Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1994
  • Online publication date: May 2010

Appendix B - Some naturalistic analyses


I wish to consider briefly some familiar attempts to provide a naturalistic analysis of the concept of intrinsic preferability. The following attempts either have implications it is reasonable for us to reject or are not really analyses of intrinsic preferability. Let us consider states of affairs of the following form:

(1) X is intrinsically better than Y.

Can (1) be given a hedonistic analysis such as the following?

(2) X implies a greater balance of pleasure over pain than Y.

If (1) can be analyzed in terms of (2), there must be a mutual implication between them. Unfortunately, it is far from clear that hedonism is true or that there is a mutual implication between (1) and (2). One familiar objection to hedonism concerns Schadenfreude, taking pleasure or joy in the suffering or sorrow of another, and Mitleid,sorrow in another person's sorrow. Suppose that Jones is pleased that Smith is suffering, X, and that Brown is sad that Smith is suffering, Y. Even if X implies a greater balance of pleasure over pain than Y, it is not obvious that Xis intrinsically better than y. Concerning joy in the suffering of another, Schopenhauer writes, “In a certain sense the opposite of envy is the habit of gloating over the misfortunes of others. At any rate, whereas the former is human, the latter is diabolical. There is no sign more infallible of an entirely bad heart, and of profound moral worthlessness than open and candid enjoyment of seeing other people suffer.”

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Intrinsic Value
  • Online ISBN: 9780511663802
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *