False pleasure may be a pleasure based on a false belief (as of supposedly having come into money), or a pleasure deemed to be in some way false, perhaps by comparison with truer, realler, or higher pleasures.
Plato devoted much attention to the belief that "no pleasure save that of the wise is quite true and pure - all others are shadows only" - both in The Republic and in his late dialogue Philebus.
Buddhaghosa considered that "sense-pleasures are impermanent, deceptive, trivial...unstable, unreal, hollow, and uncertain" - a view echoed in most of what Max Weber termed "world-rejecting asceticism".
A specific false pleasure often denounced in Western thought is the pleasure of vanity - Voltaire for example pilloring the character "corrupted by vanity...He breathed in nothing but false glory and false pleasures".
In the wake of Reich, a distinction was sometimes made between reactive and genuine sexuality - analysis supposedly allowing people to "realize the enormous difference between what they once believed sexual pleasure to be and what they now experience".
Popular culture has been a central arena for latter-day disputes over true and false pleasures. Modernism saw attacks on the false pleasures of consumerism from the right, as well as from the left, with Herbert Marcuse denouncing the false pleasures of happy consciousness of "those whose life is the hell of the affluent society".
As the 20th Century wore on, however - while concern for the contrast of false and authentic pleasures, fragmented or integrated experiences, certainly remained - the mass media increasingly became less of a scapegoat for the prevalence of false pleasure, figures like Frederic Jameson for example insisting instead on "the false problem of value" in a world where "reification or materialization is a key structural feature of both modernism and mass culture".
Slavoj Žižek had added a further twist to the debate for the 21st century, arguing that in a postmodern age dominated by what he calls "the superego injunction to enjoy that permeates our discourse", the quest for pleasure has become more of a duty than a pleasure: for Žižek, "psychoanalysis is the only discipline in which you are allowed not to enjoy" !
- Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2005) p. 130
- Quoted in Y. Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (1999) p. 128
- Alain de Botton intro., The Essential Plato (1999) p. 364
- Blackburn, p. 130
- B. Krondorfer, Male Confessions (2009) p. 83 and p. 140
- Quoted in E. Conze ed., Buddhist Scriptures (1975) p. 108-9
- Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (1971) p. 166
- Voltaire, Candide, Zadig, and Selected Stories (1961) p. 121
- John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice Vol 3 p. 189
- John Hayward, The Penguin Book of English Verse (1978) p. 77
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 515-6
- La P. D. A., quoted in Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (1997) p. 244
- D. Horowitz, Consuming Pleasures (2012) p. 30
- Quoted in John O' Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (1972) p. 50
- Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (1968) p. 132 and p. 233
- Horowitz, p. 2-3
- M. Hardt/K. Weeks, The Jameson Reader (2005) p. 130
- Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View (2006) p. 299 and 304