Is the pleasure a means of acquiring knowledge or simply a sign of its desirability?
The question can be answered by revealing the kinship of pleasure with knowledge. In an analysis proper to classical epistemology, pleasure describes a relation between a subject and an object as knowledge does. The pleasurable object comes to be apprehended through its reception by the subject who feels pleasure, whereas the object of knowledge becomes closer by its understanding, for which the subject testifies by giving an account.
The difference would be that between the subjectivity of pleasure and the possible objectivity of knowledge.
However, in the opening of Metaphysics, Aristotle primarily speaks about senses and thereafter about the pleasure of exercising them. In spite of this order, we may say that a debatable affirmation of a human faculty is to be subdued to its functioning. While we see a thing, we never explain this by invoking the use of our sense of sight. Moreover, any act of seeing comprises many other elements which could not be explained by a physiological analysis of sight. Therefore, the pleasure felt by seeing is more adequate for being related with the act of knowledge.
From the above consideration, we are not in right to classify sensorial pleasure as a simple sign of the desire to know. It should means much in the virtue of its similitude with knowledge. We rather call it a sign as one person is a sign for her relatives. This seems to be the meaning of the last proposition of Aristotle’s quoted paragraph, too.
The first place assigned by Aristotle to sensorial pleasure makes us to believe that the analogy with a ‘family resemblance’ should state that pleasure is the ancestor of knowledge. Nonetheless, we know that pleasure and knowledge may exist independently. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that pleasure does not beget knowledge, but took an advance over it by imposing a certain structure as genetic transmission does in a family.
It does this at the level of analyzing knowledge. Pleasure seems to impose the meaning of knowledge as a relation between a subject and an object. By doing so, it was obscured the fact that we share with the things known a lot of different relations and contextual intricacies. Especially, it is attributed to knowledge the temporary aspect of a pleasure and its indifference to the object.
The pleasure is a matter of consumption just for a while, but knowledge is attributed in its proper sense to a man that has a long lasting state of knowledge. The knower can sleep and wake still as a knower. Against this common experience, the limitation of knowledge to propositions suggests that it functions for a short time like pleasure does. Thus, there was analyzed the justification of the believe in the moment when the proposition is asserted.
Secondly, the relation of pleasure with its object does not involve a sort of a real involvement in its existence, being evaluated just for its relational capacity of guaranteeing the feeling of pleasure. Meanwhile, knowledge is obliged by its claim of objectivity to escape from the limited area of reception outer information into a supposed inner faculty.
Moreover, the pleasure modifies the understanding of knowledge by imposing to it the model of sense satisfaction. We generally expect that the knowledge of a thing to be satisfactory and to finish when it gives such a satisfaction. Such a common believe is in fact a main source of errors, because there are many proposition and accounts that offer satisfaction, even if they are really false. Also, there are many incomplete or partial accounts that leave us without any satisfaction, but drag us to a higher state of knowledge.
Consequently, the pleasure is not only a sign of the desire to know, but also the sign of a desire to know in a superficial manner.