn bad to experience something that feels like that.

Likewise, when I doscover that I have been betrayed, I agree with Feldman that I will take the attitude of being displased by this. But isn't that reasonable given the nature of betrayal?

Scott,

"Using desire frustration only pushes the problem for the hedonist one step back: why does learning that your desires have been thrwarted cause us to be displeased if it is not bad for us to have them thwarted?"

I think Doug and Mike (H) take up this line in more detail than I offer. Maybe the psychological facts (about my dispositions to respond in a psychologically painful way upon learning of betrayal) lay in deeper evolutionary facts. The short answer would be that being so disposed has survival value. But the point here is that there is some naturalistic story to be told about the etiology of such dispositions, one that needn't appeal to the disvalue of betrayal.

Ben,

Maybe I have misunderstood your post, but I don't see how it applies to my argument. You write:

I don't think being betrayed is intrinsically bad for me. So not everyone agrees.

But I never claimed that everyone agrees that being betrayed is intrinsically bad for you. I would like to argue for the conclusion that being betrayed is intrinsically basd for you, and so would not use as a premise the "fact" that everyone agree that this is true. Rather, what I claimed that everyone would agree is true is that learning that you have been betrayed makes you displeased.

Did you mean to challenge that?

Mike H,

I think the argument I am searching for is closest to your (3). It is not a causal explanation I seek for our displeasure, but is instead one based on rationality (of some form).

Perhaps I should have mentioned that my main target in the larger paper I am working on is Feldman's recent version of Intrinsic Attitudinal Hedonism. What I find so interesting about (IAH) is the concept of attitudinal pleasures and pains. These are more like beliefs and desires than they are like sensations, in that they are propositional attitudes taken towards states of affairs. This feature allows Feldman to create versions of IAH that are co-extensive with many non-hedonist rivals (in the sense that it can rank lives in terms of welfare value in just the same way as the rivals do). However, I want to argue that this feature allows us to question the basis or foundation of taking these attitudes towards certain states of affairs. Just as a belief rationally should be grounded in evidence that it is true, I wonder if the propositional attitude of being pained that x should also be grounded in the fact that x is bad (in some way).

Feldman allows this possibility, I think, in such versions of IAH as Desert-Adjusted IAH, according to which the value of a pleasure varies depending on whether the object of the pleasure deserves to be an object of pleasure. My claim, however, is that the reason it is appropriate to react with displeasure upon learning that you have been betrayed is that being betrayed is bad for you. I do not see what other kind of value this state of affairs has that warrants my becoming displeased upon disocvering that it obtains.

I take your worry about how far the assumption of rationality should extend very seriously. But consider desires: we can give a purely causal explanation of why we desire what we desire, but this is not what primarily interests me. For when we begin to think of rationality in action, can we not question whether we ought to desire what we do? Just as beliefs rationally should be grounded in evidence that they are true, likewise our desires should be grounded by facts about what is desirable.

Or, to argue from the other direction, won't a purely causal explanation of our beliefs take rationality and evidence out of the picture? Perhaps we believe what we do because having these beliefs is evolutionary advantageous for us. But the question still arises: should we believe these things? Are there good *epistemic* reasons to believe them? Once we allow normative considerations to enter into what it is reasonable to believe, and move away from purely causal explanations, I think we heve opened the door for doing the same with regard to desires and the attitudes of "being pleased that..." and "being pained that...."

Oh, sorry Scott. I misunderstood what you said everyone agrees with. My bad.

I think Scott has a pretty interesting point here about Feldman's desert-adjusted attitudinal hedonism. I would put the argument in this way. Feldman says that the intrinsic value of a pleasure state depends on the pleasure-worthiness of its propositional object. But he doesn't give us a principle of pleasure-worthiness. One principle we might give would be: x is pleasure-worthy iff x is intrinsically good. But if that's our principle, we will likely have to abandon hedonism in favor of some sort of pluralism (unless the only pleasure-worthy propositions are hedonic propositions). The worry is that no other principle would be plausible. This is one reason I prefer a crude hedonism about welfare to Feldman's view. (I should mention that it's not clear from Feldman's book that he endorses any particular version of hedonism.)

Mike A,

I don't want to commit the fallacy of tu quoque here, but one motivation for my working on the paper I am is a comment of yours from your last post (Marginal Cases and Early Term Fetuses.) You wrote:

If someone seriously and maliciously slanders you, that can constitute a harm, even if you do not learn of it and, by chance, it does not negatively affect you in any conscious way. It is not as though it suddenly becomes a harm after you learn about it. If that were true, the person who informs you about the slander would be doing the harming!

My question to you is whether there is a difference between the kind of argument I am making here and the one you made in the last post. What I am trying to avoid is defending a pluralist (or at least a non-hedonistic) view of welfare without just relying on my intuition that something other than pleasures and pains can contribute final welfare value to a person's life. After reading your comment, I remembered Nagel's comments in "Death", and thought I had found one--one that you were expressing as well, only in slightly different language.

Perhaps, however, you are doing just what I asked: putting my argument to the test by objecting in any way you can (for which I sincerely thank you).

Yes, Scott, I'm definitely playing devil's advocate here. I don't believe welfare hedonism is true. I was just giving my best defense for it. This is the difference between lawyers and philosophers--Philosophers will defend anything!

Scott, one other quick word. You say,
"My question to you is whether there is a difference between the kind of argument I am making here and the one you made in the last post".
I don't think I made an argument there. I was simply appealing to anti-hedonistic intuitions about when someone is harmed. Those intuitions still seem right to me. On the other hand, you actually have an argument against hedonism, perhaps informed by the same sorts of intuitions.

Scott,
Your line of thought is very interesting, and I'd like to see it work out, mostly because I'd like the hedonism/anti-hedonism issue to be resolvable by more than just simple, direct intuition appeals. (Of course, you're still appealing to intuition in a more complex way.)

You suggest that "just as a belief rationally should be grounded in evidence that it is true, I wonder if the propositional attitude of being pained that x should also be grounded in the fact that x is bad." To confirm this suggestion, I think we'd want a stronger understanding of the latter propositional attitude, and some sort of account of why we should presume that beliefs are generally rational. We could then see whether that account applies to that sort of propositional attitude.

Here's a gesture in that direction:
a) A general epistemological principle: it is rational to presume that things are as they appear, absent grounds for doubt. (I call this "phenomenal conservatism," and I like to make a big deal of it.)
b) The attitude of being displeased that P involves an appearance that P is bad. I.e., if you're displeased that P, then it seems bad to you that P. (This doesn't necessarily mean that you *believe* that it's bad that P, since you might take yourself to have grounds for doubting that.)

So then we have a defeasible argument against hedonism: given that some things cause us attitudinal pleasure/displeasure, it follows that those things at least appear good/bad to us (independent of the attitudinal pleasure/displeasure itself, I should think), so it follows that we're at least prima facie justified in believing that those things are (already) bad. However, it could still be that this prima facie justification is defeated somehow.

Anyway, here are two relevant pieces of literature:
a) My colleague Graham Oddie just published Value, Reality, and Desire, in which he argues that desires are a kind of evaluative perception (roughly, desiring x involves perceiving x as good). I can't tell you much more, but this seemingly supports what you want to say.
b) Grant Sterling, near the end of Ethical Intuitionism and Its Critics, proposes an argument to the effect that desiring something necessarily involves something like a belief (but not exactly a belief) that the thing is good; and that it's irrational to act on a desire unless one is justified in believing that the object of desire is good, just as it is irrational, in general, to act on an unjustified belief.

Mike A.,

I thought you might just be playing the devil's advocate, and you've done it quite well. So thanks again for your prodding.

And you are right that your comments in your last post do not constitute much of an argument against hedonism. However, the current state of the debate seems to have come down to opposing intuitions: non-hedonists argue against hedonism because it implies that P, but they think P is clearly false; hedonists believe that P is not at all false, and so we have a great example of: one person's modus ponens is another person's modus tolens.

Feldman has moved the debate forward, by robbing the non-hedonist of the claim that hedonism implies that P: his modified versions of IAH can deny that this is true. Hopefully, the comments from this post will help me to do something to respond to Feldman's version and move the debate one step further.

Mike H.,

Thank you for your last comments: they are really helpful, and express what I was groping for blindly. What I have wanted to say is that when I discover that someone has betrayed me and I become displeased upon learning this, the only way for this displeasure to "make sense" is if I "see" the betrayal as bad for me independently of my becoming displeased by it. But I was having a hard time understanding what I meant by "making sense of" and "see" in that claim. Your comments will help me find some relevant literature to pursue this line of thought: so thanks again.

Ben,

Your way of putting the argument against Feldman's DAIAH is what I was aiming at. However, there is a question that arises here that I am not sure how to pursue. For Feldman often makes the claim that he is interested only in the concept of welfare value, not any other kind of value. So, in response to certain objections to hedonism, he says that perhaps a life can be deficient in one kind of value, but be exceedingly high in another kind of value. But then he also speaks as if he is explicating the concept of intrinsic value simpliciter. For example, when he discusses Truth Adjusted IAH, he claims that truth has no independent intrinsic value, but is rather like the strength or duration of a pleasure.

This is relevant because your argument against Feldman is this: The problem with DAIAH is that it claims that the value of a pleasure varies depending on the pleasure worthiness of the object of that pleasure. However, you claim that the following principle seems like a good way to explain what makes an object pleasure worthy:

x is pleasure-worthy iff x is intrinsically good.

You then claim that:

But if that's our principle, we will likely have to abandon hedonism in favor of some sort of pluralism (unless the only pleasure-worthy propositions are hedonic propositions).

Now, given that there *seems* to be some kind of equivocation in Feldman's use of intrinsic value, I am not sure if your principle does in fact require us to become pluralists. Doug's suggestion (above) was that perhaps your principle is true, but that some intrinsic value other than welfare value can fill the variable; in such a case, I'm not sure we should become pluralists for the reason you state. But if Feldman believes that there is just one type of intrinsic value, then your argument works.

I am trying to avoid that issue by claiming that the only kind of value that seems relevant or pertinent in the case of betrayal is welfare value. That may just be the cowards way out, and I should face the issue more directly instead.

Scott,
I think Feldman's view might be that there's just one concept of intrinsic value, but the intrinsic value of a life is calculated in a different way than the intrinsic value of a possible world. (See Ch. 9.) Or he might think that there are two concepts, regular old intrinsic value and intrinsic-value-for-S (welfare value). In any case, I don't think the problem can really be resolved by making these distinctions, because the pluralism would just get pushed back into the theory of intrinsic value (simpliciter). If I wanted to be a pluralist about intrinsic value simpliciter, I might as well be a pluralist about welfare, I think. But I think there is probably a lot more to say about this.

The challenge for the hedonist is to explain why certain things pleases or displeases us, right? But isn't it sufficient for the hedonist to say that these things are believed or perceived by us to be bad? What do we gain by actually ascribing value to these things?

It is most likely that the ability to experience pleasure and displeasure "predates" grasping normative concepts; (unless pleasure actually is proto-normative in its own right). It is also true that pleasure and displeasure function as reward and punishment, thereby by way of conditioning and Hebbian learning (later on more elaborate cognitive associations)establishing other things as relevant for our well-being or the value of states of affairs.
The hedonist can explain why things like betrayal seems to be bad for you: it is notoriously coupled with disappointing states of affairs, causing you displeasure, whereas the pluralist alternative can only say that "it just is" bad for you, which doesn't explain anything.

David B.,

You claim that:

It is most likely that the ability to experience pleasure and displeasure "predates" grasping normative concepts

But this may be true only of sensory pleasures. A child can experience pain without grasping any proposition about pain or the object of the pain (which *may* speak against Feldman's identification of sensory pain as a kind of attitudinal pain). But perhaps things are different for attitudinal pleasures and pains. These require us to take a propositional attitude towards some state of affairs, and I am suggesting that these attitudes may not be rationally groundless, but may instead be rational reactions to what we perceive to be good and bad for us.

You also suggest that the best explanation for why a person becomes displeased upon learning that he has been deceived is that he believes that being betrayed is bad for him. But that is part of what I am arguing for. That is, I believe this too is the best explanation for the reaction (perhaps it is something weaker than believes: perhaps, as I stated in my last response to Mike H., we can say that he must "see" or "perceive" it to be bad for him). But it seems as if you are suggesting something like an error theory here: he may believe it, but it is just false. He believes it, according to your claim (which is very reminiscent of Mill's explanation in chapter 4 of Utilitarianism), because he has associated betrayal with pain (in the past, betrayal has caused him pain). But doesn't that just push the need for explanation back further: why did the betrayal cause him pain in the first place?

You say:

The hedonist can explain why things like betrayal seems to be bad for you: it is notoriously coupled with disappointing states of affairs, causing you displeasure....

My point is that here you are merely stating the thing that I want to explain: why has it been the case that betrayal has been "notoriously coupled with disappointing states of affairs"? I take the belief, or the perception, of the badness of the state of affairs as evidence, of some kind, that the state of affairs is bad for me. You claim that positing the value of this state of affairs "explains nothing". I think it does: its badness explains why I perceive it as bad. Just as my percpetion of a rectangular object in my visual field counts as a kind of evidence for their being something rectangular in the world causing this percpetion, so my perception of the badness of the betrayal counts as a kind of evidence that something bad is happening to me.

(I have to thank Mike H. for his last post again, for I probably would not have made this last point in this way without it. So, thanks again Mike H.)

How would a thing being bad for me explain that I experience it as bad for me? If value is a supervenient property it cannot be a causal explanation, since it is the supervenience basis that causes experiences.
The reason why value experiences shouldn't be taken at face value is that they are inter- and intrapersonally flexible. Experiences works as kinds of evidence only if there is some agreement about what these experiences "tracks", and for value experiences, there quite apparently isn't (and in the cases were there is agreement, the hedonist can explain why this is so). The (naturalist) hedonist says that since there is no forthcoming consensus about what these experiences tracks, the attention should be turned to the experience itself. The explanation of why certain things becomes experienced pleasantly will, in the end, be a neurophysiological and, I'm sure, evolutionary one.
Some pleasures surely (although not all attitudinal ones)depends on the grasping of normative concepts, and I agree that the non-hedonistic application of these concepts may not, as you say, be rationally groundless. But that a normative concept can be applied in a rationally grounded fashion to external states of affairs does not mean that these things have intrinsic value.

Scott, you write this,
"My point is that here you [David Bengtsson] are merely stating the thing that I want to explain: why has it been the case that betrayal has been "notoriously coupled with disappointing states of affairs"? I take the belief, or the perception, of the badness of the state of affairs as evidence, of some kind, that the state of affairs is bad for me"

It strikes me as strange that you make it a necessary condition of someone's being pained by betrayal that he percieve/believe that the state of affairs is morally bad in which he is betrayed.
It has the incredible consequence that a moral nihilist--who of course believes that nothing has moral disvalue--cannot rationally be pained by betrayal. On your analysis, if he is pained, he believes/perceives the disvalue of betrayal and so is not a consistent nihilist. If he explicitly says "no, I don't believe that betrayal is morally bad, but it pains me to be betrayed", he is, I guess, a self-deceived non-nihilist.
But this is very difficult to believe. The failure exhibited in betrayal is, among other things, a failure of trustworthiness. X gets you to believe that he can be fully trusted to do A. X then proceeds to do ~A. There seem to be good psychological and self-interested reasons why that is painful. Primarily, X causes you to look foolish or silly. X shows how easily duped you are and in this way embarrasses and humiliates you. He makes your judgment about the reliability of people look pretty poor. A moral nihilist can say all of this: he never uses a moral predicate in his description. He describes the results of betrayal in purely psychological and self-interested terms.
Notice that something very similar happens when you use your judgment about the trustworthiness of an object. You use your best judgment and conclude that the bridge is reliable. The same embarrassment results when it turns out not to be. Would you say that you would not feel that way unless you preceived something bad about the bridge's "betrayal"?

David wrote: "How would a thing being bad for me explain that I experience it as bad for me? If value is a supervenient property it cannot be a causal explanation, since it is the supervenience basis that causes experiences."

Why think supervenience of the evaluative on the natural rules out the possibility of value properties causing experiences?

I think you would need to import a contentious understanding of 'supervenience' - e.g. one that entailed the reduction of the evauative to the natural - to get that inference to go through.

Chapters 6 and 7 of Graham Oddie's book - the one mentioned above by Michael Huemer - provide a detailed proposal for understanding non-reductive supervenience and the causal, and the explanatory import of value properties. His proposal might not be right, but it shows that naturalists can't take it for granted that supervenience rules out value properties playing a causal, explanatory role.

Mike A.--
I think that betrayal can still seem bad to the nihilist, even though he does not believe it is really bad. Compare the case of sensory illusions, in which, for example, one line looks to me longer than another, even though I know it isn't.

Apropos of this, consider the case of Michael Ruse, who, while endorsing an error theory about value, doubts whether it is really possible for us to overcome our illusive ethical intuitions.

David B.--
Were you suggesting that betrayal causes emotional displeasure because it has commonly been associated with sensory discomfort or pain? If so, (a) I'm not sure that's generally true. E.g., your girlfriend cheating on you won't cause you any sensory pain. (b) I also don't think this could explain the character of the emotional displeasure. Feeling betrayed is a very specific emotion -- it's not just like the feeling that you get if you're anticipating being poked (which you associate with sensory pain).

Michael H -
I'm suggesting that being pained by betrayal depends on our associating it with things we consider as bad. We consider these things as bad, in turn, due to a process that ultimately traces back to pleasures and pain. I believe that pleasures and pains are types of complex experiences, some of which are partly constituted by sensations, and hence are sensory pleasures and pains. Others are partly constituted by other mental events like beliefs and desires, so no, there is nothing "primary" over sensory pleasures, unless, of course, sensations are the only ones things that are originally rewarding.

Brad C -
I thought all the causal powers of supervenient properties were reducible to the causal powers of the natural properties they supervene on, in which case mentioning that something is valuable to a full natural explication of properties adds nothing to the causal explanation. If I remember correctly, Oddie defends a very special form of realism, not naturalism, and his conception of what constitutes a "real" property is rather controversial. Anyhow: even if we cannot take for granted that supervenient properties can't be causal, until that is explained, the hedonist is in no worse explanatory position than the suggested pluralist.

David B.,

I just meant to suggest that a pluralist like Scott can maintain the explanatory claim in the face of your criticism. I agree that Oddie's accounts of propertyhood and causal significance are contentious - but they show how Scott could reasonably flesh out his claim that, "just as my perception of a rectangular object in my visual field counts as a kind of evidence for their being something rectangular in the world causing this percpetion, so my perception of the badness of the betrayal counts as a kind of evidence that something bad is happening to me."

I agree that my suggested defense of the pluralist view raises no special challenge to the hedonist - but it helps show that Scott's challenge doesn't rest on a false assumption. It was a defensive, not an offesive suggestion.

David B.,

One reason I like this forum is because issues I would never think of discussing arise: so I want to thank you for pushing your line of objection.

It seems that the issue you are discussing has something to do with value realism. However, the issue I want to discuss is distinct from that. The issue of whether welfare value is "real" in any robust sense is a second-order issue, and one that every theory of welfare must face. We do not settle this issue by becoming hedonists. For the hedonist will say that pleasures are *good for you* and pains are *bad for you*. If there are reason to doubt that somethings really are good for you, and other things really are bad for you (i.e. value skepticism), the hedonist must face that challenge as well. I have not seen anything in your comments to suggest that the hedonist is in a special place to respond to that challenge. Suppose that pleasure is defined in terms of sensations: the issue arises whether it is either good bad to have sensations of that kind; wouldn't a value skeptic attempt to argue that these sensations can be described in purely descriptive terms, and claim that there is no further "evaluative fact" to be said about them? Alternatively, the hedonist might follow Feldman and define pleasures and pains in terms of propositional attitudes; however, once again, the question arises whether it is good or bad to have such an attitude.

The issue I am addressing is a first-order issue that is silent about the "reality" of the values in question. When I speak of explaining the attitude, I do not mean casual explanation. Rather, I am trying to place our responses to perceived bad state of affairs in the logical space of reasons: why should it be reasonable to respond to betrayal with displeasure? My claim is that it is reasonable to respond in that way because betrayal is bad for you. The hedonist, by contrast, cannot say this, and so makes the response rationally unexplained.

Mike A.,

You say:

It strikes me as strange that you make it a necessary condition of someone's being pained by betrayal that he percieve/believe that the state of affairs is morally bad in which he is betrayed.

But I never said that a person must find it *morally* bad that he is betrayed. Rather, my claim is that he must see it as *bad for him* that he be betrayed. Now your reductio against my view seems less strong when we understand my position in this way. For certainly a *moral* nihilist can be pained to learn that someone has betrayed him; but can a *welfare* nihilist claim the same thing? In other words, I discover that someone is betraying me, and I also believe that nothing is good or bad for me at all. Then if I become pained by my discovery, I do seem to be a rather confused individual. Why should I be displeased or pained to discover that yet one more nuetral fact obtains?

Now the value nihilist might be able to experience sensory pain. But he will have to deny that this pain is at all bad for him. So if he takes a negative attitude towards the sensation he is experiencing, then he too seems a bit confused: why be displeased to feel this neutral sensation?

I have concluded after long years of study and serious contemplation of what I have learned both from books and the world around me, that the answers to the things which have perplexed mankind throughout his history and today have simple answers if we take the obvious path of commonsense and do not allow ourselves to be sidetracked by issues of little or no importance.
And I believe the arguments for and against Hedonism are of no importance.


Scott:
Well, I actually believe that the hedonist, (or rather a hedonist of a special kind, namely my kind) can answer the sceptic, insofar as sceptics are willing to listen. Pleasure is value because pleasure explains (enough of) the things we use value concepts to grasp. It might still be a semantically open question whether pleasure is value, because the semantics of value is extremely unclear. And this type (my type) of hedonist doesn’t claim hedonism to be true in virtue of what ‘value’ means, but in virtue of what it is, i.e. primarily evaluative in nature (See for instance Mendola, Sprigge). But enough about me.
Some representationalists about pleasure think that pleasure represents the net satisfaction of intrinsic desires indicated by that which is experienced: and it sure looks like being betrayed thwarts some of our desires.
People who have given up on life in general rarely experience that much displeasure at finding out that they’re being betrayed. But would you like to be able to say that displeasure is a reasonable response to betrayal, no matter what? I’d say it is reasonable if betrayal strikes you as bad, which it does if it thwarts some of your desires, or goes against your conception of your own good, or of goodness period (which could be grounded on just about anything, couldn’t it?), or just is disturbing to you in some way.
Why is it bad to have your desires thwarted? Because it is, usually, something that gives you displeasure. Why so? Here the answers start getting neurological. The reasons we have and give typically comes to an end somewhere, and sometimes that end is short of explanatorily satisfactory. The explanatorily inclined hedonist will say that responding with displeasure at something that strikes you as bad is ultimately something the explanation of which ends up with other pleasures and displeasures. I understand that you are not looking for a causal explanation, but I can’t see why what you are looking for should determine the possible answer to the substantial question at hand.
Your claim that responding with displeasure is reasonable because betrayal is bad for you doesn’t explain anything, as far as I’m concerned, unless you tell us something about what that badness consists in, how it affects that person etc.

David B.,

You write:

Well, I actually believe that the hedonist, (or rather a hedonist of a special kind, namely my kind) can answer the sceptic, insofar as sceptics are willing to listen. Pleasure is value because pleasure explains (enough of) the things we use value concepts to grasp.

I'm not really sure what this means. One thing it might mean is this: the reason you prefer hedonism to other theories of welfare is that hedonism passes the test of reflective equilibrium better than the other theories. That is, claiming that the only things that can directly affect a person's welfare are episodes of pleasure and pain best explains and justifies our beliefs about welfare value. But if that is what you mean, then I really must disagree. For the claim the only pleasure and pains directly affect a person's welfare is incompatible with many beliefs about value: to name just one, that it is bad for you to be betrayed. In other words, if the method we are to use in order to decide which theory of welfare is the best is the method of reflective equilibrium, then hedonism is not in a special position for the task.

This is especially true if hedonism is understood in a rather simple way: that is, if we understand pleasure and pain to be sensations. Understanding the theory in that way (what Feldman calls Default Hedonism) is notoriously incompatible with many beliefs about welfare value. Sophisticated hedonists respond by altering their conception of pleasure and pain. The strongest version of hedonism I have seen is Feldman's Desert-Adjusted IAH: it is strong because it is able to match most people's intuitions about how to rank various possible and actual lives in terms of welfare value. However, the theory depends on making the claim that the value of a pleasure depends on the pleasure-worthiness of the object of that pleasure, which leads me to the problem I have with the theory: for what determines the pleasure-worthiness of the object if not the intrinsic value of the object? (Thanks to Ben for this way of putting the point). So there is a kind of dilemma here: accept simple hedonism, in which case we have many conflicts with our intuitive beliefs about what is good and bad for us, or else accept a sophisticated form of hedonism, in which case the explanatory challenge I am posing forces the hedonist to accept that something other than pleasures and pains are good for us.

What puzzles me about your position is that you agree that the best explanation for why a person becomes displeased upon learning that he has been betrayed is that he believes, or sees, betrayal as bad for him. But if hedonism is correct, then this belief of his is simply false (isn't it?). So, shouldn't someone who accepts hedonism stop being displeased upon learning that someone has betrayed him, because the state of affairs of being betrayed is not bad after all? I take the fact that I see the betrayal as bad as evidence that it is bad: I want my theory of welfare to respect that evidence, for in the end I want my theory of welfare to match my considered intuitions about welfare. You seem to want to explain it away with some form of associationism (we simply associate it with displeasure). Not only do I not see how the association got started here (can't I be displeased the first time I am betrayed?), but I also think the resulting theory, while simpler, makes less sense of the data I need to explain.

Perhaps you and I will not see eye to eye here. I am still convinced that Nagel had it right: the natural view (or the reasonable view, or the view that seems to make the most sense of welfare value) is that we become displeased to learn that we have been betrayed because betrayal is bad (my view), not that betrayal is bad because we become displeased when we learn that we have been betrayed (your view).

You end your post with a rather substantial challenge for me, one that I have not met. I think you are claiming there that unless I have some other theory of welfare that implies and explains *why* betrayal is bad for me, then I have "not explained anything". But this challenge may be a bit unfair: for the reason you have for accepting hedonism (I think: I hope I am not misreading your post) is that it passes the test of reflective equilibrium. If you can use these sorts of considerations, then perhaps I can too: I choose a pluralist theory of welfare because it makes the most sense of my data. Just as I claim that betrayal "just is" bad for you (without much else in the way of explanation) so too the hedonist claims that pleasure "just is" good for you.

Scott:
I’m not suggesting that hedonism would be the outcome of a reflective equilibrium, what I’m suggesting is that value seems to have a certain set of properties: it seems to be positively related to motivation, to be universal but still have to do with our personal preferences, it should make some, but not all, of our evaluations true, it should make sense of our evaluative practice. And then I suggest that there is one thing, notoriously present in the history of axiology, that seems to lie at the bottom of all of this, namely pleasure (and displeasure). For all those confident non-hedonic value attributions that undoubtedly occur, hedonism must say that they are mistaken, but we can still say that they are reasonable mistakes. Hedonism can explain them away, as you say.
-
You say that the fact that you see betrayal as bad is evidence that it is bad. I would deny this, unless you can show me how the property, badness, give rise to the experience of badness. Otherwise you are in no better position than people who claim they have seen God. My challenge to you is not, as you say that you need to explain “why” betrayal is bad for me, only what that badness consists in so that it can give rise to the experience you claim as evidence for that badness. The hedonists claim is that experiences of value is value, so there is no explanatory ground to be covered there.

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