On A Conversation Yesterday

I was talking with Prof. Mackin yesterday about how I was still dissatisfied with the idea of certain pleasures being higher than others. My objections are that each pleasure is a subjective experience that each individual experiences for themselves, and therefore, we cannot know that one pleasure is truly greater than another except in our own experience of it. In class, and yesterday, the defense presented was a John Stewart Mill quote basically saying that no man that has experienced a higher form of pleasure would trade it away for that of a pig. Even with extreme dissatisfaction, the experience of a higher pleasure is greater than being satisfied constantly with a lower form of pleasure.

I gave the example of someone who has tried to achieve the higher pleasures of philosophy or playing a good concert etc. but in the end would rather just get drunk and play Halo with his friends. A bad response to this would merely be to say that means they didn’t really understand the higher pleasure. This defense is like seeing a movie that everyone hates except for one guy that keeps saying the movie was too deep for everyone else. At the same time, if this person doesn’t like a movie that everyone else does, they can simply say that the loner didn’t understand the movie. This “Too deep for you” defense is unreasonable because it really just becomes a matter of taste. You can’t prove that The King’s Speech is any better than Jonah Hex. Sure, one is artful and emotional, but if what brings me pleasure is Megan Fox’s body and Gunshots, chances are I will think Jonah Hex was better and TKS was just boring.

A better defense of the statement of no man that has experienced the higher pleasure would trade it for a lower one is simply that it is better because no one would trade it. For starters, that’s a bit of a tautology I realize, but it is sort of like saying no man would trade a hundred dollar bill for a one dollar bill because the hundred dollar bill is worth more. Worth, however is something relative. It is entirely possible that the single dollar for a poor person is more important to a person than the hundred dollars to a multi-billionaire. This isn’t the greatest analogy in the world, but it should show the relativity involved.

Professor Mackin had a great point to make about this topic as well. To go back to the pig versus someone with higher pleasure experiences, talking about the two of them choosing to switch places simply makes no sense. Even if the man with the higher pleasure had experienced them, to imagine him as a pig would be removing these higher notions. There wouldn’t be any part of this higher pleasure knowledge in the pig, and it would still be a pig. Similarly, the man would not enjoy the pleasures of the pig because the pig would be gone. This shows how making this argument of not wanting to switch as a proof for why a higher pleasure is better is simply nonsensical.

In the end, one man enjoys getting drunk and playing pool, and another man enjoys teaching or philosophical debate. One form of pleasure cannot be greater than another because it is a subjective experience. This simple fact dismantles the argument that justice as defined by Socrates is good intrinsically. Since his argument is basically that justice is the highest form of good/pleasure, and pleasure cannot have a true system of ranking, it ends up being that Socrates argument falls apart.


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