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Title: Pleasure, suffering and the experience of value
Author: Stern, Bastian Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 5429
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This dissertation explores a number of interrelated metaphysical and epistemological issues regarding pleasure, suffering and their apparent value and disvalue, thematically tied together by the broad idea that pleasant and unpleasant experiences are, respectively, experienced as good and bad. More specifically, I try, firstly, to advance the debate regarding the nature of pleasure by arguing for what I shall call the "Self-Experiential View" - the view that pleasant experiences are pleasant in virtue of being experienced as good. Secondly, I assess the merits of the "Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis" - the natural conjecture, expressed by a number of authors, that our especially intimate experiential relationship ("acquaintance") with the evaluative features of our hedonic experiences grounds a particularly robust kind of epistemic status enjoyed by our hedonic-evaluative beliefs, which makes them less vulnerable to sceptical doubt. In chapter 1, I lay some groundwork for the ensuing discussion, by introducing a number of background claims which help to motivate these two theses. Moreover, I isolate two specific important ways of unpacking the Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis and clarify some central concepts which feature prominently in the subsequent chapters. In chapter 2, I defend the "Self-Experiential View." I proceed by addressing a number of objections which have been levelled against the view in the literature, and locate it in relation to the views which currently dominate the debate regarding the nature of pleasure. In chapter 3, I assess and ultimately reject the first important version of the Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis singled out in chapter 1, the "Naïve Realist Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis," which states that Naïve Realist acquaintance with pleasure's evaluative nature grounds a distinctive, especially robust kind of epistemic status enjoyed by our hedonic-evaluative beliefs. In chapter 4, I assess the "Introspective Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis", the attempt to vindicate the Hedonic-Evaluative Acquaintance Thesis by extending an acquaintance account of phenomenal introspective justification to the hedonic-evaluative case. By carefully unpacking a range of different candidate conceptions of introspective acquaintance, I home in on what I consider the most appealing acquaintance account of phenomenal introspection, and argue that it should not be extended to the hedonic-evaluative case, which means that this proposal also fails. A brief concluding chapter summarises the key conclusions of the dissertation and highlights some questions raised in the course of my discussion which would seem to warrant further investigation.
Supervisor: Kahane, Guy Sponsor: LMH Herbert Spencer Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Pleasure ; Hedonism ; Suffering ; Knowledge ; Theory of ; Metaethics