Mixed Pleasures, Blended Discourses: Poetry, Medicine, and the Body in Plato'sPhilebus46-47c

Classical Antiquity 21 (1):135-160 (2002)
Authors
Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi
Stanford University
Abstract
In Plato's Philebus the last section of the discussion on the falseness of pleasure is dedicated to those pleasures intrinsically mixed with pain. This paper focuses specifically on bodily mixed pleasures, an analysis that extends from 44d to 47c, while its focal point is 46-47c. By adopting the anti-hedonists' methodology, Socrates cunningly transforms his entire analysis of bodily mixed pleasures into a discourse on human disease, in which medical terminology prevails. Two major points are made in the reading suggested here. Despite Socrates' quasi-medical language, a substratum of poetic discourse is underlying his analysis. Thus, a network of poetic associations—probably promptly recalled by Plato's audience—not only reveals the intertextual encounter between medical, philosophic and poetic discourses but also contributes to the interpretation of Socrates' analysis. Hence, the pathology of love as expressed through poetry illuminates the meaning, questionable in straightforward medical terms, of passage 46c6-d2, while it also reveals the unfolding unity underlying Socrates' analysis, otherwise thought to comprise three distinct medical cases. Ancient medical lore is important for the understanding of passage 46d7-47a1 on the affliction of knêsis and psôra, not only because it confirms the analogy between the physiology of knêsis and that of sexual arousal and climax, but also because it illuminates the specific medical treatment Socrates is describing. Thus, in the crucial debate about whether Plato uses the term aporiais or pyriais in 46e2, medical evidence seems to support the latter. The reading pyriais makes this complicated paragraph more comprehensible in terms of meaning and syntax, while stressing the importance of heat in the processes of both the curing of knêsis and of human orgasm. Besides, it further confirms the intertextual encounter between the Phaedrus and the Philebus
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DOI 10.1525/ca.2002.21.1.135
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References found in this work BETA

Greek Homosexuality.John Boardman & K. J. Dover - 1980 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 100:244.
The Dialogues of Plato.B. Jowett - 1953 - Clarendon Press.
Greek Grammar.D. M. Jones, H. W. Smyth & Gordon M. Messing - 1959 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 79:193.

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