Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Veridical Enjoyment

I want to further pursue the possible distinction between welfare and the good life. Recall that although the quality of a life is best captured by an externalist 'Success Theory', it seems that the well-being of a person might be internalistic, in that only influences which actually impact upon the person may be deemed relevant.

These considerations support the "Experience Requirement" -- something affects our well-being only if it affects our experiences. This is typically assumed to be an internalist theory, as it appears to render the external world irrelevant to the assessment of our well-being. But I want to question that assumption. I want to suggest that whether an experience is veridical (i.e. corresponding to reality, rather than being a mere illusion) is a property that is relevant to our well-being.

Let us define the word 'enjoyment' so that it is not merely synonymous with pleasure, but rather is directed at some worldly object. So, for me to enjoy my success, it must be the case that I really am, in fact, successful. Otherwise my pleasure is misdirected; I am not really enjoying success, but rather am misled into feeling pleasure at an illusion. 'Enjoyment' is thus understood as pleasure felt in accurate appreciation of the way the world is. It is enjoyment of an object, and thus depends upon the external reality. (We might say that enjoyment is "factive" -- if S enjoys that P, then P is true.) And let us understand 'suffering' analogously, as a pain or loss that corresponds to the way the world really is, as opposed to resting on a mistaken belief.

Given these technical definitions, I propose that a person's well-being depends not on their pleasure and pain, but rather, their enjoyment and suffering. This compromise between hedonist and desire theories captures some of the most important features of each. In particular, it escapes the 'experience machine' objections to hedonism, rightly concluding that mistaken/illusory pleasures are lacking in a crucial respect, whilst meeting the plausible requirement that what's good for a person must affect that person.

1 comment:

  1. My view now is that "veridical enjoyment" views suffer from an objection similar to the Experience Machine. The reason is that veridical enjoyment does not rule out selective perception of reality and selective memory. Hence one may end up living in a sort of dream, even if he only has veridical enjoyments.

    You define veridical enjoyment as "accurate appreciation of the way the world is". But, if I understand you well, I must be aware of my (real) success, in order to be made better-off by it. The other side of this claim, is that I must be aware of my (real) lack of success, or what have you, in order to be made worse-off by it. This is why you cannot rule out the strategy of selective perception.
    I discuss this with a thought experiement in this post:


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