Socrates, Pleasure, and Value

Socrates, Pleasure, and Value

Socrates, Pleasure, and Value

Socrates, Pleasure, and Value

Synopsis

In the past quarter century, enormous philosophical attention has been paid to Plato's "Socratic" dialogues, as interpreters have sought to identify which dialogues are truly Socratic and interpret and defend the moral theories they find in those works. In spite of this intellectual energy, no consensus has emerged on the question of whether Socrates was a hedonist-whether he believed pleasure to be the good. In this study, George Rudebusch addresses this question and the textualpuzzle from which it has arisen. In the Protagoras, Plato has Socrates appeal to hedonism in order to assert his characteristic identification of virtue and knowledge. While in the Gorgias, Socrates attributes hedonism to his opponent and argues against it in defence of his own view that doing injustice is worse than suffering it. From the Apology and Crito, it is clear that Socrates believes virtue to be the supreme good. Taken together, scholars have found these texts to be incoherent andseek to account for them either in terms of the development of Plato's thinking or by denying that one or more of these texts was meant to reflect Socrates' own ethical theory. Rudebusch argues instead that these texts do indeed fit together into a coherent moral theory as he attempts to locate Socrates' position on hedonism. He distinguishes Socrates' own hedonism from that which Socrates attacks elsewhere. Rudebusch also maintains that Socrates identifies pleasant activity with virtuous activity, describing Socrates' hedonism as one of activity, not sensation. This analysis allows for Socrates to find both virtue and pleasure to be the good, thus solving thetextual puzzle and showing the power of Socratic argument in leading human beings toward the good. Tackling some of the most fundamental debates over Socratic ethics in Plato's earlier dialogues, Socrates, Pleasure, and Value will generate renewed discussion among specialists and provide excellent reading for courses in ancient philosophy as well as ethical theory.

Excerpt

This book interprets and evaluates arguments given by Socrates in dialogues written by Plato, in particular, those Socratic arguments needed to solve an interpretive puzzle: does Socrates believe pleasure or virtue is the supreme good? These Socratic texts and issues are of basic interest to the study of Plato, pleasure, or prudential value. All Greek has been translated and transliterated (by me or as noted).

I do not consider all of Socrates' arguments or all of his ethics. In particular, I leave for another book a discussion of the problems arising from Socrates' equation of virtue with some kind of knowledge. I have merely tried to solve one basic problem for Socratic ethical theory, a problem so basic that it has led many to doubt there is a coherent account to be found. But my aim of solving a scholar's puzzle is also a grander aim: to open the eyes of you, Plato's reader, to whatever force his written arguments may have, in such a way that the arguments may cause your soul to begin, if not to advance in virtue and wisdom, at least to desire and seek them for their true value. The Delphic oracle pronounced Socrates the wisest of human beings. Let us, in studying Socrates' arguments, consider the experience of Alcibiades, who said, “His arguments were exactly like those hollow statues of Silenus that open down the middle. Anyone listening . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.