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Pain and Pleasure: Our basic driving forces?
Posted: 01 April 2008 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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rsonin - 31 March 2008 06:34 AM

“Pain” and “pleasure” are usually defined fairly loosely, such that what is pleasurable is what we desire, and what we desire is that which we find pleasurable.  The same for aversions and pain.  That is, in most ethics pain an pleasure do not refer exclusively to bodily, sensual pleasure and pain, but to anything we might desire or fear, for example, to any “positive” or “negative” emotions, or to the things which produce them.  The only way you can desire something bad for yourself is if you are avoiding something worse (as you see it, in terms of your own values regarding pleasure and pain).

Thanks for this but there is a key distinction between pain/pleasure and desire/aversion that must not be lost else pain/pleasure become so general as to be near useless for the point of this debate. This is that desires and aversions are (objectively) fulfilled or thwarted whereas pain and pleasure are just (subjectively) satisfied or frustrated. Nozik’s Experience Machine captures this.  Very briefly, if you choose to be happy (pleasure) falsely believing your loved ones’ desires are fulfilled whereas these are actually thwarted - you are focused on pain/pleasure - whereas if you chose to suffer (pain) falsely believing your loved ones’ desires are thwarted whereas they are actually fulfilled - you are focused on desire fulfillment. Most when asked chose the latter alternative valuing truth (actual fulfillment/thwarting in this case) over happiness (pain/pleasure)

rsonin - 31 March 2008 06:34 AM

Other-regarding acts can be seen as pleasurable, then, though I don’t see that that necessarily diminishes their moral value, even if we seek pleasure in them, and even if we would not do them if there were no pleasure or desire involved.

Besides the point of this thread I think? Anyway I introduced this to emphasize what I briefly expanded in the above paragraph.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Well, the original point was that pain and pleasure are driving forces.

“Desire” is defined in terms of “pleasure”.  If you do not define desire in terms of pleasure, real or perceived, then you remove all meaning from the word.

If you assume that desire does not concern pleasure, then you have a lot of explaining to do as to why we desire what we desire (even before you get to the trickier question of what we ought to desire).

As for truth, it has traditionally been regarded as the highest pleasure, no matter how terrible.  That is not to say that people choose the truth over a lie in all circumstances, but that people tend to think that ideally the truth should be discovered and told, and that people tend to justify their moral choices (and their desires) in terms of some supposedly objective truth.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:11 AM

Well, the original point was that pain and pleasure are driving forces.

“Desire” is defined in terms of “pleasure”.  If you do not define desire in terms of pleasure, real or perceived, then you remove all meaning from the word.

False.  Desire is a mental attitude to a proposition - the attitude being to make or keep the proposition true. It is about realizing a state of affairs objectively where the proposition is true (which can include subjective states of satisfaction, of course, but not just this and not even necessarily so).

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:11 AM

If you assume that desire does not concern pleasure, then you have a lot of explaining to do as to why we desire what we desire (even before you get to the trickier question of what we ought to desire).

I did not say it does not concern pleasure I implied that this does not only concern pleasure, specifically so that one can differentiate between subjective satisfaction versus objective fulfillment. If you want to extend the notion of pleasure so broadly then this debate becomes meaningless as nothing useful can be said.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:11 AM

As for truth, it has traditionally been regarded as the highest pleasure, no matter how terrible.  That is not to say that people choose the truth over a lie in all circumstances, but that people tend to think that ideally the truth should be discovered and told, and that people tend to justify their moral choices (and their desires) in terms of some supposedly objective truth.

Traditionally the highest pleasure? Really? Looking at this world today this hardly seems to be the case - religion, alt med, politics and so on cheese
Please, you have to do better than an argument from tradition (whose tradition by the way?) to justify yourself here. For example how do you answer Nozik’s Experience Machine dilemma? Are you familiar with this or do you want me to expand on it?

[ Edited: 01 April 2008 05:28 AM by faithlessgod ]
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Posted: 01 April 2008 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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And why would you want to keep or make a proposition true?  Because it pleases you to do so.  Because you are happier with that state of affairs.

If you do not include some kind of “why” in questioning desires, then desires are ethically uninformative, that is, that do not attest to motives.  And if we are talking about “basic driving forces” then we are accounting for motives.

I am not extending the notion of pleasure, centuries of ethical thought has.  That is not an argument from tradition, it is a reference to a large number of arguments about what desires are, from a number of cultures.  That desires are (as opposed to “ought to be”) subjective (self-centered) is as universal an opinion as you’re likely to find.

True believers of all kinds wallow in what they have come to believe is the truth.  Some find such joy in the truth they find that they feel compelled to ring my bell and share it with me early in the morning.  Some are so convinced by their truth that they feel justified in destroying anything that is contrary to it, because that destruction it will lead to a better, happier world.  Other people are willing to be tortured or killed because of their attachment to truth.  So, yes, truth is traditionally, historically - objectively - the highest pleasure, and the ultimate justification.  Even extreme relativists and skeptics sit smugly in their own truth - that there is no truth (and how passionate they can be in arguing the truth of their denial of truth).

Nozick’s thought experiment is just another brain-in-a-vat scheme.  What it shows is how detached ethical theory can be from reality.  Here in the real world people do the equivalent of plugging into the machine, constantly adjusting their worlds so as to live in a bubble - the version where you leave the machine periodically to program it for the next period (that might constitute “shopping”).  Perhaps a critique of that state of affairs was Nozick’s point.  I think that the scenario misreads what utilitarians mean by the happiness and pleasure that they seek to maximize.  I find that the whole thing raises more epistemological issues than ethical ones - how the qualities of your knowledge affects the morality of your acts.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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mini-LARSON13.JPG

“Notice all the computations, theoretical scribblings, and lab equipment, Norm ... Yes, curiosity killed these cats.”

ROFLMAO

Definitely my favorite.

How many people are DRIVEN by curiosity?

psik

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Posted: 01 April 2008 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

And why would you want to keep or make a proposition true?  Because it pleases you to do so.  Because you are happier with that state of affairs.

And why does it please you? Because it fulfills one of your desires. Why are you happier with that states of affairs? Becuase one of your desires has been fulfilled.
This is either trivially true or substantively questionable.  It is the latter that I am querying as the former is empty of any useful meaning. The whole point is that many desires that are fulfilled do not provide subjective satisfaction - pleasure -  also some are expected to but do not in fact, many desires are the result of subtle coercion (advertsing/marketing aetc.)  and so on. Desires are not reducible to pleasures.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

If you do not include some kind of “why” in questioning desires, then desires are ethically uninformative, that is, that do not attest to motives.  And if we are talking about “basic driving forces” then we are accounting for motives.

The same point could be made with regard to pleasures especially “higher” pleasures (compare appetites to other desires). If you want to discuss why people have the desires they or why they seek and regard certain things as pleasures and avoid others as pains, then we can discuss that. This becomes then a question of motivation theory whereas I thought the topic was about theory of action.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

I am not extending the notion of pleasure, centuries of ethical thought has.  That is not an argument from tradition, it is a reference to a large number of arguments about what desires are, from a number of cultures.  That desires are (as opposed to “ought to be”) subjective (self-centered) is as universal an opinion as you’re likely to find.

Who is disputing that desires are subjective, what is this to do with what is being discussed here? Nothing as far as I can see. Still you are confused over subjective = self-centered which is mistaken as I pointed out in a previous post in this thread. Still the problem remains with any happiness/suffering and pain/pleasure theory - and they are not normally regarded as identical btw - over seeking inner satisfaction versus external fulfillment, preference satisfaction/desire fulfillment solves that problem (I use desire and fulfillment following James Griffin as this makes more explicit what preference satisfaction theorists mean and helps differentiate it from happiness theories).

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

True believers of all kinds wallow in what they have come to believe is the truth.  Some find such joy in the truth they find that they feel compelled to ring my bell and share it with me early in the morning.  Some are so convinced by their truth that they feel justified in destroying anything that is contrary to it, because that destruction it will lead to a better, happier world.  Other people are willing to be tortured or killed because of their attachment to truth.  So, yes, truth is traditionally, historically - objectively - the highest pleasure, and the ultimate justification.  Even extreme relativists and skeptics sit smugly in their own truth - that there is no truth (and how passionate they can be in arguing the truth of their denial of truth).

Speak for yourself. Best to get beyond true belief to reality.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

Nozick’s thought experiment is just another brain-in-a-vat scheme.  What it shows is how detached ethical theory can be from reality.

At this stage we are not discussing ethics but “driving forces” .

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

Here in the real world people do the equivalent of plugging into the machine, constantly adjusting their worlds so as to live in a bubble - the version where you leave the machine periodically to program it for the next period (that might constitute “shopping”).  Perhaps a critique of that state of affairs was Nozick’s point.  I think that the scenario misreads what utilitarians mean by the happiness and pleasure that they seek to maximize.

Nozik’s point was that personal happiness can be sacrificed for others, emphasizing that truth and comfort can diverge. It does not misread common notions of happiness and pleaure rather that when happiness utilitarians use these terms they mean something quite different to such usage.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 05:56 AM

I find that the whole thing raises more epistemological issues than ethical ones - how the qualities of your knowledge affects the morality of your acts.

And you have avoided answering the question, presumably because you cannot cool smile

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Posted: 01 April 2008 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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I agree that the distinction faithless is creating between desire/pleasure and pain/aversion is an artificial one not consistent with how the words or concepts are conventionally used. To say a desire is a drive to make or keep a certain proposition true and that feelings like pleasure are not a parft of it is abstract philosophizing unapplicable to real people. One can frame the situation to make a verifiable or falsifiable statement about the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire (which I know faithless desires to do to support his theory of ethics based on fulfillment of desires), so there is a certain degree of objectivity in deciding whether a desire is fulfilled that may be lacking form deciding whether something brings a person pleasure, but the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire is inextricably connected to feelings like pleasure and displeasure (broader than pain), so the separation between them is artificial. Perhaps useful for some sorts of analysis, but really not useful in talking about what drives real people.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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mckenzievmd - 01 April 2008 08:59 AM

I agree that the distinction faithless is creating between desire/pleasure and pain/aversion is an artificial one not consistent with how the words or concepts are conventionally used.

That is besides the point. This is how these terms are used in philosophical psychology which examines, a the least, the meanings of terms and strives for clarity. If we had to rely upon conventional and unconsidered usage of terms we would not get very far in debate.

mckenzievmd - 01 April 2008 08:59 AM

To say a desire is a drive to make or keep a certain proposition true and that feelings like pleasure are not a parft of it is abstract philosophizing unapplicable to real people.

I am not saying that feelings are not part of it. Clearly our emotions and feelings contribute to selection and modification of desires but not in any simplistic pleasure/pain way. If we want to discuss the process of motivation rather than its products - theories of action such as pain/pleasure or desire/aversion - we can but I don’t think we will get very far.

mckenzievmd - 01 April 2008 08:59 AM

One can frame the situation to make a verifiable or falsifiable statement about the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire (which I know faithless desires to do to support his theory of ethics based on fulfillment of desires), so there is a certain degree of objectivity in deciding whether a desire is fulfilled that may be lacking form deciding whether something brings a person pleasure,

Agreed

mckenzievmd - 01 April 2008 08:59 AM

but the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire is inextricably connected to feelings like pleasure and displeasure (broader than pain), so the separation between them is artificial.

No the separation is not artificial as it makes a substantive point. Whether to emphasize inner satisfaction only or also outer fulfillment.

mckenzievmd - 01 April 2008 08:59 AM

Perhaps useful for some sorts of analysis, but really not useful in talking about what drives real people.

What drives people are the more and stronger of their desires, given their beliefs. They act so as to fulfill the more and stronger of their desires. This includes pain/pleasure as a subset - regarding inner satisfaction and frustration. Pleasure/pain on the other hand does not include the full scope of desire/aversion.

If you disagree please explain why the fulfillment or thwarting of desires - the creation of certain states of affairs over others - does not matter in what drives us.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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What I am saying is that, apart from the narrow subset of philosophical theory you are working in, desire cannot be clearly and meaningfully differentiated from pleasure in terms of discussing people’s motivations and drives. I’ve said above that I think a pleasure/pain only model of motivation is incomplete even at the proximate level, and certainly at the ultimate level. You and I have talked about you desire/aversion model, and while I find it interesting and of some value, I think you’re trying too hard to fit everything into the neat artifical categories you’re using, and that reduces the accuracy and heuristic value of the theory. You’ve also said that potential empirical problems with the model don’t seem relevant to you, but I think they are relevant, and we needn’t go over that ground again. I just commented on the discussion you and rsonin were having because it seemed your differences were primarily about terms, and while you feel you are being precise and clear, I agree with him that you are setting up artificial categories, and the more artificial the less applicable they are going to be. Anyway, not a deep point so carry on.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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This is either trivially true or substantively questionable.

It is trivially true.  If a desire is fulfilled, it produces pleasure, because pleasure is defined as the result of the satisfaction of a desire.  That you may see a pleasure as inauthentic or otherwise deficient does not make it any less a pleasure.  By imposing your own values, you are not redefining what pleasure is, only what you assert ought to be pleasurable.  If someone has a desire to hammer nails into his head, you may have a very clear grasp of the stupidity of his desire, but the pleasure it gives him is not for you to say anything about.

Motivation and action cannot be separated so easily.

Subjective means self-centered in the sense of being centered in/on the self.  Desires are self-centered in that way, as opposed to having some kind of existence independently of a self or subject.

“Driving forces” is an inherently ethical subject, because it concerns human action.

An egoist would claim that those who supposedly sacrifice their happiness for others are actually just seeking another kind of happiness.

Utilitarians use the term “happiness” in a perfectly common and legitimate way that may have been eclipsed by a simplistic affective version, but which is the understanding that informs most of the “important” texts that discuss it (including the U.S. Declaration of Independence).  The meaning is pretty much that of the Greek term “eudaimonia”.  The same is true of pleasure, which has been wilfully misunderstood by critics of ethical theories going back thousands of years (critics of Epicureans and hedonists, for example).

“Inner satisfaction” is a form of happiness, as is “outer fulfillment” - this is what has been meant by “happiness” for centuries, and why both are also pleasurable in a sense that is not as trivial as the “happiness” or “pleasure” that critics falsely posit.

I haven’t avoided answering any question.

One can frame the situation to make a verifiable or falsifiable statement about the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire

Not really.  You can make a falsifiable statement about what someone reports their desire to be, but not what their desire actually is.

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Posted: 01 April 2008 10:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

It is trivially true.  If a desire is fulfilled, it produces pleasure, because pleasure is defined as the result of the satisfaction of a desire.

Yes I agree with this defintion of pleasure but what i keep on saying is that fulfillment is not identical with satisfaction and fulfillment is more encompassing than such satisfaction. many desires can be fulfilled without requiring satisfaction, indeed satisfaction may be, but does not have to be, one of the conditions of fulfillment. 

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

That you may see a pleasure as inauthentic or otherwise deficient does not make it any less a pleasure.

It is not what I view but what the performer of the action’s response we are talking about.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

By imposing your own values, you are not redefining what pleasure is, only what you assert ought to be pleasurable.

No its not my own or your values I am imposing but the values of the performer. Anyway what do you mean by value then?

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

Motivation and action cannot be separated so easily.

This is what I thought we were talking about, the motivations behind intentional action.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

Subjective means self-centered in the sense of being centered in/on the self.  Desires are self-centered in that way, as opposed to having some kind of existence independently of a self or subject.

This is trivially true and I repeat how can desires not have a subject, the owner of the desire. And this is nothing to do with self-regarding versus other-regarding desires.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

“Driving forces” is an inherently ethical subject, because it concerns human action.

At least we agree we are discussing human action. Just because this is eventually an ethical topic does not mean it is now at this level of action we are discussing. If you think so then please show how.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

An egoist would claim that those who supposedly sacrifice their happiness for others are actually just seeking another kind of happiness.

Now we are getting to ethics and yes they would but then how do they determine if such happiness is achieved or not and, as I keep on repeating, this stretches happiness notions so broadly as to be unfalsifiable not much of an explanation then.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

“Inner satisfaction” is a form of happiness, as is “outer fulfillment” - this is what has been meant by “happiness” for centuries, and why both are also pleasurable in a sense that is not as trivial as the “happiness” or “pleasure” that critics falsely posit.

Outer fulfillment may not be accompanied by any specific emotion or feeling by calling this “happy” you have gone far beyond pain/pleasure as is well know happiness/suffering is regarded as different in the literature e.g. compare Bentham to Mill.

rsonin - 01 April 2008 12:34 PM

One can frame the situation to make a verifiable or falsifiable statement about the fulfillment or thwarting of a desire

Not really.  You can make a falsifiable statement about what someone reports their desire to be, but not what their desire actually is.

You can make a falsifiable statement about what someone reports their pleasure to be, but not what their pleasure actually is.
Regardless of the veracity of reports of desires it is a objective fact of the matter as to whether a desire has been fulfilled.

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