One of the best parts of Crisp’s book so far is the section
on enjoyment. He is a hedonist about well-being – something increases your
well-being only in so far as it creates experiences of enjoyment for you.
Having this view about well-being then supposedly requires a criterion for which
experiences count as experiences of enjoyment. This is an interesting question
and Crisp does a good job in laying out the dialectic on the basis of which he
ends up with his own view. I’m not sure I understand what that view ultimately is and how plausible it is.
But, I would be interested in hearing your views about the matter as I’m pretty
clueless. For a basis of discussion, I’d like to give a brief
sketch of Crisp’s presentation.

So, the beginning of the debate is a monist internalism of Hume and
Bentham. According to them, all enjoyable experiences share an intrinsic,
unanalysable tone of pleasantness. Enjoyment just is enjoyment and not another


We then get the standard objection that, well, it is hard
to find any qualitative quality that all enjoyments share. Griffin lists eating, reading, working (odd
enjoyment surely…), creating, and helping as enjoyments that lack any shared quality. A lot of people have found this
objection conclusive against internalism.


This has made a lot of people turn into externalism. I’m not
sure why there is a need to use these terms yet again… But, I take it that the
difference is that it is not some intrinsic feature of an experience that makes
it enjoyment but some other attitude that is suitably external to and related to the given
candidate for an experience of enjoyment.


So, as a first pass on externalism, Crisp introduces
Sidgwick’s cognitivist externalism. According to Sidgwick’s view any experience
that is to count as enjoyment must be accompanied by a belief (‘an apprehension’)
that the experience is desirable. I’m not sure Sidgwick actually was a
cognitivist just at this point. In the same quote Crisp gives, he says that by a general term
‘desirable’ *a desire* gets expressed.


This gets us to the conativist externalism. According to
this view, an experience must be desired to be had at the time in order to count
as enjoyment (so-called ‘preference hedonism’ apparently).


Crisp goes through many versions of such internalist views
and raises many objections and replies to them too before ultimately rejecting externalisms. I felt that there was a simpler argument
against them from Sidgwick himself. This is the same idea that came to be known
as Moore’s open
question argument. If these views were right, then a belief about the desirability of
the experience or a desire for the experience would be a necessary condition for being in a state of enjoyment. My intuition is that it is possible (and non-contradictory) to
have an experience of enjoyment without believing it to be desirable or without actually
desiring to be in that sake. These are the so-called Guilty Pleasures that
would be on this view conceptually impossible. The point of those experiences
just is that you are enjoying them without desiring to have them or believing that
they merit desiring. Guilty Pleasures are not contradictions in terms and thus
the externalist definitions are doubtful.

Crisp himself is at this point lead, for certain other
reasons, back to internalism and the project of trying to save it from the obvious
heterogeneity objection. Here things get slightly murky and too quick for me. The idea is
to attempt to formulate a more pluralist internalist view.


Here’s an analogy that is supposed to help. We have
experiences of perceiving red, blue, and yellow. These are the determinate experiences.
When we have these experiences we also have the experience of perceiving
colour. This is the determinable experience that in a way still has unity to it while
being constituted of different experience in each case.


So, now Crisp thinks that we can say the same thing of
experiences. We have experiences of a sweet taste, a tender touch, reading a
novel, and so on. These are the determinate experiences. But, when we have these, we also
have the determinable experience of enjoyment or the experience of feeling good.
(Crisp seems to think that feeling good is a part of informative account of
enjoyment whereas for me that sounds just like a synonym). Again, even though all
the determinate, particular enjoyments may differ there is still supposed to be
a unity on the determinable level.


If this is Crisp’s view, then I have couple of questions.
First, I wonder about the analogy. I do find the sense of unity in the colour case on the
determinable level of experiencing colour. But, I’m not sure there is a similar
unity in the enjoyment case that would help us know which particular
experiences would come under the determinable umbrella concept. Second, I find
the account very uninformative. I struggle to find what I have learned about
enjoyment or what counts as such. That completely different kinds of experiences are definitive ways
in which experiences can be enjoyable? But, I wanted to know what it is for
them to be enjoyable. I’m not sure of this all but I feel like the questions
were not answered.


I’m also not sure what my view of enjoyment would be.  Need to think about that one.  I might find some versions of externalism plausible. I wouldn’t like that say that you need to desire the particular token of experience but maybe have some kind of pro-attitudes towards that kind of experiences in general or dispositions to seek them for their qualitative feel.  This view would allow for cases of Guilty Pleasures. In those cases, you would have a desire for that phenomenological kind of experiences without desiring the given tokens of experiences maybe because of their external source.

11 Replies to “Philosophy of Enjoyment

  1. Jussi,
    I often think that people need to be clearer when talking about pleasure or enjoyment whether they have a desire-based understanding of the concept or a phenomenological understanding of the concept. I think Scanlon use of enjoyment (in WWOTEO) needs clarification at just this point.
    I also like your thought that “guilty pleasures” make trouble for the thought that pleasure is a sensation which the agent implicitly apprehends as “desirable.” When desirable is understood as “worthy of being desired” then your point is just that guilty pleasures seem like pleasures that one does not judge to be worthy of being desired. Seems right.
    Perhaps, however, the Sidgwickian thought should be that one considers a sensation as desirable merely as a sensation and not for how it is brought about and such. If so, then perhaps it becomes harder to understand the notion of a guilty pleasure. For what could make one feel guilty about liking a certain sensation more than another considered merely as a sensation? But perhaps this is just to say that the normative element is dramatically reduced when we consider sensations merely for whether we like the way they feel or not.
    Sorry for the vagueness of the above.

  2. David,
    no need to be sorry. I’m being vague as well as it is new ground for me. It is actually an interesting question whether you can separate the how-it-feelness from what you are experiencing so that you could desire the former without the latter. Even if you can, it might be that the context always plays a role in whether I desire the sensation or not. Depending on the context I could desire the phenomenologically identical sensation in one case and not in the other, because I think it is appropriate in one case and not the other.
    I’m also starting to worry about Wittgensteinian private language arguments for the internalist views. In order for the term enjoyment to be meaningful there has to be norms of incorrect and correct use for its application. If Wittgenstein was along the right lines, then nothing about the sensation itself could suffice. If that is right, then it is not even relevant whether you thought enjoyment was a unique, sui generis feature of experiences or whether you thought it was a determinable experience fixed by variety of different kinds of deterinate experiences.

  3. My first worry is about the need for analysis. I would think we could all agree that there is something called enjoyment, or enjoying, and that it would be an intelligible philosophical position to say that whatever this is, is of sole and ultimate value. (Just as it would be an intelligible position to say that game-playing was of sole and ultimate value, without an analysis of “game”. We could even evaluate this position: it’s false.)
    My second worry is about the helpfulness of the externalist approaches. Unless the external condition (belief that the sensation is desirable, or desiring the sensation) is sufficient for a sensation’s being one of enjoyment, we haven’t solved the fundamental problem (if it is one) of no-common-sensation. But if the “external” (in what sense?) condition is sufficient, then it is irrelevant what the phenomenology of the sensation is or even if there is one. We have then moved from, in David’s words, a phenomenological notion of enjoyment to a desire-based one.

  4. Heath,
    something like what you have in mind in the first point is close to Crisp’s view (plus enjoying for him is supposed to be the only good-for-making and reason-providing thing).
    It’s true that we might be able to show the evaluative claim false without taking stand on what enjoyment is. But, for me that looks like an interesting philosophical question on its own right. There is a question of what we can say about enjoyment to help us to understand and elucidate the phenomenon even if we don’t want to give an strict analysis.
    Anyway, Crisp says something like that when we think of our experiences we can easily say which ones are enjoyable and which ones not, and usually that is enough for them to be just that (excluding obvious performance errors). The problem with this line as I see it is that in order for there to be *a single* philosophical view, we need to be meaning the same thing when we say that I’m are having an enjoyable experience. How could we make sure we are meaning about the same notion? On the internalist view there is not much else left to say that I’m talking about *these kinds* of experiences while figuratively pointing to some experiences in introspection. But, those experiences are not accessible for you on the more private internalist view and thus you cannot match whether we are talking about the same issue. This may lead to looking at publicly observable dispositions of behaviour as attribution-conditions for enjoyment (or even at the sources of the experiences). Of course this does not need to necessarily lead to full-blown behaviourism.
    I don’t think that the sufficiency reading of externalism makes the phenomenology irrelevant. The idea I take it is that there is already some experience as a start. Now, the question is, is that experience one of enjoyment? The externalist says that that must in part depend on some other mental state, for instance a desire. But, what is desired (or not) can be just the phenomenological feel of the given experience we are looking at. Therefore, the phenomenology of the original experience is still important – depending on it we may desire the experience or not and thus it may count as enjoyable or fail to do so.

  5. Hi Jussi,
    I agree that the chapter on enjoyment is among the best in the book, and among the best in the enjoyment business as well (challenged only by Leonard Katz “pleasure” entry in SEP).
    Crisp says that the mistake in the heterogeneity argument is that it considers only determinates. Presumably, then, he thinks that the heterogeneity argument works for determinates: enjoyments/pleasures do not feel alike.
    Still, he insists that they have a certain
    quality in common (here the colour-analogy enters). Now, is this quality experienced? Is it part of/consitutive of the phenomenological character of the particular experiences of enjoyment/pleasure? What else could it be? But if this is so, this is surely denied by the Heterogeneity argument.
    I’m not sure if it is Crisps view, but you could say that enjoyments are heterogeneous because, as determinates, they have other qualities as well. But being determinates of the determinable “enjoment”, they essentially has this felt quality. They do not feel alike, but they have some felt quality in common, in virtue of which they are enjoyments.

    P.S. Crisp does not consider internalist readings of the desire view, which I think is the most informative and correct ones.
    P.S. 2 I think Koorsgaards have something like your Wittgenstein-worries concerning pain in “the sources of normativity”

  6. David,
    I’m really bondering about the same questions you ask about Crisp’s view. Assume that enjoyment is a determinable experience like the experience of seeing colour. Take a list of enjoyment experience determining experiences. What makes it such that they are capable of determing the determinable? The heterogeneity argument seems to block the idea that they would share a felt quality. This seems also plausible when I look at my own experiences of enjoyment – it’s hard to find anything they share. It is easier to come up with things that experiences of red, brown and blue share.
    Also, it cannot be the case that the determinable experience itself fixes the determinates. That has to be a transparent inclusive experience. If I get this right Crisp offers similarities in the brains states as the unifier that sets the determining experiences apart. This seems to be however an account on the wrong level. It seems plausible that beings with completely different kind of physicality can experience enjoyment. I’m starting to think he is at a dead-end here. I’m not sure he has given an account of enjoyment. For him this would be pretty bad given that he things that enjoyment is the only thing that is good for us and grounds ultimate reasons.

  7. Jussi,
    is it really that easy to understand the determinable-determinate relation between experiences of colours? Is not the difference merely that for colours, we have external criteria, but for pleasures we don’t?
    Playing Crisps advocate here (as I’m quite willing to do), it might be that the brain state appeal is in recognition of the fact that we are not obviously flawless as phenomenologists. Sometimes we need some hold on reality in order to focus on our own experiences (for instance, I think the discovery of mirror-neurons has enhanced our insight into the similarites of observation and action). But still I say: this should amount to denying the heterogeneity intuition. The original versions of that intuition claimed that there is no sensation such as the experience of pleasure itself. We could agree with that, but still say that pleasures are essentially felt in a certain way, i.e. taking “pleasantness” to be an “aspect of” an experience (which sounds a bit like Aristotle, or the “adverbial” view).

  8. David,
    couple of things. First, I don’t think there is nothing mere about the idea that external reality in the colour case provides the grounds for the determinate/determinable distinction and understanding it. That seems good and right.
    The problem with the brain state appeal is that it is in the wrong place of external reality – not in the objects of enjoyable experiences but in the causal preconditions of the experiences. This is just to echo a classic argument from Kripke and Davidson. The problem is that if the determinable experience of enjoyment is identified with certain brain process, then in some case where I would be enjoying myself without the brain process we ought to find it intuitive to say that I’m wrong. But, that’s untuitive. As Crisp too accepts, we do have a first-person authority when we are experiencing enjoyment. As far as we care, those experiences can be realised in any which way in the physical level of brain activities.
    Also, if pleasentness was an aspect of the enjoyment experiences, then the determinate/determinable route to avoid the heterogeneity argument seems redundant. You could just say that enjoyment is any experience that shares that phenomenological quality. That would be different from the colour case where colour experiences do not share any such feature. But, the basic problem is do enjoyable experiences really share *anything* qualitatively. I have difficulties finding any such feature in introspection.

  9. your write:
    “My intuition is that it is possible (and non-contradictory) to have an experience of enjoyment without believing it to be desirable or without actually desiring to be in that sake.”
    But maybe the idea Sigdwick wanted to articulate was that you must believe the mental state to be desirable for its own sake and for its intrinsic properties.
    (I should go back to Sidgwick. Let me just say that the view I just stated seems more sensible to me).
    Suppose you desire some pain because you think that your sufferance can make someone else happy. This does not count as a pleasure because the reason why you desire is instrumental.
    Your case of guilty pleasures looks similar to me. The reasons why we dislike these pleasures is not intrinsic to them, i.e. it is not something about the way they feel.
    If we talk about an experience, conceived as a mental state, i.e. typically, as identified by its felt quality, it seems to me that the identification between “experiences desired for their own sake and in virtue of their intrinsic properties” and “pleasure” is quite correct.
    P.S. Nobody comes to visit my blog 🙁 I’m trying to argue that we do not have a concept of well-being distinguished from the concept of material conditions, experiential quality, pleasure, and choiceworthiness.
    it’s called “philosophy journal” and it is on blogspot. Sorry for the little spot.

  10. Couple of things. I’m symphatetic to the idea that pleasures are instances of type of experiences that are generally desired for the phenomenological features. However, I’m not sure I want to go as far as say that tokens of pleasure are identical with tokens of mental states that are desired. As Kripke taught us identity requires necesserity, and I think that is lacking in this case. There seems to be occasions when you have the pleasurable experience without the desire for that particular token of experience.
    It is a tempting thought to try to limit the desired qualities to the intrinsic qualities of the experiences. It is also very problematic. Most pleasurable experiences are essential experiences *about* something. Now take any one guilty pleasure – say the pleasure of listening to the latest Britney Spears single. That experience is pleasurable even though you do not desire it. After all it is Britney Spears. Now, your solution would be to say that there is an intrinsic feature of this experience that you desire even though you desire even more not to experience if for exrinsic reasons. My question is, on what grounds do you say that and what is that intrinsic feature you desire?
    One way to test whether there is an intrinsic feature of the experience that you desire would be to remove the Britney Spears song that you don’t desire to experience and ask what in the experience are you left with that your desire. But, this just cannot be done. Remove the song and you remove the experience. Therefore, there are no intrinsic features of the experience to be experienced outside what it is like to experience *that* which you don’t desire to experience. And, I’m not sure why we would want to attribute a desire for an intrinsic feature of an experience that is so elusive – of which nothing can be said. I find it very hard to introspect the intrinsic features of my experiences and determine whether I desire them or not. Sure, I desire things and experiencing them feels like something in general and I can say that I desire experiences I usually get from certain things. But, I’m not sure I can say I desire them under descriptions of certain intrinsic features of those experiences.

  11. Thanks, this sounds more clear than your reply to Sobel’s analogous point. Maybe we could leave aside Kripkean worries for the moment and ask whether, if in this world, pleasures and desirable experiences (desirable for their own sake and in virtue of what they are – intrinsically) coincide.
    (I am too ignorant about stuff about necessary identification.)
    Let me also add that, in general, I believe that, as you show, there is a problem of detachment of the experiential quality from the object. In fact I am actually skeptical of common identification of pleasure as a sensation or as an introspectible experience. But let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that this idea, or at least the idea that pleaures have something to do with the idea of introspectible experience or of qualitative states or qualia as they are sometimes called, make sense for at least some pleasures, if not for all, and maybe not for the most important ones.
    So let me narrow down my point to this question, that sounds interesting to me: if a theory of well-being claims that the only things that affect well-being are those experiential mental states that are desired for their own sake and in virtue of what they are, then would this theory of well-being exclude everything that is not a pleasure?
    Now I think the answer to this question is: yes. That is: this theory will either identify well-being with the empty class or with things that are all pleasures. (Although some of our pleasures may be left out.)
    What kind of pleasures can be identified in this way? I can only think at those descriptions that you can find in philosophical tets. Say, there is a sensation in your skin, with a characteristic felt sensation that you can identify and immediately recognize. Say, you can also identify and immediately recognize this sensation as one that is desirable to have. What you find desirable is to have something that “feels like that”. And you find this to be desirable quite apart from any other consideration. This feeling is desirable in itself (in virtue of what it is, i.e. of the way it feels) and for itself (no other consideration makes it desirable but what it is).
    (Maybe it helps more to think about those felt sensations that we recognize as in-desirable; i.e. certain types of pain). A big deal of philosophical literature is based upon the assumption that it makes sense to talk about such pleasures and displeasures. Let us call them “purely experiential pleasures” (or displeasures).
    The next question is. If we consider this types of pleasure, pure experiential pleasures (that probably are only a subset of normal pleasures) can they be guilty pleasures? Can there be guilty pure experiential pleasures?
    Let us go back to the Britney Spears example and see how it can be analyzed provide that the hypothesis that there are pure experiential pleasures is correct.
    While you listen to a Britney Spears’ song, there is a pure experiential pleasure. That is to say, something about the way you feel when you listen to Britney Spears strikes you as desirable, quite apart from any other consideration about the quality of this music, its complexity, etc… Maybe it is a pleasure that is not even connected necessarily to the Britney Spear’s song-type, for example, it is a pleasure connected to memories that derives from your listening to a Britney Spears in this time of the year, or in a particular environment. This does not make the pleasure in question any less the pleasure “of” listening to B.S’s song, now. There is something, in the way it feels to listen to THIS token of a Britney Spear’s song NOW, that is intrinsically desirable.
    But the experience of listening to the Britney Spear’s song is fenomenologically complex and “layered”. Along with that pure experiential pleasure, there may be a pure experiential displeasure, corresponding to how it feels to listen to that Britney Spears’ song, with some awareness of its musical simplicity and of other aspects of the way Britney’s voice sounds, etc…
    If this description is correct, there need not be pure experiential pleasures that are not desired, in order to explain guilty pleasures. Guilty pleasures are pure experiential pleasures accompained by negative attitudes, which normally are accompained by other pure experiential displeasures.

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