Presentation Title

Can Pleasure Be a Human Good? A Re-Evaluation of Philebus 53c-54d

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Keywords

Plato, hedonism, Philebus

Department

Philosophy

Major

Philosophy

Abstract

This paper considers Plato’s argument in Philebus 53c-54d for the conclusion that pleasure is not an intrinsic good, arguing (a) that Plato’s Socrates means for us to accept the argument, (b) that the genesis-ousia distinction that undergirds the argument is the distinction between things necessarily-good-if-instantiated and things not so describable, (c) that under this reading the argument is valid but in danger of petitio principii, and that (d) Plato avoids the petitio by postulating a view of pleasure as intrinsically intentional which yields the desired conclusion. From these results I draw two interpretive conclusions: Plato’s Socrates, contrary to the opinion of some commentators, endorses a moderate position which affords pleasure a place, but not an exclusive place, in the good life; and the dialect of the Philebus is structured less around convincing Philebus and Protarchus via deductive argument from already accepted premises than around producing a rational insight into the nature of pleasure that of itself overthrows the hedonistic position.

Faculty Mentor

Joel Mann

Funding Source or Research Program

Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Presentation Session

Session B

Location

Plaza Classroom 188

Start Date

3-4-2015 4:15 PM

End Date

3-4-2015 4:30 PM

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Apr 3rd, 4:15 PM Apr 3rd, 4:30 PM

Can Pleasure Be a Human Good? A Re-Evaluation of Philebus 53c-54d

Plaza Classroom 188

This paper considers Plato’s argument in Philebus 53c-54d for the conclusion that pleasure is not an intrinsic good, arguing (a) that Plato’s Socrates means for us to accept the argument, (b) that the genesis-ousia distinction that undergirds the argument is the distinction between things necessarily-good-if-instantiated and things not so describable, (c) that under this reading the argument is valid but in danger of petitio principii, and that (d) Plato avoids the petitio by postulating a view of pleasure as intrinsically intentional which yields the desired conclusion. From these results I draw two interpretive conclusions: Plato’s Socrates, contrary to the opinion of some commentators, endorses a moderate position which affords pleasure a place, but not an exclusive place, in the good life; and the dialect of the Philebus is structured less around convincing Philebus and Protarchus via deductive argument from already accepted premises than around producing a rational insight into the nature of pleasure that of itself overthrows the hedonistic position.