I’ve been thinking about this comment by Aristotle:
τὰ μὲν οὖν μνημονευτὰ ἡδέα ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον ὅσα ἐν τῷ παρόντι, ὅτε παρῆν, ἡδέα ἦν, ἀλλ’ ἔνια καὶ οὐχ ἡδέα.
But things that are pleasant when remembered are not only those that were pleasant when they were present. But sometimes also things that were not pleasant [sc. when present are pleasant when remembered], provided that what comes after this was fine and good.Rhetoric 1370a35–b3
What does he mean and is he right? I can imagine that a past painful experience might be a source of pleasure when I remember it because:
(a) I recognise that it is over. Thank goodness! (‘You’ve stopped punching me. Phew! What a relief!)
(b) I recognise now that although it seemed painful at the time, it was in fact not bad at all – perhaps not in comparison with my current state – and perhaps take pleasure in that thought. (‘I thought it was terrible when X dumped me when I was 18, but that seems like heaven compared with what I’m putting up with now.’)
(c) I recognise that various good things resulted from this painful experience. (‘It was awful that X broke up with me, but if she hadn’t done so I would not have met Y and fallen in love...’)
I think (b) and (c) are the most likely given the proviso: ἡδέα ἦν, ἀλλ’ ἔνια καὶ οὐχ ἡδέα, ‘...provided that what comes after this was fine and good.’ But (b) seems odd because it threatens to imply that the past experience wasn’t really painful after all; and I don’t think Aristotle means to deny that the past experience was indeed painful. And (c) seems odd because just because something good came of the painful past experience does not really mean that I look back on that experience and now take pleasure from it.
Also, is it possible to imagine cases where we can recall with pleasure a past experience even though none of (a)—(c) holds? Can we take pleasure in recalling a past painful experience even if there was no subsequent/consequent good?