Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Schools Of Hedonism - Part 2: Methods Of Evaluation

There are numerous schools with subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the way choices can be evaluated; the most argued variable is whether the calculation has to be quantitative or qualitative. The quantitative approach suggests that pleasure is calculated by its intensity multiplied by its duration, so the best case scenario is feeling intense pleasure for a long period of time. The quantitative approach usually relies solely on the duration regardless of the intensity.

Other differences are whether pleasure and pain add up as scalars, or are taken as a ratio... Lets say one person had 10 points of pleasure and 5 points of pain; Another had 4 points of pleasure and 1 of pain. The scalar summation says that the first guy had 5 more points of pleasure so he has favorable life experience, while the ratio based schools says that the second guy had four times pleasure as pain so he has favorable life experience.

Yet there are those who radically change the methods of calculation, and instead some schools of thought argues that one has to maximize pleasure regardless of pain. Others argue that one has to minimize pain regardless of pleasure. Those two schools are more common in Utilitarianism; Consider a hypothetical situation where unjustifiably killing a few people would help a large civilization. Some would argue that the common good is more important than a few lives, while others would argue that regardless of the benefits of sacrificing a few, unjustifiably killing someone is not acceptable. The first position is usually called positive utilitarianism, while the second is usually called negative utilitarianism.

It seems interesting that some people actually tried to formulate hedonistic calculations through what is called hedonistic calculus! It has been argued that the happiness of different people is incommensurable, and thus hedonistic calculus is impossible - not only in practice, but even in principle...

In this series:
Schools Of Hedonism - Part 1: Introduction
Schools Of Hedonism - Part 2: Methods Of Evaluation
Schools Of Hedonism - Part 3: What Kind Of Pleasure?
Schools Of Hedonism - Part 4: Egoism VS Utilitarianism

No comments: