The pursuit of pleasure is legitimate so long as it is morally right and within the laws of the land.
But pleasure cannot be the sole aim in life; we have to pursue it to the extent it is healthy and takes us towards a higher goal, such as self-realisation. Some pleasures, like walking and physical exercise, are necessary for one’s good health.
Philosopher Baruch Spinoza had decided early in life to enjoy only those pleasures which were necessary for health. It’s something we too should follow in order to be in good health and remain happy.
George Orwell tells us that pleasure resorts are designed so that people can rest, relax, play cards, drink and make love. But he warns that one has to realise that the highest human happiness does not lie in these activities.
People enjoy pleasures such as drinking and dancing because they prevent unpleasant thoughts and worry so long they are high. In moderation, such pleasures can be legitimate.
But we should be able to experience pleasure without guilt, says Sudhir Kakar, psychoanalyst and writer. Resorting to pleasures helps us forget our worries, problems and loneliness for a while; but they surface again as the underlying problems are still there unresolved.
A degree of anxiety, sadness, loneliness and confusion are inherent in human nature. They will always remain, but we can either live with them or overcome them to some extent by engaging in creative activities such as listening to music, photography, painting, journal writing or whatever one is interested in.
A distinction can be made between pleasure and joy. Pleasure has a short-term connotation and is the result of sensual fulfillment. Joy, on the other hand, relates to the mind and spirit.
Lower pleasures like the desires for food, drink and sex, must be satisfied at least partially. At times one feels a vague philosophical dissatisfaction with the world, but after the partial satisfaction of these desires, one is at peace and realises that the problem was not philosophical but physical. Therein lies the importance of “lower pleasures”.