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Chapter 4 - A Theory of the Good: Felicity by Anticipatory Pleasure

from Part II - Reasons of the Good

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2018

Arash Abizadeh
Affiliation:
McGill University, Montréal
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Summary

This chapter outlines Hobbes’s hedonist theory of the good: the ultimate good—felicity—consists in a life of ongoing net pleasure. But since one may derive pleasure from aiming at things other than felicity or pleasure, neither is the aim of all valuable action; nor is felicity the termination of desire. Hobbes took felicity primarily to consist, not in pleasures of satisfaction, but in ongoing mental pleasures of anticipation. Moreover, on Hobbes’s reforming, scientific definition of ‘good’, the term denotes the means one can reasonably expect will (rather than what will actually) enhance felicity. Because language use affects the world, some circumstances may be prescriptively subversive, i.e., calling something “good” may diminish felicity even though the thing itself normally enhances felicity; in deeply subversive circumstances, calling the thing “good” would make it itself noxious to felicity. Hobbes’s insight was that in the state of nature we face deeply subversive circumstances with respect to all social means of self-preservation save one: covenanting to enter a commonwealth. Political subjects, by contrast, face prescriptively self-fulfilling circumstances in which agreeing to call some things “good” makes them means for securing peace. What the sovereign declares “good” will often turn out to be good.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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