Thursday, June 08, 2006

Is a theory of welfare that includes the experience requirement different from Mental Statism?

1. Experience requirement: something (some state of affairs) can be good for the subject only if it enters the subject’s experience.
2. Mental Statism: the only things that can be good are experiences, or the subject's (conscious) mental states.

Take a theory that purports to be different from “Mental Statism”, but contains the Experience Requirement. Such a theory may hold that, although there are other things beside experience that are good (e.g. accomplishments, real friendships, etc.), those things are good for a subject S¸ only if S has experience of them. Let us call this theory K.

Does K differ from Mental Statism?

I believe they end up saying the same thing; in fact what K says boils down to the following:

1. X (say, having a good friend) is good for S, only if X causes the experience of X in S
2. Thus it is natural to think that X is good for S in virtue of his power to cause a certain experience of S, an experience as of X.
3. Therefore, anything that has the same power (the power to cause the experience as of X in S) will be as good for S, as X itself.
4. But if X is good in virtue of his power to cause something, it is only instrumentally good. What is really good is X’s effect, namely S’s experience as of X.
5. So we are back to the theory that the only things that are good for a subject can be his experiences.

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