The Limits of Pleasure

A Conversation with Paul Bloom

November 18, 2021

In this conversation, Sam speaks with Paul Bloom about the role that pain and suffering play in living a good life. They discuss the limitations of hedonism, the connection between chosen suffering and meaning, the research of Daniel Kahneman on well-being, integrating the experiencing and remembering selves, moral motivations, the effects of parenthood on happiness, unchosen suffering, the asymmetry of loss and gain, Nozick’s “experience machine” thought experiment, effective altruism, valuing the future more than the past, the power of contrast, false ideals of happiness, polyamory, money and status, the role of the imagination, boredom, the power of apology, and other topics.

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. Paul Bloom studies how children and adults make sense of the world, with a special focus on pleasure, morality, religion, fiction, and art. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching. He is past-president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and co-editor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for popular outlets such as The New York TimesThe GuardianThe New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of six books, including his forthcoming, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning.