Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Ode to Pain
Jowett Summary of Plato's "Philebus"
What is the origin of pleasure? Her natural seat is the mixed class, in which health and harmony were placed. Pain is the violation, and pleasure the restoration of limit. There is a natural union of finite and infinite, which in hunger, thirst, heat, cold, is impaired—this is painful, but the return to nature, in which the elements are restored to their normal proportions, is pleasant. Here is our first class of pleasures. And another class of pleasures and pains are hopes and fears; these are in the mind only. And inasmuch as the pleasures are unalloyed by pains and the pains by pleasures, the examination of them may show us whether all pleasure is to be desired, or whether this entire desirableness is not rather the attribute of another class. But if pleasures and pains consist in the violation and restoration of limit, may there not be a neutral state, in which there is neither dissolution nor restoration? That is a further question, and admitting, as we must, the possibility of such a state, there seems to be no reason why the life of wisdom should not exist in this neutral state, which is, moreover, the state of the gods, who cannot, without indecency, be supposed to feel either joy or sorrow.
The second class of pleasures involves memory. There are affections which are extinguished before they reach the soul, and of these there is no consciousness, and therefore no memory. And there are affections which the body and soul feel together, and this feeling is termed consciousness. And memory is the preservation of consciousness, and reminiscence is the recovery of consciousness. Now the memory of pleasure, when a man is in pain, is the memory of the opposite of his actual bodily state, and is therefore not in the body, but in the mind. And there may be an intermediate state, in which a person is balanced between pleasure and pain; in his body there is want which is a cause of pain, but in his mind a sure hope of replenishment, which is pleasant. (But if the hope be converted into despair, he has two pains and not a balance of pain and pleasure.) Another question is raised: May not pleasures, like opinions, be true and false? In the sense of being real, both must be admitted to be true: nor can we deny that to both of them qualities may be attributed; for pleasures as well as opinions may be described as good or bad. And though we do not all of us allow that there are true and false pleasures, we all acknowledge that there are some pleasures associated with right opinion, and others with falsehood and ignorance.