See also [[=Peter Singer]].
## Summary of The Point of View of the Universe
Sidgwick distinguished three different stages of intuitionism: perceptional intuitionism, common sense morality, and philosophical intuitionism. His examination of the morality of common sense is especially noteworthy and is here discussed using the examples of benevolence and truth-telling. Sidgwick concluded that only philosophical intuitionism constitutes a sufficiently precise method of ethics. This chapter considers all three forms of intuitionism and their contemporary or recent exponents. Particularism, as espoused by Dancy, is today the leading form of perceptional intuitionism, while Ross, Gert, and Bok are taken as defenders of the morality of common sense. The chapter defends Sidgwick’s view that neither perceptional intuitionism nor the morality of common sense is philosophically adequate.
## What should we bring about in the world and why pleasure?
Objective theories of wellbeing:
- Objective list theory
- main objection: paternalism
- justified by: intuition
- justified by: appeal to human nature
- objection: what about all the bad bits of human nature
- c.f. Aristotle / Hurka
General issue with objective theories: they point to values that may not resonate with us at all. c.f. that carlsmith alienation post.
Proposes Hedonism as hybrid theory between objective and subjective.
"I believe that pleasure is something that, when you expxerience it, when you feel it you can't help but like it. You can't help but want to preserve it."
The theory is objective becauase you don't need to desire pleasure now.
Sidgwick called it "desirable consciousness". It is a state of consciousness you understand and define in terms of being worthy of your desire. It may not be actually desired but it is worthy of your desire.
Mental state theory.
Axiological, not normative theory.
LR thinks Mill's higher lower distinction is "a total mistake, there is no such thing as higher lower pleasure, if something is good for you you shouldn't mind whether it comes from sex drugs and rock and roll or from opera or nobel prize in literature."
What is pleasure?
- Ryle: disposition
- Feldman: propositional attitude.
- Person takes pleasure in state of affairs if:
- enjoys it
- glad that it is happening
- is delighted by it
- Please need not have any feel. we know we have them not by sensation, but by the same way we know when we believe something or hope for something or fear something.
- Objection: all the fun is gone! No need to feel anything much. Attitude is good but its what you have when you hug a loved one or enjoy a beautiful view or listen to music.
KR: pleasure is a feeling but not a physical sensation. Philosophers often conflate these two kinds of experiences. Very same sensation of touch can make you feel good or bad, depending on who is doing the touching.
What do different pleasures have in common? Reading, being in the sunshine, being with friends, having sex, having fun. How do we know they are all pleasures?
Internalists (e.g. Roger Crisp)—pleasures are united by same characteristic. Element that is present in all experiences.
Objection: against common sense.
Externalists (e.g. William Alston)—denies there is common feature in pleasurable experiences, beyond the fact that they are experiences you want.
Sidgwick: pleasure as desirable consciousness.
KR: Different activities are just sources of pleasure. The pleasure they create is the same in kind. It's a feeling that comes from different things that we do.
Arguments against hedonism are much weaker than supposed.
Sensation is neutral. Feeling is evaluative. Without feeling, you don't know whether you like the sensation or not, whether it is good for you or not. #todo
I think the definition of pleasure is descriptive, but it has a normative element. If there is no normative element, it is not pleasure for a rational human being. When you experience pleasure, it is always on normative level, you cannot be indifferent to it.
Hedonism if taken as a value theory that tries to show what is good for you, goes on a private level, so it's trying to answer the question of what you should aim for, what is your good life. On the normative level, you try to think of how to use the theory to maximise pleasure on the social level, for the whole world. And there are great problems: first of all, pleasure is subjective! Second because I need to learn what brings you pleasure, and what brings pleasure to millions of people. Fortunately I think we are quite similar in our nature, and at least basic pleasures are quite similar. And those which we call "higher" or "higher level" pleasure still come from the basic ones, so from the need for food, shelter and company. In terms of giving principles or rules [for society?], as a general point I believe that deontology or Kantianism is better for that purpose than utilitarianism itself, because it gives a clearer guidance. But I'm absolutely sure that we should aim for the minimalisation of suffering, for example, depression, which is one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in the world.
On the advantages of monistic theories over pluralistic ones...
Problem: monistic theories do not recognise genuine moral dilemmas, genuine conflict. It's always only apparent.
Clearly we value a lot of things. But would we care about any of them if they didn't bring us desirable conscious states? This positive feeling of acceptance of a situation in which we are. This is really Sidgwicks question—would we care about freedom, about justice, if we didn't like them?
**I don't like dilemmas, I want to overcome them. I feel that there must be a guidance. Maybe there is this desire in me to find a proper guidance,** and I worry that with pluralistic theories, its impossible, or maybe you need to end up with particularism, i.e. a pluralistic theory where you need to decide _every time_ what to do. I think you are very right that **I am the kind of person who wants to get the troubles out of my way**, even if getting into another one, that is namely putting everything under the umbrella of pleasure. **I also believe that we make quite a lot of mistakes in terms of choosing our values. And that some choices of those values depend on the culture and the religion that we are in. And so that worries me as well, that simply our pluralistic judgements about values are sometimes irrational.** For example we have this discussion in Poland now, about the rationality of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. We started an uprising against Nazis and it brought a terrible devastation to the whole city, deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, it made no sense at all in terms of consequences. But some people said that it was a sign of our honorable thinking. So there was this honour, this virtue of "doing what needs to be done" even if the consequences were terrible. I think now you can see how people have changed their thinking about values, how now, the value of fighting, even against your enemy, is taking less importance than the value of presevation of your life. So to answer your question: **it's not only a desire to make things easier, and to give reason the possibility of a guidance, but also I simply worry that some of the values that we choose are irrational to have, and that they are based on culture and religion and so on.**
1:36:30: Does your theory show why pleasure is the only thing that matters?
Questioner: http://www.uroboropv.it/CV/GiulioFornaroli.pdf; [email protected]
**In the book I confess that I want to prove that pleasure is a value in itself, but I can't prove that it is the only value.** What I'm trying about those monistic and pluralistic theories is that on the level of theory not of choice between values, its easier to follow monism than pluralism. I wrote about this in Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. But answering your question I think as with all our values, a lot depends on intutitions and on the examples you give. So I still agree that there are many other values. But **if you ask me whether environment has a value in itself, or a piece of art, apart from beings who can experience that, I don't really believe that it does. But as we know, these are my intuitions and you may have very different. So I can nudge you, probably, I can ask you about what you would choose, whether a painting or a being who can suffer, but I know it has its limits and still you may give answers that are different or completely different from mine. And I think its fine. I don't believe I can do anything more. It may be dissapointing, but I don't know how else to do that. So thanks, that's a great point... to my despair, but it's a great point.**
1:41:30 You say you're a monist because its easier to follow. But what if pluralism is true?!
Sidgwick was very concerned with ethics, the normative implications of this model. You've said your concern is axiological. But then you have to give something about the normative implications. [...] On the day to day, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to be weighing, thinking about maximising pleasure? Follow rules? Take into account other values?
LR: Keen to think of hedonism at level of axiology because it is clearer if you don't think about ways to generate pleasure, how to maximise the value.
I'm a utilitarian, I believe that pleasure should be maximised. So I'm a maximising utilitarian. **Some believe that you don't need to maximise, but I think that in the world as it is now, with so much pain, that's the reasonable thing because there is so much to do. And I take it that you should do that in a more or less impartial way.** So I believe in impartial moral reasons for action, of the sort Parfit proposed in On What Matters. So of course there is this huge discussion about the struggle between partial and impartial reasons for actions. It's a complicated discussion but I believe that we should argue that rationality goes with impartiality more or less. So partial reasons are not really rationally objective reasons.
**When it comes to action, I try to think of it through the prism of what I call the risk theory. So I know that I can be mistaken and I try to act so as to minimise the harm that I could do.** And since I know that at least in what they say people are not all hedonists, they value different things, then knowing that I might be mistaken I take that into account as well. And I try to act in accordance with what they want and what they believe, in some of course reasonable borders.
As for Sidgwick and following the rules... if we proceed with giving arguments, some of the arguments work, and we can see that some of the arguments work. Sometimes these are not reasonable arguments, these are emotions for example. PETA for example, often uses emotional arguments to push people towards the values they have in mind. There is this really interesting aspect of utilitarianism as a theory, which Parfit calls "self-effacing". He says that utilitarianism is "self-effacing", hiding behind other theories, using them as instruments to bring about the best possibile consequences we can have, under the circumstances we have. So a utilitarian can, I believe, use all of that, use deontology, virtue ethics and talk about character, the importance of rules in society in politics, the importance of being open with rules and intentions, all of it because we take into account the whole psychological aspect of how we are and who we are and how we view the values. So in terms of instruments, it's a very very broad theory. It can swallow most of ethics, I believe. It's only when you start talking about a "true theory" that utilitarianism will say "aah take me take me", because then it will try to argue that the reasons and first principles or axioms that they propose are the true ones, objectively true.
## 3AM Interview
**3:AM:** So for Sidgwick, what is ethics, its methods and what is a philosopher up to when she’s investigating them? And what does it mean to say there is a ‘point of view of the universe’?
**KLR:** Sidgwick defines ethics as a study of what we ought to do as opposed to other studies such as psychology or biology that tell you what is the case. The methods of ethics are rational procedures which we, individual beings, use to determine what we ought to do. In everyday life we are often not very consistent: we use many different methods, and we mix them as well. But Sidgwick is a scholar and he wants to make them scientific. Therefore he will separate them carefully and underline differences between them. He will talk of egoism, intuitionism and utilitarianism.
As for the most important expression: “the point of view of the universe” that is to symbolize an impartial concern for everyone. Sidgwick calls for impartiality in ethics and thinks that when deciding what we ought to do, we should try to take an impartial perspective – not mine, not yours, not my children’s but “the point of view of the universe”. Rawls, Nagel and Parfit will all refer to that perspective in their works later on.
**3:AM:** What does rationality add up to in Sidgwick? Is this a return to Kantianism and a kick back against Hume and Hare and is it part of the reason why Sidgwick rejects common sense ethics?
**KLR:** I do think Sidgwick was influenced by [Kant](https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am//treating-people-as-ends-in-themselves/) in this respect, but also by such English intuitionists as Thomas Reid or William Whewell as well as Coleridge. He did believe in reason and rationality. But he also saw a great crack in it. Claiming that both maximizing my own good and maximizing impartial good is rational, he could not reach a final answer to the most important question of his inquiry: what ought I to do? When in a tragic situation, should I save my own child or rather a few children of complete strangers? Sidgwick regretted to say that but he confesses at the end of The Methods that reason may not give us a final answer. That would be tragic indeed as it would open the door to subjectivism again. Peter Singer and I tried to help Sidgwick to overcome that chaos. We claim that only impartial action is fully rational.
As for his rejection of common sense. He is not satisfied with rules given by common sense as he finds them unclear, vague, not self-evident.
**3:AM:** And does this mean that he is out of line with someone like Rawls who’d argue that we need to find a ‘reflective equilibrium between theory and considered moral judgments? Where do you stand on this?
**KLR:** This is an interesting question but I treat it more as a problem of justification. First, unlike Rawls, both Sidgwick and we are interested in truth and finding true moral principles. Now the question is do we use coherentism or foundationalism to find out the truth. Reflective equilibrium seems a useful tool but as Hare, in his review of _[The Theory of Justice](http://www.ditext.com/hare/rawls1.html)_, recalled Plato saying: "If a man starts from something he knows not, and the end and middle of his argument are tangled together out of what he knows not, how can such a mere consensus ever turn into knowledge?" (Rep. 533 c). On the other hand, foundationalism can lead easily to dogmatism. We tried our best to stand somewhere in between those two.
**3:AM:** Are you sympathetic to the foundational self-evident axioms Sidgwick uses? Is this where the idea of ‘rational intuition’ comes in – and your use of Parfit’s ‘Future Tuesday Indifference’? Can you explain the argument here? And why wouldn’t this be congenial to contemporary economists who might have expected to find a defence of their models of rationality in this approach?
**KLR:** Yes, we are sympathetic to Sidgwick’s appeal to self-evident axioms, especially his axiom of rational benevolence, which is linked to taking “the point of view of the universe.” We argue that this is a rational axiom, because, in contrast to many other moral intuitions, our acceptance of it cannot be debunked by an evolutionary explanation.
Parfit’s uses the idea of “Future Tuesday Indifference” in a slightly different context, to argue against the subjectivist view that what is rational is always dependent on a person’s ultimate desires, or ends. A person who is indifferent to what happens to him on any future Tuesday (and therefore, when offered a choice between being pinched today and hours of torture next Tuesday, chooses the torture) may be acting in accordance with his bizarre set of desires, but he is still irrational. Contemporary economists assume that a view of rationality that is subjectivist, or as they would call it, instrumentalist, so they won’t find this argument congenial. It will force them to reexamine their fundamental assumptions about rationality.
**3:AM:** This is a form of hedonism isn’t it? How does Sidgwick understand hedonism – and are you sympathetic?
**KLR:** Well, you can be a hedonist no matter whether you are a rule or an act utilitarian. A hedonist defines the good which you should maximize in terms of happiness or pleasure. For Sidgwick the two were the same thing and he defines pleasure as desirable consciousness, that is a state of mind which you desire at the time of feeling it.
**3:AM:** The ‘repugnant conclusion’ argument of Parfit regarding optimal population growth seems on the face of it a pretty decisive one for rejecting utilitarianism doesn’t it? How do you handle this issue so we can remain utilitarians?
**KLR:** I don’t see this as a ground for rejecting utilitarianism at all. Parfit’s “repugnant conclusion” is an objection to one way of answering the simple question that Sidgwick was the first to raise: if by increasing the population, the average level of welfare decreases, but because everyone still has lives that are, on balance, happy, the total amount of happiness in the world increases, is that a good thing? What Parfit has shown is that all of the answers that seem plausible – not just those offered by Sidgwick or other utilitarians – lead to either inconsistency or counter-intuitive judgments. Therefore it isn’t as if non-utilitarians do any better in answering the question than utilitarians.