Pleasure – Consciousness Of A Transition To Heightened Vitality


What is pleasure? In his book, C.D. Broad defines pleasure as the consciousness of a transition to heightened vitality and pain as the consciousness of a transition to lowered vitality and these are the only ultimate good and evil(C.D.Broad,1971).

As human beings we feel good when we are uplifted by our successes, good health, sweet meals and other pleasantries. But we feel irritated, nauseated and sick when we are lowered down by our failures, poor health, fatigue, poor or broken relationships and others.

While pursuing this argument, C.D. Broad impressively maintains that,If a man were born with completely clear ideas and completely active emotions, he would according to Spinoza have no idea of good or evil. For he would never have felt the pleasure of passing to a higher degree of vitality and mental clearness nor the pain of passing to a lower degree of vitality and to a state of greater mental confusion. Yet he would be in the best state in which a human being could be.

Adam and Eve originally experienced the state of life that C.D. Broad is wishing for a man, before the fall. They knew neither good nor evil. They felt no emotional pain or emotional pleasure. But when they sinned, God said, “man has now become like one of us knowing good and evil(Genesis 3:22).”

To use Broad’s logic, when man sinned his eyes were opened. The opening of the eyes here means that they received some consciousness of impending transitions. When a person is conscious of a change to a heightened vitality that is characterized by mental clarity, enjoyment, delight, self-satisfaction, good health and achievement of one’s will, wish and choice then he or she feels emotional pleasure. But when a person is conscious Vitalflow of a transition to a lowered vitality that includes mental confusion, bad moods, poor health, sadness, frustration, failure of one’s wishes or plans then he or she will be down in pain or agony.

Before the fall man felt no emotional pleasure because he had no pride over any achievement. He gave all credit to God. He felt no emotional pain because he suffered no failure under God’s enablement. What a perfect life!

Before the fall, man did only what pleased God. He did not seek to please himself. He did not do what he wanted. Therefore when he did what God instructed him to do then God would enable him to do it with a lot of ease and success and at the end of the day he could not feel any emotional pleasure because his actions were not meant to give him feelings of importance.

But after the fall, man became like God in the sense that he began to do whatever he wanted and whatever was pleasing to himself. Man began to disobey all commands, be it from God or fellow human beings. As a result of this, man became dependent on his limited strength and knowledge. When he succeeds in anything then he gives glory to himself and feels uplifted emotionally because he has achieved what he wanted. But when he fails in his actions then he gets depressed.

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