Saturday, 28 July 2012


^Titian's Bacchanal, 1523 (source)
Another extract from Arendt's The Human Condition, this time on the foundational nature of Pain as an ultimate referent. She is pointing out here that pleasure isn't, and never was or could be a measurable, quantifiable thing, positively in and of itself (as the Utilitarians and others saw it) which one can pursue and attain, but rather should be seen as the ancients saw it: as the absence of pain, so that hedonism (& stoicism, ascetism, epicurianism) is never the insatiable and accumulative pleasure of the gourmand, but rather the tranquil calm of the hermit.

"The principle of all hedonism, as we saw before, is not pleasure but avoidance of pain, and Hume, who in contradistinction to Bentham was still a philosopher, knew quite well that he who wants to make pleasure the ultimate end of all human action is driven to admit that no pleasure but pain, not desire but fear, are his true guides. "If you... inquire, why [somebody] desires health, he will readily reply, because sickness is painful. If you push your inquiries further and desire a reason why he hates pain, it is impossible he can ever give any. This is an ultimate end, and is never referred to by any other object." The reason for this impossibility is that only pain is completely independent of any object, that only one who is in pain really senses nothing but himself; pleasure does not enjoy itself but something besides itself. Pain is the only inner sense found by introspection which can rival in independence from experienced objects the self-evident certainty of logical and arithmetical reasoning."