Nor yet does it follow that if pleasure is not a quality, therefore it is not a good.
Virtuous activities are not qualities either, nor is happiness.
Again they argue1
good is definite, but that pleasure is indefinite, because it admits of degrees. Now
（a） if they base this judgement on the fact that one can be more or less
pleased, the same argument will apply to Justice and the other virtues, the possessors of
which are clearly spoken of as being more or less
virtuous; for example, A may be more just or brave, and may act more, or less, justly or
temperately, than B. If on the other hand （b） they judge by the nature
of the pleasures themselves, I am afraid they do not state the right ground for their
conclusion, if it be true that there are two kinds of pleasures, unmixed as well as
Again, （c） why should not pleasure be like health, which is definite
although it admits of degrees? For health is not constituted by the same proportion of
elements in all persons; nor yet by one particular proportion in the same person always,
but when it is in process of dissolution it still lasts for a certain time, and therefore
it varies in degree. It is possible therefore that the same may be the case with pleasure.
Again, they postulate3
that the Good is perfect, whereas a motion or
process of generation is imperfect, and then they attempt to prove that pleasure is a
motion or process. This appears to be a mistake. （a） It would seem that
pleasure is not a motion; for we hold it to be a property of all motion to be quick or
slow—if （as with the motion4
of the firmament） not absolutely, then relatively to some other moving body. But
pleasure possesses neither absolute nor relative velocity. You can become pleased quickly,
just as you can get angry quickly: but you cannot be pleased quickly, nor yet more quickly than
somebody else, as you can walk, grow, etc., more quickly than somebody else. It is
possible to pass into a pleasurable state quickly or slowly, but not to function in that
state—i.e. to feel pleasure—quickly.
And （b） in what sense can pleasure
be a process of generation? We do not think that any chance thing can be generated from
any other chance thing, but that a thing at its dissolution is resolved into that from
which it is generated; and if pleasure is the generation of something, pain is the
destruction of that thing.
Also （c） they say5
that pain is a deficiency of
the natural state and pleasure is its replenishment. But these are bodily experiences. Now
if pleasure is a replenishment of the natural state, the pleasure will be felt by the
thing in which the replenishment takes place. Therefore it is the body that feels
pleasure. But this does not seem to be the case. Therefore pleasure is not a process of
replenishment, though while replenishment takes place, a feeling of pleasure may accompany
it, just as a feeling of pain may accompany a surgical operation.6
The belief that pleasure is a replenishment seems to have arisen from the
pains and pleasures connected with food: here the pleasure does arise from a
replenishment, and is preceded by the pain of a want.
But this is not the case with all pleasures: the
pleasures of knowledge, for example, have no antecedent pain; nor have certain of the
pleasures of sense, namely those whose medium is the sense of smell, as well as many
sounds and sights; and also memories and hopes. If these are processes of generation,
generation of what? No lack of anything has
occurred that may be replenished.
In reply to those who bring forward the disreputable pleasures, one may
（a） deny that these are really pleasant: for granted they are pleasant
to ill-conditioned people, it cannot therefore be assumed that they are actually pleasant,
except to them, any more than things healthy or sweet or bitter to invalids are really so,
or any more than things that seem white to people with a disease of the eyes are really
（b） one may take the line that, though the pleasures themselves are
desirable, they are not desirable when derived from those sources; just as wealth is
desirable, but not if won by treachery, or health, but not at the cost of eating anything
（c） we may say that pleasures differ in specific quality; since
（a） those derived from noble sources are not the same as those derived
from base sources, and it is impossible to feel the pleasures of a just man without being
just, or the pleasures of a musician without being musical, and so on.
And also （ β
） the distinction between a friend and a flatterer
seems to show that pleasure is not a good, or else that pleasures are specifically
different; since a friend is thought to aim at doing good to his companion, a flatterer at
giving pleasure; to be a flatterer is a reproach, whereas a friend is praised because in
his intercourse he aims at other things.
And （ α
） no one
would choose to retain the mind of a child throughout his life, even though he continued
to enjoy the pleasures of childhood with undiminished zest; nor （ δ
） would anyone choose to find enjoyment in doing some
extremely shameful act, although it would entail no painful consequences. Also （
） there are many things which we should be
eager to possess even if they brought us no pleasure, for instance sight, memory,
knowledge, virtue. It may be the case that these things are necessarily attended by
pleasure, but that makes no difference; for we should desire them even if no pleasure
resulted from them.
It seems therefore that pleasure is not the Good, and that not every pleasure is
desirable, but also that there are certain pleasures, superior in respect of their
specific quality or their source, that are desirable in themselves.
Let this suffice for a discussion of the current views about pleasure and pain.