QUESTION 32: OF THE CAUSE OF PLEASURE
We must now consider the causes of pleasure: and under this head there
are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether operation is the proper cause of pleasure?
(2) Whether movement is a cause of pleasure?
(3) Whether hope and memory cause pleasure?
(4) Whether sadness causes pleasure?
(5) Whether the actions of others are a cause of pleasure to us?
(6) Whether doing good to another is a cause of pleasure?
(7) Whether likeness is a cause of pleasure?
(8) Whether wonder is a cause of pleasure?
Article 1: Whether operation is the proper cause of pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that operation is not the proper and first cause of
pleasure. For, as the Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 11), "pleasure consists
in a perception of the senses," since knowledge is requisite for
pleasure, as stated above (Question , Article ). But the objects of operations
are knowable before the operations themselves. Therefore operation is not
the proper cause of pleasure.
Objection 2: Further, pleasure consists especially in an end gained: since it
is this that is chiefly desired. But the end is not always an operation,
but is sometimes the effect of the operation. Therefore operation is not
the proper and direct cause of pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, leisure and rest consist in cessation from work: and
they are objects of pleasure (Rhet. i, 11). Therefore operation is not
the proper cause of pleasure.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 12,13; x, 4) that
"pleasure is a connatural and uninterrupted operation."
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), two things are requisite
for pleasure: namely, the attainment of the suitable good, and knowledge
of this attainment. Now each of these consists in a kind of operation:
because actual knowledge is an operation; and the attainment of the
suitable good is by means of an operation. Moreover, the proper operation
itself is a suitable good. Wherefore every pleasure must needs be the
result of some operation.
Reply to Objection 1: The objects of operations are not pleasurable save inasmuch
as they are united to us; either by knowledge alone, as when we take
pleasure in thinking of or looking at certain things; or in some other
way in addition to knowledge; as when a man takes pleasure in knowing
that he has something good--riches, honor, or the like; which would not
be pleasurable unless they were apprehended as possessed. For as the
Philosopher observes (Polit. ii, 2) "we take great pleasure in looking
upon a thing as our own, by reason of the natural love we have for
ourselves." Now to have such like things is nothing else but to use them
or to be able to use them: and this is through some operation. Wherefore
it is evident that every pleasure is traced to some operation as its
Reply to Objection 2: Even when it is not an operation, but the effect of an
operation, that is the end, this effect is pleasant in so far as
possessed or effected: and this implies use or operation.
Reply to Objection 3: Operations are pleasant, in so far as they are
proportionate and connatural to the agent. Now, since human power is
finite, operation is proportionate thereto according to a certain
measure. Wherefore if it exceed that measure, it will be no longer
proportionate or pleasant, but, on the contrary, painful and irksome. And
in this sense, leisure and play and other things pertaining to repose,
are pleasant, inasmuch as they banish sadness which results from labor.
Article 2: Whether movement is a cause of pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that movement is not a cause of pleasure. Because,
as stated above (Question , Article ), the good which is obtained and is actually
possessed, is the cause of pleasure: wherefore the Philosopher says
(Ethic. vii, 12) that pleasure is not compared with generation, but with
the operation of a thing already in existence. Now that which is being
moved towards something has it not as yet; but, so to speak, is being
generated in its regard, forasmuch as generation or corruption are united
to every movement, as stated in Phys. viii, 3. Therefore movement is not
a cause of pleasure.
Objection 2: Further, movement is the chief cause of toil and fatigue in our
works. But operations through being toilsome and fatiguing are not
pleasant but disagreeable. Therefore movement is not a cause of pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, movement implies a certain innovation, which is the
opposite of custom. But things "which we are accustomed to, are
pleasant," as the Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 11). Therefore movement is
not a cause of pleasure.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Confess. viii, 3): "What means this, O
Lord my God, whereas Thou art everlasting joy to Thyself, and some things
around Thee evermore rejoice in Thee? What means this, that this portion
of things ebbs and flows alternately displeased and reconciled?" From
these words we gather that man rejoices and takes pleasure in some kind
of alterations: and therefore movement seems to cause pleasure.
I answer that, Three things are requisite for pleasure; two, i.e. the
one that is pleased and the pleasurable object conjoined to him; and a
third, which is knowledge of this conjunction: and in respect of these
three, movement is pleasant, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 14 and
Rhetor. i, 11). For as far as we who feel pleasure are concerned, change
is pleasant to us because our nature is changeable: for which reason that
which is suitable to us at one time is not suitable at another; thus to
warm himself at a fire is suitable to man in winter but not in summer.
Again, on the part of the pleasing good which is united to us, change is
pleasant. Because the continued action of an agent increases its effect:
thus the longer a person remains near the fire, the more he is warmed and
dried. Now the natural mode of being consists in a certain measure; and
therefore when the continued presence of a pleasant object exceeds the
measure of one's natural mode of being, the removal of that object
becomes pleasant. On the part of the knowledge itself (change becomes
pleasant), because man desires to know something whole and perfect: when
therefore a thing cannot be apprehended all at once as a whole, change in
such a thing is pleasant, so that one part may pass and another succeed,
and thus the whole be perceived. Hence Augustine says (Confess. iv, 11):
"Thou wouldst not have the syllables stay, but fly away, that others may
come, and thou hear the whole. And so whenever any one thing is made up
of many, all of which do not exist together, all would please
collectively more than they do severally, if all could be perceived
If therefore there be any thing, whose nature is unchangeable; the
natural mode of whose being cannot be exceeded by the continuation of any
pleasing object; and which can behold the whole object of its delight at
once---to such a one change will afford no delight. And the more any
pleasures approach to this, the more are they capable of being continual.
Reply to Objection 1: Although the subject of movement has not yet perfectly that
to which it is moved, nevertheless it is beginning to have something
thereof: and in this respect movement itself has something of pleasure.
But it falls short of the perfection of pleasure; because the more
perfect pleasures regard things that are unchangeable. Moreover movement
becomes the cause of pleasure, in so far as thereby something which
previously was unsuitable, becomes suitable or ceases to be, as stated
Reply to Objection 2: Movement causes toil and fatigue, when it exceeds our
natural aptitude. It is not thus that it causes pleasure, but by removing
the obstacles to our natural aptitude.
Reply to Objection 3: What is customary becomes pleasant, in so far as it becomes
natural: because custom is like a second nature. But the movement which
gives pleasure is not that which departs from custom, but rather that
which prevents the corruption of the natural mode of being, that might
result from continued operation. And thus from the same cause of
connaturalness, both custom and movement become pleasant.
Article 3: Whether hope and memory causes pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that memory and hope do not cause pleasure. Because
pleasure is caused by present good, as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii,
12). But hope and memory regard what is absent: since memory is of the
past, and hope of the future. Therefore memory and hope do not cause
Objection 2: Further, the same thing is not the cause of contraries. But hope
causes affliction, according to Prov. 13:12: "Hope that is deferred
afflicteth the soul." Therefore hope does not cause pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, just as hope agrees with pleasure in regarding good, so
also do desire and love. Therefore hope should not be assigned as a cause
of pleasure, any more than desire or love.
I answer that, Pleasure is caused by the presence of suitable good, in
so far as it is felt, or perceived in any way. Now a thing is present to
us in two ways. First, in knowledge---i.e. according as the thing known
is in the knower by its likeness; secondly, in reality---i.e. according
as one thing is in real conjunction of any kind with another, either
actually or potentially. And since real conjunction is greater than
conjunction by likeness, which is the conjunction of knowledge; and
again, since actual is greater than potential conjunction: therefore the
greatest pleasure is that which arises from sensation which requires the
presence of the sensible object. The second place belongs to the pleasure
of hope, wherein there is pleasurable conjunction, not only in respect of
apprehension, but also in respect of the faculty or power of obtaining
the pleasurable object. The third place belongs to the pleasure of
memory, which has only the conjunction of apprehension.
Reply to Objection 1: Hope and memory are indeed of things which, absolutely
speaking, are absent: and yet those are, after a fashion, present, i.e.
either according to apprehension only; or according to apprehension and
possibility, at least supposed, of attainment.
Reply to Objection 2: Nothing prevents the same thing, in different ways, being
the cause of contraries. And so hope, inasmuch as it implies a present
appraising of a future good, causes pleasure; whereas, inasmuch as it
implies absence of that good, it causes affliction.
Reply to Objection 3: Love and concupiscence also cause pleasure. For everything
that is loved becomes pleasing to the lover, since love is a kind of
union or connaturalness of lover and beloved. In like manner every object
of desire is pleasing to the one that desires, since desire is chiefly a
craving for pleasure. However hope, as implying a certainty of the real
presence of the pleasing good, that is not implied either by love or by
concupiscence, is reckoned in preference to them as causing pleasure; and
also in preference to memory, which is of that which has already passed
Article 4: Whether sadness causes pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that sadness does not cause pleasure. For nothing
causes its own contrary. But sadness is contrary to pleasure. Therefore
it does not cause it.
Objection 2: Further, contraries have contrary effects. But pleasures, when
called to mind, cause pleasure. Therefore sad things, when remembered,
cause sorrow and not pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, as sadness is to pleasure, so is hatred to love. But
hatred does not cause love, but rather the other way about, as stated
above (Question , Article ). Therefore sadness does not cause pleasure.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 41:4): "My tears have been my bread
day and night": where bread denotes the refreshment of pleasure.
Therefore tears, which arise from sadness, can give pleasure.
I answer that, Sadness may be considered in two ways: as existing
actually, and as existing in the memory: and in both ways sadness can
cause pleasure. Because sadness, as actually existing, causes pleasure,
inasmuch as it brings to mind that which is loved, the absence of which
causes sadness; and yet the mere thought of it gives pleasure. The
recollection of sadness becomes a cause of pleasure, on account of the
deliverance which ensued: because absence of evil is looked upon as
something good; wherefore so far as a man thinks that he has been
delivered from that which caused him sorrow and pain, so much reason has
he to rejoice. Hence Augustine says in De Civ. Dei xxii, 31 [*Gregory,
Moral. iv.] that "oftentimes in joy we call to mind sad things . . . and
in the season of health we recall past pains without feeling pain . . .
and in proportion are the more filled with joy and gladness": and again
(Confess. viii, 3) he says that "the more peril there was in the battle,
so much the more joy will there be in the triumph."
Reply to Objection 1: Sometimes accidentally a thing is the cause of its
contrary: thus "that which is cold sometimes causes heat," as stated in
Phys. viii, 1. In like manner sadness is the accidental cause of
pleasure, in so far as it gives rise to the apprehension of something
Reply to Objection 2: Sad things, called to mind, cause pleasure, not in so far as they are sad and contrary to pleasant things; but in so far as man is delivered from them. In like manner the recollection of pleasant things, by reason of these being lost, may cause sadness.
Reply to Objection 3: Hatred also can be the accidental cause of love: i.e. so
far as some love one another, inasmuch as they agree in hating one and
the same thing.
Article 5: Whether the actions of others are a cause of pleasure to us?
Objection 1: It would seem that the actions of others are not a cause of
pleasure to us. Because the cause of pleasure is our own good when
conjoined to us. But the actions of others are not conjoined to us.
Therefore they are not a cause of pleasure to us.
Objection 2: Further, the action is the agent's own good. If, therefore, the
actions of others are a cause of pleasure to us, for the same reason all
goods belonging to others will be pleasing to us: which is evidently
Objection 3: Further, action is pleasant through proceeding from an innate
habit; hence it is stated in Ethic. ii, 3 that "we must reckon the
pleasure which follows after action, as being the sign of a habit
existing in us." But the actions of others do not proceed from habits
existing in us, but, sometimes, from habits existing in the agents.
Therefore the actions of others are not pleasing to us, but to the agents
On the contrary, It is written in the second canonical epistle of John
(verse 4): "I was exceeding glad that I found thy children walking in
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), two things are
requisite for pleasure, namely, the attainment of one's proper good, and
the knowledge of having obtained it. Wherefore the action of another may
cause pleasure to us in three ways. First, from the fact that we obtain
some good through the action of another. And in this way, the actions of
those who do some good to us, are pleasing to us: since it is pleasant to
be benefited by another. Secondly, from the fact that another's action
makes us to know or appreciate our own good: and for this reason men take
pleasure in being praised or honored by others, because, to wit, they
thus become aware of some good existing in themselves. And since this
appreciation receives greater weight from the testimony of good and wise
men, hence men take greater pleasure in being praised and honored by
them. And because a flatterer appears to praise, therefore flattery is
pleasing to some. And as love is for something good, while admiration is
for something great, so it is pleasant to be loved and admired by others,
inasmuch as a man thus becomes aware of his own goodness or greatness,
through their giving pleasure to others. Thirdly, from the fact that
another's actions, if they be good, are reckoned as one's own good, by
reason of the power of love, which makes a man to regard his friend as
one with himself. And on account of hatred, which makes one to reckon
another's good as being in opposition to oneself, the evil action of an
enemy becomes an object of pleasure: whence it is written (1 Cor. 13:6)
that charity "rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth."
Reply to Objection 1: Another's action may be conjoined to me, either by its
effect, as in the first way, or by knowledge, as in the second way; or by
affection, as in the third way.
Reply to Objection 2: This argument avails for the third mode, but not for the
Reply to Objection 3: Although the actions of another do not proceed from habits
that are in me, yet they either produce in me something that gives
pleasure; or they make me appreciate or know a habit of mind; or they
proceed from the habit of one who is united to me by love.
Article 6: Whether doing good to another is a cause of pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that doing good to another is not a cause of
pleasure. Because pleasure is caused by one's obtaining one's proper
good, as stated above (Articles ,5; Question , Article ). But doing good pertains not
to the obtaining but to the spending of one's proper good. Therefore it
seems to be the cause of sadness rather than of pleasure.
Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "illiberality
is more connatural to man than prodigality." Now it is a mark of
prodigality to do good to others; while it is a mark of illiberality to
desist from doing good. Since therefore everyone takes pleasure in a
connatural operation, as stated in Ethic. vii, 14 and x, 4, it seems that
doing good to others is not a cause of pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, contrary effects proceed from contrary causes. But man
takes a natural pleasure in certain kinds of ill-doing, such as
overcoming, contradicting or scolding others, or, if he be angry, in
punishing them, as the Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 11). Therefore doing
good to others is a cause of sadness rather than pleasure.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Polit. ii, 2) that "it is most
pleasant to give presents or assistance to friends and strangers."
I answer that, Doing good to another may give pleasure in three ways.
First, in consideration of the effect, which is the good conferred on
another. In this respect, inasmuch as through being united to others by
love, we look upon their good as being our own, we take pleasure in the
good we do to others, especially to our friends, as in our own good.
Secondly, in consideration of the end; as when a man, from doing good to
another, hopes to get some good for himself, either from God or from man:
for hope is a cause of pleasure. Thirdly, in consideration of the
principle: and thus, doing good to another, can give pleasure in respect
of a threefold principle. One is the faculty of doing good: and in this
regard, doing good to another becomes pleasant, in so far as it arouses
in man an imagination of abundant good existing in him, whereof he is
able to give others a share. Wherefore men take pleasure in their
children, and in their own works, as being things on which they bestow a
share of their own good. Another principle is man's habitual inclination
to do good, by reason of which doing good becomes connatural to him: for
which reason the liberal man takes pleasure in giving to others. The
third principle is the motive: for instance when a man is moved by one
whom he loves, to do good to someone: for whatever we do or suffer for a
friend is pleasant, because love is the principal cause of pleasure.
Reply to Objection 1: Spending gives pleasure as showing forth one's good. But in
so far as it empties us of our own good it may be a cause of sadness; for
instance when it is excessive.
Reply to Objection 2: Prodigality is an excessive spending, which is unnatural:
wherefore prodigality is said to be contrary to nature.
Reply to Objection 3: To overcome, to contradict, and to punish, give pleasure,
not as tending to another's ill, but as pertaining to one's own good,
which man loves more than he hates another's ill. For it is naturally
pleasant to overcome, inasmuch as it makes a man to appreciate his own
superiority. Wherefore all those games in which there is a striving for
the mastery, and a possibility of winning it, afford the greatest
pleasure: and speaking generally all contests, in so far as they admit
hope of victory. To contradict and to scold can give pleasure in two
ways. First, as making man imagine himself to be wise and excellent;
since it belongs to wise men and elders to reprove and to scold.
Secondly, in so far as by scolding and reproving, one does good to
another: for this gives one pleasure, as stated above. It is pleasant to
an angry man to punish, in so far as he thinks himself to be removing an
apparent slight, which seems to be due to a previous hurt: for when a man
is hurt by another, he seems to be slighted thereby; and therefore he
wishes to be quit of this slight by paying back the hurt. And thus it is
clear that doing good to another may be of itself pleasant: whereas doing
evil to another is not pleasant, except in so far as it seems to affect
one's own good.
Article 7: Whether likeness is a cause of pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that likeness is not a cause of pleasure. Because
ruling and presiding seem to imply a certain unlikeness. But "it is
natural to take pleasure in ruling and presiding," as stated in Rhetor.
i, 11. Therefore unlikeness, rather than likeness, is a cause of pleasure.
Objection 2: Further, nothing is more unlike pleasure than sorrow. But those
who are burdened by sorrow are most inclined to seek pleasures, as the
Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 14). Therefore unlikeness, rather than
likeness, is a cause of pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, those who are satiated with certain delights, derive not
pleasure but disgust from them; as when one is satiated with food.
Therefore likeness is not a cause of pleasure.
I answer that, Likeness is a kind of unity; hence that which is like us,
as being one with us, causes pleasure; just at it causes love, as stated
above (Question , Article ). And if that which is like us does not hurt our own
good, but increase it, it is pleasurable simply; for instance one man in
respect of another, one youth in relation to another. But if it be
hurtful to our own good, thus accidentally it causes disgust or sadness,
not as being like and one with us, but as hurtful to that which is yet
more one with us.
Now it happens in two ways that something like is hurtful to our own
good. First, by destroying the measure of our own good, by a kind of
excess; because good, especially bodily good, as health, is conditioned
by a certain measure: wherefore superfluous good or any bodily pleasure,
causes disgust. Secondly, by being directly contrary to one's own good:
thus a potter dislikes other potters, not because they are potters, but
because they deprive him of his own excellence or profits, which he seeks
as his own good.
Reply to Objection 1: Since ruler and subject are in communion with one another,
there is a certain likeness between them: but this likeness is
conditioned by a certain superiority, since ruling and presiding pertain
to the excellence of a man's own good: because they belong to men who are
wise and better than others; the result being that they give man an idea
of his own excellence. Another reason is that by ruling and presiding, a
man does good to others, which is pleasant.
Reply to Objection 2: That which gives pleasure to the sorrowful man, though it
be unlike sorrow, bears some likeness to the man that is sorrowful:
because sorrows are contrary to his own good. Wherefore the sorrowful man
seeks pleasure as making for his own good, in so far as it is a remedy
for its contrary. And this is why bodily pleasures, which are contrary to
certain sorrows, are more sought than intellectual pleasures, which have
no contrary sorrow, as we shall state later on (Question , Article ). And this
explains why all animals naturally desire pleasure: because animals ever
work through sense and movement. For this reason also young people are
most inclined to seek pleasures; on account of the many changes to which
they are subject, while yet growing. Moreover this is why the melancholic
has a strong desire for pleasures, in order to drive away sorrow: because
his "body is corroded by a base humor," as stated in Ethic. vii, 14.
Reply to Objection 3: Bodily goods are conditioned by a certain fixed measure:
wherefore surfeit of such things destroys the proper good, and
consequently gives rise to disgust and sorrow, through being contrary to
the proper good of man.
Article 8: Whether wonder is a cause of pleasure?
Objection 1: It would seem that wonder is not a cause of pleasure. Because
wonder is the act of one who is ignorant of the nature of something, as
Damascene says. But knowledge, rather than ignorance, is a cause of
pleasure. Therefore wonder is not a cause of pleasure.
Objection 2: Further, wonder is the beginning of wisdom, being as it were, the
road to the search of truth, as stated in the beginning of Metaph. i, 2.
But "it is more pleasant to think of what we know, than to seek what we
know not," as the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 7): since in the latter
case we encounter difficulties and hindrances, in the former not; while
pleasure arises from an operation which is unhindered, as stated in
Ethic. vii, 12,13. Therefore wonder hinders rather than causes pleasure.
Objection 3: Further, everyone takes pleasure in what he is accustomed to:
wherefore the actions of habits acquired by custom, are pleasant. But "we
wonder at what is unwonted," as Augustine says (Tract. xxiv in Joan.).
Therefore wonder is contrary to the cause of pleasure.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 11) that wonder is the
cause of pleasure.
I answer that, It is pleasant to get what one desires, as stated above
(Question , Article ): and therefore the greater the desire for the thing loved,
the greater the pleasure when it is attained: indeed the very increase of
desire brings with it an increase of pleasure, according as it gives rise
to the hope of obtaining that which is loved, since it was stated above
(Article , ad 3) that desire resulting from hope is a cause of pleasure. Now
wonder is a kind of desire for knowledge; a desire which comes to man
when he sees an effect of which the cause either is unknown to him, or
surpasses his knowledge or faculty of understanding. Consequently wonder
is a cause of pleasure, in so far as it includes a hope of getting the
knowledge which one desires to have. For this reason whatever is
wonderful is pleasing, for instance things that are scarce. Also,
representations of things, even of those which are not pleasant in
themselves, give rise to pleasure; for the soul rejoices in comparing one
thing with another, because comparison of one thing with another is the
proper and connatural act of the reason, as the Philosopher says (Poet.
iv). This again is why "it is more delightful to be delivered from great
danger, because it is something wonderful," as stated in Rhetor. i, 11.
Reply to Objection 1: Wonder gives pleasure, not because it implies ignorance,
but in so far as it includes the desire of learning the cause, and in so
far as the wonderer learns something new, i.e. that the cause is other
than he had thought it to be. [*According to another reading:---that he
is other than he thought himself to be.]
Reply to Objection 2: Pleasure includes two things; rest in the good, and
perception of this rest. As to the former therefore, since it is more
perfect to contemplate the known truth, than to seek for the unknown, the
contemplation of what we know, is in itself more pleasing than the
research of what we do not know. Nevertheless, as to the second, it
happens that research is sometimes more pleasing accidentally, in so far
as it proceeds from a greater desire: for greater desire is awakened when
we are conscious of our ignorance. This is why man takes the greatest
pleasure in finding or learning things for the first time.
Reply to Objection 3: It is pleasant to do what we are wont to do, inasmuch as
this is connatural to us, as it were. And yet things that are of rare
occurrence can be pleasant, either as regards knowledge, from the fact
that we desire to know something about them, in so far as they are
wonderful; or as regards action, from the fact that "the mind is more
inclined by desire to act intensely in things that are new," as stated in
Ethic. x, 4, since more perfect operation causes more perfect pleasure.