Volume 61, Issue 3, November 2000
An Analysis of Pleasure Vis-à-Vis Pain
I take up the issue of whether pleasure is a kind of sensation (in particular, a feeling episode) or not. This issue was much discussed by philosophers of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and apparently no resolution was reached. There were mainly two camps in the discussion: those who argued for a dispositional account, and those who favored an episodic feeling (sensational) view of pleasure. Here, relying on some recent scientific research I offer an account of pleasure which neither dispositionalizes nor sensationalizes pleasure. As is usual in the tradition, I compare pleasure with pain, and try to see its similarities and differences. I argue that pain and pleasure experiences have typically a complex phenomenology normally not so obvious in introspection. After distinguishing between affective and sensory (informational) components of these experiences, I argue that although pain experiences normally consist of both components proper to them, pleasure, in contradistinction to pain, is only the affective component of a total experience that may involve many sensations proper and cognitions. Moreover, I hold that although the so-called “physical” pleasure is itself not a sensation proper, it is nevertheless an episodic affective reaction (in a primitive sense) to sensations proper.