Peirce’s Critique of Psychological Hedonism

Psychological hedonism (PH) is the theory that all of our actions are ultimately motivated by a desire for our own pleasure or an aversion to our own pain.  In “What Makes a Reasoning Sound?” written in 1903, Peirce exposits an argument in favor of PH and proceeds to criticize both the argument and the theory.  What is particularly interesting about Peirce’s criticism is that it is based on a detailed descriptive analysis of self-controlled action.  This essay examines Peirce’s descriptive analysis of self-controlled action, explains its relation to Peirce’s theory of desire, and proceeds to show why it entails PH is false.