Pleasures Neither True nor Pure: Plato's Argument for the Superiority of the Philosopher's Pleasures. "Republic", 583b-587c [Book Review]

Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison (1996)

In Book IX of the Republic, Plato presents an argument purporting to show that the philosophical life is most pleasant because pleasures other than those of the intelligent person are "not altogether true or pure". The first part considers one type of experience, the relief from pain , and argues that though it may appear pleasant, it is not pleasant. The second part argues that intellectual processes of replenishment provide a "truer" fulfillment which, in turn, causes a true pleasure, but the bodily replenishments provide a "less true" fulfillment which, in turn, causes a "less true" pleasure. ;Very often, the primary principle used to evaluate both parts of Plato's argument is the notion that pleasure is a purely subjective experience and that as such it cannot be false. Some, like N. R. Murphy, suggest quite plausibly that Plato is not repudiating the pure subjectivity of pleasure but is only attacking predictions and generalizations about pleasure. Others, like G. Grote, think that Plato does violate the pure subjectivity of pleasure and that therefore Plato's argument is unsound. Both interpretations, however, share the view that the pure subjectivity of pleasure is a principle that ought not be violated. ;I, on the other hand, unlike Murphy, think that Plato does in fact deny the pure subjectivity of pleasure but unlike Grote, also think Plato quite right to deny it. Plato denies it by showing that some experiences generally thought to be pleasant are not pleasant at all and that some genuinely pleasant experiences are not as pleasant as they appear to be. ;In this thesis, I give an exposition of Plato's argument and then, using passages from elsewhere in the Republic and the Phaedo, explain why Plato thinks that one can be mistaken about one's own inner states of pleasure. In addition, I provide a brief exposition of Plato's arguments in the Philebus, the final discussion of pleasure in the Platonic corpus
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