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The role of pain and pleasure is rather important in Aristotle’s conception of virtue. Philosophical understanding of pain and pleasure has a long tradition. Humans experience extreme instability, and it is at risk of destruction. In these circumstances, each person’s situational choice of further way of life is associated with their spiritual or metaphysical suffering. Paying particular attention to the ethical aspect of the problem of relations between the individual and society, Aristotle tried to find their harmonic interaction in a reasonable restriction of the individual elements of pain and pleasure. According to Aristotle, one must not only know what is good and what is bad, but also want to follow the good and be able to do it. Significant ideas of Aristotle about pain and pleasure in the frame of his ethical theory can be designated by human morality and harmony based on reason and will. The philosopher believed that pain teaches an individual how to reach pleasure in life. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to determine the place of pain and pleasure in Aristotle’s conception of virtue.
Aristotle describes the feelings of pleasure and pain as the development of the performance or delays in mental or bodily functions. These feelings are considered closely related to the activity, i.e. they accompany the activities and their source. Despite the restrained assessment of bodily pleasure, Aristotle highly appreciates the role of feelings in human life (Peters 15). He is sure that pleasure and pain are attached to the perfection and completeness of life. Particularly, Aristotle reviews such affections as desire, anger, fear, courage, anger, joy, love, hate, sadness, envy, and self-pity - everything that accompanies pleasure or pain.
Affect, according to Aristotle, is the passive state the appearance of which in a person is caused by some influence. Psychological characteristics reveal the condition that provokes this affect. Aristotle makes insightful descriptions of the individual’s affects. For example, pain is described as a kind of discomfort or embarrassment, arising from the submission to the impending evil that can destroy a person or cause them trouble. Aristotle considers neither possible nor normal from the standpoint of morality affects’ suppression (Polansky 56). Without them, it is impossible to perform heroic acts, enjoy art, etc. For him, feelings play as important role as the mind.
Aristotle assumes that the moral virtues arise as a result of the interaction of pain and pleasure that are rational and irrational parts of the soul (Peters 17). Aristotle repeatedly admits that staying in the middle of pleasure and pain allows a person to understand what is really painful or pleasant. He assumes that liberal people perform acts to satisfy others, and these acts often can be painful because they involve fear, as well as confidence. For example, courageous activities may include situations when people feel fear and pain. Aristotle mentions the presence of pain in liberality. According to Polansky, Aristotle put liberality in line with the other virtues by allowing liberal acts to have pain (68). Liberality is characterized by several losses with people showing it needing too little for themselves. As a result, they risk having too little for themselves, i.e. they can experience short of money for their personal needs.
Aristotle assumes that courageous acts are painful if they are unsuccessful, and they bring more pain than pleasure. An unsuccessful liberal act may lead to overall pain. The task of Aristotle’s philosophy, in this context, is the detection and analysis of pain’s nature, and the definition of its conceptual and categorical status. Suffering, people open a new vitality that is covered with the spiritual restlessness, ennobling themselves. Aristotle considers pain as the human fate indifferent to an individual (Polansky 70). He states that pleasure is associated with pain and moral act, and each virtue - with specific actions or feelings. Aristotle suggests that individual proper functions consist in reasoning and his conception of virtue is unaffected by pleasure and pain. In relation to Aristotle's conception of virtue, pain may be evil that should be avoided, but there could be another pain that deserves a certain respect (Burger 120).
According to Aristotle, one must not only know what is good and what is bad, but also want to follow the good and be able to do it (Burger 120). Following the established ethical tradition, Aristotle characterizes the highest good as the bliss or pleasure. According to him, pleasure depends entirely on a person, and it is the perfect activity that conforms to virtue. Bliss, being a state of activity of the individual’s needs, should have some external premises, such as the nobility of origin, good fortune, wealth, public esteem, beauty, the presence of friends and other factors that contribute to good deeds (Polansky 72). Aristotle believes that the vagaries of fate and other external circumstances cannot break the human pleasure because the blessed is the one who does well under the circumstances (Burger 123). Pleasure requires both the fullness of virtue and the fullness of life. Virtuous actions themselves are the greatest pleasure, and a person who does not delight in such actions is not able to experience pleasure.
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Aristotle reminds that the mind and its activity constitute an exceptional feature of the human that could help them find true bliss. Therefore, the successful free mental activity that is the very nature of man is the highest good that is accompanied by a feeling of bliss. Desire and activities are associated with natural indissoluble bonds, and if they take place in life, it appears to be full of pleasure as a result. Along with this, Aristotle recognizes minor sources of pleasure that also play a prominent role in human life, such as wealth, friends, children, noble birth, and beauty of face and body (Polansky 75). Aristotle admits that the subject of ethics is not good in itself; rather, it is good for the activities that appear to be useful in human life. According to Peters, Aristotle found the root of virtue not in the mind, and the natural inclinations, which initially have an instinctive character, but in the unconscious tendency directed to the promotion of the common good (21). Aristotle admits the importance of pleasure in the human life, but he considers that the highest degree of contentment lies in human consciousness when their actions are moral and good. For him, virtue is a collection of a number of moral qualities. Every class of people has their own special ethical obligations, but some of them consider justice as the most important one.
By the conception of virtue, Aristotle meant a state of mind and activities that give a person complete satisfaction. His view of the highest good characterizes him as an empiricist philosopher. Aristotle denied the opportunity to examine a person to be virtuous just convincing his mind. Virtue is not enough to understand; it is necessary to obtain certain skills and exercise actions and behavior, deserve the name to be virtuous. He believed that pain and pleasure are interrelated and a person could not appreciate pleasure without pain. Aristotle viewed pain and pleasure as a matter of having the appropriate attitude towards them. All human beings have an opportunity to experience both pleasure and pain that is a normal state of the human mind.