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Summa Theologica by Aquinas

Whether anger causes pleasure?

Objection 1: It would seem that anger does not cause pleasure. Because sorrow excludes pleasure. But anger is never without sorrow, since, as stated in Ethic. vii, 6, |everyone that acts from anger, acts with pain.| Therefore anger does not cause pleasure.

Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 5) that |vengeance makes anger to cease, because it substitutes pleasure for pain|: whence we may gather that the angry man derives pleasure from vengeance, and that vengeance quells his anger. Therefore on the advent of pleasure, anger departs: and consequently anger is not an effect united with pleasure.

Objection 3: Further, no effect hinders its cause, since it is conformed to its cause. But pleasure hinders anger as stated in Rhet. ii, 3. Therefore pleasure is not an effect of anger.

On the contrary, The Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 5) quotes the saying that anger is |Sweet to the soul as honey to the taste| (Iliad, xviii, 109 [trl. Pope]).

I answer that, As the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 14), pleasures, chiefly sensible and bodily pleasures, are remedies against sorrow: and therefore the greater the sorrow or anxiety, the more sensible are we to the pleasure which heals it, as is evident in the case of thirst which increases the pleasure of drink. Now it is clear from what has been said (Q, AA,3), that the movement of anger arises from a wrong done that causes sorrow, for which sorrow vengeance is sought as a remedy. Consequently as soon as vengeance is present, pleasure ensues, and so much the greater according as the sorrow was greater. Therefore if vengeance be really present, perfect pleasure ensues, entirely excluding sorrow, so that the movement of anger ceases. But before vengeance is really present, it becomes present to the angry man in two ways: in one way, by hope; because none is angry except he hopes for vengeance, as stated above (Q, A); in another way, by thinking of it continually, for to everyone that desires a thing it is pleasant to dwell on the thought of what he desires; wherefore the imaginings of dreams are pleasant. Accordingly an angry man takes pleasure in thinking much about vengeance. This pleasure, however, is not perfect, so as to banish sorrow and consequently anger.

Reply to Objection 1: The angry man does not grieve and rejoice at the same thing; he grieves for the wrong done, while he takes pleasure in the thought and hope of vengeance. Consequently sorrow is to anger as its beginning; while pleasure is the effect or terminus of anger.

Reply to Objection 2: This argument holds in regard to pleasure caused by the real presence of vengeance, which banishes anger altogether.

Reply to Objection 3: Pleasure that precedes hinders sorrow from ensuing, and consequently is a hindrance to anger. But pleasure felt in taking vengeance follows from anger.

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