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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Pleasure and Pain
By John Locke (1632–1704)
 
From the ‘Essay Concerning Human Understanding’

THE INFINITELY wise Author of our being, having given us the power over several parts of our bodies, to move or keep them at rest, as we think fit; and also, by the motion of them, to move ourselves and contiguous bodies, in which consists all the actions of our body; having also given a power to our mind, in several instances, to choose amongst its ideas which it will think on, and to pursue the inquiry of this or that subject with consideration and attention,—to excite us to these actions of thinking and motion that we are capable of, has been pleased to join to several thoughts and several sensations a perception of delight. If this were wholly separated from all our outward sensations and inward thoughts, we should have no reason to prefer one thought or action to another, negligence to attention, or motion to rest. And so we should neither stir our bodies nor employ our minds: but let our thoughts—if I-may so call it—run adrift, without any direction or design; and suffer the ideas of our minds, like unregarded shadows, to make their appearance there as it happened, without attending to them. In which state, man, however furnished with the faculties of understanding and will, would be a very idle, inactive creature, and pass his time only in a lazy, lethargic dream. It has therefore pleased our wise Creator to annex to several objects, and the ideas which we receive from them, as also to several of our thoughts, a concomitant pleasure; and that in several objects to several degrees, that those faculties which he had endowed us with might not remain wholly idle and unemployed by us.  1
  Pain has the same efficacy and use to set us on work that pleasure has, we being as ready to employ our faculties to avoid that as to pursue this; only this is worth our consideration, “that pain is often produced by the same objects and ideas that produce pleasure in us.” This their near conjunction, which makes us often feel pain in the sensations where we expected pleasure, gives us new occasion of admiring the wisdom and goodness of our Maker; who, designing the preservation of our being, has annexed pain to the application of many things to our bodies, to warn us of the harm that they will do and as advices to withdraw from them. But he, not designing our preservation barely, but the preservation of every part and organ in its perfection, hath in many cases annexed pain to those very ideas which delight us. Thus heat, that is very agreeable to us in one degree, by a little greater increase of it proves no ordinary torment; and the most pleasant of all sensible objects, light itself, if there be too much of it,—if increased beyond a due proportion to our eyes,—causes a very painful sensation: which is wisely and favorably so ordered by nature, that when any object does by the vehemency of its operation disorder the instruments of sensation, whose structures cannot but be very nice and delicate, we might by the pain be warned to withdraw, before the organ be quite put out of order and so be unfitted for its proper function for the future. The consideration of those objects that produce it may well persuade us that this is the end or use of pain. For though great light be insufferable to our eyes, yet the highest degree of darkness does not at all disease them; because that causing no disorderly motion in it, leaves that curious organ unharmed in its natural state. But yet excess of cold as well as heat pains us, because it is equally destructive to that temper which is necessary to the preservation of life and the exercise of the several functions of the body; and which consists in a moderate degree of warmth, or if you please a notion of the insensible parts of our bodies, confined within certain bounds.  2
  Beyond all this, we may find another reason why God hath scattered up and down several degrees of pleasure and pain in all the things that environ and affect us, and blended them together in almost all that our thoughts and senses have to do with; that we, finding imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of complete happiness in all the enjoyments which the creatures can afford us, might be led to seek it in the enjoyment of Him “with whom there is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”  3
 
 
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