Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XXXII.: OF THE CAUSE OF PLEASURE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XXXII.: OF THE CAUSE OF PLEASURE. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE CAUSE OF PLEASURE.
Article I.—Is activity the proper cause of pleasure?
R. For pleasure two things are requisite, the attainment of a fitting good, and the knowledge of that attainment. Both these requisites consist in a certain activity, for actual knowledge is an activity. In like manner we gain fitting good by some activity; also the very activity itself that is proper to the agent is a certain fitting good. Hence all pleasure must follow upon some activity.
§ 1. The objects on which our activities are exercised are not pleasurable to us except inasmuch as they are conjoined to us either by knowledge, as when we take pleasure in looking at things, or in some other way along with knowledge, as when a man takes pleasure in knowing that he has some good possession, as riches, or honour, or the like, which would not give him pleasure but for the fact of his apprehending it as his possession. But possession here means nothing else than the use of the thing, or the power to use it, and that is by a certain activity. Hence it is clear that every pleasure is reducible to activity as to its cause.
§ 2. Even in cases where not the activities, but the products of activity, are the ends in view, those products of activity are pleasant inasmuch as they are possessed: which possession has reference to some use or activity.
§ 3. Activities are pleasant inasmuch as they are proportionate and connatural to the agent. But since human strength is limited, activity is proportionate to it according to a certain measure. Hence any activity exceeding that measure ceases to be proportionate or pleasant, and becomes rather laborious and wearisome. And in this way ease and play and other things that belong to rest, are pleasant, inasmuch as they take away the distress that is of labour.
§ 4. The Philosopher says: “Pleasure is a connatural activity, unimpeded.”
Article II.—Is change a cause of pleasure?
R. There are three requisites of pleasure: a pleasurable good, the conjunction of the pleasurable object with the subject, and the knowledge of this conjunction. And under these three heads change is made out to be pleasant. On the part of us who are the subjects of pleasure, change is rendered pleasant to us, because our nature is changeable, and therefore what is suitable to us now, afterwards will not be suitable: as warming oneself at the fire suits a man in winter, not in summer. On the part also of the pleasurable good that is brought into conjunction with us, change becomes pleasant, because the continued action of anything increases its effect, as the longer one keeps near a fire the more he is warmed and dried. But a natural frame of being consists in a certain fixed measure; and therefore when the continued presence of a pleasurable object goes beyond the measure of one’s natural frame of being, the removal of that object becomes pleasurable. On the part of the knowledge itself—because man desires a perfect whole; when therefore things cannot be apprehended as a whole, change in them is pleasant, so that one part may pass, and another part succeed, and thus the whole be appreciated. If therefore there be any Being the nature of which is unchangeable, a Being the natural proportion of which cannot be outdone by the continuance of any delightful object, a Being which can behold the whole object of its delight at once,—to that Being change will not be agreeable. And the more any pleasures approach the condition of this pleasure, the more capable are they of continuance.
§ 3. What is customary becomes pleasant by becoming natural, for custom is a second nature. But the change that is pleasant is not that change which departs from custom, but rather the change that prevents the spoiling of a natural frame of being, that might ensue from holding on too long in some one activity. And thus from the same cause of connaturalness it is that custom is rendered pleasant and change delightful.
Article VI.—Is beneficence a cause of pleasure?
R. So far as we reckon the good of another to be as it were our own good, on account of the union of love, we take pleasure as in our own good in the good which accrues through us to others, especially to friends. In another way beneficence becomes pleasant, inasmuch as thereby a man gets an imagination of an overflowing source of good existing in himself, whence he is able also to impart to others, which is the reason why men take pleasure in their children and in their own works, as imparting to them their own good.
§ 3. To conquer, confute, and punish is not pleasant in that it makes for the evil of another, but in that it belongs to one’s own good, which a man loves more than he hates another’s evil. For it is naturally pleasant to conquer, inasmuch as thereby an idea is formed of one’s own excellence; and therefore all games into which rivalry enters, and where victory is possible, are especially pleasant; and generally all contests according as they hold out hope of victory. To confute and rebuke may be a cause of pleasure in two ways: in one way in that it gives a man an imagination of his own wisdom and excellence, for rebuke and correction is the function of wise men and elders; in another way in that by rebuke and reprehension one does good to another, which is pleasant. But to an angry man it is pleasant to punish, in that he thinks himself to be removing an apparent slight, coming of a previous offence; for when one is offended by another, he thinks himself slighted thereby, and therefore he desires to be rid of this slight by paying back the offence that he has sustained. And thus it is clear that beneficence can be of itself pleasant; but maleficence is not pleasant, except in so far as it seems to belong to one’s own good.