Recently someone asked:

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Recently someone asked: I wonder about the notion of a masochist as somebody who enjoys suffering. Is it possible, logically, to enjoy suffering? Doesn't suffering necessarily preclude enjoyment and vice-versa? Would it be more accurate to say that a masochist enjoys something that non-masochists consider suffering? And a philosopher responded: I think that one definition of suffering is 'pain'. And someone could gain pleasure from pain, physical, or indeed psychological. So to say that a masochist enjoys suffering sees fine to me. Well.....I don't see much clarification here. Am I the only one? I think it might be just as hard for the question asker to imagine the relationship between suffering and pleasure and pain and pleasure. Maybe suffering is a larger category than pain that logically precludes pleasure so it's not hard to see a paradox there but with the narrower connotation of pain as a physical kind of suffering you can imagine that their can be an accompanying pleasure somehow. But the response that the philosopher makes does not say in what way except he says that they can gain physical pleasure but then that seems to make the very point that the question asker is making. Isn't the masochist really just enjoying a different kind of pleasure than people normally imagine but it isn't really pain?

I think what may be tripping you up here is the vaguess of terms like "pleasure" and "enjoyment," which you seem to treat not only as equivalent, but also as univocal in their reference.

There are lots and lots of different kinds of pleasures: sexual, gustatory, aesthetic, and so on. There are lots and lots of enjoyments: some are pleasures, and others have to do with doing things we like (even when they are not accompanied by pleasant sensation--think of playing tennis when your knee hurts, but you are in a really great game and playing well.

So, one can have one kind of pleasure even when one is undergoing a different kind to pain. One can have one kind of enjoyment even when is undergoing another kind of suffering. A masochist (always measured by someone else's standard of what counts as a "healthy" or "wholesome" kind of enjoyment, mind you!) is thus one who has a certain kind of pleasure or enjoyment that is somehow linked to their also being in a certain (other) kind of pain or suffering. Nothing contradictory here!

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