Happiness and Ultimate Good with Peter Singer

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channel UCTV Prime, available only on YouTube. (soft music) – Thank you all of you for
turning out and I noticed the little breath of relief when you realize you were
not going to get a lecture on the immortality of the soul, (audience laughing) which I would not be
well equipped to give, but I suppose one could
say there’s this connection between what I will talk about, if indeed the soul were immortal, and if, at least some souls
went, as some people believe, to paradise or heaven, then
presumably they would be happy. But then we have to ask,
what does that mean? What is the good that would be achieved, were they to be happy
and that does take us pretty close to my topic. So I prepare that justification in case anyone should
challenge the propriety of this talk on that lecture. What I’m really going to do is talk about what underpins the views that I’ve held on many issues, as was mentioned in the introduction, about the treatment of
animals, about global poverty, about life or death questions. So I’m not actually going to be addressing the specifics of those questions but rather, the value underneath it. For essentially my whole
philosophical life, certainly since I wrote Practical Ethics more than 30 years ago, I’ve held that the right thing to do is what does most to
satisfy the preferences of all those affected by one’s action, whether human or non-human. That’s a view that’s generally known as preference utilitarianism
and I held it, I suppose, to some extent
under the influence of one of my Oxford teachers, R. M. Hare, whose view was based on what he called universal prescriptivism,
that is a view of ethics which says that moral
judgments are prescriptions, they’re not statements, they can’t be true or false in an ordinary sense. Although we can reason about them because they have to be universalized in a special sense of that term. I’d been uneasy about that
meta ethic for quite some time but it took two factors or perhaps it would be better to
say to great philosophers to persuade me to seriously
consider a shift away from it. One of them was, as Professor Bann mentioned in the introduction, Henry Sidgwick, who I’m
currently working on and let me say, I’m not just
writing this book by myself, I have a co-author, a Polish colleague, Dr. Catarina de Lazzari Radek and I want to acknowledge that the work that I’m presenting is
to some extent drawn from work that we have jointly prepared as part of the draft of this book. The second, and Sidgwick was
an objectivist in ethics, so it’s some extent working out his views on on the nature of ethics. The second great philosopher
who has influenced me is a contemporary, the Oxford
philosopher Derek Parfit, whose major recent work, On What Matters, is at least in part an extended defense of objectivism in ethics. Now, one could accept objectivism as a meta-ethical position and still be a preference utilitarian
in terms of normative ethics. That is, in terms of the the content of what you think one ought to do. Objectivism doesn’t preclude the idea that we ought to satisfy
desires or preferences as a normative view but it
does, for various reasons, increase the appeal of
some alternatives to it. And prominent among these is the idea that happiness is the ultimate good. So what I’m going to talk about today is to explore that idea. The idea, in other words, that instead of being
preference utilitarians, we should be closer to
the classical utilitarians who were concerned about happiness or as it’s sometimes put, we’re hedonistic utilitarians. Hedonism from the Greek word for pleasure. So section two, what do
we mean by happiness? The trinity of 19th century utilitarians, that’s Jeremy Bentham, John
Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick, were all ethical hedonists. When they discuss happiness, they often use happiness or pleasure because for them,
happiness means a surplus of pleasure over pain. This view has been subject to considerable criticism over the years. And I’m certainly, was
not been the only one who’s thought that it was not defensible, that preference view was better. And there’ve been quite a few recent works examining, in particular,
the concept of happiness and what we mean by that. One of them is by Fred Feldman. It’s a book called What Is
This Thing Called Happiness? And Feldman is quite critical
of the classical view. He attributes to Bentham,
Mill, and Sedgwick, what he calls sensory hedonism, which essentially means, I guess, that you’re happy at a time,
if and only if you feel more sensory pleasure
than pain at that time, and unhappy if and only if
you feel more sensory pain than pleasure at that time. What does he mean by sensory pleasure? Well, I take it that the
dictionary definition says relating to sensation
or the physical senses, transmitted or perceived by the senses. So Feldman seems to
mean something like that and he does say that sensory pleasure always has some phenomenally given sensory intensity which
is a measure of how strong or vivid or brilliant the pleasure is. So it seems that he’s really thinking about something at
which the paradigm cases would be the physical pleasures, whether they’re pleasures of sex or of eating or of the warmth of the sun on your back or something of that sort. And indeed, in arguing
against sensory hedonism, Feldman uses an example
from sexual pleasure. He asked us to imagine
an unfortunate character named Wendell, who’s seen advertised for an orgasm enhancer, that it’s claimed will give him an amazing 400 hedon orgasm. (audience laughing) You have to imagine that we can measure pleasure in units that are called hedons. Although he’s been warned by his friends that the advertisements
are probably a scam, he buys the device and tries it out but when the orgasm comes, instead of the monster
orgasm he’s expecting, he gets a pathetic little 12 hedon orgasm. (audience laughing) Experiencing it, he’s unhappy. But why? (audience laughing) After all, Feldman argues, 12 hedons is better than no hedons or -12 hedons. So surely, Wendell is experiencing pleasure rather than pain. If happiness is just
having a positive balance of pleasure over pain,
we would have to agree that at the moment of orgasm, he’s happy, but anyone observing him
can see that he has a pained look on his face and
seems generally unhappy. Feldman also has another
case, perhaps more realistic and in some respects, the reverse of this. He asked us to imagine
a woman in the throes of giving birth without drugs
because she wants to be able to fully experience the birth process, so she’s in considerable pain. But with one last push,
the baby comes out. Later, she says that that was, so later, she says that the pain was the worst that she’s ever felt, much greater than she’d
expected but at the same time, the birth was the happiest
moment of her life. Both these cases, Feldman argues, suggest that the hedonism of the Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick variety is false. Well, I think that this
is really a travesty of certainly what Sidgwick was arguing. I won’t answer for Bentham or Mill, because he has a much
broader notion of pleasure. For example, among the
pleasures he talks about are the pleasures of
intellectual exercise, of aesthetic reception, of grasping some scientific discovery. And he talks about the pleasure of labor, meaning, I take it, work
rather than giving birth. But still. He also notes that there are states in which a certain amount of pain or discomfort is mixed with pleasure. And among such states, he
mentions the triumphant conquest of painful obstacles, which could well describe
the birth process. And he might even be referring to someone like Wendell when he writes
of the disappointment of the hedonist who fails
to find self satisfaction where he seeks for it. Adding that this disappointment is attended with pain or loss of pleasure. Now, admittedly, I’m not
trying to suggest it, but when Sidgwick uses the
term self-satisfaction, he had masturbation in mind, but what the passage does show is that he counts disappointment as a pain and on that basis could plausibly reject Feldman’s claim that Wendell, at the moment of his
pathetic 12 hedon orgasm, which of course is also the
moment at which he realizes he’s been the victim of
a scam, is experiencing, could reject the claim
that that he’s experiencing a positive balance of pleasure over pain. Another hedonist Feldman criticizes is my Princeton colleague and Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman. According to Kahneman,
it makes sense to say, Helen was happy in the month of March, if, and I quote, she
spent most of her time engaged in activities she would
rather continue than stop, little time in situations
she wished to escape, and very important, because life is short, not too much time in a neutral state, in which she would not care either way. In that passage, Kahneman
does use the word activities rather than mental states or experiences but he also talks
elsewhere about experience and experience utility
and the experiencing self and I think it’s clear that he is actually talking
about mental states here. He talks for example
about instant utility, adding that instant
utility is best understood as the strength of the
disposition to continue or to interrupt the current experience. So his view is a mental state view and one that distinguishes
the mental states that contribute to happiness
from those that do not, by saying just as Sedgwick does, that the former are ones
we desire to continue. In other words, pleasure or the positive mental states utility is not just one particular type of sensation. It’s not to be distinguished
by a certain kind of feeling, in the way that we might distinguish some particular sensations
as having a certain type and then they’re just
differing along that continuum. But I think pleasure for
Sidgwick and for Kahneman, is much more widely
varied and what determines that it’s pleasure is that
it’s a state of consciousness that, considered intrinsically, just as a state of consciousness, you would wish to continue,
you would wish to have more of, and conversely, pain is
a state of consciousness that considered intrinsically, you would wish to have less of. And I’m going to come
back to Kahneman’s view at the end of, towards
the end of the talk. What does Feldman put up as an alternative to sensory hedonism? He talks about attitudinal hedonism, which he says is to
have a positive balance of intrinsic or current
attitudinal pleasure. That’s probably not a
very transparent phrase. What does it mean? Well, for example, he says, I might be pleased to learn,
by reading a newspaper, that the distribution of bed nets by aid agencies has reduced the number of children dying from malaria. To say that I’m pleased to read that doesn’t mean, Feldman says, that I have a kind of
cheery feeling as I read it or that I have a warm
inner glow as I read it. It just means that I have this
positive attitude towards it and that’s how Feldman would replace or the classical utilitarian
view as he sees it. But as Daniel Hebron points out in another recent work on happiness called
the Pursuit of Unhappiness, that view takes the fun out of pleasure. If the knowledge that fewer children died does not involve any positive
emotions or feelings, does it really contribute to my happiness? I agree with Hebron. I don’t think it does. So I reject Feldman’s alternative to the traditional view as well as his critique of that view. Hebron, however, puts his own case against a hedonistic view of happiness. And I think it’s more
difficult to counter. His argument is that some pleasures, like the enjoyment of eating crackers and he also mentions orgasms, I guess they just come into
this discussion naturally. He thinks that some of
these pleasures, at least, may be too superficial to have
any impact on our happiness. As he puts it, these pleasures
just don’t get to us. They flip through consciousness
and that’s the end of it. They leave our happiness level untouched. So Hebron thinks that to feel pleasure is just to have an experience or may not get to us, whereas to describe someone as happy is to say
something that goes deeper, to say something about their
emotional state and their mood. Emotional states and moods
and not just feelings, they’re dispositions to feel something. To say that I’m irritable, for example, is not to say that I’m
feeling irritated right now, but rather to say that I’m
liable to become irritated, perhaps about trivial things that would not bother someone else who was in a more
expansive mood than I am. Hebron grants that a
person with a generally do-er personality might,
because of good fortune, be in high spirits for a time
and we could then consider her happy, but he says,
this would be a fragile sort of happiness, unlike
the robust happiness of a person who has a propensity to have those positive
moods and emotional states. Now, taking that as an
account of common usage of how we ordinarily
use the term happiness, which of course is a term in common use, not a philosophical term of art. Quite possibly, Hebron is right, that is the sense in which
we most commonly use the term and we could then accept his view that happiness refers not to the surplus of pleasure over pain that the classical utilitarians used it to refer to, but to having a certain emotional state. The question is, does this mean that the classical
utilitarians were mistaken? Okay, section three, happiness,
utilitarianism, and value. If we agree that Hebron’s
kind of happiness gets the ordinary concept
right, what follows? He himself is clear that to
give an account of happiness has no implications for a
theory of value, as such. So you could reject the hedonistic account of happiness without rejecting
the hedonistic kind of value. All utilitarians need to do, he says, is grant that their theories are about pleasure and
not about happiness. And given Hebron’s account of happiness, I think that’s a plausible view. If happiness is, at least in part, a disposition to have certain feelings, under certain conditions, how
could that be good in itself? What would have to be good, surely, is the feelings that it’s
a disposition to have, not having the disposition as such. So utilitarian, then, would have to change their vocabulary and speak of pleasure rather than unhappiness. But they wouldn’t have to change the utilitarian conclusions
about what we ought to do. Still, you might you might
feel the utilitarianism would be less persuasive
if they had to talk about maximizing the greatest pleasure for the greatest number
rather than the greatest happiness for the greatest number. At least utilitarians need to explain why, on their view, happiness is important but I think Hebron’s own account provides such an explanation. To be happy, on his view,
is to be in a certain emotional state which makes it likely that you’ll experience pleasure. He says, I quote, one of these states, it’s the single most
important determinant, happiness, of our hedonic states. So if we combine the
classical utilitarian view that the only thing of
intrinsic value is pleasure, with Hebron’s view that happiness consists of a set of emotional states, we reach the conclusion that happiness is instrumentally good,
not intrinsically good. Pleasure, in the sense of being
in a positive hedonic state, is intrinsically good and happy people are more likely to experience
this positive hedonic state, so happiness is an
important instrumental good. And I think we can also use this account to explain why happiness is important in practical deliberation. As Hebron himself argues,
it’s often easier to work out, when making an important choice, whether it will lead to you being happy or unhappy or other people
being happy or unhappy then whether it’ll
maximize hedonic states. Think, for example, of
making a career choice. You might think of a choice
between two different careers that one of them will
lead you to be stressed and anxious, whereas the other will give you more peace of mind. So those are not intrinsically
good things themselves but they’re likely to
contribute to your happiness or your unhappiness of course, in a state, the career that leads you to
be more stressed and anxious and therefore, to mean that you less frequently have
positive hedonic states. So I think we can explain why,
in terms of making choices, happiness might come
to our mind more easily than pleasure because it
just may be more easily to work out what impact the choices will have on this very basic and important instrumental good that is likely to lead to the actual intrinsic good. Section four, arguing for the value of mental states, conscious states. What I’ve argued so far is that criticisms of hedonism
as an account of happiness don’t exclude the
possibility that pleasure is the only thing of intrinsic value. But I haven’t yet argued that pleasure is of ultimate value or indeed,
of intrinsic value at all, let alone the only thing
of intrinsic value. Why might we think that it is? Well, let’s look at how Sidgwick argues for pleasure as the ultimate value. He begins with a claim that when we think about what we judge to be good, everything that can survive the scrutiny of careful reflection has some connection to human existence or at least to some consciousness or feeling. And in other parts of
the Methods of Ethics, he explicitly includes
animal consciousness as part of the good so what
we’re talking about here is the states of, he’s
saying that anything that can survive the scrutiny
of careful reflection, in terms of being judged to be good, has to be a conscious state of some sentient being, human or animal. He considers possible counter
examples to the claim. He notes, for example,
that we commonly judge inanimate objects or scenes to be good because they’re beautiful
or bad because they’re ugly. But, he goes on to say, no
one would consider it rational to aim at the production of beauty in external nature,
apart from any possible contemplation of it by human beings. Famously, shortly after
that in Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore did challenge that claim and asked the reader to
imagine two possible worlds, one as beautiful as you
can possibly make it, the other as ugly as you
can possibly make it, simply one heap of
filth, in Moore’s phrase, with no redeeming feature and grant that no human being or no sentient being will ever see either world. Nevertheless, Moore, in Principia Ethica, said it’s rational to prefer
that the beautiful world should exist rather than the ugly world. Well, you can consult your
own intuitions on this. I think if we can really imagine that world with no being appreciating it, then it really doesn’t
make any difference. Of course, for us, since
we’re imagining it, we may like to imagine
the beautiful world, that’s a more pleasant experience for us, but we have to somehow subtract that from the process of doing
this thought experiment and then I don’t think
it makes a difference. And incidentally, Moore himself, later on in his little book Ethics, abandoned that view about the worlds without consciousness and agreed with Sidgwick that nothing is intrinsically good unless it has some relation to consciousness. But even if we agree that
such things as beauty and knowledge are only
good in some relationship to human beings or to minds of some kind, somebody might say that
it would be reasonable to be concerned with producing
them for their own sake and take them as ultimate ends, irrespective of who may come to appreciate the beauty
or gain in knowledge. But Sedgewick’s argument
is that they can only be ultimately good if they
lead either to happiness or to the perfection of
excellence of human existence. In other words, he’s saying, these goods have to be connected with human existence in some way. And he’s now considering, yes, but maybe they don’t have to be connected with human existence
in terms of happiness, maybe they are connected
with human existence in terms of achieving certain
perfections or excellences which are intrinsically
good in themselves. That idea, of what is intrinsically good is perfection or excellence, probably sounds a little
odd to modern ears, in a more egalitarian kind of era but it certainly is an ancient tradition which can be traced back,
at least to Ancient Greece and to Aristotle and came
into Western thought, or Aristotle’s version of this idea came to Western thinking through Aquinas and you can find it today
in contemporary writers like John Finnis who are in that, loosely in that Thomistic tradition but I think the Aristotelian version of excellences makes sense only within a pre-Darwinian
view of the world. That is, a view that that the world exists for some purpose and the purpose is for us to achieve these highest goods, in particular, for Aristotle,
to perfect our rationality which is the highest good. If we abandon the idea that
the world exists for a purpose, then at least, that
Aristotelian way of arguing for excellences as intrinsic good, I think doesn’t really work. Because human nature is not
then going to necessarily be intrinsically good. There may be aspects of our nature that we don’t want to perfect, like aggression, for example, which seems on a Darwinian view to be one aspect of our human nature. There are other forms
of perfectionism too. One is related to the
idea of living virtuously. And virtue ethics has had something of a revival in recent years. But I think Sidgwick’s
criticism of virtue ethics is something that applies
still to modern virtue ethics, at least if the virtue ethicist is trying to offer a comprehensive
normative ethical theory. What Sidgwick says is that to know what qualities are virtues, we need to know what we ought to do. You can’t just have the ideas of virtues independently of some idea
of what we ought to do. And to know what we ought to do, we have to define what the good is. Therefore to define the
ultimate good as virtue, is just to go round in a circle. And maybe that can be made clearer if we look at some specific virtues. Sidgwick, for instance, gives
the example of frugality, which was a virtue in Sidgwick’s day. I guess, people didn’t get regular mail asking them to take out more credit cards when Sidgwick was around. So when does frugality pass over into the vice of meanness, Sidgwick asks. Or when does courage become foolhardiness? When do candor or generosity
or humility become excessive? Sidgwick argues, you can
only answer those questions by having a notion of what is good and without such a notion, virtue theory would be
seriously incomplete. Finally, just one third
form of perfectionism. John Rawls, in A Theory of Justice, talked about perfectionism as simply the idea that achieving excellence, whether in art or science or culture, trumps all other values. So for a perfectionist,
if the achievements of Ancient Greece could only be realized because they had slaves,
then slavery was justified. That, of course, is not Rawls’ view. But Sedgwick does discuss such a view too and he argues that however immediately the excellent quality of such gifts and skills may be recognized and admired, reflection shows that
they’re only valuable on account of the good or
desirable conscious life in which they are or will be actualized or which we somehow
promoted by their exercise. In other words, he’s sticking
to a mental state view and saying that art,
science, and philosophy are good only insofar as they promote or are part of a desirable conscious life. And again, you have to ask yourself, does reflection show that? Sedgwick is appealing to
your considered judgment. And again, I would say,
at least that mine does. It may not be true of all of you, but I think if art,
science, and philosophy had no positive effect
on the conscious lives of sentient beings at all,
it would not be valuable. So Sedgwick, at this stage, is taking his argument to
show that ultimate goodness is good or desirable
consciousness or sentient life. There’s a well-known
objection to this view, a modern objection that
Sidgwick didn’t, of course, explicitly consider, although he does say some things relevant to it. It was put forward by Robert Nozick and I’ll read you a couple
of relevant passages. Suppose there were an experience machine that could give you any
experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists
could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel that you were writing a great novel or making a friend or
reading an interesting book. All the time, you would
be floating in a tank with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into
this machine for life, programming, pre-programming
your life’s desires. Of course, while in the tank, you won’t know that you’re there. You’ll think it’s all actually happening. Others can also plug in, to
have the experiences they want, so there’s no need to stay
unplugged to serve them and Nozick says we should ignore problems such as who’s going to
service the machines if everyone plugs in. The question is, would you plug in? And the point of the example of course is that Nozick expects us to say, no, I would not plug in to
the experience machine and if you do say no, that surely implies that something matters to you other than conscious experiences,
other than how your life feels from the inside
because if you do plug in, you can have the best
possible conscious experiences you can imagine of the
whole range of pleasures. This is not like Feldman’s criticism of just sensory pleasures because if you want the
pleasure of making a friend or reading a good book or
climbing Mount Everest, we can program the
machine to give it to you. But Nozick says, we don’t want that. We want to be a certain kind of person, loving, brave, intelligent, and so on, not just a body floating in a tank. We want to live in contact with reality. The experience machine is a powerful reason for rejecting ethical hedonism. But does the conclusion really follow from this example? It’s true that we can have desires for things that are not mental states, that we do have such desires. For example, I might
desire that the people I consider to be my friends
like and respect me. Suppose also, in fact,
none of these people like or respect me, they think
that I’m a conceited fool. But they are very well-intentioned people and they know about my desire and they don’t wish to cause me distress so they all pretend to
like and respect me. (audience laughing) And they do this so well that
I never know the difference. I live to a ripe old age. I died without ever
knowing that I was mistaken about the opinions of the
people I took to be my friends. Although I believed that my desire to be liked and respected was satisfied, there’s clearly a sense
in which it was not and the desire theory, that’s
the theory that as I said, I certainly used to hold
and for a long time, the desire theory does not locate ultimate value in mental states alone. And so it gives you an easy response to the experience machine
thought experiment. If we don’t want those illusions then the desire theory or
the preference utilitarian does not have to say
that we should plug in. If our desire is to live
in contact with reality, it follows from, for the
preference utilitarian, that this is what we should indeed do. So as I say, that was an example, it was one of the
factors, not the only one, but one of the factors that led me to think that a preference based view is better than a hedonistic view. But I’m no longer convinced
that the experience machine is a sufficient reason for abandoning hedonism in favor of
desire-based theory of value. I recognize the strengths
of the intuitions we have against plugging into the machine. There, in part, I believe the result of our nature
as purposive beings. For thousands of generations, in the world in which our
ancestors were surviving, both competing and cooperating with other intelligent beings, to improve their chances of survival and the survival of their offspring, they had to act purposively. They couldn’t just act for
the pleasures of the moment. So we’ve evolved a need to act purposively and a strong tendency to override our immediate pleasures and pains for the sake of larger purposes. That leads to what’s sometimes called the paradox of hedonism, the idea that we’re most
likely to find pleasure by setting ourselves
certain purposes and goals that stand apart from our
own desire for pleasure. If you directly say I’m going to do what will give me most pleasure now, the paradox of hedonism suggests you’re not going to find it. But the experience machine objection asks us to imagine a world
in which everyone’s needs can be taken care of completely, forever. And that includes not only their needs for food and shelter but for the avoidance of whatever experiences
they wish to avoid. In such a radically different world, all of our usual purposes become otiose. There’s no need for us
to save for old-age, ensure that our children and grandchildren get a good education, or even to seek to end world poverty or
protect human rights. To make the example complete, I guess we have to say there’s no need for us to work to protect the
welfare of animals either. I suppose that might mean that they get their own
experience machines. I’m not quite sure what
Nozick had in mind there. But if we still have this need to live to some purpose,
then it’s no wonder that we think that
there is something wrong with plugging into the experience machine. The situation resembles
that of asking somebody to drink a glass of apple juice in which, just in front of their eyes, you have taken a roach
carefully sterilized in a medical sterilizing
cabinet and then dipped it into the apple juice and withdrawn it. This is an experiment that has been done by Jonathan Hite, among others, and we know that many people are reluctant to drink the apple juice,
even though previously, they have expressed a desire
to drink some apple juice. (audience laughing) So intellectually, we can grasp that there’s nothing
wrong with the apple juice that had the roach, sterilized
roach dipped into it but we can’t quite get
rid of that intuition. So I’m suggesting that
maybe something similar is going on here with our intuition that even in the circumstances described, very imaginary circumstances, quite beyond reality, that we would not want to plug into the experience machine. There are other reasons too, of course. One might be that we just don’t believe that the technology is foolproof. This problem of accepting
the hypothesis and so on. Of course, since Nozick put this example, we’ve become familiar with the idea from films like The Matrix but we don’t like that idea either because we were being exploited
by intelligent machines who needed our body heat to provide energy or some further bizarre reason that’s difficult to understand. (audience laughing) But you have to imagine
that in Nozick’s machines, you know that none of
this is going to happen. No one is going to suffer or will be. Still, the suspicion that something will go wrong is hard to avoid. There’s another possible
factor going on here that’s been exposed by some empirical research by Felipe De Brigard. He asked people to imagine, he was interested in finding why people are reluctant to
enter the experience machine or if indeed they are. So he asked people to imagine that they’re already connected
to an experience machine and now face the choice of
either remaining connected or going back to live in reality. And he randomly offered
them one of three vignettes. In what he called the neutral vignette, you’re simply told that
you can go back to reality if you like but not given any information about what reality will be like for you. In the negative vignette,
you’re told that in reality, you’re a prisoner in a
maximum-security prison and in the positive vignette,
you’re told that in reality, you are a multi-millionaire
artist living in Monaco. (audience laughing) Now, of those participants
given the neutral vignette, 46% said they would prefer to stay plugged into
the experience machine. Among those given the negative vignette, that figure rose to 87%. That’s not so surprising,
for the alternative for them was life in a
maximum-security prison. But most surprisingly of all, of those given the positive vignette, exactly half preferred to say connected to the machine rather
than return to reality as a multi-millionaire
artist living in Monaco. Monaco has to do a bit better in its public relations, obviously. (audience laughing) So these results don’t support Nozick’s confident judgment that we prefer to live in reality rather than
plugged into a machine. They also though, admittedly, don’t support the hedonistic view that what people are choosing to do is to maximize their pleasure. But what is interesting
and the reason why Brigard asked the question the way he did, is that the status quo bias
is playing a role here. So the status quo bias, for
those who are not familiar, is a well-known psychological phenomenon. It’s been studied in various ways, that suggests that people are reluctant to depart from the status quo. So if you give them $2, and for example, and say for $2, you can buy this cup. Then let’s say, relatively,
many people would think, oh, that’s a nice cup. Sure, here’s $2, I’ll buy it. But if you give them the
cup and say here’s your cup and somebody offers them $2 for it. I think I’ve got this
slightly wrong, sorry, but the idea is whatever you give them is something, their endowment, and they’re reluctant to depart from it. So the same kind of thing
seems to be going on here, that one of the reasons
why we may be reluctant to enter into the experience machine is we’re reasonably
content with the status quo and so we don’t want to give
it up for something unknown but if you ask people to imagine, even just imagine that they
are plugged into the machine and then that they move
from that to reality, then they are also more reluctant to abandon the status quo. And one way of confirming that, once De Brigard had his results, he then put a fourth vignette to people, identical to the neutral one, except that the participants were told that life outside the machine is not at all like the life
you experienced so far. That information dropped
the number of people who were prepared to
disconnect from 50% to 41%. Not a huge difference but it
did appear to have an effect. So that also suggests that
the experience machine is not a decisive objection to the view that what is ultimately good
is a state of consciousness. Section seven, the experiencing self and the remembering self. Many attempts to survey happiness ask people how satisfied
they are with their life. For example, there’s something called the Gallup World Poll,
which has many questions. One section is on well-being
and under well-being, the Gallup World Poll asked people to give a number between 1 and 10, indicating their answer to the question, all things considered, how satisfied are you with your life
as a whole these days? Hebron and Feldman have pointed out that for various reasons,
this asks a different question from how happy are you now? You might be satisfied
but you might be satisfied because you have low expectations. Some people might think, for example, well, how happy can a
sinner like me expect to be? Or someone who has internalized the repressive attitudes of
her society towards women might also be fairly, be
not very happy at all, but still satisfied with her life. The same might be true if you’re a member of a low caste or an ethnic minority. Daniel Kahneman, who I mentioned earlier, together with Angus Deaton, has shown another interesting distinction between the answers that
Americans, at least, give to Gallup’s life
satisfaction question and the answers they give to questions about their emotional well-being. So on the one hand, an
answer to the question that I just gave you,
how satisfied are you, all things considered with
your life, these days? With questions that indicate the emotional quality of an individual’s
everyday experiences, the frequency and intensity
of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection, that make one’s life
pleasant or unpleasant. According to Kahneman and Deaton, whereas the higher your income, the higher life satisfaction
you are likely to report, your emotional well-being
shows no further increases once your income reaches
$75,000 per annum. As I say, for Americans. And this is an interesting answer, that there’s been a lot of discussion about whether, indeed, happiness
does increase with income. For many years it was
believed that it did not, that it increased only
up to a certain plateau and then that it just plateaued. Then Kahneman and Deaton argued that that was wrong. Deaton in particular, initially, and a couple of other people argued that in fact it does go up indefinitely, although admittedly it
goes up much more slowly, only after that plateau but
they claimed it did increase. Now it seems that the answer is it depends exactly on what you’re measuring, whether you’re measuring how people answer the life satisfaction question. In which case, yes, it
does continue to go up, even after the plateau,
although more slowly than before or whether it’s emotional well-being that is the frequency
of these experiences, which obviously is closer to
what I’ve been talking about, the hedonistic view of pleasure and pain. And there, it does seem that it plateaus after this reasonably comfortable level of 75000 per annum. And as part of this
discussion and other writings, Kahneman has, good thing
that I got a laptop here, rather than paper I guess, isn’t it? Kahneman has developed the distinction between the experiencing self
and the remembering self. And here’s one way of
illustrating that distinction. Patients undergoing a colonoscopy. Thank you, patients
undergoing a colonoscopy were asked to report, in intervals, the level of pain or
discomfort they were feeling. It’s pretty amazing than people consent to this research, I think. (audience laughing) Just what you need, you’re
undergoing a colonoscopy and there’s some guy asking
you, how does it feel now? How bad is it now? Give me a number, 1 out
of 10, what it’s like now. (audience laughing) It seems like people did this. Then after the procedure was over, they were asked to assess how bad it was and to make a hypothetical choice between having it repeated
or having a barium enema, also I’m not a very pleasant experience. And the results were surprising. So I’ll take just two
sample patients here. Patients A and B might
have identically painful experiences for the first 10
minutes of the colonoscopy. Suppose that patient A’s experience ends at that point, after 10 minutes, then the colonoscopy is over. He feels no more pain. Whereas patient B’s experience, having the identical first
10 minutes as patient A, continues for another five minutes at a level that he still finds painful but not as severely painful
as the first 10 minutes. Okay, so first question. Who suffered the most pain? Let me ask you, actually. A show of hands, how many of you think A
suffered the most pain? How many of you think B
suffered the most pain? Well, of those who have
dared to show your hands, the great majority is for B. I think that’s right. Clearly B did. For the first 10 minutes, he
had just as much pain as A and then he had an additional five minutes of some pain while A was
feeling no pain at all. Yet when we ask the patients, after the experience is all
over, to rate the experience, typically, A rated worse than B and is less willing to
repeat the procedure. And this is not just in colonoscopies. Kahneman has repeated
this by getting people to put their arm into extremely cold water for two minutes and then
for one further minute into water that is still painfully cold but not as cold as it was
for the first two minutes. And you get the same result. The people who put their
arm in the extremely cold water for two minutes and
then take it out altogether, describe it afterwards
as a worse experience than the people who had
the one extra minute of still uncomfortably cold water. Kahneman calls this
phenomenon duration neglect and he considers it a focusing illusion. We focus on the last
moments of the experience rather than the entire experience. And he goes so far as to
say that we have two selves, the experiencing self
and the remembering self. When we ask questions
about life satisfaction, we are necessarily addressing ourselves to the remembering self. We’re asking itself to remember what these last few days have been like. We can only access the experiencing self if we interrupt it at frequent intervals to ask, as I said, what is it like now? And Kahneman has done this, not just for the patients
in colonoscopies, but for a larger number of subjects going about their daily lives. And it’s interesting how
technology makes this easier to do. He programs their mobile phones to interrupt them at very random intervals throughout their lives and then
they have to put in a number between 0 and 10 to indicate the quality of their experience
at that particular moment and then he can get all of these results and tabulate them, associate them with what they were doing at
particular times and so on. But given this distinction, we then face a value question. What is of ultimate value? Is it the quality of life
of the experiencing self or of the remembering self? Kahneman seems to lean
towards the experiencing self, saying the logic of duration
waiting is compelling. Duration waiting, of course, being the idea that we should take account of how long an experience lasts. And he’s also written
that the total utility of an episode is a product
of average instant utility, the average level, and the duration. And that retrospective evaluation leads to erroneous estimates of the true total utility of past experiences. But he also says that duration waiting can’t be considered a
complete theory of well-being because individuals identify
with their remembering self and care about their story. Quote, a theory of well-being that ignores what people
want cannot be sustained. So his conclusion is
that the remembering self and the experiencing self
must both be considered. Their interests don’t coincide but they both need to
be taken into account. That’s from his most recent
book, Thinking Fast and Slow. And then he adds,
philosophers could struggle with these questions for a long time. No doubt they could and perhaps they will. But Sidgwick did actually
think about these questions and without, of course, knowing
exactly this distinction that Kahneman is drawing
but he did conclude that we should have impartial concern for all parts of our conscious life. That’s a quote and it is of course, Kahneman’s principle of duration waiting. I agree. It’s true that individuals identify with their remembering self
and care about their story but presumably, this
actually has some impact on their experiences. When they’re thinking about their story, remembering their past
or recent experiences and feeling positively about this, this is a positive experience that improves their current experience. And to the extent that their caring about the story affects the
quality of their experience, of course it does matter on the hedonistic view of ultimate value, to the extent that it doesn’t affect the
quality of their experiences, it doesn’t matter on that theory. So I’m supporting the experiencing self over the remembering
self in this choice. Is it true, as Kahneman says, that a theory of well-being that ignores what people want cannot be sustained? I certainly would have
thought that in the past but now I think that perhaps the only way in which that’s true is that politically, it can’t be sustained. If government set out to measure happiness and to promote it, they’d
better come up with an idea of happiness that people want
and are prepared to support. It’s the remembering self that votes, after all, not the experiencing self. But that’s a problem for democratic theory and political philosophy
rather than for the area of ethics that inquires
into ultimate value. Okay, brief conclusion. The 21st century is on track to become the happiness century, at least, if we can judge by its
first dozen or so years. The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has long had a policy of
promoting gross national happiness rather than gross national product. And work in this area has accelerated since Bhutan became a
constitutional monarchy and a democratic monarchy in 2008. That was also the year in
which the french president, Nicolas Sarkozy, set up a commission chaired by the economist Joseph Stiglitz and including also Amartya
Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi, to recommend ways of
measuring social progress as well as economic performance. Last year, Bhutan achieved
a diplomatic success by persuading the United
Nations General Assembly to support a non-binding resolution, encouraging member
states to undertake steps that give more importance to happiness and well-being, in
determining how to achieve and measure social and
economic development. And earlier this month, there was a United Nations
meeting in New York to discuss that issue further. This year, we’ve also
seen the United Kingdom begin surveying the public with a view to establishing a measure
of societal well-being and the United States Department of Health and Human Services has set up a panel of experts in
psychology and economics, including Daniel
Kahneman, to try to define reliable measures of
subjective well-being. If the panel is successful, these measures could become
official government statistics. Some Americans, responding to the recent announcement of this panel, have voiced fears that it could herald more government interference in our lives. In my view, though, Americans have long had an exaggerated
suspicion of the dangers of government interference
and it’s already cost them the kind of universal
health care system that, in other countries and
other developed countries, there’s a political consensus
about the desirability of, that crosses the liberal,
conservative divide. Just as governments see
it as their function to promote opportunities
for business development that lead to economic growth, so I don’t see why they should
not see it as their function to promote individual choices that lead to greater personal happiness or indeed, to a maximization of pleasure over pain. After all, economic growth
is only a means to an end. I have argued that happiness
is also means to an end but I think happiness comes closer to the ultimate end that I’ve defended, at least, partially defended, of intrinsic value of a maximization of desirable consciousness, as
Sidgwick would have called it or pleasant experiences over painful ones. And that seems to me, therefore, to be a desirable thing
for governments to do. Thank you for your attention. I hope that you’ve found the lecture not only a pleasurable experience but that I’ve ended on a high note. And I look forward to your questions. (audience applauding) – [Man] Besides the idea of happiness, which in my opinion is what happens to us, being instrumental, what about inner joy, which is what I really want? – So if we’re talking about joy, I think we are talking about experiences. We are talking about a
conscious mental state, not a disposition. So insofar as you’re
actually experiencing joy, certainly that would count as a pleasure in the term that I’m
using it and therefore, as being as something of ultimate value. – Okay, thank you.
– Thank you. – Little hypothetical thing. This is a question for you
and a question for myself. If you could clone yourself into 1000 experience machines, in perpetuity, would you do it? (audience laughing) Good experience machines.
– Sure. Okay, so in a way, you’re asking a somewhat
different question from the one I’ve addressed because you’re asking
if this intrinsic value that I’ve talked about is such that the more of it, they’re better, even if that means bringing
new beings into existence, rather than raising the intrinsic value of the lives of existing beings. My answer to that is yes. I would think, I do think it
would be a good thing to do. Of course, unfortunately in the
planet that we’re living on, we have limited resources and there would be a
negative aspects of it there. But if we can imagine
these experience machines, we can surely also imagine a planet with limitless resources or the ability to colonize other planets. So then, yes, I do think that
would be a good thing to do. – [Audience Member] Hello,
I’m currently studying one of your books in one
of my philosophy classes, The Life You Can Save,
and I was wondering, when you think about happiness, do you think we have an
obligation as individuals to sacrifice our own
happiness, if it would increase more than that much happiness in others? If we could somehow measure that. – Okay, so my answer that is also yes, that is an obligation in the sense that it is the thing to do. Utilitarians typically don’t draw much of a distinction
between what we ought to do, what’s the right thing to do, what we have an obligation
to do, and some other ethics. These are different categories. And in The Life You Can
Save, as you might know, I do talk about how demanding
an ethic can reasonably be, and I consider essentially,
the question that you’re asking about relieving suffering,
relieving extreme poverty, more than about promoting happiness but these are two sides of the same coin and very often, relieving suffering is the most effective way
we can promote happiness. And what I say there, just briefly, for those not familiar with it, is that at a theoretical level, the ethic that I’m
proposing is very demanding and has exactly the
implications that you’d make, that if we could reduce suffering by more than it would cost us, in terms of increasing our own suffering, we ought to do that. But I also think that in terms of an ethic that can be effective
in getting people to act and in encouraging people to act. In other words, an ethic
that we ought to advocate, not just as philosophers
but as campaigners for social change, that is too demanding. And it can be off-putting to people, to think that ethics is so demanding. So at the end of The Life You Can Save and also, for those who
don’t want to buy the book, there’s a website that
I’ve put up the same name, thelifeyoucansave.com,
where I’ve put this up. I’ve suggested a kind of graduated table of what people might consider giving, in proportion to their
income and suggested that if you do, if you meet that level, even though you could still give more and not be making a sacrifice as great as the gain that you would be achieving, you might still feel
that you’ve done enough to satisfy a kind of
decent ethical minimum. – [Audience Member] But is it
still doing something wrong if we continue to be happy
while others are suffering? – As I say, yes, I mean, if you ask me, que-philosopher, is that
still doing something wrong, I would have to say yes. If you ask me as campaigner, am I gonna go and tell
people who are a meeting or even exceeding the
standard that I put forward that they’re doing something wrong because they could give still more? I’m not going to because that would not have the best consequences
and as a utilitarian, I’m concerned about having
the best consequences. (audience laughing)
– Thank you. – [Man] Hey, thanks for
coming out, Professor Singer, I really appreciate it.
– Thank you. – [Man] You know, you
spoke about the government promoting personal choices
to derive pleasure over pain. I guess my question was, what about, or what would you say
to somebody who implies that people derive a bit of pleasure or direct pleasure from
inflicting pain on others? Yeah, I’m not talking
about extreme psychosis, but I think to a certain extent, it seems like we do
derive a bit of pleasure from inflicting pain on others. – Are we talking about
consenting others, here? I mean, are we talking
about sexual relationships that are a little like this or are we just talking
about Schottenfreude or something like this?
– Sure, well, for instance, you know, economic exploitation, you know? – I don’t see, you see, I don’t see. I mean, it depends what
you mean by derive pleasure from inflicting pain on others. I mean, you can think
of the most rapacious, exploitative capitalist you like, but typically, I think that
what they’re trying to do is to accumulate as much wealth or resources for themselves
and they just don’t care about the impact that it has on others and I think if you said to them, look, by snapping your fingers, you could make your workers happier, it would not cost you anything at all, I think most of them would say
fine, I’ll snap my fingers. You know, it’s not that they’re sadists. It’s not that they enjoy the fact that they’re screwing the workers. It’s just that they, without
screwing the workers, in the real world, they wouldn’t get quite as much for themselves, we assume. I mean, this may or may
not be good economics but I assume or they assume. So, in that sense, I think that then, the suffering of others is a byproduct, it’s not something that they’re really aiming at. If they were aiming at it, then again, sort of following up
from the last question, if they’re inflicting
more suffering on others than they’re getting out of it, clearly that’s gonna be
wrong by any standards. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Man] Hi, given that people watch movies and listen to recorded music, why is it that only 50% of the people would plug into, know this, much more exciting pleasure machine? – Well, they don’t watch movies or listen to music, I guess, all the time. Certainly they don’t, the movie is the more total immersion
sort of experience. Most people only go to one movie or maybe two movies at the most, then they get out in the real world. So I suppose that’s
part of the difference. Also though, they know
when they’re in the movie, that this is an illusion and that they can leave it at any time. So perhaps that’s one
difference between the choices. – Thanks.
– Thanks. – [Man] Oh, hi, Mr. Singer. Currently in my philosophy class, we were going over bestiality, whether it was morally acceptable or not. I was just wondering, yeah,
what were your views on that? I know it’s a little different from everybody else’s question. (audience laughing) – Right, this topic keeps coming up. (audience laughing) I guess I can’t deny that it is relevant to discussions of pleasure and pain. All I ever wrote on this one, I once reviewed a book about bestiality but it does keep coming back. So I’ll give you my view, anyway. I’m not troubled by it. I think in general, humans having sex with animals is wrong because in general, it inflicts pain and distress on the animals. And so it should be prosecuted
under under cruelty laws, which obviously, I strongly support and in fact, I think
should be made more severe. But there are cases of people
having sex with animals which do not involve
suffering by the animals. There are some cases in
which you could even say the animal may consent to the act, the animal has every
opportunity to walk away or not be the human who’s
engaging in this practice but does not do so. So interesting question is
why do we still have a taboo about those sexual relations, which sometimes occur
from people who actually have very strong positive
attitudes towards animals? In fact, I know one of
them who said to me, how is it that people think
it’s okay to eat animals but don’t think it’s okay
to have sex with them, even when they’re able to stop having the sex if they want to? So there is that kind of attitude and it is interesting that we’ve had lots of taboos against basically
non-reproductive sex, right? We’ve had taboos, most obviously against homosexual relations, which fortunately have now broken down. We’ve had taboos against oral sex, which have also now broken down. But the taboo against sex with animals, even in the circumstances
that I described, has not. So I’m not saying that in any way, it’s normal or natural or I’m not saying that I, in that sense, am
positively approving this or as some people have suggested in things they’ve written about my views. But I honestly don’t see why there should be criminal sanctions against it in the specific
group of cases that I mentioned. – [Man] Thank you. – [Woman] So, some people have mentioned an objection to the,
well, not an objection, a modification to the experience machine where we experience a little bit of pain to make the experience more realistic. Do you think it’s intrinsic in humans to want to desire some level of pain? – No, I don’t think
it’s intrinsic in humans to want to desire some level of pain but it may be that some pleasures can only be achieved
with some level of pain. That if, for example, the pleasures of overcoming a challenge. As I said, Sedgwick already mentions that triumphant overcoming of obstacles in a way that involves pain. So that could be the
climbing Everest case. So it could be the running
a marathon sort of case. And some people, I think, do feel that these pleasures are somehow worth it and better pleasures
than the other pleasures that you get not in that way. So I think that’s why there was this suggested
modification, as you say, that it introduces this element that other people think
that you need the contrast, that without some elements of pain, you wouldn’t have the
ability to experience and really appreciate the pleasures. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Man] Yeah, I guess
one of the consequences of your work in animal rights, in addition to vegetarianism has been sort of this ethical meat and more humanely produced
animals that stop the killing. And so I guess I’m wondering, assuming that that can be assumed to be accurate description
of how the animal’s treated during its life and the
suffering is not there. I’m wondering, the actual act of killing, can you justify or
justify opposition to it from a preference utilitarian standpoint? Or do you not or you know,
in the philosopher’s hat, what would you say and I guess, maybe a campaigners, I guess, hat as well, as sort of how you would treat the actual, the act of the killing, setting aside the treatment and the suffering of animal during its life? – Yeah, well this is
another interesting question that does raise some of the differences between the preference view
and the hedonistic view. So what I’ve argued in practical ethics and and other works written from a preference utilitarian standpoint, is that the extent to
which killing is wrong depends at least partly on the capacity of the being killed to have
desires about the future. So I’ve argued that beings that are self-aware, that see themselves as existing over time, can have desires for the future, can want to go on living in the future and that that makes killing
them more seriously wrong than it makes killing beings that lack that kind of capacity desires. So on this view, killing
some species of animals might be more serious than others. Chimpanzees, for example,
it seems do have some sense of self that enables them to project themselves into the future in some ways. But perhaps fish don’t. It’s hard to know exactly
where you would draw that line. And of course, the line
also applies with humans. Both in terms of comparing newborn infants with older children and comparing humans with some profound
intellectual disabilities with others without such profound
intellectual disabilities. So, that’s led me to views about killing both for
animals and for humans that have also been controversial. And I suppose my answer to your question on the preference utilitarian view, would be if the animal does
not have self-awareness, then the killing in itself
is not intrinsically wrong. Although there is a lot more to be said, including from a practical point of view, about what raising of
animals commercially, even with reasonably good
animal welfare standards, does to our attitudes to animals and to the likelihood that
they will be well looked after. One of the interesting differences with moving towards the
kind of hedonistic view that I’m exploring in
this talk and in this work is that it actually gives you only an indirect justification for drawing this distinction between
beings that are more self-aware and those that are not self-aware because it doesn’t make any difference if the animal is killed instantly to the actual amount of pleasure or pain that it experiences. The only difference that it makes is that you could say and in fact, Bentham says this somewhere, that when you have beings with the ability to understand
that they have a future and to know things
about their environment, killing one of them is
likely to cause fear and apprehension in others who know that therefore, they
could be being killed, that that killing is
something that happens and therefore, in fear of
being killed themselves. Whereas again, if you talk about beings with no self-awareness, they
can’t have that apprehension and so that draws a somewhat similar line but for different reasons. Again, between different
categories of human beings and between humans and at
least some non-human animals. – [Man] First of all, I wanted
to thank you for coming out. You’ve actually inspired a paper than I’m writing this semester. – Thank you.
– My question is, if you could reach worldwide fairness, your subjective view of it,
for all sentient beings, but that would be
contingent on the ceasing of your existence, would you take that and moreover, is that because reaching fairness makes you happy or is happiness and fairness completely independent? And lastly, what is the limit on the size of a system’s population of fairness where you would no longer consent? – So if I understand your question, it’s a kind of a bit like the one that Dostoyevsky asks in
The Brothers Karamazov, except that instead of sacrificing the little child in order
to produce heaven on earth or utopia for forever after,
you have to sacrifice yourself. Is that roughly right? – Yeah.
– Yeah. Okay, so my answer that is yes, I definitely ought to sacrifice
myself for that purpose. That’s not a prediction as to
whether I would or would not. I guess I hoped that I would do so. It would certainly not
be for my own happiness, because after I sacrificed myself, I have no further happiness and presumably, my
happiness would be brief. Now, you could perhaps say, well, but if you didn’t do
it you would be unhappy for the rest of your life because you would have
this on your conscience, that there was all this suffering going on and you could have
stopped it but you didn’t. So I guess you could argue that. But for me, really, the relevant thing is that it’s clearly what you ought to do. If you don’t do it then
you’re being extremely selfish but I certainly don’t claim to be a saint and that’s why I’m not
making any prediction. I hope that I would be able to do it. Now, your question there, had
a little sting in your tail, which I think was how large
does the population have to be? So, at the moment, is that right?
– There was a intermediate part of does that mean that fairness and happiness are independent or is your fairness
dependent on happiness? You kind of touched on it but– – Yeah.
– Might be completely different. – I was taking, well, yeah okay. So again, for me, fairness is not really
an independent value. So I was taking it as the
best possible distribution of happiness throughout the population. Treating fair as as meaning
the one that maximizes the distribution of happiness
throughout the population, which is certainly not what everybody means by fair, I must admit. So now, I guess you have the idea, okay, so you’re prepared
to do it for seven billion. Are you prepared to do
it for seven million? Are you prepared to do it for 7000? Are you prepared to do it for seven? And I suppose, and you know, now, I will still give the same answer, right? I would think I ought to do
it, even if it’s only for two. But the likelihood that I will do it probably does diminish, you know? Because I would think it would be so awful not to do it for seven billion, for the amount of suffering
that goes on in the world. Whereas if it’s only two, well, their suffering maybe is, you know, I could enjoy my life and
that wouldn’t be as great as how they could enjoy it if I did this but the discrepancy is no longer so great, so I wouldn’t have to
be as horribly selfish to decline to do it for two others as I would to decline to do
it for seven billion others. – Alright, thank you.
– Thank you. – [Man] Yes, Professor Singer, when you were mentioning
the paradox of hedonism, it came to my mind about Dr. Viktor Frankl who suggests that by searching for consciousness or experience, meaning, by going toward meaning, that happiness could come as a side-effect but to go for happiness as a goal, it is likely that you might not reach it. So how would you relate
this to this premise? It’s like consciousness, I assume–
– Yes. – like meaning is, in consciousness,
is similar in this way. – Yes, I think you’re right. I think that Viktor Frankl’s psychology or view of life is in accordance with
the paradox of hedonism. I have a book I wrote a few years ago called How Are We To Live? Which discusses questions about meaning and how they relate to personal happiness and therefore to reasons
for acting ethically and I refer to Frankl briefly in that. So I do think that very often, we find happiness and
certainly satisfaction but also somebody right at the beginning talked about inner joy, also
those kinds of experiences, from doing things that we find meaningful. That may be, as I say,
related to the kind of beings that we are but that
is part of our nature. – Like a little more depth, rather than just being a
superficial gratification. – Yes, rather than just lying on the beach and enjoying the sun on
your back, that’s right, which pulls after a while, I think. – [Man] Thank you. – Okay. – [Audience Member] Hello, how you doing? – Good. – [Audience Member] Thank
you for coming here today. Yeah, I just want, my question is, what if we can make the argument that certain attitudes or
states of consciousness or lenses consistently create or petuate or expand happiness. For example, love or compassion. So shouldn’t our focus,
if you are ultimately trying to create happiness beyond creating those things that create happiness, love and compassion and
I find it interesting that love hasn’t really
been mentioned much, in terms of happiness, so what
are your thoughts on that? – Sure, because I haven’t been trying to give an account of what
things lead to happiness. I’m not doing what’s nowadays
called positive psychology of trying to chart out the things that, you know, yes, you too can be happy and here are the seven steps that will lead you to a happy life. I’m not saying that isn’t
a valuable thing to do, insofar as the psychologists are right about the seven steps that
will lead you to a happy life. I think it’s good that people are doing that and studying that. And I’m quite sure that love is one of those important parts
of it, finding love, finding close personal relationships, anyway, put it that way. Not everybody can be fortunate enough to find love,
perhaps, for long periods. But I do think that
that’s a very important part of human happiness and you also mentioned compassion. Compassion, I think is somewhat more mixed because while I think
compassion does lead us to relate to others, it can also lead us to feel more pain when
others are suffering. So I think compassion is very important in reducing the amount
of suffering in the world and therefore is a good
in terms of maximizing happiness or pleasure generally, but it’s not necessarily
for your personal happiness, in the same way as I think being able to love others and being loved by others is very important for
people’s personal happiness. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Man] Thank you,
Professor, for being here. I have a question about the
ethics of assisted suicide, like is there an ethical
framework for assisted suicide or to really, like, if
consent is involved, can like suicide shops open
up all over the country, if there’s, like, what’s
the ethical framework of assisted suicide or? – Right, okay, well that, yeah, certainly. I mean, that’s a relevant issue in terms of how to minimize suffering because the suffering
that people experience in the last months of
their lives is certainly, I think, something that is a very negative aspect of strong dis-value. But you’re asking the question as if we don’t have already
have experience of this. But of course, we do. Physician assisted suicide
or physician assisted dying, if you prefer that
term, has been legalized by voter initiatives in
Oregon and Washington, has been legalized by a
court decision in Montana and along with voluntary euthanasia, that is where the doctor
actually administers the lethal injection, has been legal for many years in the Netherlands and more recently in
Belgium and Luxembourg. So we know how this works. Basically, it works well. None of these countries
have wanted to rescind their legislation and none of these states in the United States,
despite changes of government in, for example, in the
Netherlands and in Belgium. And it doesn’t mean that
there are suicide shops. It means that there are
doctors who you can consult and request assistance in dying. And there’s various different
kinds of legislation which have periods that the request has to lie on the table, in a sense, that you you can’t say,
I want your assistance in dying right now for the first time. Perhaps the second opinion
has to be called on. But generally, this seems to work well. There have been allegations
that it’s been abused in the Netherlands but those allegations don’t actually stand up when you look at the comparative figures
with other countries that have not legalized
voluntary euthanasia. And I do think it’s a very simple reform that reduces unnecessary suffering and also gives people what they want. So whether you take a desire-based theory, a preference-theory or
a hedonistic theory, I think both of them point towards the legalization of voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Man] Hi, Professor Singer. I wanted to thank you for being here and for much of your work. I actually went from a
vegetarian to a vegan 18 years ago after
reading Animal Liberation. And in that book, you
made what’s been called the argument from marginal cases. And I wanted to back up and look at one of your answers regarding the wrongness of, for instance, killing a cow, being in frustrating future preferences. On that reasoning, that
would be the wrongness of killing a perfectly
healthy infant as well. My perspective would be that
whether the infant knows it or the cow knows it or
not, they are conscious, that consciousness belongs to them and you’re taking away their future stream of consciousness
when you kill them. But my understanding is
that that isn’t your view, that isn’t other utilitarians’ view, like Lori Gruen, at least in the past, she’s been a utilitarian. So I believe you said, maybe, that it wasn’t inherently
wrong to painlessly kill a cow or what’s your position there? And wouldn’t that position also apply to healthy, non-self-aware human infants? – Okay, so firstly, I didn’t say anything specifically about cows today. I indicated a wide range
between chimpanzees and fish, where there might be this spectrum and I didn’t say where cows fall on it and I’m not sure that cows do fall on the fishy side, if
you like, of that divide. And I’m not even saying, I mean, you know, when we talk about fish but there’s a huge range
of species of course and I’m not even really saying that there are no fish
that are self-aware. I just don’t know. But there are lots of stories that show that cows have long memories. – Yeah.
– Particularly, a lot of people don’t know, but the dairy industry
requires newborn calves to be taken from their mothers and lots of dairy farmers will tell you, if they’re honest, that the cows miss their calves for quite a long time. Temple Grandin has a story in one of her books about a cow that was separated from her calf at a particular place
and she used to walk past that place coming in from the pastures. This was one of the
relatively better dairy farms, where cows actually get to be on pasture and she used to stop and call and bellow for the calf, four months
after the separation. So they clearly have long
memories about the past. It’s not clear to me that they don’t have
anticipation of the future. But if we’re talking about beings with no anticipation in the future, then yes, whether they’re human infants or whether they’re non-human animals, killing of them is intrinsically or inherently on the same footing. There may be different other factors, extrinsic factors such as obviously, the wishes of the parents are
going to be highly relevant to the case of the killing of an infant and that may or may not be relevant in the case of other animals. So that’s the view that I’ve held. There are certainly other
people you mentioned, Lori Gruen, there are a number of others who I’ve had discussions and debates with, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. In fact, there’s a conference
called Mining Animals in Utrecht, being held in late June. And I’m gonna be discussing that issue with some other people there. So it’s still an ongoing question. But that is the way that I’m
judging it at the moment. Thank you. – [Presenter] Let me congratulate
all of the questioners. I thought they were exemplary and also congratulate Professor Singer. (audience applauding)
– Thank you. Thank you very much. (soft music)


@Sam Welter There's a huge difference between downgrading the life of a human being or upgrading the life of other animals, which is what Singer does. He doesn't want ANY animal to be killed.

Wonderful man love listening to him, don't always agree with Peter, but I love the way he thinks, I am an anti theist,



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