It’s fairly common to talk about welfare in three categories: hedonism, desire satisfaction, and objectivism (where this includes views like perfectionism and the objective list view). But this always seemed a little strange to me–there’s loads of logical space missing here. So I prefer the following categorization: hedonism, subjectivism, and objectivism. Define “subjectivism” as the view that that a necessary condition of the welfare value of x is agential ratification. I leave “agential ratification” purposefully vague; I mean desires, evaluative beliefs, etc., whether actual, idealized, or dispositional. Define “objectivism” as the view that denies subjectivism: there can be xs that enhance welfare independent of desires, preferences, or agential ratification whether actual or idealized. But this is puzzling as well: the distinction between subjectivism and objectivism appears to capture the whole of logical space! So where does hedonism fall?

Different hedonists have gone different ways on this matter. If I may be so bold, the “classical” approach to hedonism has been to situate hedonism within subjectivism. This gambit attempts to show that an independently motivated subjectivist view yields that all and only pleasure is valuable. For instance, Epicurus suggests that a certain class of our desires, i.e., “necessary” desires, determine our well-being, and our necessary desires point to pleasure and the absence of pain only. Sidgwick appears to support hedonism on the basis of an informed desire account of well-being. Depending on how you read the first paragraph of the Introduction, Bentham adopts a subjectivist strategy (maybe). Elements of this sort of view are found in Hume and Hutcheson. (For simplicity I’ll just assume that subjectivist views are–roughly–desire views; I don’t think this alters any of the points I want to make.)

The problem with this view is that in order for hedonism to be compatible with subjectivism, the relevant subjectivist view must be narrowed to such a degree that it appears to lack any independent motivation. A simple desire satisfaction view won’t do, because psychological hedonism is false; we all recall Nozick’s experience machine. But then we must narrow the range of the relevant preferences or desires to, say, desires for pleasure. I’m skeptical, however, that such a view could be defended without an antecedent commitment to hedonism. Let’s say I desire achievement, knowledge, and pleasure, all for their own sake (after undergoing whatever idealized process is involved). Why suggest that only my desire for pleasure is relevant to my well-being? One could, of course, be convinced that hedonism is true, and be adopting a subjectivist view that yields the conclusion one wants–that pleasure and only pleasure is good for people. But this move appears to wreck the subjectivism of the view in question. In particular, the explanatory relationship is reversed. Rather than accepting the value of pleasure on the basis of the evaluative credentials of the subjective view in question, we impart evaluative credentials on a particular subjective view given a prior commitment to the exclusive value of pleasure. In other words, it’s the commitment to hedonism doing the evaluative work here, not the subjective view in question. And if the commitment to hedonism isn’t coming from the independently motivated subjective view, hedonism can’t be subjective.

Others suggest that hedonism is objective–that all and only pleasure is good no matter what a given agent prefers or desires. On this proposal, hedonism would be a subset of objective list views: an objective list view with only one element. Hedonism is thus an extremely strong objective list view: pleasure and only pleasure is good. Many objective list views accept that pleasure is good (cf. Richard Arneson on “cheap thrills”). The question now before us is why can’t other things go on the objective list, too? Why not include, for instance, the value of genuine achievement for its own sake?

Presumably the response would be that, consulting our considered judgments, pleasure and only pleasure belongs on the objective list. Genuine achievements can only be instrumental for pleasure. However, if hedonism is objective, I wonder if a lynchpin in this sort of argument goes down the tubes. To see what I mean, consider the following from Feldman:

Suppose some pluralist tells me that knowledge and virtue will make my life better. Suppose I dutifully go on about gaining knowledge and virtue. After a tedious and exhausting period of training, I become knowledgeable. I behave virtuously. I find the whole thing utterly unsatisfying. The pluralist tells me that my life is going well for me. I dispute it. I think I might be better off intellectually or morally, but my welfare is, if anything, going downhill. Surely a man might have lots of knowledge and virtue and yet have a life that is not good in itself for him.

Here Feldman appears to be making a plausible appeal: welfare should resonate with the agent whose welfare it is. But if hedonism is objective, I wonder if it is any better shape vis-a-vis resonance than a wider objective list view. Imagine that I desire to gain knowledge and virtue, I desire these things for their own sake, and I’m willing to give up substantial pleasure to gain them because I find pleasure base and unworthy (imagine that I also find attitudinal pleasure base and unworthy; I’m not Stoicus). Now I have lots of pleasure but no knowledge or virtue; I’ve taken lots of pleasure in things, but haven’t achieved what I want. The hedonist tells me my life is going well for me. I dispute it. Hedonism appears as though it can’t guarantee resonance unless it’s interpreted subjectively. The hedonist might just say that she wins the reflective equilibrium sweepstakes even without resonance. But if we give up the resonance constraint, this seems to open the door to a number of objective views including–gasp!–perfectionism.

I’m sure I’ve gone wrong somewhere. Help me, hedonists; you’re my only hope!

22 Replies to “Hedonism and Categorization

  1. Wow. Sorry for such a long post! And sorry for increasing the length by commenting on how long the post is!

  2. Dale, this is really good stuff! Inclined as I am against hedonism, I too look for an instructive reply…

  3. Hi Dale, interesting post. My impression is that you are reading something into Feldman that isn’t there. I don’t think Feldman would endorse any “resonance” constraint. In the passage you quote, he is merely expressing a judgment that the virtuous, knowledgeable, pleasure-free life would not be good for him. As far as I can tell, he’s not making the additional claim that this life would not be good for him *because he doesn’t want it*. And he’s right not to endorse a resonance constraint, because to endorse a resonance constraint is just to be some sort of desire satisfactionist, right?
    I don’t think Feldman really takes himself to be saying anything that would convince someone who was on the fence about these matters. He’s just expressing his judgment about the virtuous pleasure-free life, and hoping you’ll agree upon reflection.

  4. Ben –
    You’re quite right; I was picking on Feldman for the purposes of convenient illustration. (Musing here: couldn’t a Feldman scholar suggest that he appears to be offering reasons why we might judge that a knowlegeable person lives a bad life: that the agent herself has something to say in response, and that something is decisive, and that something tracks enjoyment? Anyway, I suppose that is perhaps not the intended reading.) But leaving aside Feldman I think the problem remains, i.e., any objective hedonist has got to figure out what sets pleasure apart from the other purported members of an objective list.

  5. Dale,
    You write: “I think the problem remains, i.e., any objective hedonist has got to figure out what sets pleasure apart from the other purported members of an objective list.” But do you think that this problem is specific to objective hedonism? Don’t all objective list theorists have to figure out what sets those things that they include on the list apart from those things that they exclude from the list? And this isn’t really a problem, right? It’s more of a challenge. You’re challenging the objective list theorist to defend his or her particular conception of what does and doesn’t go on the list. Fair enough, but you haven’t given any reason to think that the objective list theorist can’t meet this challenge, have you? For instance, the objective hedonist could just argue that her version of the objective list theory beats out other versions in “the reflective equilibrium sweepstakes.” I don’t see what the problem is. All objective list theories “open the door to a number of objective views” and so need to defend they particular view about what goes on the list.

  6. Couple of small points:
    1. I think I like the old classification more. I think it illuminates something which the new distinction hides. I take it that one interesting feature of theories of well-being is what they take the ‘well-being-makers’ to be. So, you get the basic distinction between people’s life being better because of (i) pleasure (or other phenomenal states), (ii) satisfaction of some intentional states per se, or (iii) having some substantial goods present in life.
    This picture allows us to understand the difference between (ii) and the version of (iii) in which having certain substantial goods from the list makes agent’s life better on the condition that the agent has certain wanting attitudes towards them. Unlike in (ii) on this view the satisfaction of mental states does not in itself make life better – it only is a enabling condition for the other things to make life go better. But, as far as I can see, in your classification both of these views would go under subjectivism. I might want to retain the distinction between these views.
    2. I’m not sure what to say about the hedonism issue. I do think though it might be worth saying something about pleasure. There are two main views about what it is. So, you might first think that pleasure is to be in some phenomenal state one wants to have. If such a desiring state is required for picking out pleasure, then hedonism would come under subjectivism on your distinction. Maybe this form of hedonism could say that, insofar as knowing and having achieved things are states one is aware of and wants to be in, they too count as pleasant states. This would be a way of arguing that only pleasure counts, by extending the notion of pleasure.
    The second view of pleasure would be the view that pleasure is distinct phenomenal state with its own ‘feel’. This view would be more natural under the objective view in your classification. Of course, this raises the issue you bring up in the end about cases where you want to say ‘I don’t care much about that’. I think that is a fair point.

  7. Dale, when you ask (the hedonist) what sets pleasure apart from other objective list candidates, are you asking what our (or a hedonist’s) evidence is, or what makes one thing rather than another be an objective good?
    Doug seems to be understanding your question as the epistemic one. I thought it was the metaphysical one.

  8. Doug –
    It’s a challenge. But I’m not convinced that the challenge is equally difficult to answer for all objective views. The difference is in terms of degree–but it remains a significant difference. Let me say a bit more. Hedonism as an objective list view must rule out every other candidate besides pleasure. But the attaction of an objective list view, I thought, was that, shorn of the requirement for theoretic unification, we could throw any thing that appears to increase one’s welfare value on the list. You like pleasure? Goes on the list! You like virtue? Goes on the list! Now the hedonist has to give me some reason why pleasure, and not every other thing we think is intrinsically valuable should go on the list. Resonance appears to be a natural answer, but this only works insofar as one is committed to subjectivism, not objectivism. The objective hedonist will surely cast her lot with an appeal to reflective equilibrium, but given that the wider objective list can accommodate more rather than fewer of our considered judgments (if they are genuine judgments), I don’t know why the wider list doesn’t just win this game.
    Jussi –
    Fair point. I like the newer distinction because I’ve got a view I want to call “subjective” but that isn’t a desire view. So this is really just a sneaky bit of philosophical Three-Card-Monty. And I recognize that some people wouldn’t want to call their favorite hybrid view genuinly subjective. But insofar as one can divide up logical space in this way, I think there’s a worry for hedonism.
    Jamie –
    I don’t think I was making a firm distinction between the metaphysical and epistemological question–my own view is that they are the same question. But leaving this aside, I think you could phrase it either way. You, objective hedonist, what makes pleasure objectively valuable, but no other thing? You, objective hedonist, why should we believe that pleasure, and no other thing, is objectively valuable? I’m prepared, however, to think that phrasing the question in one way rather than another is more problematic. So I hereby encourage you to interpret the question in a way that is the most damaging for hedonism, on your view.

  9. Interesting post, Dale. Instead of trying to respond on behalf of the hedonist, I wanted to explain why I think at least some desire theorists are in the same boat as the hedonists here. I think there are two importantly different kinds of desire theory of welfare. On one kind, what is good for us are the objects of our desires. This is paradigmatic subjectivism and is the version of the view I believe you had in mind.
    On the other kind of desire theory, what’s good for us is getting what we want, or desire satisfactions. These are more complex states of affairs consisting of someone’s getting something they want. The difference sounds trivial, but I don’t think it is. The topic of your post brings out one way in which it’s not trivial. This second sort of desire theory is less subjectivistic, in that on this view, desire satisfactions are good for us independent of our ratification of them. They are good for us “whether we like it or not.” (This is especially clear when we consider future desire satisfactions involving things we don’t now want.) It therefore seems to be, like hedonism, a form of objective list theory with just one item on the objective list. Perhaps, then, this desire theorist must likewise figure out what sets desire satisfaction apart from other purported members of an objective list.
    BTW, I didn’t cook up this distinction between kinds of desire theory just in response to your post. I actually think the latter, less-subjectivistic version of the desire theory is more defensible.

  10. Hm, it’s hard for me to see how they (what I called the epistemological and metaphysical questions) could be the same question. For instance, I think a pretty reasonable answer to the metaphysical question, for a hedonist, would be, “Nothing”. But that would be a lousy answer to the epistemological question.
    I would have thought that the answer a hedonist gives to the epistemological question is just whatever he thinks the argument for hedonism is. I guess different hedonists will have different arguments.

  11. Dale, you say:
    “But the attaction of an objective list view, I thought, was that, shorn of the requirement for theoretic unification, we could throw any thing that appears to increase one’s welfare value on the list.”
    But part of the attraction of hedonism is that it provides theoretic unification – just as much as desire satisfactionism does. This seems to be a point in favor of hedonism over the objective list theory. If you have more than one thing on the list, you have to say something about how to weigh those things against each other – otherwise, you don’t really have much of a theory. Do any objective list theorists have anything good to say about this weighing?

  12. One other little point, about Chris’s comment. I’m inclined to think that Chris’s point about different formulations of desire satisfactionism suggests that the distinction between “objective” and “subjective” theories is pretty unimportant, since every plausible theory will either (i) be on the objectivist side, or (ii) have a very close (and probably more plausible) relative on the objectivist side. When we’ve got theories as similar to one another as the versions of desire satisfactionism described by Chris, it seems implausible that there could be a real worry about one of them being subject to a “ratification” worry while the other isn’t.

  13. Hi all,
    Dale wrote,

      “But the attaction of an objective list view, I thought, was that, shorn of the requirement for theoretic unification, we could throw any thing that appears to increase one’s welfare value on the list.”

    Consider the hedonist who says, “Whether you want it or like it or affirm it or not, episodes of pleasure directly increase your well-being.” This hedonist does not first say, “Ah, I will go for an objectivist list theory,” and then decide that the only thing that goes on his list is pleasure. The hedonist just says, “Hey, I think that episodes of pleasure are the fundamental building-blocks of well-being. That’s my theory. Show me the counter-examples.” I do not see why anyone who departs from a subjectivist theory (i.e., one that uses some sort of “agential-ratification”) has a special burden to explain why they are not a pluralist.
    Parfit’s traditional categorization of theories is not exhaustive (it may not be exclusive, either, for the reason mentioned by Dale, or if there is a suitably tight connection between pleasure and desire-satisfaction). Non-exhaustiveness is probably not a problem in and of itself, as all logically possible theories of well-being are probably not equally plausible. So it seems okay to focus on the ones that are. A more serious problem is that Parfit’s categorization does not easily classify some more recent views. It does not easily classify Sumner’s “authentic happiness” theory. Nor does it have a place for the versions of aim-achievementism recently developed by Scanlon and Keller (and me, in my doctoral dissertation). It is not an ideal taxonomy. However, I’m not sure that Dale’s replacement taxonomy is much better (especially given the vagueness of “agential ratification”). Perhaps we could sort all the going theories into his two categories (certain versions of hedonism, desire-satisfactionism, and aim-achievementism will probably end up on the objectivist side, which is a little surprising). Perhaps these categories are also exhaustive. But they seem to “overlook” or “ignore” as many important differences as they identify. I do not think they will prove to be very useful.

  14. Hi all –
    Thanks for the comments. First impressions:
    Jason –
    Re: which views are objective or subjective. I think the distinction between objective and subjective gets determined by what counts as agential ratification. It seems you, Ben, and Chris interpret this rather narrowly–as resonance. But I deny that we need interpret agential ratification in this way. In fact, I want to interpret it much more widely. Consider the following: x is agentially ratified by y if y, at some point in 4-D space, whether in actual or idealized conditions, takes a positive mental stance toward x. So what’s a positive mental stance? Again, I want to interpret this widely: I mean a desire, a belief that x is better than, say, nothing, or a belief that x contributes to the agent’s welfare, etc. In this case, I would think that the achievement view, the second version of desire satisfactionism, etc., would be classified as subjective. But there remains a problem for hedonism here. Because if hedonism still cannot be guaranteed to be the outcome of agential ratification in this sense. Hence it must be objective. So why does it beat wider objective views? Anyway, that’s the worry.
    But I want to defend my taxonomy! Consider the following sort of view: the best life for you is the one you believe is most valuable for you. On my picture, that’s subjectivist because the agent has to believe (or believe under certain ideal circumstances, or whatever) that the life is better than others. Parfit’s original distinction doesn’t adequately address the similarities between this view and a desire view, and how these views are both opposed to, say, perfectionism. But the “subjective”/”objective” distinction captures, I think, an important difference between views that require agential ratification and those that don’t. I’m not saying it’s the only way to divide various views, or that it captures everything you’d want out of a taxonomy, but it’s a way to divide them that highlights what I think are very interesting and noteworthy features of competing positions. (In particular, it seems to fit nicely Dick Arneson’s description of objective versus non-objective views in “Human Flourishing versus Desire Satisfaction”.)
    Does the objective hedonist have to be an objective list theorist? Well, the hedonist needn’t think of herself as an OL theorist, but it seems to me that’s what she is. If she wants to be an objective hedonist, she’s got to argue that her candidate for the objective list (hedonism only) is better than a wider objective list. It comes down, I think, to which view can better capture more of our considered judgments. But I think there are good reasons for believing that such a narrow objective view probably loses that battle.
    Ben –
    I’m not convinced that all plausible views will be at or near the objective side. See above on “objective/subjective”.
    Re: theoretic unity. Yes! That’s a good suggestion! In fact, perfectionists argue against OLers on this basis: Brink calls the objective list a “disorganized heap of goods.” So I think this is a good move. One worry I have about it is that I’m not sure how far the appeal to theoretic unity goes, whether the appeal of theoretic unity is enough to tip the scales in favor of hedonism. But I admit that this is a possible way to go. Unfortunately hedonism here needs to compete with other theories that provide theoretic unity. I’m thinking of a less strenuous perfectionism, something like George Sher’s “near unavoidable and near universal human goals”, something like that. (This would be an objective view given that it would not require agential ratification.) This appears to allow knowledge, say, and maybe a few other things, but also pleasure, with theoretic unity, to boot. But that’s a nice move.
    Jamie –
    Here’s one way the questions could be the same. Our evidence for believing moral/evaluative propositions appears to be a reflective equilibrium test, a test of coherent belief. But one could say that what makes hedonism good is our coherent belief that it’s good. (The explanation for subjective views appears to involve an intervening step of agential ratification, but for an objective view, I would think that the coherent belief set fully explains pleasure’s goodness.)
    Chris –
    See above on “subjective/objective”. If you define agential ratification more narrowly than I want to, I admit this might be an objective view, though that view might be able to appeal to the wider form of agential ratification in fending off competitor objective views, no?

  15. Good stuff. I’m inclined to share the view of hedonism as objective, since it gives up what I take to be subjectivism’s most compelling motivation–a putative ability to deflect worries about paternalism (crudely, “who are you to say what’s good for me?”). But you could legitimately draw the distinction differently depending on your interests.
    That said, I think it is not *in the first instance* an objectivist theory–it is chiefly motivated by the seemingly obvious prudential (dis)value of certain experiences. (Eg, extreme nausea.) If anything is good/bad for us, such experiences are. Yet nothing else seems to be valuable in just the same way. Hedonic value seems sui generis. Ergo, hedonism.
    So hedonism is an objectivist theory with strong pressures *not* to add further goods, since nothing else seems to have the same kind of value. Ignorance may be bad, but not it seems in the same way that chemo is bad.
    This I think makes problems for anyone who wants to avoid hedonism, including me. Only hedonism seems to offer a plausible account of pleasure’s value, yet hedonism seems (to me) intolerably narrow as a theory of WB.
    Sorry if this overlooks or repeats any earlier posts!

  16. Dale,
    I didn’t mean to be defining agential ratification more narrowly than you want to. I meant to be using your definition. As you just put it, it is that “x is agentially ratified by y if y, at some point in 4-D space, whether in actual or idealized conditions, takes a positive mental stance toward x.”
    On the version of desire satisfactionism I have in mind, our desire satisfactions are what’s good for us. Since it is no part of the concept of a desire satisfaction that it be ratified by the subject in order for it to occur, it seems to me that a desire satisfaction can occur without the subject ratifying it (at any point in 4-D space, whether in actual or idealized conditions). I admit such cases would be bizarre. In typical cases, we are prepared to ratify our getting what we want. But the same is true of pleasure, too: although it is possible to get pleasure without ratifying it, in typical cases, we are prepared to ratify our pleasures.
    Thus, since desire satisfactions can occur without being ratified by us, and since the theory says that all desire satisfactions are good for us, the theory can’t claim that being ratified by us is what makes desire satisfactions good for us.

  17. Chris –
    Ah! I see all now. Thanks for posting. That’s an interesting position, and I see your point now that it does seem to generate the same problem as hedonism. But I suppose I’m inclined to think that there’s a problem with desire-satisfactionism as you present it, just as there’s a problem with hedonism in this regard. I guess I’m inclined to resist the view, generally speaking, insofar as at least one form of ratification seems crucially important to me: evaluative belief, rather than desire (where this can come apart from desire). But I don’t have any real argument for this, it’s just a hunch. In any event, I see the problem more clearly now.
    Dan –
    Thanks for the suggestion. I guess I’m not quite seeing the force of the problem for wider OLers. The OLer can admit that extreme nausea can be quite bad, and bad in “not the same way” as, say, ignorance. But does this amount to anything more than just saying that extreme nausea is really painful in a way that ignorance isn’t? Isn’t that what differentiates extreme nausea and ignorance? I could admit that being painful is an indicator of badness, if I were an OLer, but that wouldn’t be any reason not to beef up the objective list with other things I think are bad. One might say that pain is just obviously bad in a way that ignorance isn’t–because it’s, I dunno, so manifest or something to the agent. Pain commands mental attention in a way that, say, ignorance doesn’t. But (a) I wonder if this doesn’t smuggle in a veiled assumption of hedonism–that in order for something to be bad it must “command mental attention” in the way that pain does; (b) it seems to me perfectly obvious that one’s life goes worse on the basis of things that don’t command this kind of mental attention–say one’s gradual descent into alcoholism, or the gradual ruination of one’s career (say, Barry Bonds style, where this happens over a long period of time). Have I missed the point you were suggesting?

  18. One familiar hunch of some hedonists is that people actually desire all and only pleasure so hedonism is not an alternative to empirically informed desire accounts.
    One key issue is how to understand pleasure. If a hedonist has a desire-based understanding of pleasure, then their project would be to say that desires for things besides pleasure are not connected to well-being (the best desire based accounts will have to restrict some informed desires from counting towards one’s well-being, I think).
    If they think that pleasure is a phenomenal state not necessarily connected with desire, then I say they are offering an objective list account with a short list.

  19. One familiar hunch of some hedonists is that people actually desire all and only pleasure so hedonism is not an alternative to empirically informed desire accounts.
    One key issue is how to understand pleasure. If a hedonist has a desire-based understanding of pleasure, then their project would be to say that desires for things besides pleasure are not connected to well-being (the best desire based accounts will have to restrict some informed desires from counting towards one’s well-being, I think).
    If they think that pleasure is a phenomenal state not necessarily connected with desire, then I say they are offering an objective list account with a short list.

  20. One familiar hunch of some hedonists is that people actually desire all and only pleasure so hedonism is not an alternative to empirically informed desire accounts.
    One key issue is how to understand pleasure. If a hedonist has a desire-based understanding of pleasure, then their project would be to say that desires for things besides pleasure are not connected to well-being (the best desire based accounts will have to restrict some informed desires from counting towards one’s well-being, I think).
    If they think that pleasure is a phenomenal state not necessarily connected with desire, then I say they are offering an objective list account with a short list.

  21. Dale–Actually, I think pleasure is *less* of a problem for OLers than others, because they aren’t even trying to provide a rationale for the items in their theory, beyond intuitive plausibility. (I am talking about those who simply posit brute lists of goods, so Aristotelian objectivists, who draw on extremely elegant theoretical framework, don’t count. B/c of this, Parfit’s terminology seems to me badly misleading.) The items on those lists come cheap, with no need for theoretical integration. But you get what you pay for. (I tend to view such accounts as “placeholders” to get us by until we can come up with a real theory. Perhaps such a view can be defended by “metaethical ascent”–eg, Humeans who ground value in human sensibilities could show why people should tend to exhibit sympathetic concern regarding goods of type x, y, and z. So the normative account of WB is just a list, but the list is justified and constrained by your metaethics.)
    But hedonism isn’t naturally thought of as any kind of list theory at all (except in the trivial sense that all theories of WB offer “lists” of goods). Prima facie, it offers a well-motivated, plausible and remarkably powerful unifying account of prudential value. (Even if false!) There is no special question of adding more items to the theory, and indeed excellent reason not to, beyond the issue almost all theories face: that some goods aren’t intuitively accommodated by the view. The problem isn’t “why stop there?” but “can it explain the phenomena?” (See Crisp’s “hedonism reconsidered” for a wonderful discussion.)
    By contrast, take a simple list theory with 2 items: knowledge and friendship. This immediately looks ad hoc and gerrymandered, raising very pointedly the question, “why stop there?” And of course you won’t want to stop there, because that list is preposterous. So you keep adding further items until you’ve accommodated all the intuitions (of whom?). Hedonism isn’t ad hoc like this at all, so this problem doesn’t arise for it. And unlike the above list, it at least seems to come close to being right–it isn’t crazy. (And as Kagan and others have noted, “WB” may cover multiple categories of value, so that anti-hedonistic intuitions could actually relate to a different sort of value.)
    BTW, I like your notion of “agential ratification”–though it seems to me to load heavily on certain sorts of desires, like values. (Which is what I think smart subjectivists will want to emphasize anyway.)

  22. Dan –
    Thanks for clearing that up. I had a sneaking suspicion that the worry is as you state it: theoretic unity. And like I said earlier, I think that’s a powerful proposal to make for the hedonists. But my own view is that the demand for theoretic unity is just one considered judgment among many–I have a CJ that my theory ought to accommodate the instrinsic badness of failed goals, ignorance, etc., I also have a CJ that my theory ought to be unified. Insofar as these CJs conflict, one of them has to go, and I’m not totally sure that the theoretic unity CJ isn’t going to be the one to get axed. Maybe this is a “metaethical ascent” move–that the true theory just is the one picked out in reflective equilibrium, and if so, the OL view might be successful. By way of explaining the phenomena, I think this proposal works, too. I take it that most OLers will have some sort of a commitment to a view in this ballpark, otherwise I don’t see their view as having any legs at all. Anyway, that’s what I’d say if I were an OLer. But that’s a great point as you make it.
    David –
    I’m actually surprised that fewer hedonists haven’t gone for the subjectivist route, considering it appears to be very popular with the hedonists of old. But as I said in the original post, I’m unsure how you could motivate the restriction of desires to pleasure only (or, say, to desires for “mental states,” where pleasure just is a “desirable mental state”) without an antecedent commitment to hedonism. And then it seems to me that the desires are just a middleman.

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