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[2arg] That of the five senses of the body two in particular we share with beasts; and that pleasure which comes from hearing, sight and smell is base and reprehensible, but that which comes from taste and touch is the most shameful of all, since the last two are felt also by beasts, the others only by mankind.


MEN have five senses, which the Greeks call αἰσθήσεις, by which mental or bodily pleasure is [p. 357] evidently sought: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing. From all of these the enjoyment of any immoderate pleasure is regarded as base and reprehensible. But excessive pleasure from taste or touch in the opinion of philosophers is the basest of all things, and those in particular who have given themselves up to those two animal pleasures the Greeks call by terms of the gravest reproach either ἀκρατεῖς or ἀκόλαστοι; we call them either incontinences (incontinent) or intemperantes (intemperate); for if you should desire to have a closer translation of ἀκόλαστοι, the equivalent will be too unusual. But those two pleasures of taste and touch, namely, gluttony and venery, are the only ones common to man with the lower animals, and therefore whoever is enslaved to these beastly pleasures is regarded as in the number of brutes and beasts; the remaining pleasures proceeding from the other three senses seem to be peculiar to man alone.

I have added the words of Aristotle the philosopher on this subject, 1 in order that the authority of that renowned and illustrious man might turn us from such shameful pleasures: “Why are they called incontinent who indulge to excess in the pleasures of taste and touch? For both those who are immoderate in venery and those who are immoderate in the enjoyment of food are such. But of the latter, some find this gratification in the tongue and others in the throat, and it was for that reason that Philoxenos prayed to have the throat of a crane. Is it because the pleasures derived from such sources are common to us with the other animals? And being thus common they are the most dishonourable and more than the other pleasures, or alone, objects of [p. 359] reproach, so that we censure a man who is addicted to them and call him incontinent and incorrigible because he is enslaved to the meanest of pleasures. Now, there being five senses, the other animals are gratified by the two which have been mentioned only, but from the others they either enjoy no pleasure at all, or they merely experience it incidentally.” Who, then, having any human modesty, would take pleasure in those two delights of venery and gluttony, which are common to man with the hog and the ass? Socrates indeed used to say that many men wish to live in order to eat and drink, but that he ate and drank in order to live. Hippocrates, moreover, a man of divine wisdom, believed of venery that it was a part of the horrible disease which our countrymen call comitialis, or “the election disease”; 2 for these are his very words as they have come down to us: “that coition is a brief epilepsy.”

1 Problemata, xxviii. 7.

2 See note on xvi. 4. 4.

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