Pleasure‘ describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking.

::= It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria.

In psychology, the pleasure principle describes pleasure as a positive feedback mechanism, motivating the organism to recreate in the future the situation which it has just found pleasurable.

According to this theory, organisms are similarly motivated to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past.{citation needed|date=July 2012}

The experience of pleasure is subjective and different individuals will experience different kinds and amounts of pleasure in the same situation. […]

— Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives, such as eating, exercise, sex or defecation.

— Other pleasurable experiences are associated with social experiences and social drives, such as the experiences of accomplishment, recognition, and service.

— The appreciation of cultural artifacts and activities such as art, music, and literature is often pleasurable.

In recent years, significant progress has been made in understanding the brain mechanisms underlying pleasure.<ref>{cite book|author=Kringelbach, M.L|coauthors= K.C. Berridge |title=Pleasures of the brain |publisher=Oxford University Press|year=2010| isbn=0-19-533102-8 }</ref>

One of the key discoveries was made by Kent C. Berridge who has shown that pleasure is not a unitary experience.

Rather, pleasure consists of multiple brain processes including liking, wanting and learning subserved by distinct yet partially overlapping brain networks.<ref>Berridge, K.C., Kringelbach, M.L. (2008) Affective neuroscience of pleasure: Reward in humans and other animals. Psychopharmacology 199, 457-80.</ref>

In particular, this research has been helped by the use of objective pleasure-elicited reactions in humans and other animals such as the behavioral ‘liking’/‘disliking’ facial expressions to tastes that are homologous between humans and many other mammals.<ref name=”face”>[ Videos of Pleasure-elicited Reactions.]</ref>

Recreational drug use can be pleasurable: some drugs, illicit and otherwise, directly create euphoria in the human brain when ingested.

The mind’s natural tendency to seek out more of this feeling (as described by the pleasure principle) can lead to dependence and addiction.

Berridge and Robinson have proposed that addiction results from drugs hijacking the ‘wanting’ system through a sensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine system.<ref>Robinson, T.E., Berridge, K.C. 1993 The neural basis of drug craving: an incentive-sensitization theory of addiction. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 18(3):247-91.</ref>

==Philosophical views==


::= Epicurus and his followers defined the highest pleasure as the absence of suffering<ref name=”Epicurus1”>[ The Forty Principal Doctrines], Number III.</ref>

and pleasure itself as “freedom from pain in the body and freedom from turmoil in the soul”.<ref name=”Epicurus2”>[ Letter to Menoeceus], Section 131-2.</ref>

According to Cicero (or rather his character Torquatus) Epicurus also believed that pleasure was the chief good and pain the chief evil.<ref name=”Epicurus3”>[, About the Ends of Goods and Evils, Book I], From Section IX, Torquatus sets out his understanding of Epicurus’s philosophy.</ref>

[pleasure: sensuous/intellectual] In the 12th century Razi‘s “Treatise of the Self and the Spirit” (Kitab al Nafs Wa’l Ruh) analyzed different types of pleasure, sensuous and intellectual, and explained their relations with one another.

He concludes that human needs and desires are endless, and “their satisfaction is by definition impossible.”<ref>{Cite journal |doi=10.1007/s10943-004-4302-z |first=Amber |last=Haque |year=2004 |title=Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists |journal=Journal of Religion and Health |volume=43 |issue=4 |pages=357–377 [371]}</ref>

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer understood pleasure as a negative sensation, one that negates the usual existential condition of suffering.<ref name=”Schopenhauer”>[ Counsels and Maxims], Chapter 1, General Rules Section 1.</ref>

===Philosophies of pleasure===

Utilitarianism and Hedonism are philosophies that advocate increasing to the maximum the amount of pleasure and minimizing the amount of suffering.


The pleasure center is the set of brain structures, predominantly the nucleus accumbens, theorized to produce great pleasure when stimulated electrically. Some references state that the septum pellucidium is generally considered to be the pleasure center,<ref>author=Walsh, Anthony</ref> while others mention the hypothalamus when referring to the pleasure center for intracranial stimulation.<ref>Kandel ER, Schwartz JH, Jessell TM. [[Principles of Neural Science]], 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, New York (2000). ISBN 0-8385-7701-6</ref> Certain chemicals are known to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. date=March 2013 It has been suggested that physical exertion can release endorphines in what is called the runner’s high, and equally it has been found that chocolate and certain spices, such as from the family of the chilli, can release or cause to be released similar psychoactive chemicals to those released during sexual 2013

==Pleasure as a uniquely human experience==

There has been debate as to whether pleasure is experienced by other animals rather than being an exclusive property of humankind.

On the one hand, Jeremy Bentham (usually regarded as the founder of Utilitarianism)<ref name=”Bentham”>{cite book | title = An Introduction to the Principles of Moral Legislation | year = 1996 | last = Bentham | first = Jeremy | authorlink = Jeremy Bentham |publisher = Oxford University Press | location = Oxford | isbn = 978-0-19-820516-6 | url =}</ref> and Beth Dixon<ref>Ethics & the Environment, Volume 6, Number 2, Autumn 2001, pp. 22-30, Indiana University Press, [ Johns Hopkins University Press], see also: Emotion in animals</ref> both argue that they do—the latter, however, in a carefully worded manner.

People who believe in human exceptionalism might argue that it is a form of anthropomorphism to ascribe any human experience to animals, including pleasure.

Others view animal behaviour simply as responses to stimuli; this is the way behaviourists look at the evidence, Pavlov’s dogs (or rather his explanation of their behaviour) being the best-known example.

However, it may be argued that we simply cannot know whether animals experience pleasure, and most scientists, indeed, prefer to remain neutral while using anthropomorphisms as and when they need them.<ref name=”Horowitz”>[ Horowitz A. 2007. Anthropomorphism.], In M. Bekoff, ed., Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships, pp 60-66, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT.</ref>

It appears, though, that those who recognise emotions in other animals are in the ascent: many ethologists, for example Marc Bekoff, are prepared to draw the conclusion that animals do experience emotions, though these are not necessarily the same as human emotions.<ref name=”Times”>[ Do animals have emotions?], From The Sunday Times, August 24, 2008.</ref>

<!— /Commenting out because this seems too detailed for encyclopedic relevance/ J.G. Matheny presents a compelling argument for believing that animals feel emotion. We use inductive logic to determine that other humans feel pleasure and pain, based on the knowledge that other humans respond to stimuli in the same way as us (e.g., shrieking if they touch a hot stove), and have a similar biological structure to us&nbsp;— and have very important survival use for pleasure and pain. He asserts that this logic can also be applied to other animals.<ref>Matheny, J.G. (2005). “Utilitarianism and animals,” in Peter Singer, ed., In Defense of Animals. (p.p. 17)</ref> —>


Masochists are those who derive pleasure from receiving pain. The existence of masochism complicates the commonly-held view that pleasure, as a positive experience, is fundamentally opposite pain, a negative experience. Masochism is context-dependent: masochists enjoy certain kinds of pain in certain situations.

==See also==


*Emotion in animals
*False pleasure
*Felicific calculus, an attempt to calculate pleasure
*Flow (psychology)
*Paradox of hedonism
*Pleasure principle
*Sexual pleasure

==Further reading==

  • Paul Bloom. How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like (2010) 280 pages. Draws on neuroscience, philosophy, child-development research, and behavioral economics in a study of our desires, attractions, and tastes.
  • M.L. Kringelbach. The pleasure center: Trust Your Animal Instincts (2009). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-532285-9. An general overview of the neuroscience of pleasure.


Category:Mental processes

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