Are all pleasures equal?


"J.S. Mill on The Good Life"
Train of Thoughts

A major school of thought in philosophy is called Utilitarianism, which argues we should promote the greatest good for the greatest number.  This is often expressed in terms of Hedonism, arguing we want to maximize pleasure.  But two of the founding figures of Utilitarianism - Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill didn't agree on key principle:  how do we decide what is pleasurable?

Both could agree on certain universal traits, like proximity, duration, and safety.  But Bentham thinks the details are all subjective, arguing that all pleasures are the same saying that "pushpin is as good as poetry."  By contrast, Mill thinks that some pleasures are simply better than others.

We'll discuss this debate, examine both whether we can evaluate different kinds of pleasures (Scrolling TikTok vs. Reading Novels).  We will later discuss applying this to art itself.  Can some "art" can be considered to be fundamentally better than others (Citizen Kane vs. Ant Man 3), or is it all just a matter of taste?

This short video will give you a quick overview of the debate between Bentham and Mill, and help provide background for our discussion.