Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (4): 891–909 (2018)

John J. Tilley
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis
Early in the eleventh of his Fifteen Sermons, Joseph Butler advances his best-known argument against psychological hedonism. Elliott Sober calls that argument Butler’s stone, and famously objects to it. I consider whether Butler’s stone has philosophical value. In doing so I examine, and reject, two possible ways of overcoming Sober’s objection, each of which has proponents. In examining the first way I discuss Lord Kames’s version of the stone argument, which has hitherto escaped scholarly attention. Finally, I show that Butler’s stone does something important, which I have not found previously discussed. Butler’s stone blocks an inference, persuasive to many people, which purports to show that we intrinsically desire only pleasure.
Keywords Joseph Butler  Lord Kames  Elliott Sober  Butler's Stone  psychological egoism  psychological hedonism  intrinsic psychological hedonism  reductive psychological hedonism  egoism  ethics, psychological aspects
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1111/papq.12221
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