Utilitas

Articles

Welfare, Happiness, and Pleasure

L. W. Sumnera1

a1 University of Toronto

Time and philosophical fashion have not been kind to hedonism. After flourishing for three centuries or so in its native empiricist habitat, it has latterly all but disappeared from the scene. Does it now merit even passing attention, for other than nostalgic purposes? Like endangered species, discredited ideas do sometimes manage to make a comeback. Is hedonism due for a revival of this sort? Perhaps it is overly optimistic to think that it could ever flourish again in its original form; the evolutionary changes which have rendered the philosophical environment hostile to the classical specimens of the theory are doubtless irreversible. None the less, it is still possible that certain features of the classical view can, and should, be recuperated—like bits of DNA which could contribute to the emergence of new and more robust species. So let us ask ourselves: what is living and what is dead in traditional hedonism?