The difference between pleasure and joy, as explained by Zadie Smith and Thomas Aquinas

A fascinating, comparative study on joy and pleasure by Gary Gutting, writing for the NYT’s philosophy blog called The Stone.

Zadie Smith understands pleasure as an experience of the daily occurrences of life: eating, people-watching. These “small pleasures” satisfy a big part of her desire for pleasure. 

Joy is very different: it doesn’t, per se, provide pleasure but is rather a “strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.” Smith’s true love for her husband and child is far more important than pleasure, for instance.

Both agree that joy is something much more than the bodily pleasures that satisfy an animal.  As Smith puts it, animals always “choose a pleasure over a joy.”  Aquinas, agrees, though with a philosophical refinement: “We do not attribute joy to brute animals”—it’s not quite that animals choose pleasure over joy; there’s no choice because they are incapable of experiencing joy in the sense that humans do.