Last Updated 03 Mar 2020

Higher Pleasures: Unique to Human Beings

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John Stuart Mill argues In utilitarianism that higher pleasures are unique to human beings. Higher pleasures are those pleasures that require some minimum of cognitive capacities to enjoy. More specifically, higher pleasures are intellectual pleasures while lower pleasures are sensual pleasures. Mill argues that animals are not capable of experiencing higher pleasures because animals are not aware of their higher facilities; animals lack the conscious ability to be curious, to achieve a sense of self-worth from volunteering. or to hold a deep and intellectual conversation.

Mill successfully argues in utilitarianism that higher pleasures are not only distinct and unique to human beings, but are also more desirable and valuable than lower pleasures because human beings have higher facilities for happiness. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig dissatisfied," (pg 18. ) Mill uses this example because human beings have experienced both higher and lower pleasures, and would not willingly switch from a life of hgher pleasures toa life of lower pleasures. Through controlled experiences, Griffen and Speck argue in New Evidence of Animal

Consciousness that animals do possess some torm ot primary consciousness enabling them to experience these lower pleasures that Mill describes. Intellectual pleasures may be unique to humans, but sensual pleasures are now being examined and documented in animals. How do we, as humans, know with certainty that higher pleasures are more desirable and valuable than lower pleasures? Mill argues that higher pleasures are superior to lower pleasures with the following example, human beings know both sides of the question, while pigs only know their side of the question.

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Human beings nd animals have two very different ideas of happiness and content "It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied... and they will not make him enw the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those Imperfections qualify" (page 18. ) Mill argues that no human being, who knows both sides of the question, would voluntarily go from a Ife of higher pleasures to a life of lower pleasures.

Mill states that once a human being is ade aware of their higher pleasures, they would never be happy to leave a life of higher pleasures for a life of lower pleasures. Higher pleasures are therefore superior in kind to lower pleasures. We can think of levels of pleasure on a continuum, with lower pleasures, such as sex, food, and sleep on the lower end of the continuum, and higher pleasures, such as reading a book, volunteering, or seeing a good play on the higher end of the continuum.

Human beings have experience both kinds of pleasure, higher and lower, and are therefore are qualified with the knowledge to distinguish that higher pleasures are more valuable and desirable than ower pleasures. In tne artlcle New Evidence 0T Animal consciousness, GrlTTen ana speck present evidence that support the idea that animals are capable of experiencing at least some level of consciousness. In the article, consciousness is described as "the subjective state of feeling or thinking about objects and events" (pg 6. The authors encourage us to think of consciousness also along a continuum, with basic consciousness on one end, and a "higher" form on consciousness on the other. The authors agree with Natsoula's evidence that animals have some form of basic onsciousness, "Animals are sometimes aware of objects and events, including social relationships, memories, and simple short-term anticipation of likely happenings in the near future" (page 6. However, animals do not experience a form of advanced or "higher" consciousness that is unique to humans. The chapter states that if animals are conscious, their conscious level probably varies from the simplest feelings to thinking about the common problems they can face, and ways to avoid it. As stated above, consciousness requires some form minimum of cognitive capacities, animals lack any form of cognitive capacities, leaving higher pleasures istinctively unique to human beings.

The central question in the article is whether or not animals experience a form of basic consciousness, and if so, what is the content of their awareness, a question that can help us better understand them, their way of life, and what type of pleasures they experience. Referring back to Mill's Utilitarianism, Mill argues that higher pleasures are more desirable and more valuable than lower pleasures. Utilitarian writers, in general, agree that higher pleasures are superior to lower pleasures because they place an emphasize on mental pleasures over bodily pleasures.

And in general, Utilitarian writers agree that although you can enjoy more lower pleasures, you cannot consider quality alongside quantity; the level of your happiness should depend on the quantity of your pleasures. At this point, I think it would be fair to say that animals posses some form of primary or basic consciousness, perhaps the most simple evidence to support this claim can be found in Frith et al. 's study. "Gestures and movements can be made with a deliberate communicative intent...

This realization of the significance of communication as a source of evidence about conscious feelings and thoughts ntails a simple transfer to animals of the basic methods by which we infer what our human companions are thinking or feeling" (pg 12. ) Animals communicate a variety of thoughts and feelings, proving that they possess some form of primary or basic consciousness. And because animals possess some form of primary consciousness, it would be fair to say that animals experience some for of sensual experiences, or what Mill would define as lower pleasures.

Another piece of evidence that supports the claim that animals posses some form of primary or basic consciousness, can be seen in Weir et al's experiment. In this experiment, it is shown how birds communicate through their own distinct behavior; it is shown how birds are able to adapt to an experimentally given environment. Two birds were presented with a bucket full of food, the bucket was placed at the bottom of a transparent vertical tube that could not be reached without their beak's alone. The birds were then presented with two wires, one with a straight end, and the other with a bent end that formed a hook.

The food was much easier to obtain with the nook endea wire. I ne Temale Dlra was always presented wltn tne stralgnt end, ana he male bird was always presented with the hooked end; however, the female bird was able to adapt to her environment and bend the end of her wire so that her wire was also hooked at the end. When only two straight wires were presented to the birds, the female bird was able to adapt and bend the wire to better reach her food, without any example or lead from the male bird's wire.

Through this experiment, it is clear that the female bird was able to adapt to her given environment. Her primary consciousness accompanied her form of perception, and influenced her action. "She had no model to imitate and, to our knowledge, no pportunity for hook making to emerge by chance shaping or reinforcement of randomly generated behavior" (pg 12. ) It is clear to see that the female bird perceived her goals as desirable; she saw that she needed food, and she made conscious adjustments in order to attain her goal.

Her primary consciousness influenced her form of action. Linking back to Mill's Utilitarianism, lower pleasures only require a simple, primary form a consciousness. New Evidence of Animal Consciousness argues that primary consciousness is, "The state or facility of being mentally conscious or aware of anything" (pg 6. The article argues through controlled experiments that animals can possess a primary form of consciousness. And because animals possess a form of simple, basic consciousness, they also possess the ability to experience lower pleasures.

Animal's possess the full mental capacity to live their lives to facilitate the highest level of their lower pleasures. Higher pleasures are unique to human beings. Human beings possess the inapt mental capacity to experience a form of pleasure derived from our intellect. Higher pleasures require some minimum of cognitive capacities to enjoy; because human eings have high cognitive capacities, we are capable of reaching higher levels of pleasure than animals.

In the book Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill, Mill argues that higher pleasures can only be experienced by human beings because we possess some minimum of cognitive capacities; and that lower pleasures, such as sex, food, and sleep, can be experienced by any living that has a primary or basic conscious. Through controlled experiences, it is argued in New Evidence of Animal Consciousness that animals do possess some form of primary consciousness enabling them to experience these lower pleasures that Mill describes.

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Higher Pleasures: Unique to Human Beings. (2018, Jul 24). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/higher-pleasures-unique-to-human-beings/

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