Thus, an altruistic act done for the sake of the pleasure it brings to the agent is no longer altruism or productive of the pleasure of altruism.
Indeed, the objects of many of the passions which most powerfully impel the will, are ordinarily not pleasures, though they may include relief from pain.
This may probably awaken pleasant feeling as a consequence.
But this pleasure is not the object aimed at, nay the "Hedonistic paradox", as it is styled, consists in this, that if this consequential pleasure be made the direct object of pursuit, it will thereby be destroyed.
All appetition, according to this theory, emerges out of some conscious state, which may be anything from a clear and distinct perception or representation of an object, to a mere vague feeling of want or discomfort, without any direct representation either of the object or the means of satisfaction.
The Aristotelean philosophers did not neglect or ignore the significance of this latter kind of consciousness (sometimes called affective).
Emotions or feelings associated with certain ideas tend to express themselves in action.
The description of will, as understood in Catholic philosophy, given above, refers to the will in its fullest and most explicit exercise, the voluntas deliberata or voluntus ut voluntas, as Saint Thomas speaks.
It is true that here, as in dealing with the psychology of other faculties, the Schoolmen did not attempt a genetic account of the will, nor would they admit continuity between the rational will and the lower appetitive states; but in their theory of the passions, they had worked out a very fair classification of the main phenomena--a classification which has not been substantially improved upon by any modern writer; and they showed their appreciation of the close connection between will and emotions by treating both under the general head of appetition. Thus, an act of will is the usual condition of attention and of all sustained application of the cognitive faculties. Again the Schoolmen were fond of describing the will as essentially a blind faculty.
It is still a debatable question whether modern psychology, since Kant, has not unnecessarily complicated the question by introducing the triple division of functions into knowledge, appetites and feeling, in place of the ancient bi-partite division into knowledge and appetite. act reciprocally one upon another" (Sully) or, as Saint Thomas expresses it: "Voluntas et intellectus mutuo se includunt" (Summa theol., I, Q. This means simply that its function is practice, not speculation, doing, not thinking (versatur circa operabilia).
Thus, the sight or the thought of extreme suffering may carry with it emotions of pity so intense that considerations of justice and prudence will be brushed aside in the effort to bring relief. An impulse is essentially the forcible prompting of a single, strongly affective idea.
The will is, in this case, as it were, borne down by feeling, and action is simply the "release" of an emotional strain, being scarcely more truly volitional than laughter or weeping.