Sunday, June 17, 2018

Hedonistic Calculus

To determine an individual's pleasure or pain from an action, English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) suggested weighing intensity (pleasure's strength), duration (how long pleasure would last), certainty (the probability that the action will result in pleasure), propinquity (how soon the pleasure might occur), fecundity (the chance that the pleasure would result in further actions), and purity (the probability these further actions would be further pleasures and not pains). He also added extent, taking into account the effects of the said decision on other people. 

Because universities are yet to offer a course in Hedonistic Calculus, we can only guess the specific algebra required to compare these variables, on how to quantify, for example, the intensity of pleasure. 

We can, however, look to J.S. Mill via Sandel, at this Harvard University lecture on the philosophical notion of utilitarianism. 

If this sort of lecture isn't your thing, follow these instructions.

Do that which brings you pleasure. 
Prior to the dissipation of the pleasurable sensation, ask yourself these five questions: 

  1. Are you feeling good? 
  2. Do you want to do this again? 
  3. To what extent are your thoughts different from ordinary, pleasure-deficient thoughts? 
  4. How willing are you to repeat that which just brought you pleasure? 
  5. If you could, would you choose this sensation, uninterrupted and ad infinitum? 

Write down your answers. 
Think about them. 
Repeat, as necessary, to formulate your opinion. 
Compare and contrast your opinion against your opinion outside the pleasure state. 
How do these opinions differ? How do you account for the differentiation? 

Formulating pleasure into a body of science requires a demonstrated replicability both of the application of the method and of the results obtained in this way. 

When in doubt, guess. 

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