Attack my Philosophy essay- Is happiness the only thing which has intrinsic good?

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RobML
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I'm currently studying on a part time course which includes a couple of philosophy modules and this is the first time I've ever completed a piece of writing on the subject. Everyone I've shown it to so far has been absolutely useless, so I thought I'd post it here !
Tear it apart gents. (bear in mind I've already submitted it so I'm not at all trying to get anyone to do my work for me)

Is happiness the only thing which has intrinsic good?

The suggested title for this essay was Is happiness the only thing which has intrinsic value? Something is a value or valuable if is it is good; I see no reason why this cannot be. So for this essay I will use goodness or good (as per the title) instead, as I believe the connotations of these terms make my argument a little more clear.

I think it is essential for the sake of the argument to first clarify what sort of thing goodness is, or at least what I mean by the term here, and how it functions as a thing. Goodness is a concept applied to things. It's not something that has any meaning when standing alone; it is attributive, and so must have something to cling on to. Things only have goodness to things that can perceive them, i.e. sentient agents, and by extension all good exists only in the minds of these sentient agents. This is because from the viewpoint of sentient agents (note that their cannot be any other true viewpoints!) there is no difference between things and the perception of them. What is good, of course, must be a perception.

I will now show that happiness is intrinsically good, and following this, show it is the only intrinsic good.

I see all the following premises proving the intrinsic good of happiness as self-evident to any being capable of thought and feeling, for they rely entirely on the indisputable nature of how they are perceived. In other words they are true in virtue of how they appear to us, and since we are only concerning things that appear to us that is all that matters.

I may begin by acknowledging that happiness is a feeling, not a thought or an awareness of thought. It is of course true that happiness is also a concept, for everything I know of ultimately is, but it is a concept that describes a thing in itself- a direct perception to be specific. And direct perception is certain; the subject of it can be an illusion, but a perception is still there regardless.

When I take a look at the nature of feeling, it is obvious to see that it all lies on an axis with pleasure at one end and negative pleasure at the other. You might be able to begin to hypothesize there is another dimension to this scale that brings in other variables apart from pleasure and displeasure, but it seems impossible to arrive at anything that makes sense. If you were to place happiness on this scale it would be at the pleasurable end by its very definition. So let's say happiness is ultimately pleasure (you could suggest that happiness is a function of pleasure and time, but time means nothing by itself so we'll ignore that).

Pleasure is good just because it is good (if it wasn't good it wouldn't be pleasure), and therefore is intrinsic, or good in virtue of nothing but itself. This may seem like a circular argument, but it isn't. The truth of it relies entirely on the indisputable nature of how it is perceived.

You could also say pleasure is intrinsically good because it is irreducible.. Think of an array of states of feeling- enjoyment, frustration... boredom, excitement... this multitudinous array can be reduced to a single point somewhere between pleasure and negative pleasure. It seems practically impossible to reduce this to something even more fundamental, and since I know it is the pleasurable side of this scale that is good, I also know it must be intrinsically good.

Now I'll show that pleasure (or happiness) is the only intrinsic good. All that needs to be done is to show that feeling is the only source of goodness, for I have already located where intrinsic good lies within it.

I've already established that what is an intrinsic good must be a perception. Perception can only be divided into two main constituents- feeling and awareness of thought (thought on its own does not lend itself to perception; a computer can think but it does not perceive). I've also established that intrinsic good resides in feeling, so it is obvious I only need to show that intrinsic good doesn't also reside in awareness of thought to prove the main thesis.

Let's isolate awareness of thought from feeling. Picture in your mind's eye a serene landscape, full of beauty. No doubt it will stir some feelings of pleasure within you, even if just ever so subtle. It is a pleasurable perception, and by extension, an object of goodness. Imagine those feelings are taken away. You see the landscape but it feels dead, it does not bring pleasure to you and its beauty fades into nothingness. There is no character to this thought, no criteria to judge its value or goodness. It is like an atom of neutral charge, neither attracting or repulsing- it does nothing, it is almost immaterial. I can imagine nothing mattering to a being that is aware of thought but cannot feel. It would have no judgement of death, place no value on life, etc. It could speculate about goodness theoretically but would not arrive at any answer for there would be no proof of it. It would be like trying to prove the existence of something that cannot be observed; at the end of the day I believe any notion of intrinsic good residing elsewhere is pure metaphysical nonsense.

So, we can now see that awareness of thought alone has no affect on the sentient mind. It must be accompanied by feeling to have any meaning or value, and therefore any goodness it harbours is only by virtue of feeling. And within feeling, only pleasure is good. And since pleasure and happiness are one and the same we can be sure that happiness is the only thing which has intrinsic good.

With that established, let's take a brief look at a couple of other ideas regarding intrinsic good and see how they stand after being subjected to the premises of my thesis.

Followers of Kant would say that all good resides in and is derived from good will, and good will is the result of acting from duty. We can say good will is an awareness of thought, for you need to know of the will to attach the tag "good" to it in the first place. However, it is very certain good will isn't a feeling! Therefore with very few steps we can show it in fact is not intrinsically good. A the very least good will is merely a vehicle of feeling (I did not specify pleasure because the result of good will might not always be that!)

In the majority of religious thought, all goodness is said to derive from an ultimate being of some nature, i.e. God. Is God an awareness of thought? Certainly we are aware of the concept of him. But again, that is only an empty perception without character. Although some may claim to feel him in some way we must remember that God is not a feeling in himself, but a concept that brings feeling. Those feelings may be good or bad too (just as the feelings good will might bring), so how can you claim him to be the ultimate good when perception of him isn't even entirely good? At the very least believers of God may act according to his rules or wishes merely because of the promise that doing so will bring them or others pleasure either in this life or lives to come.
These theories and beliefs are incomplete- they never reach something that is self evident, let alone something that is good by its very nature. The fact these have been toppled by the premises of argument only strengthens it- I believe we have very good reason to accept happiness as the only thing which has intrinsic good.
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Falcatas
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Value is subjective (ie there is no such thing as intrinsic value, value can only exist when humans are present evaluating them) and what are you meaning as good?
Good has multiple definitions as a better you are looking for is possibly virtue.
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BefuddledPenguin
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Happiness as an intrinsic good surely depends on the source of happiness? What if the thing that makes an individual the most happy is stamping on kittens, in that instance the individual's happiness would be a negative thing.
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somethingbeautiful
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I'm a Philosophy grad so I might be of use here. I'll have a look at the rest in a bit because I've got to go out but I just read the first couple of paragraphs and as far as I can see you've made a massive error.

I think it is essential for the sake of the argument to first clarify what sort of thing goodness is, or at least what I mean by the term here, and how it functions as a thing. Goodness is a concept applied to things. It's not something that has any meaning when standing alone; it is attributive, and so must have something to cling on to.
You just said that 'good' is added onto things (e.g. in the same way that stabilizers can be added onto a bicycle) and is not therefore intrinsic to whatever it is being applied to.

I will now show that happiness is intrinsically good, and following this, show it is the only intrinsic good.
Now you've just contradicted yourself and I imagine the rest of the essay is based on this contradiction.

I'll read the rest later.
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RobML
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(Original post by Falcatas)
Value is subjective (ie there is no such thing as intrinsic value, value can only exist when humans are present evaluating them) and what are you meaning as good?
Good has multiple definitions as a better you are looking for is possibly virtue.
Something does not require an independent existence to be intrinsic; all it means is that all other things of particular quality are of that particular quality in virtue of it.
And by good I mean positive. I know that sounds lame but you can't really reduce it further than that. Though in the terms of my argument it means the subject of it affects conciousness positively.
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RobML
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(Original post by somethingbeautiful)
I'm a Philosophy grad so I might be of use here. I'll have a look at the rest in a bit because I've got to go out but I just read the first couple of paragraphs and as far as I can see you've made a massive error.



You just said that 'good' is added onto things (e.g. in the same way that stabilizers can be added onto a bicycle) and is not therefore intrinsic to whatever it is being applied to.



Now you've just contradicted yourself and I imagine the rest of the essay is based on this contradiction.

I'll read the rest later.
How does it being an attribute mutually exclusive to it being intrinsic?
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wilson_smith
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(Original post by RobML)
I'm currently studying on a part time course which includes a couple of philosophy modules and this is the first time I've ever completed a piece of writing on the subject. Everyone I've shown it to so far has been absolutely useless, so I thought I'd post it here !
Tear it apart gents. (bear in mind I've already submitted it so I'm not at all trying to get anyone to do my work for me)

Is happiness the only thing which has intrinsic good?

The suggested title for this essay was Is happiness the only thing which has intrinsic value? Something is a value or valuable if is it is good; I see no reason why this cannot be. So for this essay I will use goodness or good (as per the title) instead, as I believe the connotations of these terms make my argument a little more clear.

I think it is essential for the sake of the argument to first clarify what sort of thing goodness is, or at least what I mean by the term here, and how it functions as a thing. Goodness is a concept applied to things. It's not something that has any meaning when standing alone; it is attributive, and so must have something to cling on to. Things only have goodness to things that can perceive them, i.e. sentient agents, and by extension all good exists only in the minds of these sentient agents. This is because from the viewpoint of sentient agents (note that their cannot be any other true viewpoints!) there is no difference between things and the perception of them. What is good, of course, must be a perception.

I will now show that happiness is intrinsically good, and following this, show it is the only intrinsic good.

I see all the following premises proving the intrinsic good of happiness as self-evident to any being capable of thought and feeling, for they rely entirely on the indisputable nature of how they are perceived. In other words they are true in virtue of how they appear to us, and since we are only concerning things that appear to us that is all that matters.

I may begin by acknowledging that happiness is a feeling, not a thought or an awareness of thought. It is of course true that happiness is also a concept, for everything I know of ultimately is, but it is a concept that describes a thing in itself- a direct perception to be specific. And direct perception is certain; the subject of it can be an illusion, but a perception is still there regardless.

When I take a look at the nature of feeling, it is obvious to see that it all lies on an axis with pleasure at one end and negative pleasure at the other. You might be able to begin to hypothesize there is another dimension to this scale that brings in other variables apart from pleasure and displeasure, but it seems impossible to arrive at anything that makes sense. If you were to place happiness on this scale it would be at the pleasurable end by its very definition. So let's say happiness is ultimately pleasure (you could suggest that happiness is a function of pleasure and time, but time means nothing by itself so we'll ignore that).

Pleasure is good just because it is good (if it wasn't good it wouldn't be pleasure), and therefore is intrinsic, or good in virtue of nothing but itself. This may seem like a circular argument, but it isn't. The truth of it relies entirely on the indisputable nature of how it is perceived.
I have only read the above, but already several fatal mistakes common to those new to philosophy - or academia in general - are visible enough.

1. You have not inserted yourself into an existing debate, and in fact do not reference a single work. Without a firm grasp of the subject and its problems, you cannot hope to write anything worth reading. Do you honestly think yourself capable of surpassing two-thousand years of accumulated thought in your first essay? You need to admit complete ignorance and rely on the work of others.

2. In so relying, you need to modestly build or refine those arguments, or often more fruitfully, find a new application for them. Your essay is ridiculously over-ambitious. It appears that you think yourself capable of resolving not only the fundamental problems of ethics, but ontology and epistemology, in only a few hundred words. This is a very common mistake amongst first-years. You are categorically not Wittgenstein reborn, and cannot reconstruct philosophy at an instant. To begin with, you ought to focus on being able to think and write in a philosophical manner; the subject which you focus upon is secondary (although if it holds your interest that is obviously for the better).

3. Stylistically, you need to canvass the essential parts of your argument in your introduction, establish a clear structure in which one unified part naturally leads to the next, and maintain the proper authorial voice. The last point is especially important. For one, having sharper and more streamlined writing, shed of all superfluity, makes your argument more transparent. In doing so, it will not just help your examiner, but the construction of your argument. Just as importantly, however, it gives the examiner the impression of seriousness; even when not deserved by the substance of your argument.

I could spend all day unpicking the errors of your essay, for without taking heed of the above three points you won't get far. I should probably in any case note that you seem frequently to 'beg the question', which is to say, presume your conclusion. For example, that feeling obviously maps directly onto and only onto a spectrum of pleasure to pain (which seems to me patently false); that value is self-same as good; that the relevant viewpoint is that of sentient agents; that from that viewpoint, there is no difference between things and the perception of them. And so and so forth. Perhaps every single one of these requires an entire essay to adequately argue for them, whereas you provide no argument; just a series of more or (often) less plausible claims. Which is expected, given (1) and (2).

I should say that all of these problems are inevitable when beginning philosophy. It's no particular fault of your own. Good luck!

EDIT: here are a few helpful resources

https://sites.google.com/site/ethics...-in-philosophy
https://prsagar.files.wordpress.com/...irst-years.pdf
http://www.academia.edu/148909/Tips_...losophy_Essays
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