“The fact that all animals and men pursue pleasure is some indication that it is in some way the highest good.”
- Aristotle, “Nicomachean Ethics”
In one of the most important historical philosophical works, “Nicomachean Ethics”, Aristotle explains that the best and most complete or perfect of virtues will be the happiest one.
According to Aristotle, an excellent human will be a person good at living life. He will do it well and beautifully. In his philosophical work, he boldly states, “The fact that all animals and men pursue pleasure is some indication that it is in some way the highest good”. Aristotle goes on to explain that for happiness to be possible, one first needs to have a virtuous character. A virtuous character is one that has accepted to learn extensively.
By letting pleasure into our lives without any guilt, we become more generous and kind towards ourselves. Being at ease with pleasure and “good at living life” is a sign of self-respect and self-confidence. Such a state then — and only then — allows us to generously and wholeheartedly give to others. It allows us to positively contribute to others’ lives.
Taking this a step further, the American poet and short story writer, Delmore Schwartz, in one of his poems elegantly juxtaposes the notions of pleasure and pain as well as openness and selfishness: “Pleasure believes in friends, pleasure creates communities, pleasure crumbles faces into smiles, pleasure links hand in hand, pleasure restores, pain is the most selfish thing.”
“Pleasure believes in friends, pleasure creates communities, pleasure crumbles faces into smiles, pleasure links hand in hand, pleasure restores, pain is the most selfish thing.”
- Delmore Schwartz, “Pleasure; Selected Poems”
Hence, pleasure is all but selfish!
Why then refrain from pleasure — as some institutions and certain societies have a conscious or unconscious tendency to “preach” to us? What use is that to us?
Pleasure in our work makes us strive to successfully accomplish our tasks. By refusing our lives to be ruled by the dichotomy of “pleasurable spare time” versus “dreaded work”, we are more dedicated and efficient in our tasks. We are more fulfilled and happier. We are less frustrated. We become, as Aristotle phrased it, good at living our lives.
In many ways, the room we make for pleasure in our lives — thus the benefits it has on us and those people who are close to us — is up to us.
Pleasure is an attitude and a way of life.