Hedonism and the Pleasureless Life in Plato's Philebus

Phronesis 45 (4):257-283 (2000)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper re-evaluates the role that Plato confers to pleasure in the "Philebus." According to leading interpretations, Plato there downplays the role of pleasure, or indeed rejects hedonism altogether. Thus, scholars such as D. Frede have taken the "mixed life" of pleasure and intelligence initially submitted in the "Philebus" to be conceded by Socrates only as a remedial good, second to a life of neutral condition, where one would experience no pleasure and pain. Even more strongly, scholars such as Irwin have seen the "Philebus'" arguments against false pleasures as an actual attack on hedonism, showing -- in Irwin's words -- "why maximization of pleasure cannot be a reasonable policy for the best life." Against these claims, I argue that the mixed life of pleasure and intelligence is presented in the "Philebus" as a first best and not just as a second best for humans, and that, accordingly, Socrates proposes to incorporate -- rather than reject -- pleasure as one of the intrinsically desirable aspects of the happy life. Thus, I offer alternative readings of controversial passages that have given rise to the prevalent interpretation criticized here, and advance positive evidence that at least some pleasures are seen by Plato as inherently good. In addition, I demonstrate that Plato's arguments against false pleasures do not by themselves constitute an attack on hedonism. Rather, they can be seen as a strategy to show the hedonist that, in order to be a maximal, or even a consistent, hedonist, he should go for true, and not fake pleasures, if after all pleasure is the object of his pursuit. But, since this cannot be achieved without intelligence, then the mixed life of pleasure and intelligence is to be accepted even by hedonist themselves



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 83,836

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Argument of the Philebus.Joe McCoy - 2007 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 12 (1):1-16.
Freedom in the Philebus.James L. Wood - 2007 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 81:205-216.
Socrates, pleasure, and value.George Rudebusch - 1999 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Pleasure in Plato's Phaedo.Kristian Urstad - 2010 - Philosophy Pathways 151.
Six theses about pleasure.Stuart Rachels - 2004 - Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):247-267.


Added to PP

263 (#56,072)

6 months
3 (#243,044)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

An Inconsistency in the Philebus?Joachim Aufderheide - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (5):817 - 837.
Colloquium 2: Socrates, Aristotle, and the Stoics on the Apparent and Real Good1.Marcelo Boeri - 2005 - Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 20 (1):109-152.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references