High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

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High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Carleas » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:50 pm

In Utilitarianism, Mill makes a distinction between higher and lower pleasures, with the higher pleasures being intellectual or refined pleasures, and the lower pleasures being hedonistic and indulgent.

Mill wrote:Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure...
Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with, and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying, both, do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties.


But Mill does not similarly distinguish pain into high and low forms, even though we could play the same game of asking which people would choose. But here, the opposite result is found: People regularly choose physical pain over existential suffering. Rather than higher pains being preferable, as are higher pleasures, they make suffering worse.

This presents the possibility that the net effect of the higher faculties is zero or negative: higher faculties may offer us more valuable pleasures, but they also offer more devastating pains. This possibility undermines Mill's conclusion that we can avoid a hedonistic utilitarianism by recourse to the high/low distinction, and instead suggests that, if we accept utilitarianism, we should value the higher faculties when things are going well, and value the lower faculties when things are going poorly.
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Meno_ » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:03 pm

Carleas wrote:In Utilitarianism, Mill makes a distinction between higher and lower pleasures, with the higher pleasures being intellectual or refined pleasures, and the lower pleasures being hedonistic and indulgent.

Mill wrote:Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure...
Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with, and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying, both, do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties.


But Mill does not similarly distinguish pain into high and low forms, even though we could play the same game of asking which people would choose. But here, the opposite result is found: People regularly choose physical pain over existential suffering. Rather than higher pains being preferable, as are higher pleasures, they make suffering worse.

This presents the possibility that the net effect of the higher faculties is zero or negative: higher faculties may offer us more valuable pleasures, but they also offer more devastating pains. This possibility undermines Mill's conclusion that we can avoid a hedonistic utilitarianism by recourse to the high/low distinction, and instead suggests that, if we accept utilitarianism, we should value the higher faculties when things are going well, and value the lower faculties when things are going poorly.



Carleas, First, what we Should value, sounds pretty Kantian, where he said something like: Its better to value a low pleasure of an intellectual, than it is to value a high pleasure of a pig.

Here a distinction is made between higher and lower values of pleasure, but on basis of consequentialism, it has to do with foreseeing results of actions. Foreseeability is a function of capacity, and that may be what You mean by choosing the most foreseeable consequence, and perhaps not the higher or lower faculties.

Some don't have access to both and some may even claim that most do not, so they are determined to either, consequentialism, or, deontologycal acts out of duty.

I am unsure, as usual if my thoughts carry over reasonably well.l
Last edited by Meno_ on Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sat Jun 23, 2018 9:32 am

I dont understand what it means to value when....

Could you give a concrete example of what you mean someone would do.

That is, using 'value' as the active verb it seems to be in the last part, the potential solution, what does one do when things are going well and poorly.

At this abstract level, at least, I feel not able to choose...

now I will value this, given that things are going X.
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Carleas » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:09 pm

There are those who argue Kant was effectively a rule utilitarian, but I don't think it's necessary to go there.

When I say "should value", I mean it in the sense that Mill seems to intend for us to value utility: people reveal that they get more utility from X than from Y by preferring X to Y when given the choice, therefore we "should value" X over Y, i.e. when we know our decision will result in someone getting X or Y, we should prefer X because they prefer X.

KT, not sure how much of the other thread you're importing here, but I think it's safe to replace "value" with "prefer" when it is used in the comparative sense; to value X more than Y is shorthand for saying that, given the choice and holding all else equal, you prefer X over Y. When used in the absolute sense, "I value X", I mean something like "X provides positive utility".
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby James Kroeger » Wed Jun 27, 2018 6:47 am

Carleas wrote:This presents the possibility that the net effect of the higher faculties is zero or negative: higher faculties may offer us more valuable pleasures, but they also offer more devastating pains. This possibility undermines Mill's conclusion that we can avoid a hedonistic utilitarianism by recourse to the high/low distinction, and instead suggests that, if we accept utilitarianism, we should value the higher faculties when things are going well, and value the lower faculties when things are going poorly.


Well, a decision to "value the higher faculties when things are going well, and value the lower faculties when things are going poorly" doesn't mean much to me, from my analytical perspective, since I don't see any reason to believe that "choosing" to value one type of pain/pleasure over another is going to have any effect at all on the actual amount of total pain/pleasure you are going to experience.

The one apparent exception I've noticed is the common practice of caregivers to offer an individual suffering from severe/chronic physical pain a lot of sympathy and approval. But when this occurs, I don't see the patient's experience with "comforting" as being the result of himer 'valuing' mental/emotional pleasure more than shehe 'values' physical pain. I see the 'comforting' as a product of a particular form of mental/emotional pleasure being generated within the patient's Mind at the same time that physical pain is being generated by hiser body.

With comforting: physical pain is experienced + emotional pleasure is experienced.
Without comforting: unrelenting physical pain is experienced.

My assessment: when humans intuitively seek to comfort the sick, they are ultimately trying to give the patient something that will help to balance out the pain shehe is experiencing, which is better than the unforgiving alternative. Another method used by caregivers: distraction from the pain seems to offer brief moments of respite, which is better than no moments of respite.

But IMO, re: your idea that an individual might be able to selectively 'value' one or another type of pain/pleasure to some kind of positive overall effect, is to speculate about the lifestyles of unicorns and fairies. I may not like pain, but choosing not to 'value' it is not going to accomplish anything at all...
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Carleas » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:46 pm

The decision to value high or low pleasure/pain isn't about valuing my own high or low pleasure/pain, but about how assess high or low pleasure/pain in others.

To take a concrete example of where my argument might have a real effect, consider the use of drugs. If we say, as Mill seems to, that "high" experiences are always better than "low experiences", we might say that shooting heroin is bad, because it gives a lot of low-pleasure a the expense of high-pleasure (since you can't read when you're doped up). But we would also have to say that morphine is bad to give someone in pain, because, though it addresses low-pain, it does so at the expense of their higher experiences, a trade off that isn't justified

If, on the other hand, I am right, and high-pain is worse than low-pain, then we would be justified in saying that drugs can be bad to take for pleasure and good to take for pain, because the weight of high and low experience is reversed for pain.

This is sketchy and some assumptions are built in (e.g. that high and low pain are coming together), but the point is just that we should treat the pain of others differently from the pleasure of others with respect to whether that pleasure/pain is high or low. When we make choices that affect the utility of others, we should not always choose for high-experience maximizing outcomes, but should choose outcomes that dull experiences when they tend to dull more high-pain than high-pleasure.
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Re: High and Low Pleasure, High and Low Pain

Postby Dan~ » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:32 pm

When i first saw this thread i thought it was in response to my own postings in the R.F. section.
I explained strong and weak love, strong and weak will, etc.
But interchangably, it can be high and low love, high and low will, etc.
Pleasures should be abstracted into higher and lower categories.

Lowest pleasures come from sadism and street drugs.
Highest pleasure comes from transcendence, and perfected relationships.
Etc.

I could say a lot more, but it doesn't seem necessary.
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