Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 7, Chapter 14 (1154a8-1154b35)

By Aristotle

Book 7, Chapter 14 (1154a8-1154b35)

  • Okay, here's a paradox. If we say that bodily pleasures are somehow bad (think licentiousness), how is bodily pain also bad?
  • Is bodily pleasure only good some of the time? Or within certain limits?
  • Aristotle says that there are necessary pleasures (i.e. sex, eating), but that pursuing excessive pleasures is just wrongitty-wrong.
  • On the other side, we don't simply avoid excessive pain. We like to stay away from all of it.
  • So why are bodily pleasures so much better than other types of pleasures?
  • Well, bodily pleasures are the opposite of pain. And we often seek them to mitigate pain. In this way, they can become addictive and problematic.
  • So pleasure-seeking would be okay if we didn't use it to cover up deficiencies of character or a weak nature.
  • Bodily pleasures are also intense and easy to enjoy, so those who can't feel pleasure from more refined things seek it out.
  • This isn't a problem, as long as the pleasures are harmless. But people constantly seek bodily pleasures when they have nothing else to amuse them, or they're immature, or suffering mentally.
  • For those who suffer from "melancholy," pleasure provides an escape from both psychological and physical pain.
  • But all these find pleasure "incidentally" or as a temporary cure. When we're healthy, we recognize things that are pleasant in themselves.
  • Pleasure is also relative, depending on our nature. We should find pleasure in that which doesn't change, but humans aren't perfect.
  • We often love change, which Aristotle claims is a defect of character.