Contemporary Moral Theory: Well-Being
Spring 2014
Prof. Chris Heathwood


Third Homework Assignment (due FRI FEB 7): Hurka's Second Argument for his "pain is worse" thesis:

In Chapter 3, Hurka gives a number of arguments for the thesis that "pleasure of a given intensity is less good than pain of the same intensity is bad" (55). In the second argument, Hurka asks us to

Imagine that one person is suffering intense pain, so he's at −10 on a pleasure-pain scale (where larger negative numbers indicate greater degrees of pain), while another enjoys great pleasure and is at +9. And imagine that you can make the same small improvement in either's feelings, reducing the one's pain to −9 or increasing the other's pleasure to +10.

In class, I interpreted his second argument as follows:

P1. You should give the small improvement to person who is at -10 rather than to the person who is at +9.
P2. Part of the explanation for why P1 is true is that Hurka's thesis ("that pleasure of a given intensity is less good than pain of the same intensity is bad") is true.
C. Therefore, Hurka's thesis is true.

For this assignment, write a paragraph in which you say how Hurka's thesis is supposed to help explain why P1 is true.

Second Homework Assignment (due FRI JAN 24): How do we determine what is of intrinsic welfare value?

Most people would agree that these three things

health, life, knowledge

are at least instrumentally good to have, at least sometimes. But are any of them intrinsically good for us? Does being healthy, or being alive, or knowing something ever in itself make a person better off? And how do we even go about trying to test this? And does this tell us anything about how in general to answer the philosophical question of welfare?

Try to answer these questions. Record your findings and be prepared to discuss them in class.

First Homework Assignment (due in class on WED JAN 15): The uses of 'good':

We use the terms 'good' and 'bad' in ordinary language in all sorts of ways. I want you to think about the ways. Find some sentences of ordinary English in which 'good' (or 'bad') is used. You might even do a search on a newspaper's website. Try to come up with what appear to be rather different uses. Then see whether you think the different uses in fact differ in meaning. Or perhaps they are just different kinds of goodness. Either way, try to categorize them. Put them into groups according to their different meanings or kinds. Characterize each group as best you can.