Pleasure and Motivation in Plato's "Republic"

Dissertation, The University of Rochester (2000)

In the Republic, Plato argues that the just life is the best kind of life. While many commentators have taken that to be the final goal of the Republic, Plato is attempting to establish conclusions of much greater significance. Plato does not attempt to show that the just life is the best kind of life regardless of what people may choose. Plato's argument is an attempt to show that anyone in any situation has sufficient motivation for acting justly. Plato's reasoning depends on a theory of human psychology and motivation which is implicit throughout the Republic , though stated explicitly in the Protagoras and other dialogues. I argue that Plato ascribes to an egoistic view of human psychology wherein people always act in their perceived best interest. And in the Republic, an agents best interest coincides with what is most pleasant, most satisfying, most conducive to happiness, and most profitable. By showing that Plato uses these terms as interchangeable and equivalent ways to refer to one way a life can be, it is shown that Plato believes that people are motivated by the same basic considerations and that given these motivational truths, we should choose to live a just life rather than an unjust life
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