Volume 17, 2019
Le Plaisir: Platon, Aristote et la postérité
Le plaisir et le temps dans le livre X de l’Éthique a Nicomaque
Aristotle begins the discussion of pleasure in Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics with the claim that pleasure “is thought to be most properly connected with our kind,” (EN X 1, 1172a19‑23). In his positive account of pleasure in X 4, he suggests that we can somehow experience pleasure otherwise than “in time” (1174b2‑10). The aim of this article is to show how the claim that pleasure does not occur ‘in time’ might illuminate the claim that pleasure is most properly connected to our kind. The point, I will argue, is not only that pleasure is complete at every moment – that will be true of many activities – but also that pleasure has the same structure as the best activity available to us, and a structure different from the best activity available to other kinds. Several passages indicate that Aristotle believes that all living things act for the sake of immortality, understood as divine and eternal life, and connect the pursuit of eternal life with the activities that are natural to a species. These offer us a way to understand why the pleasure of contemplation is the best pleasure, and why pleasure is most intimately connected with our kind. I begin in section (ii) with an exploration of the pleasures proper to different activities which are in turn proper to different kinds. In subsequent sections (iii) I take a closer look at contemplation, particularly insofar as it is an activity that does not take place ‘in time’ but rather ‘in a moment’, and consider Aristotle’s reasons for describing such activities as wholes, or indivisible, or without parts ; and (iv) I turn to the relation between the activities and pleasures proper to different kinds and the possibilities available to those different kinds for approximating divine life. In the final section (v) I return to question of pleasure and its intimate connection with our kind.