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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Affective qualities : what makes objects pleasant Sandlin, Richard


The smell of freshly baked bread, the flavor of chocolate cake, the feeling of a cool breeze on a hot day: these are paradigmatic pleasant sensations. My question is this: what makes these objects pleasant? In other words, what kind of property is sensory pleasantness? I focus my discussion on pleasant smells and pleasantness attributed to objects (as opposed to experiences). I canvass four views. Two views are objectivist: physicalism and primitivism. On these views, pleasantness is an experience-independent property. The other two views are subjectivist: projectivism and the relational view. On these views, pleasantness is an experience-dependent property. I argue that physicalism is circular and cannot explain a core aspect of pleasantness. I argue that primitivism leads to unacceptable pleasantness property proliferation. I conclude that pleasentess must be a subjective property. However, I argue that projectivism won’t work because the view cannot explain why we would have evolved systems to sense the pleasantness of objects. I conclude that pleasantness must be a relational property. On this view, we can explain core aspects of pleasantness in a non-circular way without undesired property proliferation, while also explaining why we evolved systems to sense pleasantness. In particular, I argue that pleasantness is the property of objects that dispose us to classify certain information in particular ways.

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