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Bradford, Gwen, , . The Value of Achievements
2012, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94: 204-224.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Emma Gordon

Abstract: This article gives an account of what makes achievements valuable. Although the natural thought is that achievements are valuable because of the product, such as a cure for cancer or a work of art, I argue that the value of the product of an achievement is not sufficient to account for its overall value. Rather, I argue that achievements are valuable in virtue of their difficulty. I propose a new perfectionist theory of value that acknowledges the will as a characteristic human capacity, and thus holds that the exercise of the will, and therefore difficulty, is intrinsically valuable.

Comment: Proposes a new account of the value of achievements. Useful to read after learning the basics of virtue epistemology (especially work by Pritchard and Greco that builds the notion of achievement into the definition of knowledge). I use this text as an introduction to an achievement theory of well-being. I find it particularly useful in a field (well-being) that I sometimes find to be male-dominated. I use it as the main piece of reading in a well-being course, and it is good to contrast to a variety of other theories of well-being (eg hedonism, desire-fulfilment theories, etc). Can be a good primer for a discussion on whether achievements are intrinsically valuable.

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Corns, Jennifer, , . Unpleasantness, Motivational Oomph, and Painfulness
2014, Mind and Language 29 (2):238-254
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Painful pains are, paradigmatically, unpleasant and motivating. The dominant view amongst philosophers and pain scientists is that these two features are essentially related and sufficient for painfulness. In this article, I first offer scientifically informed characterizations of both unpleasantness and motivational oomph and argue against other extant accounts. I then draw on folk-characterized cases and current neurobiological and neurobehavioral evidence to argue that both dominant positions are mistaken. Unpleasantness and motivational oomph doubly dissociate and, even taken together, are insufficient for painfulness

Comment: I use this paper as further reading when I teach on the philosophy of well-being and/or moral psychology. The paper is a detailed and useful text that can help explain positions on the nature of pain and, more specifically, its relation to our motivational capacities. It makes a lot of good use of scientific literature, and can be a good guide to that for students. Corns provides an argument for a way of understanding pain that doesn’t reduce it to simply motivation or unpleasantness.

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Hawkins, Jennifer, , . The subjective intuition
2010, Philosophical Studies 148 (1):61 – 68
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Theories of well-being are typically divided into subjective and objective. Subjective theories are those which make facts about a person’s welfare depend on facts about her actual or hypothetical mental states. I am interested in what motivates this approach to the theory of welfare. The contemporary view is that subjectivism is devoted to honoring the evaluative perspective of the individual, but this is both a misleading account of the motivations behind subjectivism, and a vision that dooms subjective theories to failure. I suggest that we need to revisit and reinstate certain features of traditional hedonism, in particular the idea that felt experience plays a role that no theory of welfare can afford to ignore. I then offer a sketch of a theory that is subjective in my preferred sense and avoids the worst sins of hedonism as well as the problems generated by the contemporary constraints of subjective theorists.

Comment: I use this text whenever I’m teaching on well-being, including to introductory first year classes. Hawkins gives a nuanced account of what it means for theories of well-being to be objective vs subjective, and gives a range of helpful examples. She offers objections to a number of views and offers her own theory that avoids these objections.

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Hewitt, Sharon, , . What do our intuitions about the experience machine really tell us about hedonism?
2010, Philosophical Studies 151 (3):331 – 349
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Robert Nozick’s experience machine thought experiment is often considered a decisive refutation of hedonism. I argue that the conclusions we draw from Nozick’s thought experiment ought to be informed by considerations concerning the operation of our intuitions about value. First, I argue that, in order to show that practical hedonistic reasons are not causing our negative reaction to the experience machine, we must not merely stipulate their irrelevance (since our intuitions are not always responsive to stipulation) but fill in the concrete details that would make them irrelevant. If we do this, we may see our feelings about the experience machine becoming less negative. Second, I argue that, even if our feelings about the experience machine do not perfectly track hedonistic reasons, there are various reasons to doubt the reliability of our anti-hedonistic intuitions. And finally, I argue that, since in the actual world seeing certain things besides pleasure as ends in themselves may best serve hedonistic ends, hedonism may justify our taking these other things to be intrinsically valuable, thus again making the existence of our seemingly anti-hedonistic intuitions far from straightforward evidence for the falsity of hedonism

Comment: I always use this alongside the original Nozick discussion of the experience machine, and always when I’m discussing hedonism or theories of well-being. Hewitt examines the experience machine thought experiments in a good level of detail and provides some interesting arguments as to whether we should take our intuitions about it sincerely.

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