Qualitative Hedonism And Happiness Essay

1367 words - 6 pages

In determining what is the foundation of happiness, hedonism claims that it is pleasure with the absence of pain that is the only intrinsic good. An intrinsic good can be described as something that is good in and of itself. It is good not because it leads to something else, it is good for its own sake; as compared to an instrumental good, which is a means to an end. Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. Qualitative hedonists believe that there can be different levels of pleasure, meaning that some will be better than others. John Stuart Mill would be considered as a qualitative hedonist, which makes up part of his theory of Utilitarianism. In order to determine what is happiness, Mill establishes his Greatest Happiness Principle, which introduces the adoption of Hedonism. Mill’s argument for qualitative distinction of pleasures is inconsistent and problematic for hedonism, which brings about more problems than it solves for Utilitarianism.
Mill begins his essay on Utilitarianism by explaining his Greatest Happiness Principle, stating actions are right in that they promote happiness and actions are wrong if they take happiness away (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 2). Following from this idea, happiness is pleasure, and unhappiness is pain and the privation of pleasure (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 2). In defending the equivalence between happiness and pleasure from his critics, Mill makes the claim that there is “the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, etc., of the former” (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 4). He claims that pleasures can differ both in quality and quantity. “It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone.
If I am asked, what I mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasure more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure, except its being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer” (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 4-5). To answer the question of which pleasures are better or worse Mill explains One pleasure is higher in quality than another if and only if at least a majority of the people who are competently acquainted with both always prefer the former regardless of the available quantity of the other pleasure (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 5)
To solve the problem of determining whether something is a higher or lower pleasure Mill brings up the idea of the competent judge. In his eyes it is only the competent judge that can tell the level of quality of a certain pleasure compared to that of another (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 6). The competent judge is considered to be a person who has experienced both pleasures, and also has the capacity to be able to enjoy both pleasures...

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