Are Higher Pleasures Unique to Human Beings?
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,
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Mill states that once a human being is made 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 lower pleasures. In the article New Evidence of Animal Consciousness, Griffen and 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