Similarity and Dependence in the Final Ranking of the Philebus

Southwest Philosophy Review 38 (1):155-162 (2022)
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The so-called Final Ranking of the Philebus offers Socrates’ final evaluation of the relative merits of pleasure and reason in the best life. I begin by examining two common lines of interpretation as they address the criterion according to which the final ranking is organized. I then discuss the role ‘similarity’ has in organizing the investigation throughout the dialogue, from the initial comparison of the two lives (of reason and pleasure singly) down through the final ranking. I then consider the thematic discussions of pleasure and reason separately, arguing that their treatments display an intriguing structural similarity. Next, I propose my own reading of the final ranking, whereby the ‘dependence’ relation at work in those two specific discussions may be see as the through-line of all (now five) tiers of the final ranking. I conclude by suggesting that this interpretation is able to preserve what is worthwhile in the two traditional lines of interpretation, while avoiding the pitfalls that tend to accompany them.

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