Page:Ethical Studies (reprint 1911).djvu/267

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


in one point we fail, yet we still have plenty; and, secondly, we have been so accustomed to succeed, that we either do not think of failing, or, in any case, we know that it is not this or that moment of sense which matters, since the content is objective, and therefore it, or at all events something of the same nature, may be realized another time. So we can feel pleasure already in the ideal success, while the pain of privation disappears or is overpowered.[1] What is always with us is the feeling of pleasure in the self which is affirmed permanently and really; what we have done and are, exists apart from our feeling it, and so is objective; and in that habitual reality we have perpetual satisfaction. The ‘to be done’ means only more of what is done; and the fore-felt pleasure therein dominates the relative privation, which serves only as a freshening and pleasant stimulus, since not only the result but also the activity is an end in itself. Hence, though satisfied, we can desire; and, though we desire, we are not dissatisfied. In lust we have a permanent want occasionally gratified; in interest we have a permanent gratification, where what we want does but add to what we have. In lust the permanent content of the want is not realized, because the objective can not be found in this or that

  1. To the question, ‘Is desire pleasant or painful?’ no answer can be given. Desire is mixed and, I think, never without both elements. It is pleasant or painful, as one outweighs the other.
      Desire is a contradictory state. I feel in it what I am not really, against what I am really, and ideally am not. The actual negation is painful, the ideal affirmation is pleasant, because it excites actual affirmative self-feeling. And I need not remark that in desire pain and pleasure intensify each other.
      We need not go far into the matter, for the main features are easy to trace. Is a beast desiring food on the whole pleased or pained? It all depends, and it depends on the preponderance of either element. If they have not a vivid prospect of satisfaction, all beasts that I have noticed seem uneasy and rather pained than pleased when hungry. Show them the food, or in other ways give them the prospect of it, and then there is no doubt that their whole state is pleasant. So with human beings. Notice the face of the hungry man, who is not sure of his dinner or of the time of it; and then notice again that of the hungry man who knows it is coming soon.—Reflection intensifies the pain of want, by keeping the contrast between the actual and ideal before the mind. For the same reason it intensifies the pleasure. Where the attention is directed to the want, that is made intense, and pain predominates: where it is directed to the ideal satisfaction, the pleasure is intensified and outweighs the pain. The cruellest want is where, against the idea of the satisfaction, the reality of the privation is forced on us. The keenest pleasure is where, against the surviving pain of want, the satisfaction is felt or forefelt as actual. It is because the pain so soon disappears, that the pleasure of sensuous satisfaction fades so fast. It is not indeed true that the moment the pleasure touches our lips, the pain is gone wholly, but it has even then begun to go, and with it the extreme of pleasure. That is why so often ‘the dream is better than the drink.’ It must be so where the negation of the sensuous object is the end, i.e. where it is not the permanent assertion of ourselves in a permanent object which is aimed at. Only in the latter case do we keep and have ourselves in what we have. When we do this the pain of want is outweighed. It was partly his failure to consider this, partly his mistake as to the negative character of pleasure (i.e. his seeing in it only the negation of a positive, viz. pain), which was the foundation of Schopenhauer’s pessimism. For him life is an oscillation between the pains of want and ennui. Want of permanence again in the realization is the reason why aversion, so often liked, encouraged, and on the whole pleasant, mostly cheats itself in the end. When our enemies are destroyed, we have destroyed our pleasure. The whole subject of aversion is difficult and interesting.