It’s possible to make numerous distinctions with regard to pleasure, but the main seem to me to be
a) the pleasures of the senses vs. the pleasures of the mind
b) the different kinds of happiness.
It may also be possible to relate the different kinds of pleasures, and observe that an excess in one kind of pleasure often results in the diminution of another kind, perhaps even pain of some kinds.
I think the first thing to observe about pleasures is their variety. Apart from the two identified above, there is also a third kind which some regard as a life goal or wish: the pleasure that is brought about by the exercise of power or influence. I would extend that to include the pleasure associated with helping others, or exercising compassion or kindness towards others. This third kind I will (for the purpose of this discussion) call psychic pleasure. Not all psychic pleasures are benign, such as the pleasures of sadism or domination or “schadenfreude”.
The first point that I would like to make about the three kinds of pleasures is that they are so different that they cannot be measured by a common measure or metric. Bentham tried to do this with his concept of a util, but it’s an absurdity that lives on in shadowy form in economics. The second point is that they are sufficiently different that it is often difficult to see what is common to them. Try and compare the pleasure of sitting and trying to catch fish on a sunny day on the Bosphorus, and the pleasure of listening to say, Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello sonata. The only way of “comparing” them is to ask which of the two one would rather do if one is given a choice, or what sacrifice one is prepared to make in terms of a common numeraire or measure of value (such as money). Either way, one is expressing a subjective preference between two pleasures, but this outwardly shown preference is a substitute for choosing between the two literally incomparable kinds of subjective internal experience one undergoes with each action or source of pleasure.
If one examines this subjective internal experience (called qualia in the philosophical jargon) associated with various kinds of pleasure, one discovers that there is indeed something common to them all, and that is the fact that bodily sensations accompany them. (Of course the sensations themselves may differ from case to case.) This is clear in the case of sensual pleasures (eating, sex, music, etc.) but I suspect (and scientists claim that there is evidence to show that) there is also a certain set of physical bodily reactions or phenomena associated with the qualia of mental and psychic pleasures, of which we are only dimly aware, such as slightly raised heartbeats, the release of certain hormones or neurochemicals, or certain sorts of muscular reactions such as hair standing up. In other words, the act of feeling pleasure is accompanied by emotion and a physiological response from our bodies. Anyone who has developed a neat and “elegant” solution to a difficult mathematical problem, or written a really good poem or essay, or watched a deeply satisfying film, is likely to have become acquainted with such mental and bodily processes.
Possibly because of these physiological reactions, we tend to become attached to pleasures, and to seek their sources, but also to avoid pain. (The absence of pleasure need not be pain, nor the absence of pain, pleasure.) This tendency to develop attachments or addictions to pleasures is the source of desire, which in turn is the source of pain and suffering. Note that although the absence of pleasure need not be pain, the dependence and attachment caused by repeated experiences of pleasure cause desire. And because the sources of pleasures in the world that we experience are ephemeral and finite, they are ultimately causes of suffering. Yet it is impossible to avoid them altogether, for that would mean that one has to cease to live.
The central teachings of more than one major Indian philosophical tradition (but not all!) try to address this problem.
Essentially, what these philosophies say (and I am simplifying horribly here) is that our highest goal is to liberate ourselves from those attachments I spoke about, and to treat both pleasure and pain the same. This consists in trying to “see through” the illusory nature of the phenomenal and sensual world known as samsara, and therefore attain the realization that our pleasures and pains, our love and anger and desire, are all subjectively real but objectively not so. We feel pleasure and pain, but we must try and stop mentally and psychically running after pleasure and from pain. Important parts of Indian philosophy, even when they are quite secular, are devoted to an examination of how the illusory nature of the phenomenal world is preserved by our psychological processes. This creates a trap into which all of us fall, but few of us learn to escape from them by “seeing through” the trap. We think the self is real, but in the noumenal world there is no self, only the world. In fact, the self and the world are objectively one, but subjectively separate, according to these schools. The Sanskrit word for the philosophy of knowledge is “darşana” which literally means “seeing” or vision - seeing through the traps of concepts and language and the Kantian categories.
So what about happiness? Happiness lies in the cultivation of the senses and the emotions and the psyche, at the right stage of one’s life, and in the right ways; but ultimately one needs to realize (and not just intellectually) as one gets older that the attachment to the senses and emotions and psyche is a trap through which one needs to liberate oneself. Indian philosophical literature is apparently full of analogical references to this entrapment (such as the caged bird), and the contrast between the real and the illusory, (such as the diamond hiding in the ashes, the rope being mistaken for a snake, the man looking desperately for a necklace he thinks he has lost, all the while wearing it around his neck).
The critical thrust in much of western philosophy has a similar message, but a different motivation: the search for truth. The true world is hidden from us through myths, ideology, and other sources of bias and deception that act like dirt on our cognitive and intellectual spectacles. If you want to encounter the real world, learn to “see” the world clearly: rid yourself of the myths and ideologies through rigorous examination of the concepts and categories and language and discourse which are part of the spectacles which we all must wear.