Book 7.5: Of Pleasure.

Chapter 11: We must now discuss pleasure. Opinions about it.

The consideration of pleasure and pain also falls within the scope of the political philosopher, since he has to construct the end by reference to which we call everything good or bad.

Moreover, this is one of the subjects we are bound to discuss; for we said that moral virtue and vice have to do with pleasures and pains, and most people say that happiness implies pleasure, which is the reason of the name μακάριος, blessed, from χαίρειν, to rejoice.

Now, (1) some people think that no pleasure is good, either essentially or accidentally, for they say that good and pleasure are two distinct things; (2) others think that though some pleasures are good most are bad; (3) others, again, think that even though all pleasures be good, yet it is impossible that the supreme good can be pleasure.

(1) It is argued that pleasure cannot be good, (a) because all pleasure is a felt transition to a natural state, but a transition or process is always generically different from an end, e.g. the process of building is generically different from a house; (b) because the temperate man avoids pleasures; (c) because the prudent man pursues the painless, not the pleasant; (d) because pleasures impede thinking, and that in proportion to their intensity (for instance, the sexual pleasures: no one engaged therein could think at all); (e) because there is no art of pleasure, and yet every good thing has an art devoted to its production; (f) because pleasure is the pursuit of children and brutes.

(2) It is argued that not all pleasures are good, because some are base and disgraceful, and even hurtful; for some pleasant things are unhealthy.

(3) It is argued that pleasure is not the supreme good, because it is not an end, but a process or transition.—These, then, we may take to be the current opinions on the subject.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle) is free of known copyright restrictions.