Sämtliche schriften und briefe series VI volume 4
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 1488-1489

Date: summer 1683 - winter 1685/1686?

Translated from the Latin

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[A VI 4, p1488]


     Descartes thinks that the cause of pleasure consists in the feeling of our powers, provided of course that we realize that we strongly resist something making an attack on us.1 I think that is only a corollary. For generally, everything that assists an action or performance brings about pleasure, but assistance is chiefly perceived in danger, because then it is perceived more exquisitely.
     And, if every pleasure consists solely in the knowledge of our strength, not only would beasts not feel pleasure, which Descartes would concede, but neither would we perceive the signs of pleasure in them [A VI 4 p1489] which we plainly recognize as similar in men. Therefore pleasure should be explained in such a way that its material aspect, as I would call it, can also be observed in beasts, for it is not apparent how those corporeal movements, which are also in beasts, follow from the feeling of our powers.


1. Descartes, The Passions of the Soul article 95: 'Young people often take pleasure in attempting difficult tasks and exposing themselves to great dangers even though they do not hope thereby to gain any profit or glory. This pleasure arises in the following way. The thought that the undertaking is difficult forms an impression in their brain which, when joined with the impression they could form if they were to think that it is a good thing to feel sufficiently courageous, happy, skilful, or strong to dare to take such risks, causes them to take pleasure in doing so. And the satisfaction which old people feel in recollecting the evils they have suffered results from their thinking that it is a good thing to have been able to survive in spite of them.'

© Lloyd Strickland 2005
With gratitude to John Thorley for advice and suggestions