Book 10: Pleasure.

Chapter 4: Pleasure defined: its relation to activity.

As to the nature or quality of pleasure, we shall more readily discover it if we make a fresh start as follows:—

Vision seems to be perfect or complete at any moment; for it does not lack anything which can be added afterwards to make its nature complete. Pleasure seems in this respect to resemble vision; for it is something whole and entire, and it would be impossible at any moment to find a pleasure which would become complete by lasting longer.

Therefore pleasure is not a motion; for every motion requires time and implies an end (e.g. the motion of building), and is complete when the desired result is produced—either in the whole time therefore, or in this final moment of it. But during the progress of the work all the motions are incomplete, and specifically different from the whole motion and from each other; the fitting together of the stones is different from the fluting of the pillar, and both from the building of the temple. The building of the temple is complete; nothing more is required for the execution of the plan. But the building of the foundation and of the triglyph are incomplete; for each is the building of a part only. These motions, then, are specifically different from one another, and it is impossible to find a motion whose nature is complete at any moment—it is complete, if at all, only in the whole time.

It is the same also with walking and the other kinds of locomotion. For though all locomotion is a motion from one place to another, yet there are distinct kinds of locomotion, as flying, walking, leaping, etc. Nay, not only so, but even in walking itself there are differences, for the whence and whither are not the same in the entire course and in a portion of the course, or in this portion and in that, nor is crossing this line the same as crossing that; for you do not cross a line simply, but a line that is in a given place, and this line is in a different place from that. I must refer to my other works for a detailed discussion of motion; but it seems that it is not complete at any moment, but that its several parts are incomplete, and that they are specifically different from one another, the whence and whither being a specific difference.

Pleasure, on the other hand, is complete in its nature at any moment. It is evident, therefore, that these two must be distinct from each other, and that pleasure must be one of the class of whole and complete things. And this would also seem to follow from the fact that though duration is necessary for motion, it is not necessary for pleasure—for a momentary pleasure is something whole and entire.

From these considerations it is plain that they are wrong in saying that pleasure is a motion or a coming into being. For these terms are not applied to every thing, but only to those things that are divisible into parts and are not wholes. We cannot speak of the coming into being of vision, or of a mathematical point, or of unity; nor is any one of them a motion or a coming into being. And these terms are equally inapplicable to pleasure; for it is something whole and entire.

Every sense exercises itself upon its proper object, and exercises itself completely when it is in good condition and the object is the noblest of those that fall within its scope (for the complete exercise of a faculty seems to mean this; and we may assume that it makes no difference whether we speak of the sense, or of the sensitive subject as exercising itself): of each sense, then, we may say that the exercise is best when on the one side you have the finest condition, and on the other the highest of the objects that fall within the scope of this faculty.

But this exercise of the faculty will be not only the most complete, but also the pleasantest: for the exercise of every sense is attended with pleasure, and so is the exercise of reason and the speculative faculty; and it is pleasantest when it is most complete, and it is most complete when the faculty is well-trained and the object is the best of those that fall under this faculty.

And, further, the pleasure completes the exercise of the faculty. But the pleasure completes it in a different way from that in which the object and the faculty of sense complete it, when both are as they should be; just as health causes healthy activities in a different way from that in which the physician causes them.

(That the exercise of every sense is accompanied by pleasure is evident: we speak of pleasant sights and pleasant sounds.

It is evident also that the pleasure is greatest when both the faculty and that upon which it is exercised are as good as they can be: when this is the case both with the object of sense and the sentient subject, there will always be pleasure, so long, that is, as you have the subject to act and the object to be acted upon.)

Now, the pleasure makes the exercise complete not as the habit or trained faculty does, being already present in the subject, but as a sort of superadded completeness, like the grace of youth.

So long, then, as both the object of thought or of sense and the perceptive or contemplative subject are as they ought to be, so long will there be pleasure in the exercise; for so long as the object to be acted upon and the subject that is able to act remain the same, and maintain the same relation to each other, the result must be the same.

How is it, then, that we are incapable of continuous pleasure? Perhaps the reason is that we become exhausted; for no human faculty is capable of continuous exercise. Pleasure, then, also cannot be continuous; for it is an accompaniment of the exercise of faculty. And for the same reason some things please us when new, but afterwards please us less. For at first the intellect is stimulated and exercises itself upon them strenuously, just as we strain our eyes to look hard at something; but after a time the exertion ceases to be so intense, and becomes relaxed; and so the pleasure also loses its keenness.

The desire for pleasure we should expect to be shared by all men, seeing that all desire to live.

For life is an exercise of faculties, and each man exercises the faculties he most loves upon the things he most loves; e.g. the musical man exercises his hearing upon melodies, and the studious man exercises his intellect upon matters of speculation, and so on with the rest.

But pleasure completes the exercise of faculties, and therefore life, which men desire.

Naturally, therefore, men desire pleasure too; for each man finds in it the completion of his life, which is desirable.

But whether we desire life for the sake of pleasure, or pleasure for the sake of life, is a question which we may dismiss for the present. For the two seem to be joined together, and not to admit of separation: without exercise of faculties there is no pleasure, and every such exercise is completed by pleasure.


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