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This chapter begins by distinguishing different kinds of hedonism, and focuses in particular on welfare hedonism. Sidgwick's arguments for hedonism — based on appeals to intuition, and an analysis of common judgements — are explained, and some objections internal to Sidgwick's own epistemology are raised. An interpretation of Sidgwick's own account of pleasure is offered, and it is argued that Sidgwick is, despite several apparent claims to the contrary, an ‘internalist’ about pleasure, who believes that pleasantness constitutes an independently identifiable feeling common to all pleasurable experiences. Sidgwick's responses, or possible responses, to several common objections to hedonism are outlined. The objections discussed include the charges that hedonism must attribute value to evil pleasures, that hedonism is the ‘philosophy of swine’, that hedonists are committed to plugging in to an ‘experience machine’, and that hedonism is impracticable. A coda discusses pleasure and hedonism after Sidgwick.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Book Chapter

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