Are all Pleasures Equal or are others More Sophisticated?
It is agreed across board that Pleasure is an incidence that brings happiness and reduces or eliminates pain altogether. However, Utilitarians believe that some pleasures are more sophisticated than others hence they have a higher utility while critics think otherwise.
One of the philosophers Bentham a critic of utilitarianism finds it demeaning to equate life to pleasure and attest that some pleasures are more inferior than others, affirms that it difficult if not impossible to compare the utility of two objects that are incommensurable for instance eating chocolate and reading a book. He agrees with the school of thought that ‘ base’ people are happier than those of higher faculties
John Stuart Mill in his essay Test for Higher Pleasure (2007) notes that the fact that other pleasures are more desirable than others, it implies that they have comparatively more utility than others. He further indicates that human pleasures are more superior to animalistic ones and whenever human beings become aware of their higher faculties it becomes hard for them ignore them and leave them uncultivated, happiness indicates that we are exercising our higher faculties (Waller, 2011). Mill further notes that given more opportunities choose between pleasures people will tend choose higher quality pleasure that grant them more utility over different pleasure, even if the former is accompanied by discomfort and they won’t trade it for the greater amount of the latter; which implies that people will always choose pleasures that appeal to their higher faculties, hence a human being will not like to be an animal, a scholar will not like to be ignorant and so forth. It goes further to indicate that some pleasures are superior to others and can, therefore, be said a higher utility.
There is a school of thought that says, ’base’ people are more happier than those with higher faculties which brings arises from the confusion between happiness and contentment, because discontent among people with higher faculties can be attributed to their deep understanding of the limitations of the world. Mill says “ it is better to dissatisfied human than a satisfied pig; dissatisfied Socrates than satisfied fool. If a pig or a fool is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their side of the story”. Therefore, the people who are at a better position to make a judgment on pleasures are those who have experienced both higher and lower pleasures.
The utilitarian school of thought notes that as much as nobility is not desirable to people since it has a lot of discontent, in the dissatisfaction of the noble there is the common good of the society, since the moral law dictates that what is good for society supersedes the selfish preference of an individual which further to affirm greatest happiness principle (Waller, 2011).
One of the famous Hindu Religion Scholar and Philosopher A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada a critic of Mill, in his essay, Beyond Illusion and Doubt (2012) acknowledges that one of the Hindu gods Rabadev had the following advice to his sons ‘ The greatest happiness you can obtain in life is to give service to humanity, any work for personal pleasures won’t differentiate you from the hogs and the dogs that eat stool’
Waller, B. N. (2011). Consider ethics: Theory, readings, and contemporary issues. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.