Unauthorized Online Supplement to
A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind
Samuel Guttenplan (ed.)
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1995)
Unauthorized Online Supplement editor:  Larry Hauser 
PLEASURE AND PAIN Pleasure and pain are usually thought of as contrasting pairs.  They are opposites of each other because one is considered to be good and the other bad.  They are a pair because they represent two extremes on the same scale.  According to SPINOZA’S DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS (Ethics Part III) pleasure is defined as "a passive state wherein the mind passes to a greater perfection," and pain is "a passive state wherein the mind passes to a lesser perfection."  Samuel Guttenplan speaks of pain as being an unpleasant sensation that is felt in a particular location within the body.  He makes no definition for pleasure, but he agrees that the two are compared to one another.  Nevertheless, in his classification, Guttenplan places pain and pleasure differently along the five dimensions of accessibility, observability, expressibility, directionality, and theoreticity he identifies.  I advocate that there should be no such differences in the classification of pleasure and pain.  They need to be placed in the exact same area on the map of the mind.

Guttenplan states that pleasure is an emotion because it is not as close to a bodily sensation as pain is.  By the same reasoning he classifies pain as an experience.  However, he does make it clear that he does not mean that pleasure can never describe bodily sensations or that pain is never a sorrowful emotion.  His placement decision comes from the idea that pain is normally considered to be a sensation, and pleasure is normally thought of in terms of emotions.  I feel that the difference depends only on whether or not pain and pleasure are mental or physical.  For instance, mental pain or pleasure are emotional because they happen in the mind usually with due cause from an external force.  They are easily considered emotions because they deal with feelings.  Likewise, physical pain and pleasures are bodily sensations because they happen to the outside of the body.  These sensations are also due to external forces.

For example, when a person falls down they feel pain and may cry.  When this same person is pleased by food they feel pleasure and will probably smile.  The physical actions put pressure on the outside of the body, and cause them to feel and appear physically altered.  The feelings of physical pleasure or pain come during the action, and may last longer, but they never come before it.  In contrast, when a person feels emotional pain and pleasure they often times do so before hand.  Usually their feelings are hurt or they are very excited about something.  This mental sensation is one that can also be felt during or after the causal factor.  It is true that physical pain or pleasure could lead to emotional turmoil, but just because something causes something else it does not mean those two things are equal.

Mental traits are categorized by Guttenplan according to five characteristic qualities.  These qualities weigh differently on the different traits of the mind.  The accessibility of a trait depends upon whether or not it can be noticed only by the person having the trait.  Observability is related to how well people outside can see, or otherwise perceive, the trait.  The expressibility of a trait is totally dependent on whether or not the trait can be conveyed in words to another.  The directionality of something depends on whether or not it is about or for some other thing.  Theoreticity depends on the ability of someone to put the state in theoretical terms.

Guttenplan argues an experience to be wholly accessible, but not observable, expressible, directional, or theoretical.  I consider emotions to be completely accessible, directional, and expressible, and only partly observable and theoretical.  Even if I agreed with these differences I still do not believe that pleasure should be placed under emotions while pain should be placed under an experience.  I assert that it is the mental and physical aspects that need to be divided.
Accessibility is not the problem in question because both pain and pleasure, whether they are mental or physical, fall under this category.  Guttenplan considers pain to be accessible when it is an emotion because it is the desire to terminate an unwanted sensation.  I believe that both pain and pleasure are accessible.  After all could any one person be in any pain or pleasure and not notice?  The answer to this question comes from the fact that not noticing these traits is something that is incorrigible.

When the directionality comes into question I believe that the difference between mental and physical pain and pleasure have to be distinguished.  Guttenplan states that pain isn’t about anything except that it is something that we seek to avoid.  I believe that physical pain is not about anything because physical acts have no ability to be intentional, and that physical pleasure is the same way.  However, I feel that mental states of pain or pleasure do have directionality because emotions are directed towards some particular action, attitude, or experience.  Guttenplan does not appear to agree because he allows no differences between mental and physical situations.

The expressibility of both pain and pleasure is a little more difficult.  It is easy to tell someone that you feel either pain or pleasure, but it is not as easy to explain the actual feeling in words.  Guttenplan argues that the words ‘pain’ and ‘pleasure’ can not be put into the same categories for all people because different people can interpret them differently.  Still, I disagree because we have all felt pain or pleasure at one time, and we all know how we react to it and how it feels.  Since most people react in the same way then how can it not be expressible.  If you tell someone what it is that feels good or bad then, if they experienced it before, they will know what you mean.  I feel that an experience should be considered expressible along with emotions because they are quite similar in this aspect.  In this case, the division between mental and physical does not need to be made.

The observability of pain and pleasure is more questionable.  Most of the time people can observe the experience or emotion by noticing the different facial expressions, attitudes, or actions that give it away.  Though sometimes these states can be hidden or repressed.  Guttenplan feels that pain is not so observable.  I believe that mental pain or pleasure are not observable because they happen in the mind.  However, I find no reason why physical pleasure or pain should not be observable because they are external occurrences.  I disagree with Guttenplan on this aspect as well when I state that experiences are observable.  I also maintain that the theoreticity of both pain and pleasure is just as apparent as the observability because in order for something to be put in theoretical terms it, or some of it’s effects, must be observed at some time prior to the making of it’s theoretical definition.  Even things that can not be easily observed have to be known about and viewed as universal before they can be made a theory.  Pleasure and pain certainly fall into this category.  Therefore, I maintain that experiences are also theoretical.

With all this in mind, I see no reason why pleasure and pain should not be in the same category.  I advocate that mental pleasures and pains are emotions, and that physical pleasures and pains are experiences.  This conclusion comes from the following premises.  Experiences are physical affections that are accessible, expressible, observable, and theoretical, but they are not directional.  Emotions are accessible, expressible, and directional, but not very observable or theoretical.  The main difference is that mental activities are more closely related to only the self and should be considered emotions, and that physical activities that make references to pain and pleasure are more apt to be observable by other people so they should be categorized as experiences.  Pleasure and pain are so conceptually linked that they should always fall under the same category.

See also An Essay on Mind section 1.4; PAIN


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