Book III: The Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.

Chapter I: Good and Moral Good.


Now, according to the account previously given of desire, it is not difficult to explain the confusion which makes pleasure seem to be its only object. We saw that, in all such desire as can form the motive to an imputable act, the individual directs himself to the realisation of some idea, as to an object in which he seeks self-satisfaction. It is the consciousness that self-satisfaction is thus sought in all enacted desire, in all desire that amounts to will, combined with the consciousness that in all self-satisfaction, if attained, there is pleasure, which leads to the false notion that pleasure is always the object of desire. Whether in any case it really is so, or no, depends on whether pleasure is the object with which a man is seeking to satisfy himself. If it is not, pleasure is not the object of his dominant desire. However much pleasure there may prove to be in the self-satisfaction, if any, which the attainment of his object brings with it—and our common experience is that the objects with which we seek to satisfy ourselves do not turn out capable of satisfying us—it cannot be this pleasure that is the object which he desires. Its possibility presupposes the desire and its fulfilment. It cannot therefore be the exciting cause of the desire, any more than the pleasure of satisfying hunger can be the exciting cause of hunger. Only if the idea which in his desire the man seeks to realise is the idea of enjoying some pleasure—whether a pleasure of the kind which we commonly call sensual in a special sense, i.e. one incidental to the satisfaction of animal appetite, or a pleasure of pure emotion—can we truly say that pleasure is the object of his desire. (§158 ¶1)