Dismantling Hedonism-inspired Moral Realism

This is the seventh post in my moral anti-realism sequence; it works well as a standalone piece.


Hedonism says that well-being consists of the felt quality of our experiences (Tännsjö, 1994). As a theory of value (an “axiology”), it says that positively and negatively valenced experiences make up what’s morally good or bad for someone.

Below, I’ll introduce two motivations for hedonist axiology. I then explain why I disagree with the view that introspection about the goodness of pleasure (or badness of pain) gets us to moral realism. Finally, I conclude that people may endorse hedonism as their subjective value system (a personal choice) but not as objective morality.

My counter-arguments aren’t new. Robert Nozick’s experience-machine thought experiment (Nozick, 1974) suggests that at least some of us seem to care terminally about things other than positive and negative experiences. While hedonists would say this is making a mistake, I don’t find their counters convincing.

I’ll discuss below why I think the hedonists’ arguments are flawed. They often seem based on (1) false consensus effects (“typical mind fallacy”), (2) a false reification of some intuitions about experiences, or (3) appeals to hedonism’s simplicity that derive most of their force from “moral realism is true” as a question-begging premise.

Two motivations for hedonism

Following the naturalism vs. non-naturalism distinction in metaethics, I see two ways of justifying hedonist axiology.

Hedonism via Objective Value

First, one could seek to justify hedonism via the concept of Objective Value – a bedrock concept, i.e., an “irreducible” concept that we cannot identify with concepts from a different domain. (Unlike the way “chemical facts” can be reduced to facts about fundamental particles, or the way “economical facts” can be explained in terms of people’s behavior and psychology, and so on. See my previous post, Why Realists and Anti-Realists Disagree, for a detailed discussion of bedrock concepts.)

In her dissertation Normative Qualia and Robust Moral Realism (Hewitt, 2008, p. 325), Sharon Hewitt Rawlette explains Objective Value:[1]

[W]e need to draw a clear distinction between the act or attitude of valuing and the having of objective value. Valuing is what people do; it’s an activity or disposition which involves desiring something and approving of that desiring. [...] Having objective value, on the other hand, is an objectively normative property of an object, event, or state of affairs, such as a positive normative quale.

In other words, something of Objective Value is valuable “in itself” and not only because we happen to value it. Specifically, Hewitt Rawlette argues that we can find Objective Value in the hedonic tone of some conscious experiences. She speaks of the “intrinsic normativity” of pain or pleasure, which we can recognize in our own experiences through introspection (p. 102).

This sort of argument is common among proponents of hedonist axiology. For example, Neil Sinhababu (Sinhababu, 2010) speaks simply of pleasure’s “goodness,” making essentially the same introspection-based argument:

When looking at a lemon and considering the phenomenal states that are yellow experiences, one can form some beliefs about their intrinsic features – for example, that they’re bright experiences. And when considering experiences of pleasure, one can make some judgments about their intrinsic features – for example, that they’re good experiences. Just as one can look inward at one’s experience of lemon yellow and recognize its brightness, one can look inward at one’s experience of pleasure and recognize its goodness.

Hedonism as the True Life Goal

Secondly, someone could motivate hedonism via what I’ll call the True Life Goal justification. Namely, they might claim that because evolution built us to pursue particular objectives (specifically: positively rewarding experiences), sophisticated reasoners will come to apprehend these aims and recognize them as compelling once they introspect on their life goals. After all, perhaps that’s why it feels to us, mind-internally, as though these experiences constitute Objective Value.

That said, if we zoom out far enough, there’s a sense in which natural selection “built us” to pursue reproductive fitness. And if we zoom in far enough, we see that many people think of themselves as caring about non-hedonic goals such as “have a loving and flourishing family” or “figure out the mysteries of the universe.” (This is what Nozick’s experience machine thought experiment gets at.) So proponents of hedonism-inspired moral realism have to explain why those other purposes are somehow “incorrect” or “not ours.”

A purpose being “incorrect” or “not ours” are vague notions – but this supports my point. Readers who suspect that the concept of a True Life Goal is unintelligible or too vague presumably aren’t moral realist proponents of hedonist axiology.

Still, I don’t think the idea of hedonism as the True Life Goal is unintelligible. The world could be such that when sophisticated philosophical reasoners carefully introspect and investigate experience machine thought experiments (and so on), they’d come to realize that hedonist axiology best describes what matters to us. I think the world isn’t like that, but the hypothesis seems intelligible despite the vagueness it involves.

In any case, for specific world- or other-oriented purposes such as “have a loving and flourishing family,” many of us may find it hard to contemplate how these goals could be merely instrumental to personal pleasure. Experience machine thought experiments highlight how hedonist axiology stands in tension with some people’s fundamental values.

Objections to Objective Value

I’ll now give some objections that apply to hedonism’s Objective Value justification. (Note that my main objection to hedonism, which I’ll state later in the section “Pleasure’s ‘goodness’ is under-defined,” applies to both justifications.)

I’m skeptical of the Objective Value justification because that notion seems empty or meaningless. As the moral anti-realist Richard M. Hare pointed out, it seems unclear how Objective Value woven into the fabric of reality could make any difference compared to worlds without it (Hare, 1972, p. 47).

The idea seems to be that agents who happen to be motivated to pursue Objective Value would change their goals upon learning what contains Objective Value. However, such a story cannot play out that way; it cannot happen for the “right” reasons. As a bedrock concept, Objective Value cannot influence how we act. Therefore, if someone decides to pursue pleasure because they think pleasure is Objective Value, the cause of their decision (and their assessment of pleasure as Objective Value), whatever it is, is still a “subjective” feature of their psychology/​motivation. With or without Objective Value, people pursue what they’re already motivated to pursue.

Another reason I’m skeptical is that I suspect that consciousness anti-realism is true.[2] According to anti-realist accounts of consciousness, phenomenal experiences are not building blocks (“qualia”) that remain fixed even if we change everything around them. Instead, they are the other side of the coin, the other side of what the brain is doing at a given moment. By making changes to the dispositions related to an experience (e.g., our reactive tendencies, associated concepts or memories, or its embedding in our motivational systems), we also alter the experience itself. For instance, qualia anti-realists, therefore, can’t make sense of the intuitions elicited in “inverted qualia” thought experiments (see, e.g., Dennett, 1988). Without consciousness realism, it seems incongruent to view some of our subjective experiences as intrinsically desirable (“desirability realism”). Based on an interview with the qualia anti-realist Gary Drescher, Luke Muehlhauser summarized the disagreement as follows (see the entire conversation notes here):

A common view among philosophers is that pleasure is intrinsically desirable, pain is intrinsically undesirable, and that humans act to pursue pleasure and avoid pain in recognition of this. Dr. Drescher suggests that, instead, humans are behaviorally hard-wired to tend to pursue or avoid certain sensations, and that the notions of “intrinsic desirability/​undesirability” are reifications of those tendencies as observed in our own cognitive reactions and emotions.

If qualia anti-realism is correct, the concept of Objective Value (in the form of normative qualia, i.e., intrinsically desirable experiences) doesn’t have anything to stand on.[3]

Why I’m not a hedonist

My primary objection to hedonism doesn’t rely on consciousness anti-realism. My main objection to both types of hedonism is that I don’t find hedonist axiology compelling. I consider this judgment to be wholly separate from “what pleasure feels like.” (I.e., when I talk to someone to whom hedonist axiology appeals, I wouldn’t expect them to have a different experience of pleasure.)

If I could set up a utopia of my choosing, I wouldn’t set things up according to hedonism. If the promise to live happily for millions of years were in reach for me but required a lot of effort to get there, I wouldn’t be motivated to put in the effort. As long as only my life is at stake, I’d prefer a short and easy life over working hard to eventually get to the hedonist utopia. This isn’t out of laziness – some things really do motivate me to work hard. However, those things are either about altruism or the personal meaning I get from connections to other, already existing people. The things that motivate me to work hard connect to personal meaning, not pleasure.

Moral realist proponents of hedonist axiology think that hedonism is true for everyone, so my counterexample – assuming I’m not somehow making a mistake of reasoning – suffices to disprove it. I’m confident I’m not making a reasoning mistake because I feel like I can see where hedonist proponents of moral realism go wrong.

Pleasure’s “goodness” is under-defined

I concede that there’s a sense in which “pleasure is good” and “suffering is bad.” However, I don’t think that brings us to hedonist axiology, or any comprehensively-specified axiology for that matter.

Behind the statement “pleasure is good,” there’s an under-defined and uncontroversial claim and a specific but controversial one. Only the under-defined and uncontroversial claim is correct.

Under-defined and uncontroversial claim: All else equal, pleasure is always unobjectionable and often something we come to desire.

Specific and controversial claim: All else equal, we should pursue pleasure with an optimizing mindset.
This claim is meant to capture things like:

  • that, all else equal, it would be a mistake not to value all pleasures

  • that no mental states without pleasure are in themselves desirable

  • that, all else equal, more pleasure is always better than less pleasure

According to moral realist proponents of hedonist axiology, we can establish, via introspection, that pleasure is good in the second, “specific and controversial” sense. However, I don’t see how that’s possible from mere introspection!

Unlike the under-defined and uncontroversial claim, the specific and controversial claim not only concerns what pleasure feels like, but also how we are to behave toward pleasure in all contexts of life. To make that claim, we have to go far beyond introspecting about pleasure’s nature.

Introspection fundamentally can’t account for false consensus effects (“typical mind fallacy”). My error theory is that moral realist proponents of hedonist axiology tend to reify intuitions they have about pleasure as intrinsic components to pleasure.

Even if it seems obvious to a person that the way pleasure feels automatically warrants the pursuit of such pleasures (at some proportionate effort cost), the fact that other people don’t always see things that way should give them pause. Many hedonist axiology critics are philosophically sophisticated reasoners (consider, for example, that hedonism is not too popular in academic philosophy), so it would be uncharitable to shrug off this disagreement. For instance, it would be uncharitable and unconvincing to say that the non-hedonists are (e.g.) chronically anhedonic or confused about the difference between instrumental and intrinsic goods. To maintain that hedonist axiology is the foundation for objective morality, one would need a more convincing error theory.

I suspect that many proponents of hedonist axiology indeed don’t just “introspect on the nature of pleasure.” Instead, I get the impression that they rely on an additional consideration, a hidden background assumption that does most of the heavy lifting. I think that background assumption has them put the cart before the horse.

Putting the cart before the horse

Dubious metaethical beliefs might drive the appeal of “hedonism as moral realism.” Specifically, I suspect that some people endorse hedonist axiology because they are looking for the sort of theory that can fulfill the steep demands of moral realism[4] – a theory that all philosophically sophisticated others could agree on, despite the widespread difference to people’s moral intuitions. With this constraint, one can view it as a positive feature that a theory is elegantly simple, even if it demands “bullet biting.” (Moral reasoners couldn’t agree on the same answer if they all relied on different moral intuitions.)

However, unless we already start as moral realists, we have no reason to assume that there’s a theory right for everyone (see my previous post, Moral Uncertainty and Moral Realism Are in Tension). Morality is no coordination game where we try to guess what everyone else is trying to guess will be the answer everyone converges on.

Consider, again, the two claims behind the sentiment “pleasure is good:”

Under-defined and uncontroversial claim: All else equal, pleasure is always unobjectionable and often something we come to desire.

Specific and controversial claim: All else equal, we should pursue pleasure with an optimizing mindset.
This claim is meant to capture things like:

  • that, all else equal, it would be a mistake not to value all pleasures

  • that no mental states without pleasure are in themselves desirable

  • that, all else equal, more pleasure is always better than less pleasure

The first claim is uncontroversial precisely because it is under-defined. It represents the largest common denominator in people’s intuitions on what matters. If people commonly expected morality to be under-defined, there’d be no need to go beyond this claim, and hedonist arguments would lose a large portion of their appeal.

However, because many people expect moral realism to be true, they might be tempted to “upgrade” the under-defined and uncontroversial claim into the specific and controversial one. Moreover, our essentialist intuitions about concepts like “goodness” – intuitions that words have objective meaning independently of how we use them – can trick us into thinking that this “claim upgrading” follows a legitimate conceptual discovery. In reality, however, it seems like a sleight of hand, an ambiguity switcheroo where intuitions about the uncontroversial claim are brought in to justify a less intuitive, further-reaching claim.

Example: Sinhababu’s epistemic argument for hedonism

Neil Sinhababu’s The epistemic argument for hedonism (2010), which is cited by Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer (2014), provides an example of potentially[5] putting the cart before the horse. The argument goes as follows (my paraphrasing):

Widespread moral disagreement exists and is often deep-seated. When two parties disagree about morality, at least one party must be in error. The fact that there is widespread moral disagreement suggests that the processes that generate most people’s moral beliefs must be mistaken. All the avenues philosophers have advanced for developing accurate moral beliefs are unreliable, except for introspection about the value or disvalue of our experiences. Therefore, if moral realism is true (in a way where moral truths are accessible to us), introspection on the moral nature of our experiences is the only way to form accurate moral beliefs.

According to Sinhababu, this introspection favors hedonism:[6]

If introspecting pleasure’s goodness is the only answer to the skeptical argument [from widespread moral disagreement], our only moral beliefs should be in pleasure’s goodness and whatever it entails.

Sinhababu’s argument presupposes moral realism. As I have argued in my previous post, we can’t both be confident moral realists and morally uncertain. Consequently, unless we are already convinced of hedonist axiology (and therefore no longer morally uncertain), we cannot be moral realists. There’s something irreparably circular about practically applying the epistemic argument for hedonism.[7]

Distinctions and caveats

I’m not saying that any endorsement of hedonist axiology comes with false metaethical beliefs. For example, some people may consider hedonist axiology universally compelling on its own merits.

I also want to distinguish between anti-realist/​subjectivist and realist/​objectivist proponents of hedonist axiology, and within the former (anti-realist/​subjectivist) camp, between hedonism-as-altruism and personal hedonism. My counterarguments in this post only target realist/​objectivist versions of hedonism.

Anti-realist proponents of personal hedonism may find the specific and “controversial” claim perfectly intuitive for themselves. They’d happily enter the experience machine, but they’d recognize that all philosophically sophisticated others wouldn’t necessarily share their reasons. Also, personal hedonists don’t necessarily want others to experience the most pleasure. By contrast, anti-realist proponents of hedonism-as-altruism care about others experiencing the most possible pleasure, too.

In cases where other people’s convictions differ from hedonism, moral anti-realists who endorse hedonism-as-altruism wouldn’t necessarily want to override other people’s strongly held convictions (their “life goals”). After all, as moral anti-realists, they understand and hopefully respect that other people may hold different life goals. Still, their hedonism has room to come into play wherever others’ life goals are under-defined or in the case of population ethics (when contemplating how to allocate resources in the future, hedonists-as-altruists would consider it altruistically important to create more happy beings).

Experience machine thought experiments

To justify hedonist moral realism, one needs to argue that hedonism is appealing not because we are looking for a simple theory, break it or leave it, but because the proposed theory happens to be convincing by itself. I have already mentioned in previous sections that I think hedonism can’t live up to this challenge. This section will give more details by describing and discussing two experience machine thought experiments.[8] Note that I’m not claiming that the answers suggested by hedonism are indefensible at the individual level. Instead, I want to highlight that it’s perfectly defensible for people to favor the non-hedonist answers (and that’s why hedonism doesn’t work as universal morality).

1 – Authenticity

All involuntary suffering is abolished. You and your loved ones are each offered the following choice. You can enter an experience machine or choose life outside. Life outside the experience machine is excellent – much better than anything we have today. Life in the experience machine – from an experience-focused perspective – is even better. The device will give you the perfect life. For instance, if you’ve always wanted to live in a cozy home in the forest together with your significant other and your closest friends, your experience machine might place you in an out-of-this-world beautiful forest that contains the cuddliest and most fascinating animals, and the tastiest mushrooms and berries.[9] Any project you undertake, such as building a fort around your home – it’ll go amazingly. If you want to learn new crafts or skills, you’ll become an expert after just the right amount of effort to keep you motivated throughout. Whenever you interact with your friends and loved ones, your interactions will feel meaningful and rewarding. And whenever the forest life starts to become even a tiny bit boring, some version of Gandalf will show up and ask to take you on an adventure, such as rescuing an innocent victim from some evil overlord.

You’ll retain autonomy within the experience machine, and you’ll be making your own choices: where to go, what to learn, who to hang out with. If you decide to enter, you’ll forever forget that the experience sequences within the machine are scripted. The primary way your life will differ from life outside is that the people with you won’t have a continuous personal identity. Unbeknownst to you, their behavior is computed to be the best response to yours. In other words, your virtual loved ones are going to be subroutines optimized to give you the best possible life. From your perspective, their personalities will seem stable and consistent. However, their viewpoint only exists when you interact with them. Their memories from times without you are continuously implanted to synergize perfectly with what you’ve been doing. As a result, your loved ones will feel like better and more exciting friends, better adventure companions, and better and more compatible romantic partners. But they won’t have authentic selves independently of your actions.

Do you choose to enter the experience machine? What are you hoping will be the choices made by your present loved ones?

2 – Reunion

The world’s problems are solved, and humans are about to enter experience machines tailored to give them the most experientially rewarding lives. You know that two people in the queues haven’t seen each other in 11 years. The last thing they said to each other, before parting under tragic circumstances that forced them to hide in different parts of the world, was to promise each other unending love and to spend the rest of their lives looking for each other. They indeed looked for each other for a decade until they recently gave up hope, each thinking the other person must have died. You know these two people are standing only a few kilometers apart in queues to their respective experience machines, minutes away from entering.

Do you inform them about their situation? Or do you let them enter their machines, knowing that they can thereby have their reunions earlier, but with virtual versions of each other?


Since my aim is not to defend any specific answers, I’ll focus only on some quick points.

The first thought experiment (“Authenticity”) highlights that hedonism arguably commits us to a somewhat narcissistic view of our loved ones. It implies that we love them based on how they make us feel instead of loving them for the people they are. People with a solid preference for life outside might find that what generates the most meaning for them is serving others, the point of which would be lost if they entered the experience machine. On the other side, those in favor of entering can argue that staying outside looks like the more self-absorbed choice. It would arguably be motivated by a desire to feel special about one’s pre-existing relationships and refusing to accept that there are better relationships to be had. (Consider the sentiment “If you love them, let them go.”)[10]

The second thought experiment (“Reunion”) highlights that replacing one type of pleasure with another can completely change the meaning of the pleasure moments in question.[11] Moreover, since the thought experiment’s choice affects other people, even readers who consider themselves hedonists might hesitate to act according to hedonist axiology (they may be personal hedonists but skeptical about hedonism-as-altruism).

Overall, we see that the non-hedonist choices are defensible at the very least. Many people care intrinsically about things other than their experienced happiness and aren’t thereby making mistakes.


For their helpful comments on the draft, I thank Lance Bush, Pablo Stafforini, Adriano Mannino, and Lydia Ward.


De Lazari-Radek, K. & P. Singer. (2014). The Point of View of the Universe, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dennett, D. (1988). Quining Qualia. In: Marcel, A. & Bisiach, E. (eds.) Consciousness in Contemporary Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gloor, L. (2017). Tranquilism. longtermrisk(.)org. <longtermrisk(.)org/​tranquilism>.

Hare, R. M. (1972). Applications of Moral Philosophy, London: Macmillan.

Hewitt, S. (2008). Normative Qualia and Robust Moral Realism. PhD thesis. New York University.

Lerner, A. (unpublished draft). Fine-tuning Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.

Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York: Basic Books.

Sinhababu, N. (2010). The Epistemic Argument From Hedonism. Unpublished. (Retrieved: May 2018).

Tännsjö, T. (1994). Classical Hedonistic Utilitarianism. Philosophical Studies, 81(1):97-115.

Yetter-Chappell, R. (2013). Value Receptacles. Noûs, 49(2):322-332.

  1. ↩︎

    Hewitt Rawlette recently published a book on the same topic, and she talked about her work on the Utilitarianism podcast.

  2. ↩︎

    See the dialogue in endnote 18 in my post Why Realists and Anti-Realists Disagree for a description of this stance.

  3. ↩︎

    Note that even if consciousness realism is correct, Drescher’s concerns about reification remain and demand an answer.

  4. ↩︎

    I mean moral realism “worthy of the name,” as I’ve described it in this sequence’s first post.

  5. ↩︎

    To Sinhababu’s defense, he’s only making the conditional argument “If moral realism is true, hedonism follows.” Still, I think there’s something odd about this argument being made at all. The arguments in my previous post imply that there’s no circumstance where the conditional statement “If moral realism is true, hedonism follows” is of any use.

  6. ↩︎

    I disagree here: hedonist axiology doesn’t feel like the only plausible answer to me. One could analogously argue for tranquilism (Gloor, 2017) as the True Life Goal. That argument could be centered around the claim that there’s stronger agreement on the importance of reducing suffering than about the importance of bringing about pleasure. Alternatively, it could be centered around a claim that tranquilist axiology is arguably more “simple and elegant” than hedonist axiology. Arguably, it’s more intuitive to think that all types of suffering fall into a natural category so that different kinds of suffering are straightforwardly comparable in their severity (“How strong is the arrow of volition pointing away from the experience in question?”). By contrast, it seems harder, arguably, to compare different types of pleasure. For example, consider comparing (1) orgasmic pleasure to (2) the feeling of everything being perfect when you wake up in bed cuddled together with your soulmate to (3) the state of flow from playing a fantastic video game. Arguably, these three pleasures have very distinct “flavors.” In (1), the positive feeling results from intense satisfied cravings. In (2), the positive feeling results from everything being perfect, both in the moment itself and in terms of life satisfaction (“nothing is found wanting”). In (3), the positive feeling results from maximal task immersion and losing one’s sense of surroundings. Suppose that morality was, in fact, about playing a coordination game where we try to guess what everyone else is trying to guess will be the answer everyone converges on. How confident are we that there’s a uniquely compelling way to specify pleasure-pleasure tradeoffs within hedonist axiology? If there’s subjectivity here, i.e., if there are judgment calls for us to make about pleasure-pleasure tradeoffs, wouldn’t we fare better in picking tranquilism instead? Arguably, tranquilism seems to appeal to at least some people (similar to hedonist axiology) but has fewer free variables. Therefore, it should be easier to exactly guess tranquilism as a well-specified moral view the same way others would. Of course, by that logic, we should strongly consider axiologies such as “maximize entropy” – that would be even more straightforward to specify. My point is not that tranquilism is appealing as moral realism. After all, adopting an optimizing mindset toward tranquilism would have highly counterintuitive consequences. (For starters, it has the same implications as hedonism in experience-machine thought experiments, except that according to tranquilism, it’s also a perfect option to prefer death.) Instead, I’m emphasizing that we shouldn’t approach morality as a coordination game where we try to guess everyone else’s guesses. Because we shouldn’t treat morality this way, there’s no reason for people to bite philosophical “bullets” they wouldn’t otherwise be comfortable biting, solely for the sake of the “simplicity and elegance” of a moral theory.

  7. ↩︎

    There’s a similar issue in a suggestion in Adam Lerner’s draft paper “Fine-Tuning Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.” In that paper, Lerner analyzes evolutionary debunking arguments against moral theories. He points out that these debunking arguments require fine-tuning strategies to overcome common objections. According to Lerner, one of these fine-tuning strategies gets us to hedonism, but it relies on presupposing moral realism.

  8. ↩︎

    For more examples and analysis, I recommend Joe Carlsmith’s post Contact with reality.

  9. ↩︎

    Many readers may find this vision of an ideal life comparatively tame. I like things to be cozy and slower-paced. Of course, for more action-oriented individuals, the experience machine could generate an intergalactic civilization with megacities full of the most fascinating or beautiful people (and aliens) to get to know and uncountable opportunities for self-actualization or ambitious quests to take over planets.

  10. ↩︎

    Thanks to Ruairi Donnelly for making this point.

  11. ↩︎

    Relatedly, in the paper “Value Receptacles,” Richard Yetter-Chappel (2013) points out how it’s strange to treat people as receptacles for pleasure:
    If the utilitarian’s theory simply tells her to maximize net happiness, it may seem natural to reconstruct the fitting utilitarian’s thought-process as follows: Bob is in agony. My goal is to maximize utility, i.e., the balance of pleasure over pain. There is some agony (namely, Bob’s) that I am in a position to relieve. Doing so would serve my goal. So I will act to relieve Bob’s suffering. But now note that the interests of Bob himself seem to have dropped out of the picture for our imagined utilitarian agent. She is merely concerned to minimize pain and suffering. The fact that doing so is good for Bob (or anyone else) is not a relevant consideration to her way of thinking, or so we might imagine. Helping people is incidental, a mere side-effect to her real goal of patterning the universe with a particular class of experiences. Call this view Utility Fundamentalism. By taking the value of pleasure (and disvalue of pain) as fundamental, and not to be explained in terms of their value for individuals, Utility Fundamentalism seems objectionably fetishistic. It treats individuals as intrinsically valueless ‘receptacles’, of moral interest only insofar as they provide a space or habitat for what (supposedly) really matters: the brute promotion of pleasure over pain. This moral perspective strikes us, I think rightly, as perverse.