Are humans capable of feeling extreme physical pleasure as intense as extreme

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Are humans capable of feeling extreme physical pleasure as intense as extreme physical pain? If that is the case what ethical beliefs would we have to change if we wanted to maximize the occurrence of extreme physical pleasure in a way that accorded with a utilitarian hedonistic ethical system?

It might be worth starting with a qualifier: for many utilitarians, "pleasure" is too simple a notion to capture what they think we should maximize. "Happiness " might be better, and "well-being" better yet. But set that aside and suppose we can make do with the word "pleasure."

On the first question – whether we can feel pleasure as intense as the pain we're capable of – it's hard to say. We're obviously capable of short bursts of intense pleasure, but whether they're as intense as some kinds of pain is hard to judge. More important, perhaps, even if the intensity of our greatest pleasures matches the intensity of our worst pains, pain seems able to go on for a lot longer; if we factor duration into the accounting, the answer seems to be no.

But suppose otherwise. Even if we're utilitarians, the goal is to maximize total pleasure; trying to maximize intense pleasure might not be the best way to do that. We might very well get far more bang for our buck by trying to alleviate suffering or by promoting more ordinary levels of well-being.

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