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11. It is also the business of the political philosopher to examine the nature of Pleasure and Pain; for he is the master-craftsman, and lays down the end which is the standard whereby we pronounce things good or bad in the absolute sense. [2] Moreover this investigation is fundamental for our study, because we have established1 that Moral Virtue and Vice are concerned with pleasures and pains, and most people hold that pleasure is a necessary adjunct of Happiness, which is why the word denoting ‘supreme bliss’ is derived from the verb meaning ‘to enjoy.’2 [3]

Now (1) some people think that no pleasure is a good thing, whether essentially or accidentally. They argue that Good and Pleasure are two distinct things.

(2) Others hold that though some pleasures are good, most are bad.

(3) There is also a third view, that even if all pleasures are good, nevertheless pleasure cannot be the Supreme Good.3 [4]

(1) To prove that pleasure is not a good at all, it is argued that

(a) Every pleasure is a conscious process towards a natural state; but a process can in no case belong to the same order of things as its end; for example, the process of building cannot be a thing of the same sort as the house built.

(b) The temperate man avoids pleasures.

(c) The prudent man pursues freedom from pain, not pleasure.

(d) Pleasures are a hindrance to prudent deliberation, and the more so the more enjoyable they are; for instance, sexual pleasure: no one could think of anything while indulging in it.

(e) There is no art of pleasure; yet with every good thing there is an art which produces it.

(f) Children and animals pursue pleasures. [5]

(2) To prove that not all pleasures are good, it is argued that

(a) Some pleasures are disgraceful, and discredit the man who indulges in them.

(b) Some pleasures are harmful, for certain pleasant things cause disease.

(3) To prove that pleasure is not the Supreme Good, it is argued that it is not an end but a process.

These then, more or less, are the current views.12.

But the following considerations will show that these arguments are not conclusive to prove (1) that pleasure is not a good at all, nor (3) that it is not the Supreme Good.

(1) (a) In the first place (i.) ‘the good’ has two meanings: it means both that which is good absolutely, and that which is good for somebody, or relatively. Consequently the term ‘good’ has the same double meaning when applied to men's natures and dispositions; and therefore also when applied to movements and to processes. Also those processes which are thought to be bad will in some cases, though bad absolutely, be not bad relatively, but in fact desirable for a particular person, or in other cases, though not even desirable generally for the particular person, nevertheless desirable for him in particular circumstances and for a short time, although not really desirable. And some such processes4 are not really pleasures at all, but only seem to be so: I mean the painful processes that are undergone for their curative effects, for instance, treatment applied to the sick. [2]

Again (ii.) , the good is either an activity or a state. Now the pleasures that restore us to our natural state are only accidentally pleasant; while the activity of desire is the activity of that part of us which has remained in the natural state5: for that matter, there are some pleasures which do not involve pain or desire at all

1 2.3.1.

2 μακάριος from μάλα χαίρειν: cf. 5.4.9.

3 Of these three views, the first is that of Speusippus, Plato's successor as head of the Academy; the second is that of Plato's Philebus; the third, which appears at the end of the Philebus, is that of Aristotle in Book 10 below.

4 Certain ‘felt processes towards a natural state’ (9.4) , which are obviously not good, are not really pleasant either.

5 Cf. 14.7.

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