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Volume 17, 2019

Le Plaisir: Platon, Aristote et la postérité

Pierre Pellegrin
Pages 145-162

Le plaisir animal selon Aristote

In an evolutionist theory like that of Darwin, animal pleasure has a properly vital function in directing animals toward pleasant behaviors which also happen to be advantageous. The best example of this is probably sexual pleasure which contributes to the survival of species. Aristotelian fixism does not need such an analysis since Nature has provided living beings with an innate tendency to reproduce and pleasure cannot have an adaptative function, because adaptation is given to animals once and for all and cannot improve. The idea that pleasure induces an animal to adopt some useful behavior by trials and errors is unacceptable to Aristotle. Animals, on the other hand, being deprived of the perception of the good and the beautiful because they do not partake in reason, do not get pleasure from things in the world but in a coincidental way : the odor of the hare is pleasant to the dog because it is associated, in the dog’s perception, to the fact that dogs do eat hares. Far from being pleasant by itself, the odor of the hare is not attractive at all for a fed up dog. It remains for pleasure to be the sign of the good functioning of the organism, that is an hymn to the perfection of Nature.

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