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The Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism



The article by Ben Bramble, titled "The Distinctive Feeling Theory of Pleasure," delves into a philosophical theory concerning the nature of pleasure and pain. Bramble advocates for the distinctive feeling theory, which posits that the essence of pleasure (and by extension, pain) lies in experiencing a unique kind of feeling. This perspective contrasts with other prevalent theories, namely attitude theories and phenomenological theories, which have been influenced by the work of Roger Crisp, Shelly Kagan, and others.

Key Points

  • Theory Proposition: The core argument of the distinctive feeling theory is that pleasure is not merely a byproduct of our attitudes or cognitive evaluations but is anchored in distinct feelings inherent to the experiences themselves.
  • Arguments Against Rivals: Bramble introduces compelling arguments against the attitude theories and phenomenological theories. He critiques these theories for failing to adequately capture the intrinsic qualities of pleasurable experiences.
  • Philosophical Implications: The article suggests that understanding pleasure through the lens of distinctive feelings has significant implications for various philosophical discussions, including ethics, aesthetics, and the study of consciousness.


Bramble's work aims to resuscitate the distinctive feeling theory of pleasure by addressing and countering the critiques that have led to its marginalization in contemporary philosophical discourse. Through rigorous argumentation, Bramble seeks to reaffirm the validity and relevance of considering pleasure as a distinctive feeling, thereby contributing to a deeper understanding of human experiences of pleasure and pain.