Reviving Hedonism about Well-Being: Refuting the Argument from False Pleasures and Restricting the Relevance of Intuitive 'Evidence'
Throughout the vast majority of its history, hedonism about well-being has been perennially unpopular (Feldman 2004). The arguments in this essay take steps towards reviving the plausibility of hedonism about well-being. The main argument currently used to refute hedonism about well-being, the Argument from False Pleasures, is shown to lack sufficient evidence to be compelling. The main evidence provided for the Argument from False Pleasures comes in the form of two thought experiments, the Experience Machine (Nozick 1974) and the Deceived Businessman (Kagan 1998). These thought experiments typically produce strong intuitive responses, which are used to directly support the Argument from False Pleasures. This essay investigates how theories of well-being are currently evaluated by moral philosophers, with a specific focus on the place our intuitions have in the process. Indeed, the major role that moral intuitions play in evaluating theories of well-being, despite their sometimes dubious epistemic credentials, leads to an in-depth enquiry into their inner workings and potential for containing normatively significant information. The investigation, which draws on the work of Woodward and Allman (2007), concludes that intuitions about unrealistic thought experiments should not play an important role in evaluating theories of well-being. Rather, they should only act as a warning sign, highlighting moral propositions for further analysis. Based on these findings, a new method for assessing theories of well-being is suggested and applied to a specific internalist account of hedonism about well-being to show how the Deceived Businessman and Experience Machine thought experiments lack normative significance, leaving the Argument from False Pleasures without sufficient evidence to be compelling. Indeed, this essay concludes that the Argument from False Pleasures should no longer be thought to provide any good reason to believe that hedonism about well-being is implausible. This result is only one step on the road to reviving hedonism about well-being, but it is a very important one.