Note.---Some psychologists regard Desire as essentially painful. This view seems to me erroneous, according to the ordinary use of the term : and though it does not necessarily involve the confusion- against which I am chiefly concerned to guard in the present chapter-between the volitional stimulus of desire itself and the volitional stimulus of aversion to desire as painful, it has some tendency to cause this confusion. It may therefore be worth while to point out that the difference of opinion between myself and the psychologists in question---of whom I select Dr. Bain as a leading example---depends largely, though not entirely, on a difference of definition. In chap. viii. of the second division of his book on The Emotions and the Will, Dr. Bain defines Desire as ``that phase of volition where there is a motive and not ability to act on it'', and gives the following illustration:---

``The inmate of a small gloomy chamber conceives to himself the pleasure of light and of an expanded prospect: the unsatisfying ideal urges the appropriate action for gaining the reality; he gets up and walks out. Suppose now that the same ideal delight comes into the mind of a prisoner. Unable to fulfil the prompting, he remains under the solicitation of the motive: and his state is denominated craving, longing, appetite, desire. If all motive impulses could be at once followed up, desire would have no place … there is a bar in the way of acting which leads to the state of conflict and renders desire a more or less painful state of mind.''

Now I agree that Desire is most frequently painful in some degree when the person desiring is inhibited from acting for the attainment of the desired object. I do not indeed think that even under these circumstances it is always painful, especially when it is accompanied with hope. Take the simple case of hunger. Ordinarily, when I am looking forward to dinner with a good appetite, I do not find hunger painful unless I have fasted unusually long---although custom and a regard for my digestion prevent me from satisfying the appetite till the soup is served. Still I admit that when action tending to fruition is excluded, desire is very liable to be painful.

But it is surely contrary to usage to restrict the term. Desire to this case. Suppose Dr. Bain's prisoner becomes possessed of a file, and sees his way to getting out of prison by a long process, which will involve, among other operations, the filing of certain bars. It would surely seem absurd to say that his desire finally ceases when the operation of filing begins, No doubt the concentration of attention on the complex activities necessary for the attainment of freedom is likely to cause the prisoner to be so absorbed by other ideas and feelings that the desire of freedom may temporarily cease to be present in his consciousness. But as the stimulus on which his whole activity ultimately depends is certainly derived from the unrealised idea of freedom, this idea, with the concomitant feeling of desire, will normally recur at brief intervals during the process. Similarly in other cases, while it is quite true that men often work for a desired end without consciously feeling desire for the end, it would be absurd to say that they never feel desire while so working: at any rate this restricted use of the term has never, I think, been adapted by ethical writers in treating of Desire. And in some passages Dr. Bain himself seems to adopt a wider meaning. He says, for instance, in the chapter from which I have quoted, that ``we have a form of desire … when we are working for distant ends''. If, then, it be allowed that the feeling of Desire is at any rate sometimes an element of consciousness coexisting with a process of activity directed to the attainment of the desired object, or intervening in the brief pauses of such a process, I venture to think that when the feeling is observed under these conditions, it will not be found in accordance with the common experience of mankind to describe it as essentially painful.

Take, as a simple instance, the case of a game involving bodily exercise and a contest of skill. Probably many persons who take part in such exercises for sanitary or social purposes begin without any perceptible desire to win the game: and probably as long as they remain thus indifferent the exercise is rather tedious. Usually, however, a conscious desire to win the game is excited, as a consequence of actions directed towards this end: and---in my experience at least---in proportion as the feeling grows strong, the whole process becomes more pleasurable. If this be admitted to be a normal experience, it must surely be also admitted that Desire in this case is a feeling in which introspection does not enable us to detect the slightest quality of pain.

It would be easy to give an indefinite number of similar instances of energetic activity carried on for an end---whether in sport or in the serious business of life---where a keen desire for the attainment of the end in view is indispensable to a real enjoyment of the labour required to attain, and where at the same time we cannot detect any painfulness in the desire, however much we try to separate it in introspective analysis from its concomitant feeling.

The error that I am trying to remove seems to me partly due to overlooking these cases, and contemplating exclusively cases in which Desire is for some reason or other prevented from having its normal effect in stimulating activity directed to the attainment of the desired object. Partly, however, it seems to be due to the resemblance between Desire and Pain, to which I have drawn attention in the text of this chapter, i.e. the unrestfulness which is undoubtedly a characteristic of the state of desire, and---ordinarily---of pain. For the characteristic of ``unrestfulness'' requires some care to distinguish it from ``uneasiness'', in the sense in which this latter term signifies some degree of painfulness. The mistake is connected with the equally erroneous view---which Hobbes controverts in his usual forcible style---that ``the Felicity of this life consisteth in the repose of a mind satisfied''; and it has also some affinity with the widespread view---which has left its mark on more than one European language---that labour, strenuous activity, is essentially painful. On both these points, it ought to be said, there is doubtless considerable divergence between the experiences of different individuals: but at any rate among Englishmen I conceive that a person who finds desire always painful---in the sense in which, as I have tried to show, the word is commonly used both by moralists and in ordinary discourse---is as exceptional a being as one who finds labour always painful.

ME Book 1 Chapter 4 Section 4