Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Aristotle on what pleasure is---a damn good definition.

Pure Aristotle, and so not especially easy, but worth the effort. This is from the D.P. Chase translation of the Nicomachean Ethics, from Book X. The summary, at least in my own words, is this: that pleasure isn't really something you get in and of itself but that it's a byproduct from other things you do, so to get a lot of pleasure engage in the activities, or the 'workings' as Aristotle refers to them as, that have pleasure as byproducts, but not as their stated purpose. Good advice.

"Now since every Percipient Faculty works upon the Object
answering to it, and perfectly the Faculty in a good state
upon the most excellent of the Objects within its range (for
Perfect Working is thought to be much what I have described;
and we will not raise any question about saying "the Faculty"
works, instead of, "that subject wherein the Faculty resides "), in each case the best Working is that of
the Faculty in its best state upon the best of the Objects
answering to it. And this will be, further, most perfect and
most pleasant: for Pleasure is attendant upon every Percipient
Faculty, and in like manner on every intellectual
operation and speculation; and that is most pleasant which
is most perfect, and that most perfect which is the Working
of the best Faculty upon the most excellent of the Objects
within its range.
And Pleasure perfects the Working. But Pleasure does
not perfect it in the same way as the Faculty and Object of
Perception do, being good; just as health and the physician are not in similar senses causes of a healthy state.
And that Pleasure does arise upon the exercise of every
Percipient Faculty is evident, for we commonly say that
sights and sounds are pleasant; it is plain also that this is
especially the case when the Faculty is most excellent and
works upon a similar Object: and when both the Object and
Faculty of Perception are such, Pleasure will always exist,
supposing of course an agent and a patient.
Furthermore, Pleasure perfects the act of Working not in
the way of an inherent state but as a supervening finish,
such as is bloom in people at their prime. Therefore so long
as the Object of intellectual or sensitive Perception is such
as it should be and also the Faculty which discerns or realises
the Object, there will be Pleasure in the Working: because 1175a
when that which has the capacity of being acted on and that
which is apt to act are alike and similarly related, the same
result follows naturally."

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