On "Happiness" As An Abstraction / "Pleasure" As a Feeling

  • Awareness of sequential pleasure would be nothing if not for the fact that such awareness itself is pleasure, and I am quite certain I myself experience it as a feeling 😃 and not a cognition.

    Okay, I'll give you that. But you're still just precognitively reacting to stimuli with the sensation of pleasure. I keep coming back to the fact that humans react to stimuli with either pleasure or pain (I'm trying to stay within the Epicurean canon). We describe how that sensation makes us "feel" with language, but we experience the sensation itself precognitively.

    Quote from Elayne
    If a person felt guilty about pleasure, awareness of sequential pleasure wouldn't feel happy but painful.

    Interesting premise although I don't think that's the case. One can't experience pleasure "as" pain. They would be experiencing pain. What you seem to be describing is how someone would be thinking about their feelings which sounds contrary to your next statement.

    Quote from Elayne
    I do think Platonism has penetrated culture sufficiently that there are some people who define the word conceptually. But I stand by my assertion that most ordinary people, non academics, "feel happy" rather than "think happy."

    I don't think Platonism is at play here. We're not defining an ideal happiness.

    Are you then simply using the same word "happy" to stand in for "pleasure"? What about all the synonyms for happy?

    I'm not saying you "think happy". What I'm saying is that:

    1) A person experiences the sensation of what is called "pleasure" as opposed to a sensation of "pain" or they are experiencing more pleasure right now than pain.

    2) That person interprets that sensation as "making" them happy. At the speed of thought, so it might appear simultaneous. But the sensation comes first. The description comes second.

    People can try to convince themselves to say they're happy. You can't fool yourself as to sensing pleasure or pain.

  • I think you're making it more complicated than it is. I'm just talking definitions. All language is necessarily an abstract representation, including when it comes to feelings. I am saying that most people, including me, use the word happy to communicate a feeling of pleasure. Not a thought or analysis but a simple feeling.


    There are many words for pleasurable feelings of various types, which shouldn't be surprising considering the huge numbers of ways our brains can be affected by various pleasurable neurotransmitters. There is serotonin, oxytocin, different endorphins and endocannabinoids, along with a variety of receptors for each in different parts of the nervous system. All of which can be combined in a huge variety of proportions, locations, and intensities!


    I'm not sure why you don't agree that awareness of having had sequential pleasure would be painful if the person thought they weren't supposed to feel pleasure? That happens all the time with people in repressive religions, with sex. They feel guilty, sometimes simultaneously with pleasure.

  • I agree with Elayne's post #22 above. However the definitive term for pleasure/happiness, per the synonyms link in post #21, is actually "cock-a-hoop." 8|

  • I'm not sure why you don't agree that awareness of having had sequential pleasure would be painful if the person thought they weren't supposed to feel pleasure? That happens all the time with people in repressive religions, with sex. They feel guilty, sometimes simultaneously with pleasure.

    Oh, I'm not saying they don't feel pleasure nor that they don't feel guilty/pain.They're human. They sense pleasure and pain. But if they feel pleasure and say they aren't happy, then their pleasure causes them pain in sequence. Or there's a mixture of pleasure and pain, but they can't exist simultaneously in the same moment. I'll posit an alternative though. I could maybe see parallels to people taking pleasure in eating hot peppers. They've acclimated themselves to sense the pain of the burn with pleasure. But I still think that's cognition. Similar to religious guilt where they've trained themselves to interpret pleasure as bad/painful. The pleasure is still there. That's a human sensation. It's in the interpretation where things go awry. They may not be conscious of it since it's so ingrained. But the non-judgemental sensation leads to the subjective "feeling".

  • Don I think maybe I see what you are doing. Yes, a mental process, cognition, can _also_ cause pain or pleasure! That was one of Epicurus' major themes, that pleasure is both through the sense organs and through various thoughts, such as memories. If the reaction to thoughts is desirable, something we enjoy, it is a felt sensation-- a feeling. Not the thought itself but a response to the thought. Happiness for most is a feeling of pleasure, whether or not a thought is what triggered it. I feel happiness as a strong wave of pleasure in my body.


    Here is the cause of pleasure with painful hot peppers-- it is not cognitive. The pain fibers are being stimulated and this triggers the release of endorphins. For some people more than others. I'm not a fan, lol. I get enough pleasure in ways that don't make me cry 😂.


    It's possible that the apparently simultaneous feeling of pleasure in one part of the body and pain in another is just extremely rapid attentional task-switching-- but if so, it is so rapid that it is too fast for us to consciously experience sometimes, and feelings are experiential. I have felt simultaneous pain and pleasure-- not mixed (a different thing), but both seemingly at once. It is similar to vision-- neurologically, I am not really seeing the wide field of objects I experience seeing simultaneously. But because that very rapid process of filling in the whole field is impossible to experience consciously, I experience the act of seeing the whole visual field.

  • Quote

    33. The cry of the flesh is not to be hungry, thirsty, or cold; for he who is free of these and is confident of remain so might vie even with Zeus for happiness.

    I cite this passage because the words "confident to remain so" seems to me to be the crucial distinguishing factor between pleasure and happiness. I liked the way Cassius formulated it; pleasure is a direct feeling, happiness is a higher level construction that involves pleasure, but the hope of continued pleasure and the absence of fear.


    Epicurus' core teaching about death is that it is "nothing" to us. This is essential. If what awaited us beyond the grave was eternal torment, no amount or length of pleasure would be adequate to keep us happy. We have to know where we're 'going' with it, in our life and after it.

  • Epicurus' core teaching about death is that it is "nothing" to us. This is essential. If what awaited us beyond the grave was eternal torment, no amount or length of pleasure would be adequate to keep us happy.

    I particularly agree with that Joshua, even though not everyone might think this is essential. I personally see this as very similar to specific positions on the nature of the gods, and on the erternality / infinity issue. Not everyone is going to feel the same way, but my personal bet is that 80% of the world would never even entertain a philosophy-of-life seriously unless it took a position on these questions.