One of the best parts of Crisp’s book so far is the section
on enjoyment. He is a hedonist about well-being – something increases your
well-being only in so far as it creates experiences of enjoyment for you.
Having this view about well-being then supposedly requires a criterion for which
experiences count as experiences of enjoyment. This is an interesting question
and Crisp does a good job in laying out the dialectic on the basis of which he
ends up with his own view. I’m not sure I understand what that view ultimately is and how plausible it is.
But, I would be interested in hearing your views about the matter as I’m pretty
clueless. For a basis of discussion, I’d like to give a brief
sketch of Crisp’s presentation.
So, the beginning of the debate is a monist internalism of Hume and
Bentham. According to them, all enjoyable experiences share an intrinsic,
unanalysable tone of pleasantness. Enjoyment just is enjoyment and not another
We then get the standard objection that, well, it is hard
to find any qualitative quality that all enjoyments share. Griffin lists eating, reading, working (odd
enjoyment surely…), creating, and helping as enjoyments that lack any shared quality. A lot of people have found this
objection conclusive against internalism.
This has made a lot of people turn into externalism. I’m not
sure why there is a need to use these terms yet again… But, I take it that the
difference is that it is not some intrinsic feature of an experience that makes
it enjoyment but some other attitude that is suitably external to and related to the given
candidate for an experience of enjoyment.
So, as a first pass on externalism, Crisp introduces
Sidgwick’s cognitivist externalism. According to Sidgwick’s view any experience
that is to count as enjoyment must be accompanied by a belief (‘an apprehension’)
that the experience is desirable. I’m not sure Sidgwick actually was a
cognitivist just at this point. In the same quote Crisp gives, he says that by a general term
‘desirable’ *a desire* gets expressed.
This gets us to the conativist externalism. According to
this view, an experience must be desired to be had at the time in order to count
as enjoyment (so-called ‘preference hedonism’ apparently).
Crisp goes through many versions of such internalist views
and raises many objections and replies to them too before ultimately rejecting externalisms. I felt that there was a simpler argument
against them from Sidgwick himself. This is the same idea that came to be known
as Moore’s open
question argument. If these views were right, then a belief about the desirability of
the experience or a desire for the experience would be a necessary condition for being in a state of enjoyment. My intuition is that it is possible (and non-contradictory) to
have an experience of enjoyment without believing it to be desirable or without actually
desiring to be in that sake. These are the so-called Guilty Pleasures that
would be on this view conceptually impossible. The point of those experiences
just is that you are enjoying them without desiring to have them or believing that
they merit desiring. Guilty Pleasures are not contradictions in terms and thus
the externalist definitions are doubtful.
Crisp himself is at this point lead, for certain other
reasons, back to internalism and the project of trying to save it from the obvious
heterogeneity objection. Here things get slightly murky and too quick for me. The idea is
to attempt to formulate a more pluralist internalist view.
Here’s an analogy that is supposed to help. We have
experiences of perceiving red, blue, and yellow. These are the determinate experiences.
When we have these experiences we also have the experience of perceiving
colour. This is the determinable experience that in a way still has unity to it while
being constituted of different experience in each case.
So, now Crisp thinks that we can say the same thing of
experiences. We have experiences of a sweet taste, a tender touch, reading a
novel, and so on. These are the determinate experiences. But, when we have these, we also
have the determinable experience of enjoyment or the experience of feeling good.
(Crisp seems to think that feeling good is a part of informative account of
enjoyment whereas for me that sounds just like a synonym). Again, even though all
the determinate, particular enjoyments may differ there is still supposed to be
a unity on the determinable level.
If this is Crisp’s view, then I have couple of questions.
First, I wonder about the analogy. I do find the sense of unity in the colour case on the
determinable level of experiencing colour. But, I’m not sure there is a similar
unity in the enjoyment case that would help us know which particular
experiences would come under the determinable umbrella concept. Second, I find
the account very uninformative. I struggle to find what I have learned about
enjoyment or what counts as such. That completely different kinds of experiences are definitive ways
in which experiences can be enjoyable? But, I wanted to know what it is for
them to be enjoyable. I’m not sure of this all but I feel like the questions
were not answered.
I’m also not sure what my view of enjoyment would be. Need to think about that one. I might find some versions of externalism plausible. I wouldn’t like that say that you need to desire the particular token of experience but maybe have some kind of pro-attitudes towards that kind of experiences in general or dispositions to seek them for their qualitative feel. This view would allow for cases of Guilty Pleasures. In those cases, you would have a desire for that phenomenological kind of experiences without desiring the given tokens of experiences maybe because of their external source.