symposium.gif - 4.0 K
hurka.gif - 5.2 K
Bear4.gif - 2.6 K

Commentator:
Richard Brook, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
(brook@planetx.bloomu.edu)
Posted 9/6/96

I. Proportionality
h-drop.gif - 1.4 Kurka argues that when choosing the lesser over the greater intrinsic good, not only is it rational to regret failing to gain the lesser good, but both the rationality and proper limitation of regret is supported by what he calls the "proportionality view," that with respect to two good states it's proper for one's love for each state to be proportional to the goodness of the states.(557-558) Roughly if X is twice as good for me as Y I should love X twice as much, and, roughly speaking, regret it's loss twice as much as the loss of Y. Since Hurka doesn't identify intrinsic good with pleasure, I assume the view applies to regret for any foregone intrinsic good.

Certainly the rationality of regret is intuitive. A fireman unable to rescue a child because of smoke, rationally regrets his inability to do that. Harold unable to rescue all seven children in a burning house, and having the choice to save five or two, saves the five and rationally regrets that he couldn't save the others. The "concentration" view, that the fireman and Harold should be "perfectly pleased" (have no regrets) with their choices seems to me just mistaken. The fireman example does suggest that proportionality can't ground the rationality of regret in general since no choice of goods, as I believe Hurka understands that notion, is involved. Hurka perhaps means simply to justify the rationality of regret in choice situations. The "proportionality view," then couldn't be a general account of the rationality of regret.

II. Monism and Pluralism
I think Hurka is also correct that the rationality of regret doesn't require that there be plural intrinsic goods. One pluralist objection to monism apparently is that monism requires what Hurka calls a "Benthamite" view of pleasure---that there is only kind of sensation, pleasure, that we're introspectively aware of whether we've enjoyed a set of tennis, sex, a Mozart Concerto, or eating a peach, so that when you choose the greater over the lesser good you've just got more of this generically identical pleasure stuff. Thus you should have no regret about losing the lesser good by choosing between one of these. The view is, it seems to me, so absurd that it's hard to believe even Bentham held it. Moreover, as Hurka notes, the Benthamite view could not handle "non-inclusion" cases where we must choose between giving one or another person pleasure. A more sensible monism about pleasure would make irrelevant, for classification purposes, who owns the pleasure .

What I think more contentious, if I interpret him correctly, is Hurka's claim (569) that the [non-Benthamite monist] can "underscore" [her] monism by insisting that the following scenarios are equivalent in goodness; having zero units of pleasure from discussing philosophy and fifteen from eating bagels, and five units from discussing philosophy and ten units from eating bagels. [my emphasis] If that means (and I'm not clear about this) that non-Benthamite monism, which allows introspectively different sensations from different pleasurable experiences but, as well, a common but distinct sensation called "pleasantness," can better than pluralism make sense of the equivalence in the scenarios, the position seems mistaken. Both monists and pluralists would probably use the same method of gaining cardinal rankings of goods in terms of costs, themselves cardinally ranked, one would bear to gain one good or the other. The pleasantness sensum, even it if existed, would do no work. It's not clear why pluralists, then, couldn't as easily consider the two scenarios equivalent in goodness.

Equally problematic is Hurka's use of Ockham's razor to challenge Stocker's extreme pluralism which counts Smith's pleasure from eating a peach an intrinsically different good from Harrigan's pleasure in eating a peach because of different ownership. Stocker's reason (as I understand it from Hurka) is that this is the only way to make sense of Martin's regret at not being able to give his one peach to both Harrigan and Smith. Hurka's right in noting that in such "non-inclusion" examples the ordinary belief that the rationality of Martin's regret isn't undermined by counting different persons pleasures as instances of one genus.

But it's not clear that the use of the razor gives any additional defense to monism vs. pluralism or, as Hurka hopes, moderate pluralism vs. extreme pluralism. Hurka writes. "If two theories are equivalent in all respects except that one contains more generic goods, we should prefer the simpler theory. Generic goods should not be posited unless doing so makes some evaluative difference." (571) But why is that? Suppose under some measure of simplicity, two scientific theories, one more complex than the other, both equally well explain and predict phenomena. Yet certainly the entities and relations posited in the more complex theory might be the ones that exist while those in the simpler theory do not.

The question in this case is what makes goods intrinsically different. It's not convincing that the criteria for classification need be related to whether one pigeon holing gives different evaluations (e.g., rankings) than others. I think the enjoyment of geometry and the enjoyment from eating a peach are intrinsically different goods. I'm not sure how to justify that, (I don't think there is any enjoyment sensum) but I see no reason to reject my pluralism because a monist about these things points out I evaluate choices between these goods exactly as she would. We should, as Hurka suggests, sensibly reject Benthamite-monism, (except in some obvious and quite restricted cases) and extreme pluralism which puts differently owned pleasures, even of the same sensory type, into different genera. However, the classification of goods, including pleasures, into different types, depends, I would think, on the nature of the goods. That one classification has "extra goods" relative to another (572) but ranks states of affairs in exactly the same way as the latter, may say little or nothing about whether the first classification corresponds better to the "facts" about goodness.

back-symp.gif - 1.6 K