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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

From Plato and beyond, pleasure has been thought to be a basic, and sometimes the only basic, reason for doing anything. Since there are many forms that pleasure can take and many individual views of what pleasure consists in, much attention has been given to how pleasures may be distinguished, what their motivational and moral significance might be, and whether there may not be some objective determination of them, whether some may be good or bad, or some better as pleasures than others.

But first there is the question of what pleasure is. It has been variously thought to be a state of mind like distress only of the opposite polarity; merely the absence or cessation of or freedom from pain; a kind of quiescence like contentment; or the experiencing of bodily sensations which, unlike sensations of pain, one does not want to stop. We also identify and class together particular sources of pleasure and call them pleasures of the table, company, sex, conversation, solitude, competition, contemplation or athletic pleasures. In this sense there may be some pleasures which we do not enjoy. But most generally pleasure is what we feel and take when we do enjoy something. This raises the questions of what is encompassed by ’something’, what it is to enjoy anything, and the extent to which theories of pleasure can accommodate both our passivity and activity in pleasure. The most influential theories have been those of Plato, Aristotle and empiricists such as Hume and Bentham.

Citing this article:
Marshall, Graeme. Pleasure, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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