PLEASURE: An agreeable and gratifying feeling or desire which awakens in the person experiencing it a wish for its continuance or renewal. Neither the feeling nor the impulse is necessarily sinful, for desire and its gratification are essential to a complete life. Just as the man who takes pleasure in nothing is unhealthy, so one who seeks and desires nothing is in danger of becoming both mentally and morally a nonentity. Ethically, pleasure, both as feeling and desire, is determined by its relation to the ego, by the free personality of man, and by its object. Where, as in the ethics of Democritus, Epicurus, Protagoras, and others, the ego exalts its own natural sensations and desires into a norm of life, pleasure decides what is good and what is bad. On the other hand, the personality that has submitted itself to the divine will determines for itself what shall be pleasure and pain. It is divine revelation that guides man here, so that the Psalmist can say, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. xxxvii. 4; cf. i. 2, lxxiii. 23-28, cxi. 2, cxii. 1, cxix.); and the New Testament makes communion with God the highest and most perfect pleasure of the Christian (cf. II Cor. v. 15; Gal. ii. 20; John xvii. 23). This pleasure, however, does not exclude the enjoyment of other pleasures. Pleasure in the true (science) and the beautiful (art), and even bodily pleasures in moderation, as in eating and in general comfort, are proper and consistent with the Christian life. Extreme asceticism is unchristian (I Tim. iv. 3-5; Col. ii. 16-23). Pleasure becomes sin only when the accompanying desire becomes lust, overpowers the will, and enslaves the personality. As a guard against this the moderate asceticism of Paul may be recommended (I Cor. ix. 27; Phil. iv. 11-13).
While desire is an essential element of human nature, it requires a curb. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, this was a special gift of grace bestowed upon Adam, without which man would be completely given up to sensuality. Desire in the first man was originally directed by God; but Adam renounced this guidance, and desire became concupiscence and lust, this depravity being transmitted by man's first parents to the entire human race. At times Paul uses "lust" as synonymous with "sin" (Rom. vii. 7); but in New-Testament usage the ethical character of desire, whether good or evil, depends upon the subject rather than upon the object (cf. John viii. 44; Rom. i. 24; Gal. v. 16; I John ii. 16). The duty of the Christian toward sinful natural impulses is set forth in Gal. v. 24 and Col. iii. 5.
The doctrinal difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism regarding original sin depends chiefly on their divergent interpretation of desire, the Council of Trent maintaining that, after the loss of the special gift of grace, man's nature was weakened, though neither the loss of his original righteousness nor the desire which remains even in the regenerate is necessarily sinful. Protestantism, on the contrary, holds that desire is evil in itself.